John Downing was born about 1762 in Maryland. Thanks to DNA testing we know he saw service in the Washington County, Maryland, militia. He was a Private, 5th Class, in Capt. Basil Williams Company, 2nd Battalion, in 1778. For many years he was believed to have served in Pennsylvania. See John Downing’s Elusive Service.
As far as we know, he did not apply for a pension which is part of the reason his service was elusive. As a result we don’t have a written version of his travels across the country. We know in 1783 he was living in Marsh Hundred, Washington County, Maryland. By 1786 he was living in Hopewell Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. In 1790 he is on the first federal census there. By 1808 he was in Jefferson Township, Monroe County, Ohio. A history of Madison County says he was “a native of Virginia.” It also tells us that in 1822 he moved to Logan County. In another error, it places Logan County in Ohio.
On August 6, 1831, he purchased 80 acres of federal land in Chester Township.
John Downing and his wife Hannah Frakes had eight children, seven of whom survived childhood. Three served in the War of 1812 while they lived in Ohio. One died in battle and one died not long after returning home. The third died in Logan County at the age of 94. Another son continued on to Iowa and another eventually went to Kansas. A daughter married and left for Oregon but got delayed in Kansas. Another daughter died in Logan County before her father.
Downing died on December 18, 1838, in Salt Creek Precinct, Sangamon now Logan County, Illinois. Less than two months later Logan County was officially formed. There were various early courthouses but the final one is in Lincoln. Almost immediately after all files were transferred to the new courthouse it burnt. There is no probate file nor any other records.
Unlike James Turley and Humphrey Scroggin, we know exactly where he is buried – in Bowers Templeman Cemetery.