Independence Day Memorial and Thoughts

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Image Source: https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=43684

 

The Revolutionary War Monument erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in Smyth County Virginia holds particular importance for our family on our nation’s Independence Day.

The monument was built in 1996 by the Royal Oak Chapter of the DAR. The pillar memorial is located in Marion Virginia on the front lawn of the Smyth County courthouse.

Names of soldiers who fought for our freedom against the British Empire decorate the sides of the memorial topped by an eagle.

Inscription:

South Side

Dedicated to the eternal memory of the American Revolutionary War Soldiers and patriots from the area which in 1832 became Smyth Couty, Virginia, who sacrificed their lives and fortunes that we might have our freedom and independence.

East Side

George Killinger, Thomas Woolsey, Jr., Richard Williams, Elisha Dungan, Edward Crowe, Joseph Williams, James Scott, Phillip Greever, John Broady, Jacob Anderson, John Anderson, Jr., Henry Bowen, Samuel Buchanan, Justice Hubble, John Mercer, Richard Woolsey, James Houston, Moses Allen, Zachariah Hurt, Joseph Starnes, II, Jenkins Williams, Peter Groseclose, Henry Townsend, Edward Faris, Zachariah Blankenbeckler, Daniel Reamy

North Side

Henry Burkhart, James Buchanan, Nathaniel Harris, John Snider, John Shannon, Thomas Crow, Alexander Outlaw, James Crow, Matthew Bishop, Benoni Banning, Richard Poston, William Armstrong, William Humphries, Lily McIlhaney Bowen, Frederick Slemp, Zephaniah Woolsey, William Woolsey, Sr., Hugh Cole, William Reagan, Nathaniel Hurt, Nicholas Starnes, James Crabtree, John Hennigar, John Jamison, Andrew Hays, Joseph Atkins

West Side

Gen. William Campbell, Col. Arthur Campbell, Capt. Joseph Cole, Jr., Capt John Buchanan, Capt. Levi Bishop, Capt. Robert Davis, Gen. William Tate, Gen. William Russell, Capt. Arthur Bowen, Capt. Charles Bowen, Capt. John Campbell, Col. Robert Campbell, Capt. David Campbell, Lt. Patrick Campbell, Capt. Robert Bowen, Maj. David Campbell, Lt. Robert Sinclair, Capt. John Hays, Ens. William Hays, Capt. James Thompson, Capt. John Campbell, II.

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Image Source: https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=43684

 

 

The fifth great-grandfather of my husband is listed, Frederick Slemp.

My ancestry included four names on the memorial. Lily McIlhaney (my seventh great-grandmother) and her sons Henry Bowen (my sixth great-grandfather), Capt. Arthur Bowen, Capt. Charles Bowen, and Capt. Robert Bowen. Also, the names Lt. Rober Sinclair and Gen. William Russell can be found in my family tree.

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Amid all the political chaos we find ourselves in today on our nation’s birthday, let us remember that 242 years ago political turmoil surrounded our ancestors. Many stood up for independence from Britain, many supported the British Empire and equally many remained neutral.

The Revolutionary War was not cut and dry. It was not colonists against the big evil British Empire. It was messy. Divided families fought against each other. It was a time of death, grief, and sorrow along with hope and determination.

The Bowen family, which was resoundingly patriotic, had divisions themselves. The Bowen brothers, who fought so hard in the war, had a sister (Rebecca) who married Jonathan Whitley a Torie, a British supporter.

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Bringing the Revolutionary War to present day, the lessons learned 242 years ago are still valid in our modern society. Many people believe history is irrelevant to what is happening today. Why study history? History is in the past.

They could not be farther from the truth. Those who do not take lessons from the past and apply it to the present are doomed to repeat history over and over.

Those who fought in the Revolutionary War were living, breathing, and dying human beings whose concerns were surprising close to our own. They sacrificed everything for what is being taken away from us now.

Divisions are forming in our country today. It is in the air. You can feel it.

However, before tensions in this country erupt irrevocably, take a moment to reflect on the past. Ask yourself, what can we take from history to minimize the damage to our families?

 

Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

 

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Thank you for reading.

J. R. Findsen

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The Bowens of Tazewell

 

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Captain William Bowen Plantation House
Built around 1787, the Bowen House is truly a Tennessee treasure. Captain William Bowen was awarded land grants for military services during the Revolutionary War. He and his wife, Mary, brought four young children to the frontier, and soon Captain Bowen and Mary had 10 children. Through his hard work and own ambitions, Bowen became prosperous in the new settlement and eventually owned over 4,000 acres. William Bowen died in 1804, and Mary died in 1827. The house was then occupied by their son, William Russell Bowen, until it was sold in 1835.

