His parents were James Sharp Bradwell and Isabel Fraser of Liberty County. They were married in 1838. His father James Sharp Bradwell was assistant headmaster of McIntosh County Academy in 1840 when he was offered the position of headmaster of Hinesville Academy. He resigned his position, accepted the new position, and built a home in Hinesville.
No two persons ever influenced the education of white Liberty County children over such a long period of time quite so much as James Sharp Bradwell and his son Samuel Dowse Bradwell. Their ancestors went back to the very beginning of Liberty County.
Samuel Dowse Bradwell graduated from college in 1860 and became a lieutenant and then captain and commanding officer of the Liberty Volunteers during the Civil War. He was known as the “Boy Captain” because of his youthful appearance at the age of 21 when he became a Confederate Army officer.
He was severely wounded during the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864, but somehow managed to make his way back to Hinesville. He was still recovering from his wounds when federal troops invaded Liberty County in December 1864. His relatives hid him in their homes to prevent his capture by the federal troops.
When the Civil War was over, Bradwell and other persons in Liberty County founded the Hinesville Educational Society. For five years they refurbished buildings of the Poor School near Hinesville and Hinesville Academy.
When reconstruction of Georgia ended in 1870, Bradwell established a tuition school for boys in Hinesville’ Academy and called it the Hinesville Male Academy. He opened classes in the Poor School a short time later when state and county funds became available for its operation.
Bradwell Institute was established in 1871 from the Hinesville Academy which was organized in 1841. The academy was closed during the War Between the States but was reopened and reorganized following the war by Samuel Dowse Bradwell, the son of Colonel Bradwell and Isabelle Fraser Bradwell. He was captain of the Liberty Volunteers, a military organization in the county. The name, Bradwell Institute, was given the new school honoring the founder of the first school in Hinesville.
The year of 1872 was one of change and achievement for Bradwell. He changed the name of the Hinesville Male Academy to Bradwell Institute in honor of his father who died in 1866. He then went to the Liberty County Superior Court and got the school incorporated for 20 years.
Then he traveled to Pennsylvania, bought a small printing press, and brought it back and installed it in a small building on the grounds of his home. He established the Hinesville Gazette and late in 1872 the first issue of the newspaper rolled off the press.
In the midst of all this activity, Bradwell managed to find time to court and marry Elizabeth Clifton. They had two children and resided with his mother in her home just off courthouse square in Hinesville. As the student load increased at Bradwell Institute, another teacher was employed by the county to teach at the Poor School. Bradwell then devoted all of his time to the operation of his newspaper and enlarging the scope of instruction at Bradwell Institute, which evolved into a school for males and females.
Although Bradwell Institute was a commercial venture, it received both state and county public funds. Liberty County, in later years, contributed funds for its operation from such activities as the sale of stray cattle rounded up by county rangers.
Following his retirement from the school, Captain Bradwell was elected state senator in 1888-1889 and was named State Superintendent of Schools in Georgia in 1891. He placed Bradwell Institute and the Hinesville Gazette in the hands of Stephen A. Calder, his Civil War comrade, and then relocated to Atlanta, Georgia. He served in the position until 1894.
Samuel D. Bradwell sold the Hinesville Gazette in 1893 to Robert Moody “Bob” Martin, a newspaper man from Savannah, Georgia, and son of Matthew and Josephine Moody Martin of Marion, South Carolina.
Later, he became president of the State Normal School in Athens, which today is the University of Georgia.