Great, great Grandfather
William Omskirk Bowler
His father’s name Joseph
He was born Feb. 13, 1756 on Sherwood Forrest, Nottinghamshire, England, the section made famous 400 years earlier by Robin Hood and his band of noble outlaws. This forrest was the Royal hunting ground 25 mi. by 6 to 8 miles.
When about twenty years old he came to the Colonies as a British soldier in Burgoyne’s army to fight the colonists in the Revolutionary War. But he deserted the army and cast his lot in with those same colonists and married Jane Lang of Portsmouth N.H. Oct. 14, 1779. She was just 20 and he 23.
Their oldest son Joseph Omskirk born July 22, 1781 was about two years old when his parents with a large number of New Hampshire people came into Maine and settled in Palermo which was then called Shupscott Great Pond and River Settlement 35 miles from its outlet in the town of Wiscasset. (My correspondent over this matter is Roscoe Bowler a grandson of this first son Joseph. Roscoe lives in Waterville.) Waterville is 16 mi. from Palermo. Ernest Bailey of Palermo is a great grandson of William Omskirk Bowler. Since this eldest son Joseph was born at Salisbury it must have been while they were enroute to the new home.
They lived there in Maine until their seven sons were all born the seventh (our ancestor) James Harvey born Feb. 8, 1792. The mother of his large family of boys died and was buried in Maine and he married again and again and again. He moved to Ohio sometime before the close of the War of 1812. Our ancestor came to his father there in Ohio after his discharge.
They followed no doubt as thousands of others were doing the great trail of the Iroquois Indians, called by them the Long House because so arched by limbs of forest trees. Then along Erie Canal to Niagara Falls on to take up Gov. land not far from Cincinnati in the great North West Ter. to a location afterward named Brown Co. Ohio.
John Cleves Symms had bot from the Gov. and sold to settlers this valley of the Miami River, the richest valley in the world and he started the town of Cincinnati in 1780. He called it Losantiville, meaning-"the town opposite the mouth of the Licking River". Afterward the Government decided to build a fort here and called it Fort Washington but finally it was named Cincinnati.
Here was published a paper called "The Star in the West". It was a Universalist Paper.
Great great Grandfather was a contributor to this paper of both prose and poetry. His pen name was "The Voice of the Wilderness". He was an educated man. He had a practice of going around with his ink bottle tied to his button hole while he wrote with his quill pen these articles.
There was a little pamphlet of his poems printed but a borrower failed to return it. Some of the poems were very humorous. Great Grandfather James Harvey could repeat many of them but his children failed to copy them and they are all forgotten but two – one on the death of a brother Wilson and one "The Lost Child".
The latter he set to music – the near chant music of that time similar to the ballads found still in existence among the mountaineers of Kentucky and Tennessee. This ballad was taught to our mother by his 4th wife her step great grandmother Bowler. It is about a little girl lost in the woods of Indiana and never found: -
The Lost Child
- As through these woods I once was walking,
Where nothing dwelt but beasts of prey,
A woman to herself was talking,
Close by the fountain where she lay.
- Her eyes like sunbeams through the showers,
Brightened her tears as they did fall,
While she invoked the heavenly powers,
And did on them for pity call.
- O God of love the worlds Creator,
Cans’t thou delight in human woe?
And must my sorrow still be greater,
And must my tears forever flow?
- Within these woods pathless and dreary
O I have lost a darling child,
My strength is faint and I am weary
Traveling through these deserts wild.
- There howling wolves and panthers screaming
Heighten the dismal gloom of night,
Where horrors worse than poets feigned,
Which might the stoutest hearts affright.
- While with hunger sore oppressed
Her tender flesh with briers torn
In every want my child’s distressed
And wanders through these woods forlorn.
- A little hut her hands had reared
To shield her from the impending storm
With withered leaves her bed prepared
And stopped the chinks to keep her warm.
- But Oh the humble habitation,
Of its poor tenant was bereft
And unto all a sad vexation,
Only her footsteps round is left.
- The hardest heart with pity heaved
The coldest eye could drop a tear,
To find again our hopes deceived
For the poor wand’rer was not there.
- You who are mothers know my feelings
Who do your tender infants love
My wounds are past the art of healing,
How can my heartfelt grief remove.
- Can I be at my table carving?
How can I eat how can I sleep
And think that my poor child is starving
Left in the wilderness to weep.
- O God of pity pray forgive me,
That I be no more resigned,
Oh send in mercy to relieve me,
For I am sore distressed in mind.
- Me thinks I hear the Voice applying,
Poor mortals all thy griefs give ‘ore,
Thy child has paid the debt of dying,
And now is blest forever more.
William Omskirk Bowler
(Our mother often sang this to us when we were children. When the music was written they used a scale of only six tones, giving a very monotonous recitative style.)
Great grandfather Bowler seemed to take the cue of his religious convictions from his wives. His first wife Jane Lang Bowler was a Baptist and he sometimes preached in that church in Maine.
Elder W.O. Bowler and Mrs. Bowler are listed in the membership of the Baptist church in Palermo also Deacon Joseph Bowler between 1804 & 1896. The town petition to be incorporated in 1801 is signed by Joseph.
His second wife was a Methodist and he worked with that church. His third wife did not live long. The forth was a Universalist and his last years were lived and he died a Universalist Feb 4, 1835 at the age of 79 years in Decatur Co. Ind. He was buried on the farm of his son James Harvey Bowler our great grandfather.