 

 

Reece Bowen was the brother to my sixth great-grandfather Henry Bowen who married Ann Cunningham.

The following account is from a book called A History of The Middle, New River Settlements and Contiguous Territory by David E. Johnston (1906).

The Bowens, of Tazewell

This family is of Welch extraction, and the immediate ancestors of those that came hither were, long prior to the American Revolution, located and settled about Fredericktown, in western Maryland. Restive in disposition and fond of adventure, like all of their blood, they sought, fairly early after the first while settlements were made in the Valley of Virginia, to look for homes in that direction. How early, or the exact date, that Reece Bowen, the progenitor of the Tazewell family of that name, came in to the Virginia Valley from his western Maryland home, cannot be named with certainty; doubtless he came as early as 1765, for it is known that for a few years prior to 1772, when he located at Maiden Spring, he was living on the Roanoke River, close by where the city of Roanoke is now situated, then in Augusta County, he married Miss Louisa Smith, who proved to him not only a loving and faithful wife, but a great helpmeet in his border life. She was ev idently a woman of more than ordinary intelligence and cultivation for one of her day and opportunity. She was a small, neat and trim woman, weighing only about one hundred pounds, while her husband was a giant in size and strength. It is told as a fact that she could step into her husband’s hand and that he could stand and extend his arm, holding her at right angle to his body.

 

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Maiden Springs

 

Prize fighting was quite common in the early days of the settlements, by which men tested their manhood and prowess. The man who could demolish all who chose to undertake him was the champion, and wore the belt until some man flogged him, and then he had to surrender it. At some period after Reece Bowen had settled on the Roanoke, and after the first child came into the home, Mrs. Bowen desiring to pay a visit to her people in the Valley, she and her babe and husband set out on horse-back along the narrow bridle way that then led through the valley, and on the way they met a man clad in the usual garb of the day-that is, buck-skin trousers, moccasins, and hunting shirt, or wampus. The stranger inquired of Mr. Bowen his name, which he gave him; proposed a fight for the belt. Bowen tried to beg off, stating that he was taking his wife and child, the latter then in his arms, to her people. The man would take no excuse; finally Mrs. Bowen said to her husband; “Reece, give me the child and get down and slap that man’s jaw.” Mr. Bowen alighted from his horse, took the man by the lapel of his hunting shirt, gave him a few quick, heavy jerks, when the man called out to let him go, he had enough.

It is also related of Mr. Bowen, that in a later prize fight, at Maiden Spring, with a celebrated prize fighter who had, with his seconds, come from South Carolina to fight Bowen, and when he reached Bowen’s home and made known to him his business, he, Mr. Bowen, did what he could in an honorable way to excuse himself from engaging in a fight; but the man was persistent and Bowen concluded to accommodate him and sent for his seconds-a Mr. Smith and a Mr. Clendenin. The fight took place and the gentleman form South Carolina came off second best.

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Just when Reece Bowen first saw the territory of what is now Tazewell County cannot be definitely stated. Whether he was one of the large hunting party organized of men from the Virginia Valley, North Carolina and New River, which rendezvoused at Ingle’s Ferry in June, 1769, and hunted on the waters of the Holstein, Powell’s River, Clinch, and in Kentucky, is not known; his name does not appear among the number, but the writer, “Haywood’s Civil and Political History of Tennessee,” does not profess to give all the names of the party. Nevertheless it is highly probable that Bowen was along, or he may have gone out with the party the next year, or he may have met with the Witten’s, and others, on their way out in 1771, and joined them. He seems not to have made his settlement at Maiden Spring until the year of 1772. He went with Captain William Russell’s company to the battle of Point Pleasant, in 1774, leaving home in August of that year, and leaving Daniel Boone in command of that part of the frontier. As already stated in this volume, Boone had been forced to give up his journey to Kentucky in September 1773, on account of the breaking out of the Indian War, and had spent the winter of 1773-4 in the neighborhood of Captain William Russell, near Castleswoods.

Captain Russell’s company belonged to Colonel William Christian’s Fincastle Regiment, the greater part of which did not participate in the battle of Point Pleasant, being in the rear in charge of the pack horses carrying provisions for the army; but Shelby’s and Russell’s companies went forward with the main body and took an active part in the conflict. Moses Bowen a relative of Reece, was with Russell’s company, but died on the journey, from smallpox. (Moses Bowen was Reece’s youngest brother. He died at the age of 20 years old.)

