William Bowen moved to Itawamba County between 1847 and 1850 where he and his family are found enumerated in the 1850 census in District 7 (name transcribed as William Boron). Based upon the surrounding "neighbors" of this census (Alfred and Rachael Dulaney, and others) it appears that William lived northeast of Fulton. Indeed, in the 1860 census, William is indicated to be living near the Pleasanton post office which was located in northeastern Itawamba County. NOTE: William Bowen is not to be confused with William Elisha Bowen, my husband's ancestor, who moved from Pontotoc County to the Mud Creek community - a different family of Bowens altogether... as far as I know! ;)
William's oldest son, John Henderson Bowen, is my great-great-great grandfather who was born in Virginia on May 5, 1822. In 1850, John and his family were still living in Cleveland County, North Carolina. Cleveland was a relatively new county, established in 1841 from parts of Rutherford and Lincoln counties, named for Col. Benjamin Cleveland who was a Revolutionary War hero at Kings Mountain. Cleveland County sits just above the South Carolina state line.
In a family Bible, belonging to William Darden Shelton Bowen, middle son of William, it is written that his mother, Martha, died June 1854 in North Carolina. W.D.S. Bowen's father, William, is indicated in the Bible to have died April 28, 1888 in Fulton, Miss. Who, then, was the 46 year old Rebecca who was William's spouse in the 1850 census - the same Rebecca who was also listed as William's spouse in the 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses? Martha did not die until 1854, in North Carolina, as evidenced by both the Bible record and her headstone in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery outside the town of Shelby in Cleveland County, North Carolina, near the border with South Carolina. Rebecca was still living in 1888 when William Bowen's estate was probated in Itawamba County. They obviously are not the same person.
Information recently provided to me has solved the mystery of Martha and Rebecca. A descendant of Rebecca and William Bowen graciously shared her research with me, research that shows Rebecca to be the common law wife of William. William's first wife was Martha Overby who was at least ten years older than her husband; the couple were married December 1817 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.
William and Rebecca undoubtedly met through William and Martha's oldest child, Emily or "Millie", who was married to Edward Wesson, Rebecca's brother. Or perhaps, it was the other way around, and Emily and Edward met through Rebecca. Which ever way the introductions happened, Rebecca (who already had one child out of wedlock) and William eventually hooked up, with their first child being born around 1835. Eventually, four more children were born to Rebecca and William. The births of Julia, Catherine, Minerva, and Richard Henry were recorded in North Carolina Bastardy Books and list William Bowen as the children's father. William was bound by law and obligated to provide for the children. By 1847, William and Rebecca had left North Carolina together, and their fourth child, Mary, was born in Tennessee enroute to Itawamba County.
Looking back at the 1840 census, there is a William Bowin enumerated in Rutherford County, North Carolina. The sex and ages of the household members match up with those of William, Martha and their children. Listed as living next door: Edward Wesson! You may be interested to learn that Edward and Millie Wesson were the GGG grandparents of Elvis Presley, while William and Martha Bowen were GGGG grandparents of Elvis.
Martha died in June 1854 as did a couple of her grandsons, both buried near Martha in the North Carolina cemetery. Following Martha's death, her children - with the exception of daughter Lavinia "Vaney" - left North Carolina and joined their father in Mississippi. Mary Spivey, a descendant of William Bowen and his common law wife, Rebecca, took the following photographs of the grave of Martha Bowen. When she found Martha's grave, the headstone had been broken and was embedded in the ground. Mary and her husband took time out of their busy schedule to dig up and repair the headstones of not just Martha, but also her grandsons! They purchased Quikrete to reattach the stones, then went back for flowers to decorate the graves! What an amazing act of kindness from someone not even related to Martha. Here are the before and after pictures:
If anyone has any information about the burial location of William and Rebecca's graves in Itawamba County, I would appreciate an e-mail. Interesting that we know where Martha is buried and have pictures, but nothing is known about the final resting place of William and Rebecca. William's estate was probated in Itawamba County with a final settlement being made in 1891 to his heirs; Rebecca was still living at the time.