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Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Berrien and Cass Counties, Michigan published by Biographical Publishing Company in 1893.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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F. J. ATWELL, a successful and prominent attorney-at-law of Cass County, and an influential citizen of Dowagiac, was born in Orleans County, N. Y. in the ‘30s. The family of which he is an honored representative occupied a leading place among the people of New York for many generations. His grandfather, Levi Atwell, was one of those brave men who during the War of 1812 fought in defense of our nation. In his political belief he was a stanch Whig and was noted in his day for his opposition to the Masonic fraternity.

The father of our subject, Joseph Atwell, was a prominent farmer of Orleans County, N. Y., and by his marriage with Annie, daughter of John Freeman, had four children, only two of whom are now living. Our subject was reared in the county of his birth, and after completing the studies of the common schools attended Albion Academy, in New York State. After he had completed his literary education, he commenced to read law with Hon. C. H. Holmes, a prominent attorney of Orleans County and an able jurist in his day.

When Lincoln issued his famous call for seventy-five thousand volunteers in May of 1861, our subject was one of the first to enlist. He became a member of Company K, Twenty-seventh New York Infantry, commanded by Col. Slocum, a famous officer in the war and now a resident of Brooklyn, N. Y. In the same regiment was the now illustrious Albion Tourgee, the writer and editor. Among the engagements in which Mr. Atwell participated may be mentioned the first battle of Bull Run, the battles of Yorktown and West Point, and the numerous engagements of the Peninsular campaign, including the seven-days fight before Richmond. During the last-named battle he was in the thickest of the fight, having his horse struck three times by bullets, but through the fearful carnage and horror of bloodshed he stood manfully at the post of duty. At the expiration of the seven days he had become so weak that he could not get on his horse without aid. Later he took part in the second battle of Bull Run, the battles of Antietam, Lookout Mountain, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg and many minor engagements.

On the expiration of his term of service in 1863, Mr. Atwell returned home and resumed his legal studies, and in the same year was admitted to the Bar at Buffalo, N. Y. In the Empire State it was necessary to pass a very rigid examination before the Supreme Court, and Mr. Atwell was examined by such men as the noted jurists, Davis, Grover and Daniels. After his admission to the Bar he went to Memphis, Tenn., where he opened an office and commenced the practice of his profession. He remained in that city from 1864 until 1868, and during the last year of his residence there he temporarily lost the use of his eyes.

Leaving Memphis in 1868, Mr. Atwell went to Sioux City, Iowa, then a place of eighteen hundred people. In 1869 he came to Dowagiac, where he has since resided. He was married in October, 1871, to Mrs. Ellen Clark, nee Thomas, a native of Battle Creek, Mich. Politically, Mr. Atwell is a Republican and takes an active interest in State and National polities. He was the first Mayor of Dowagiac and has been Prosecuting Attorney of Cass County for four years. He has never sought office, preferring to give his attention strictly to his profession, but at the solicitation of friends has consented to serve in several positions of trust, and has always rendered most satisfactory service.

Socially, he is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and is Commander of H. C. Gilbert Post No. 47, at Dowagiac. He has an extensive and lucrative law practice and is one of the most influential attorneys of western Michigan.

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This family biography is one of numerous biographies included in the Portrait and Biographical Record of Berrien and Cass Counties, Michigan published in 1893. 

View additional Cass County, Michigan family biographies here: Cass County, Michigan Biographies

View a map of 1911 Cass County, Michigan here: Cass County Michigan Map

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