 

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Battle at King’s Mountain

 

From 1774 to 1781, when Reece Bowen marched away to the battle of King’s Mountain, the border on and along the Clinch was harassed by bands of marauding Indians, and in many of the skirmishes and troubles Reece Bowen took a hand. During the period from the date of Bowen’s settlement at Maiden Spring until his death, to procure salt, iron, and other necessary materials he had to travel across the mountains to Salisbury, North Carolina, carrying them on a packhorse, and would be absent for weeks, leaving his wife and children alone. His trips, however, were always made in winter, when there was no danger from the Indians. He left rifle guns and bear dogs at home, and with these his wife felt safe from danger, for she was a good shot with a rifle, often exceeding the men in ordinary rifle practice. Mr. Bowen had selected a lovely country for his home, and around and adjacent thereto, prior to the fall of 1780, had surveyed and secured several thousand acres of that valuable land, of which his descendants today hold about twelve square miles.

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When it was known that Lord Cornwallis’ Army was marching northward through the Carolinas, and that Colonel Ferguson, who commanded the left wing of his Army, had sent a threat to the “Over Mountain Men” that if they did not cross the mountains and take the oath of allegiance to the King, that he would cross over and destroy with fire and sword, Evan Shelby, John Sevier, and William Campbell determined to checkmate Colonel Ferguson by crossing the mountains and destroying him and his army. Colonel Campbell commanded the Washington County Military Force, and William Bowen (William Bowen was the brother of Reese Bowen) a company that belonged to Campbell’s Command, though a part of his company lived on the Montgomery county side of the line. In this company Reece Bowen was a First Lieutenant, his son John a Private, and James Moore a Junior Lieutenant. When the order came for Bowen’s company to join the regiment it found its Captain William Bowen, sick of a fever, and this situation devolved the command of the company upon Lieutenant Reece Bowen, who led it into the battle of King’s mountain, and there, together with several of his men, was killed and buried on the field. His remains were never removed, for the reason that when the opportunity was offered for their removal the spot in which he was buried could not be identified. Campbell’s Regiment lost in this battle 35 killed and wounded; among the killed, other than Lieutenant Reece Bowen, were Captain William Edmondson, Robert Edmondson, Andrew Edmondson, and Henry Henninger from the upper Clinch Waters.

 

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Colonel Henry Bowen, son of Reese Bowen

 

Reece Bowen has in Tazewell County many highly respected, prominent and influential descendants, among them Mr. Reece Bowen, Colonel Thomas P. Bowen and Captain Henry Bowen, all brave and distinguished Confederate Soldiers; the latter, Captain Henry, being frequently honored by his people as a member of the Legislature of Virginia, and a Representative in Congress. The present Mr. Reece Bowen married Miss Mary Crockett, of Wythe; Colonel Thomas P., Miss Augusta Stuart, of Greenbrier, and Captain Henry, Miss Louisa Gillespie, of Tazewell.

 

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Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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Defensive Position of Tazewell During The Frontier War

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Annals of Southwest Virginia, 1769-1800
by Lewis Preston Summers

Defensive Position of Tazewell During the Frontier War, page 1480

In order to appreciate the true situation of the frontiersmen during the long wars which so devastated the settlements, it is essentially necessary that the reader should know the exact position which they occupied, and how much depended upon their own exertions. For this purpose, has this chapter been set apart.

Previous to 1776, the settlers were engaged in erecting suitable houses to protect their families from the in clemencies of the weather, as well as to render them more secure from the attacks of the Indians. Their lands had to be opened, and consequently, they were much in the forest. As there was an abundance of game, and few domestic animals, their meat was taken mostly from the forest; this likewise took them from home. They were few, and to raise a house, or roll the logs from a field, required the major part of a settlement. This likewise left their families exposed; yet such work was usually executed during the winter months, when the Indians did not visit the settlements. To give further protection to the families of the settlers, in every neighborhood block-houses were, as soon as convenient, erected, to which the families could repair in times of necessity.

After 1776, forts and stations were built, as it became necessary for many of the settlers to join the army. In these forts, and particularly at the stations, a few men were left to defend them. But the extent of country to be defended was so great, and the stations so few, that there was, in reality, but little safety afforded to the families of the settlers.

