Our 17th and 18th Century English and Scottish Immigrants

Having been born and raised in a working class family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the fact that I was a "Lowell" was a big deal. Never mind that the circumstances of my life were about as removed as they could be from the East Coast Lowells of Harvard and the literary Lowells: James Russell, Robert, and Amy. They were still my family. However, none of my immediate family was as interested in genealogy as I. One of the stories that I remember from childhood was that my great-great-great-grandfather, Samuel Lowell, married a woman by the name of Hannah Lowell, so that her full married name was "Hannah Lowell Lowell." And, given that this was South Dakota, my family elders were always quick to add that of course, Samuel and Hannah weren't related (which, as I discovered later, was untrue-they were first cousins). The era of this great-great-great-grandfather was the farthest back that my family could go at that time.

George John Lowell
My grandfather
Another story from childhood that reflected the connections of my family with those East Coast Lowells was conveyed to me via my Grandpa Lowell regarding his grandmother. As a young boy, when his grandmother came into the house, my grandfather was always instructed to stand up and take off his hat, because, as my great-great-grandmother would say in her New England accent, "Remember, George, you are a Lowell."

As an adult, I discovered the book The Historic Genealogy of the Lowells of America from 1639 to 1899, written by Delmar R. Lowell and published in 1899. Fortunately for me, my great-grandfather, John Russell Lowell, was listed in the book so my knowledge of my Lowell ancestry grew by quantum leaps with little work required on my part. I discovered that I was a thirteenth generation Lowell in the United States. The immigrant Lowell was Percival Lowle, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1639, having left Bristol, England, with two sons, John and Richard, and a daughter. Through the European ancestors of the Lowells and their spouses, I am linked to the royal houses of numerous countries in Europe.

The descendants of Percival's older son, John Lowell, were the wealthy society families of New England, the educators and presidents of Harvard, and the literary figures mentioned earlier.

The descendants of Percival's younger son, Richard Lowell, eventually migrated northeast to Maine and became known as the Maine Lowells, of which I am a part. These Lowells were shipbuilders, pioneers, successful farmers and business people. My 5-greats-grandfather, Reuben Lowell, settled in Farmington, Maine, in 1794 and his son and grandson (the aforementioned Samuel Lowell) lived and farmed outside Farmington in the small town of Chesterville.

Samuel Lowell's youngest son, John Fairfield Lowell, my great-great-grandfather, left New England and along with his bride, Wealthy Viola Furbish, ran lumber camps in Illinois and Wisconsin. After John Fairfield Lowell had made a number of investigatory trips to Dakota Territory, he and his family officially moved in 1884. They rented a boxcar on the train, loaded Wisconsin lumber in the bottom half, and traveled with their animals and household goods on the top of the lumber in this boxcar, to Yankton, Dakota Territory, where the train tracks ended. They then traveled via wagons pulled by oxen to what would become their home place, located about 12 miles west of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. My great-grandfather, grandfather, and father remained in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Wealthy Viola Furbish, my great-great-grandmother, was Scottish. Her 8-greats- grandfather, William Furbush, arrived in the Colonies in 1650, having been a Scottish supporter of Prince Charles, captured as a prisoner in the Battle of Dunbar in September 1650, one of 3,000 prisoners imprisoned in Durham Cathedral, and then shipped as an indentured servant to America. He and 16 other Scots were sent to the lumber mills of Kittery, Maine, where they worked off their indenture. Abraham Furbush, Viola's father, eventually settled in Freeman, Franklin County, Maine. Through the Furbish family, I am also linked to the royal houses of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

Lowle Coat of Arms
One of the first genealogical projects that I tackled was to update Delmar Lowell's work by attempting to identify every descendant of Reuben Lowell, my 5-greats-grandfather who relocated to Farmington, Maine, and recording these descendants in my genealogy database. I then began to research the European roots of the Lowells and the maternal lines brought into the family through marriage. This work generated a number of fascinating outcomes. I discovered that I had over 120 9- and 10-greats-grandparents who immigrated to the Colonies from England in the 1600s. I discovered a number of "interesting" American individuals who were linked to my family: one of my 9-greats- grandfathers was George Jacobs, executed during the Salem Witch Trials; one of my 10-greats-grandfathers was William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony; and four relatives were among the 41 signers of the Mayflower Compact aboard the Mayflower: two 9 greats-grandparents, Edward Doty and George Soule; and two 10-greats-grandparents, William Bradford and Richard Warren. Finally, I discovered a number of direct connections that I had to the various royal houses in Europe, including Charlemagne, my 35-greats-grandfather; Henry II of England, my 24-greats-grandfather; Eleanor of Aquitaine, my 24-greats-grandmother; my 27-greats-grandfather, Malcolm III, King of Scotland; my 27-greats-grandfather, Philippe I, King of France; and my 29-greats-grandfather, Vladimir I, Grand Prince of Kiev. These specific connections enabled me to document family linkages as far back as various 40+greats-grandfathers and grandmothers back to the early medieval period. The Foundation for Medieval Genealogy was of great help to me in this regard, when I was conducting my research for the years 500-1500.

While living in Boston in my early 30s, I took special pride in the folk-saying attributed to John Collins Bossidy:

"And this is good old Boston,
The Home of the bean and the cod,
Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots,
And the Cabots talk only to God."

Of course, there are some variations to this ditty, regarding who spoke to whom, but it didn't really matter to me. This individual with the blue-collared roots was right up there in the pecking order of the blue-blooded Yankees. What more could I ask for!

Gerald Lowell

18 October 2008