Great Grandfather

James Harvey Bowler

He was the 7th son of William Omskirk Bowler and Jane (Lang) Bowler and was born in Palermo, Me. Feb. 8, 1792. His mother died when he was small. He got his education under the tutelage of an elder brother in whose care he had been left and this included an apprenticeship to the hatter’s trade from his 14th year until his majority. There were no large factories in those days to make hats but they were manufactured in small towns by men who had a few tools and enough capital to lay in materials. In the dyeing and some other work two men were necessary, so there grew up a sort of journey man’s guild of hatters who would travel through the country helping one hatter through his busy season and then another as he passed along.

Great Grandfather started out this way, a desire to see the world doubtless being his prime motive. Uncle Will heard him speak of working in Massachusetts and he was in Western New York in 1814 when he enlisted in the War of 1812 "and fought during the last months in the Command of Gen. Winfield Scott the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. "He enlisted as a volunteer and served seven months in Western New York and Canada. He was near Fort Erie at the time it was blown up was with General Scott at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and at the burning of Buffalo. His company was commanded by Lieutenant Parkhurst of the Dobbins Swift Regiment of New York state cavalry. From Apr. 9 to June 30, 1814 under Captain Israel W. Stonsite (according to uncle Will) Isaac W. Stone (according to War records at Washington) and later Capt. Claudius V. Boughton of the New York cavelry until Nov 8, 1814. He received recompense for his services in the way of a land warrent for government lands which were located near Flora, Ill of which more later. "A bronze marker was placed on his grave by the general Society of the War of 1812 which consists of the Federation of several different states. The pres. of this society at that time was John Cadwalader of Philadelphia. Mrs. Bradford Wiles of Chicago, Pres. of the Dau. of the War of 1812 was the one through whose hands it came". (Cousin Ollie)

After the War was over he went to the house of his father who was living in Brown Co. Ohio. His father had remarried and had quite a family of girls growing up the eldest of whom, Aunt Katy was then a young lady. He reached home during his father’s absence. His father on returning asked "who is that young man out there beauing Katy, over there by the goose berry bushes?" His wife replied, "He says he is your son". Then his father straddled the rows of corn intervening in his eagerness to meet this his son from whom he had been so long separated.

Here he met Phebe Henderson. Of their marriage and early years I write under her name.

After several years he and his wife Phebe were contemplating a move to Indiana, where land was cheaper when a certain circumstance occurred which precipitated the event.

He had a fine horse which was in the keeping of another man when the man took a sudden notion to emigrate and rode the horse away. He pursued him into Indiana and overtook him in Decatur Co where he found that the horse had been traded for some land, but the deed had not yet been executed.

It was a colored man who owned the land and they settled the matter by making the deed to Great Grandfather and the thief kept on emigrating. Neither G. Grandfather nor the colored man cared to prosecute him as they had both got what they wanted.

The farm (later at least) consisted of 140 acres. He then brought his family from Brown Co. There were four little girls now, besides two who had died in infancy (Jane, Martha, (our ancestor) Elizabeth and Amanda). He loaded as much house hold goods as he could carry in a two horse wagon beside the family and set out on the trail of the pioneers for more than a hundred miles.

Six acres was sufficiently cleared for farming. The rest was heavily set to timber. This was in 1830, three years before the first house in Chicago.

"Nature had divided the farm into several fields by small branches or creeks. To the South of the house an orchard had been set out. It consisted of 15 or 20 seedling apple trees with a row of peach trees on each side to the east and west of the orchard.

There was a fine spring about 8 or 10 rods from the house in the north west corner of the orchard. A little branch carried the waste from the spring to a larger branch which in turn carried it into the creek which crossed the farm.

The topography of the land where the orchard was planted might be represented by taking a sheet or blanket and holding three corners off the ground an angle of about ten degrees and leaving the forth corner on the ground. This corner was where the spring was and when it rained the water would flow down with the spring branch in a rushing brook.

There was a great variety of apples on these seedling trees. Each member of the family had his or her favorite tree". (This is being told as the little brother Willie remembered it. He came to join those little girls and is telling it at the great age of 95 years with a keen recollection and fine power of description.) His mother’s tree bore small but very sweet apples which were principally used in the thickening apple butter. Jane’s had large sour apples, not very good to eat till they were quite ripe. Martha’s were very good cooking apples Amanda’s were of the sheepnose variety, very good apples. This orchard was the children’s playground. "The first home or I should say house on this farm is described under Martha (Bowler) Billings.

When Great Grandfather and mother first moved to this farm from Ohio there were very few established roads. There was an old trail came through Cincinnati and ran through Franklin Co. (Ind) into Decatur Co. which was about 80 rods south of their land. It angled to the south west so that after a mile and a half it was a mile south then it went on straight through Indianapolis to Lake Michigan.

There was another road a mile west of their farm running west and south. When they were getting ready to build a new house, a new road was laid out from the road on the west to meet the old road on the east and it ran on the half section line which was the north line of the farm so they decided to build out there on the new road.

The new house (in which Grandmother was afterward married) was a quarter of a mile due north of the old one. The land was cleared nearly to the new house, enough noble trees left to make a background for a beautiful landscape. The new house was 16 X 25 ft., one story framed. Great Grandfather seldom did things as other people did so he ceiled the outside of the house with regular tongue and groove ceiling. The floor was laid with blue ash lumber and though it was never sand papered it was so hard and slick that little children slipped about on it as if they were on ice.

They lived in it a year or two all in one room then a partition was run across and it was ceiled inside. The west end was almost occupied by the fireplace which would take in logs four feet in length and 18 in. in diameter. The front yard contained at least a quarter of an acre. It sloped gently to the road and was set with blue grass. On the east side was a row of cherry trees and next to them two rows of currant bushes. Near the northwest corner was a clump of cherry trees and in the southwest corner was a raspberry patch where the canes grew thick and tall. In the front was a black haw tree and near the middle of the yard was an old stump with a wild gooseberry bush growing all over it. A wild rose vine covered a large part of the front wall of the house.

Great grandfather was a great hand to walk out in the woods of a Sunday afternoon and he often brought back some tree or shrub to set out in the yard or garden. One day he brought a mysterious looking shrub and on being questioned as to what it was he said it was a Tree of Heaven. It was closely watched by friends and neighbors as well as the family until it bloomed in the fall and lo, it was just a sumac bush.

The well stood on the south side of the house, only a few feet from the door. He tried several modes of lifting the water. First was the sweep and rope on which was hung an "oaken bucket". Then we had a windlass and rope and later a pump which was a new invention in those days. The well was deep and the water was cool with considerable lime in it.

"But all this is going ahead" (Uncle Will) "We shall return to the moving which was of great interest and anticipation to the younger members of the family. On the Sunday before moving time my sisters planned to go over to see the "new house". Of course the little boy had to go too. We were quite surprised to see a fine new large rocking chair there in the room. A man had made it to order and knowing that we were to move in a few days had brought it there instead of to the old house. We each had to take turns at rocking. Two of the smaller ones could rock at once. Strange to say altho 90 years have passed since that day, the chair is still in use in my family with only the renewal of the rockers and splints in the bottom.

"I think it was during the first winter we spent in the new house – in the midst of a cold snow storm – a clock peddler appeared. Clocks were not sold in stores in those days but were peddled by itinerant dealers.

Father never had much money but he was persuaded to pay $30,00 for a clock. Not such a bad bargain after all for it still stands on the shelf on the wall of our living room and ticks out the hours and days of my passing life in Pomona California.

We have here also the baby rocker used now by five generations of children.

Though not a large man, Great Grandfather was very strong and he took the heavy labor of clearing a timber farm with zest and enthusiasm of health and vigorous manhood.

One day while hauling logs one slipped and he was crushed by its weight in a manner to cause a bad rupture of his intestines.

They sent 14 miles for a surgeon but a bungling job was made of it and he was left a semi-invalid the rest of his life.

Their next move was to Marion Co. Ind. And they made their home a few miles south of Indianapolis.

In 1848 Congress passed a law giving the soldiers of the War of 1812 land warrents. He got a warrant for 120 acres northwest of Flora, Ill. for his services and bought another 160 acres which was laid on land south of where Flora now is. The town was not started until the railroad came through there.

He and Great Grandmother Phebe had made two trips out to see the country and to visit their daughter Jane (Bowler) Anderson.

In 1855 he sold his farm in Marion Co and prepared to move to Illinois. In the latter part of March they – he and his wife, his daughter Phebe Ann (Sis) and her husband Thomas Shinn with their two children Albert and Olive (4 mo. Old) and his widowed daughter Amanda (Bowler) Billings and her child Ella – came out on the train and set up house keeping in a little one room clap board house which he had bought when he was out in the winter.

When the roads settled so it was safe to travel, his son, Willie Bowler set out with a three horse team with furniture etc. A young brother of Thomas Shinn was with him. They reached Flora Apr. 25, 1856 and Uncle Thomas (Ollies father) died that night.

Great Grandfather worked out his own faith in Universal Salvation, before his father’s fourth wife brought him into that faith.

He died Feb. 24, 1857 on his farm south of Flora and was buried in Flora Cemetery.

(His wife next page)