De Hass has given correct descriptions of block-houses, forts, and stations, to which I beg to refer the reader. There was a fort erected by William Wynn, a strict old Quaker, and one of the best of men., on Wynn’s branch; another at Crab Orchard, by Thomas Witten and one at Maiden Spring, by Rees Bowen – two men whose names will be cherished in the memories of the people of Tazewell for ages to come.

There was a station on Linking Shear branch, containing a few men under the command of Capt. John Preston, of Montgomery; another on Bluestone creek, in command of Capt. Robert Crockett of Wythe county, and another at the present site of the White Sulphur springs, in command of Capt. James Taylor of Montgomery. It is also said that there was a station in Burk’s Garden; I imagine, however, that it was not constructed by order of the Government.

The following persons, citizens of the county, were posted in these forts and stations, viz:

  • Bailey, John
  • Burgess, Edward
  • Bailey, James
  • Belcher, Robert
  • Belcher, Joseph
  • Brewster, Thomas
  • Chaffin, Christopher
  • Maxwell, John
  • Connelly, James
  • Maxwell, Thomas
  • Crockett, John
  • Marrs, ____?
  • Cotterel, John
  • Peery, James
  • Evans, John, Sr.
  • Pruett, John
  • Evans, John, Jr.
  • Thompson, Archibald
  • Gilbert, Joseph
  • Witten, James
  • Godfrey, Absalom
  • Wynn, Oliver
  • Hall, William
  • Wright, Michael
  • Lusk, David
  • Ward, John
  • Lusk, Samuel
  • Ward, William
  • Lusley, Robert
  • Wright, Hezekiah
  • Martin, James

 

These men were to hold themselves in readiness to act as circumstances might demand. To make them more efficient, spies were employed to hang upon the great trails leading into the settlements from the Ohio. Upon discovering the least sign of Indians, they hurried into the settlements and warned the people to hasten to the forts or stations, as the case might be. They received extra wages for their services, for they were both laborious and important, and also fraught with danger. For such an office the very best men were chosen; for it will be readily seen, that a single faithless spy might have permitted the Indians to pass unobserved, and committed much havoc among the people, before they could have prepared for defense. But it does not appear that any “spy” failed to give the alarm when possible so to do. They always went two together, and frequently remained out several weeks upon a scout. Great caution was necessary to prevent the Indians from discovering them, hence their beds were usually of leaves, in some thicket commanding a view of the war-path. Wet or dry, day or night, these men were ever on the lookout. The following persons were chosen from the preceding list, to act as spies, viz:

  • Burgess, Edward
  • Martin, James
  • Bailey, James
  • Maxwell, John
  • Bailey, John
  • Wynn, Oliver
  • Crockett, John
  • Witten, James

 

The last of whom, was one of the most sagacious and successful spies to be found anywhere on the frontier. His name is yet as familiar with the people as if he had lived and occupied a place among them but a day ago.

Such as were too old to bear arms in the government service, usually guarded the women, children and slaves, while cultivating the farms. Tazewell had but a small population at this time, yet from the number engaged in the regular service, we should be led to think otherwise. The following table will convey a good idea of their dispersion over the country, their families, in the meantime, exposed to the horrors of the tomahawk and scalping-knife

 

Names Where Engaged Where Killed/Wounded
Bowen, Rees King’s Mountain King’s Mountain
Bowling, Jarrett    
Brown, Low Clark’s Ex. to IL  
Cartmill, James Alamance  
Dolsberry, Lyles Pt. Pleasant, etc.  
Ferguson, Saml Alamance  
Harrison, Thos Brandywine,

Germantown,

And Yorktown

 
Harper, Jesse    
Lasly, John Clark’s Ex to IL  
Maloney, Archer Brandywine,

And Stony Point

 
McGuire, Nealy Clark’s Ex. to IL  
Moore, Capt. James Alamance  
Peery, William Alamance,

And IL Ex.

 
Peery, Thomas Alamance Alamance
Peery, John Alamance Alamance
Stratton, Solom Clark’s Ex to IL  
Tomlinson, Ism. Brandywine,

Germantown, etc.

 

 

It is a little strange that the frontiers should have furnished so many men for the army, when their absence so greatly exposed their families. But when we reflect that no people felt the horrors of war more sensibly than they did, and that no people are readier to serve the country in the day when aid is needed, than those of mountainous regions, we shall at once have an explanation to their desire, and consequent assistance, in bringing the war to a close. Besides, the people of Tazewell have ever been foremost in defending the country; showing at once that determination to be free, which so eminently characterizes the people of mountainous districts.

