Saturday, June 19, 2010

James D. Bowen (Jimmy Dee)

Bethel Methodist Church

Bethel Cemetery

J. D. Bowen, 1807-Aug. 26, 1885

J. D. Bowen, Kathren Bowen, Ellen Bowen Whiteside gravemarkers

Recently, while perusing old copies of the Pontotoc Pioneers, a publication similar to our Itawamba Settlers magazine, I came across a listing for the graves at Bethel Cemetery, located northeast of Pontotoc. Lo and behold, there was a J. D. Bowen listed, born 1807*, husband of Kate. Could this be James D. Bowen, who was married to a second wife named Catherine? After checking the dates against the information on James D. Bowen in my family tree database, I concluded that indeed it was one and the same.

For all of you Bowen descendants from northern Itawamba County, James was the father of William Elisha Bowen of the Mud Creek community. There were at least two sets of Bowen families in Itawamba County, and I refer to them as "his and hers" - his set being my husband's set of Bowens who lived up around Mud Creek, and "hers" being my set of Bowens from another William Bowen who lived close to the Clay-Tilden Road. They are completely two different families.... one from South Carolina (his) and one from North Carolina (hers).

When I discovered that the Bethel Cemetery is about a mile off of Highway 9, I realized that we had been unknowingly passing by the grave of my husband's great-great-great-great grandfather for years on our many trips between Oxford and Itawamba County. The next day, on my way to Peaceful Valley, I turned off of Highway 9 (just before Endville), to the left, drove about a mile, and found an old white church with a cemetery across the road that contained the graves of several Bowens. James D. Bowen's grave is located pretty much in the middle of the cemetery. He seems to be one of the oldest persons buried there, being born in 1807*. Next to his grave was the grave of his second wife, Kathren, as it is spelled on her tombstone, "wife of Jim" and his daughter, Ellen, who married a Dr. Whitehead, it is said.

James was born in South Carolina, as we know from the census records. Itawamba descendants refer to James as "Jimmy Dee" but apparently he was known as Jim too. The middle initial "D" is supposedly for "Dulaney" or "Delaney." Although I've never seen a source given for information, Bowen descendants much older than I (and long gone) have quoted Dulaney as the middle name. One of James' son, Thomas Lake Bowen, named his son Delaney W. Bowen and he is listed in the 1900 census as living in Itawamba County. James himself may have named a son Dulaney or Delaney, as census records include an 18 year old "D. L." in his parents' 1860 household. One Bowen descendant indicated that "Lane" died at the battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. I'm still working on locating information to support these statements.

Among all of my husband's ancestors, the mystery surrounding Jimmy Dee Bowen is perhaps the most intriguing. It has been said that he lived on a ship until he was twelve years old, and could not walk on land upon his arrival in America. It has been said that he was of Italian ancestry and that perhaps his name wasn't really Bowen. It has been said that he arrived in Pontotoc County by way of New Orleans, having left a ship that sailed there and following a horse all the way up to Pontotoc. It has been said that upon the death of his first wife, he went to Rome, Georgia and married a Catherine (Kathren) Walker, a lady he knew prior to his first marriage. It has been said that his first wife was a Carlisle, but also said that she was a Lake.

These stories apparently came from Jimmy Dee's granddaughters, Amanda Johnson, Willie Taylor, and Mary Jane George, all daughters of William Elisha Bowen who moved to Itawamba County, married and raised families there. These granddaughters, who handed down the family stories to their children and grandchildren, would most definitely have know their grandfather since they were in their twenties when he died in 1885. In fact, their grandfather outlived their father by seven years.

The census records tell us that Jimmy Dee was born in South Carolina, as were his first five children. Sometime around 1850, the family left South Carolina because they show up in Pontotoc County in the 1860 census. I've tried and tried to find them in the 1850 census, but to no avail. If the family was in transit most of that year, moving from South Carolina to Mississippi, then it would have been hard for a census taker to find them. Or, perhaps, the family traveled by boat from South Carolina to New Orleans and then made their way north to Pontotoc County. Who knows!

Some Bowen researchers believe that James D. Bowen was from Newberry District, South Carolina, and supporting this statement is an 1840 census for a James D. Bowen in Newberry. The census record is a close fit for the ages of the family and the sex and number of children we would expect to find in 1840. His first wife's surname is a source of controversy. The descendants of son William Elisha Bowen believe that Elizabeth's maiden name was Carlisle, which was the reason for Elisha naming a son Elisha Carlisle. However, the descendants of Elizabeth's son Thomas Lake Bowen believe that Elizabeth's maiden name was Lake, and indeed there was an Elisha Lake enumerated in the 1800 census for Newberry who was old enough to have been Elizabeth's father. Buried in the Bush River Quaker Cemetery in Newberry County is a Thomas Lake (born 1797), Jane Lake (born 1777), Rebecca Lake (born 1795), Thomas John Lake (born 1827), Elizabeth R. Lake (born 1809), Elisha J. Lake (born 182?) and Elijah Lake (born 1768).

Elizabeth Lake/Carlisle Bowen died between 1860 and 1870. Kathren, second wife of James, died after 1910.

* 1807 is listed as year of birth on tombstone, but all census records point to year of birth as being from 1811-1814.

No comments: