J.J. Dowdy Drug
Before he died in 1945, John J. Dowdy was one of the only people still in Dexter that could have claimed they were there when Dexter was born. Dowdy was a little boy on that hot August day in 1873 when thousands of people were present during the railroad auction that sold the first lots of what became downtown Dexter. Dowdy’s family lived a short distance west of the future town, having arrived in the county during the early 1840s from Chatham County, North Carolina. The Dowdy’s, Fields, Garners, Singletons, Temples, Riddles, and several others made the trek west from North Carolina in search of cheap land and lower taxes. Most of the families located west and south of present-day Dexter, where many of their descendants still live today.
Young Dowdy no doubt understood that there was money to be made from such a large crowd. He weaved in and out of grown-ups to sell ginger cakes and cider, both of which he ran out of. Born in 1857, he was a young man when he entered business as a clerk for Quinton Slack’s drug store located on the southwest corner (facing north) at the intersection of Walnut and Stoddard Street.. In 1887 he married Zina Crytes, eventually having three children. In 1894 he bought Slack’s drug store, originally built in late 1873 or early 1874, and tore down the two-story frame structure. In 1895, his new two-story brick building was completed and open for business. Dowdy’s new structure featured fine Italian marble countertops, and a state-of-the-art soda fountain. It was the first business in town to have its own internal water and lighting system, which became a model for other businesses built after 1895. For nearly fifty years Dowdy ran a successful business operation expanding from medicine to general hardware, jewelry repair, books, and several other business ventures.
Over the years Dowdy served several years on the school board, nineteen years as a City Council member, and eight years as postmaster of Dexter. It was during his time as postmaster on December 28, 1887, that Dexter City became officially known simply as Dexter. During his later years he was heavily involved in local charities and was a big supporter of community betterment. He retired in 1940 after more than fifty years as a successful businessman. He passed away in 1945. Over the years there have been several businesses in and out of the building. In 1961 the blue siding that is still visible on the storefront was added as part of a “modernization” trend that impacted several downtown businesses.
Article written by: Paul Arnold
Photos provided by: Paul Arnold