The reader, by consulting the Map, and learning that during the Indian wars the population did not much exceed five hundred, will see at once that Tazewell county afforded an open field for the depredations of the Indians.

 

Notes:

  1. James Witten was born January 7th, 1759, in the colony of Maryland, and emigrated to Tazewell with his father, Thomas Witten, in 1773. At this time, though only about fifteen years of age, he was much distinguished as a hunter and woodsman. He was brave and generous to a fault; and was remarkable for decided action even at this early age. He married in 1783, and became at once a conspicuous character in the border war, which had not yet ceased. From 1794 to ’96, he was employed as a regular spy. When any duty requiring bravery, firmness, and prudence, had to be performed, James Witten was the man invariably chosen, as he possessed these qualities in an eminent degree. many incidents of interest are related of him, which should be preserved.
  2. The following list of persons who served in the war of 1812-1814, will corroborate the above statement, viz,
  • Asbury, William
  • Higginbotham, James
  • Tabor, Daniel
  • Bowen, Col. Henry
  • Higginbotham, Wm.
  • Thompson, Henry B.
  • Barns, William
  • King, Isaac
  • Vandyke, Charles
  • Belcher, James
  • Lusk, David
  • Vandyke, John
  • Bostic, Isaac
  • Peery, Capt. Thomas
  • Witten, William
  • Brooks, James
  • Peery, Jonathan
  • Wynn, Peter E.
  • Bainheart, George
  • Peery, Solomon
  • Ward, Alexander
  • Davidson, John
  • Robertson, David
  • Wilson, Hugh
  • Earley, Jeremiah
  • Stevenson, Matthew
  • Wynn, Samuel
  • Franklin, Pleasant
  • Smith, William
  • Walls, Joseph
  • Green, William
  • Shannon, John
  • Young, Nathaniel
  • Gose, Peter
  • Thompson, Rees B.
  • Young Israel

The companies offered their services to the government to engage in the Mexican war; they were not accepted, however, as a sufficiency of men had already been received. James Wynn and Wesley Hubbard, however, joined the Washington troops; with these exceptions, Tazewell may be said not to have participated in the war with Mexico.

 

Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

The Line Between Bravery and Insanity

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What kind of person packs-up their household (wife, kids, animals) and hacks their way into the wilderness to make a new home; a new life? There is a fine line between bravery and insanity my friend. Many of you may remember the movie The Adventures of the Wilderness Family that came out in 1975. It is a movie about a family that decides city life is slowing killing them. They pack up to start a new life somewhere in the Rockies. As a kid, I watched that movie with awe and dreams of my own. At the time, little did I know that my ancestors had lived through a similar tale except, their story was fraught with more dangers than we can possibly imagine.

Turn the clock back two hundred years before Hollywood débuted the Wilderness Family. Captain William Bean (my 6th great grandfather) and his family decided to trade in their relatively cushy life for carving out a new existence in the middle of nowhere, in the land that is now known as Tennessee. What possesses a person to do such a thing? Pat Alderman in his book The Overmountain Men gives a little insight:

Captain William Bean moved his family into the new country early in the year 1769. He built a cabin on a point between Boones Creek [Yes, named after Daniel Boone] and Watauga River, just above the mouth of the creek. Ramsey [I don’t know who this dude is] says that Bean had camped here while hunting with Boone [Daniel Boone and my 6th great granddaddy were buddies!] and was familiar with the country….William Bean was acquainted with military training of the time and held a Captain’s rank in the Virginia Militia [think Mel Gibson in The Patriot]. He was a born leader and a man of means [translation: rich]. His name appears frequently in the organization and affairs of the Watauga Association and with Washington County. Many relatives and friends from Virginia soon settled around Bean.

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Captain William Bean was adventurous, daring, wealthy, enterprising and slightly nutty.  He buddied around with frontiersmen like Daniel Boone. Up until 1769 the Tennessean wilderness had seen its fair share of adventurers, but it took Capt. Bean and his daring to bring his entire family out into the sticks. They are known as the first permanent settlers of the greater area. Lucky for me, and the rest of his descendants, Capt. Bean’s adventurous lifestyle did not end in disaster.

If you would like to learn more about Captain William Bean (his wife Lydia Russell has her own badass story) and others like him, I would suggest picking up a copy of Alderman’s The Overmountain Men. It is a good read. You might even learn some of the crazy histories that shaped our nation.

Thank you for reading.

J.R. Lowe