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Home > Books > Lowings Of Michigan > Ch. 01 : Our Early Ancestors

Ch. 01 : Our Early Ancestors
09.18.2004

Lowing Family History

Updated by Bruce Sheridan Lowing

Chapter 1: Our Early Ancestors

Our early ancestors were of old Scottish stock who fought bravely and faithfully in the long and bloody struggle between Scotland and England. With England winning the struggle, the wealth and position of the MacLaughns was swept away. The first MacLaughns of which we have any certain knowledge were just beginning to rebuild and reestablish the family fortunes. We do know, however, that the early MacLaughns lived in western Scotland in that area bordering the Irish Sea. They were primarily sea-faring men who built, sailed and operated their own trading ships. This occupation, hazardous at best, in these early times demanded the utmost physical strength and bravery, in moral character and mental sagacity.

The first MacLaughn of record was Robert (24), 1682. The father of seven children--five boys and two girls--he owned and operated a fleet of trading ships. These ships traded at ports in Ireland, England, France, ports in the Baltic Sea and even at times into the Mediterranean Sea. His business with the help of his sons prospered greatly. As was the custom of the time, his sons served as apprentices on their father's ships learning the business and eventually assuming charge of one of the ships of the fleet.

Robert was a man of strong character. He ruled his family with a strong hand. He felt that there could be but one head of a family and as long as he lived he would be that head, and would stop at nothing to achieve that end. This stubborn dictatorial attitude has much to do with later history of the family line. Indeed, this character trail has been said by some to persist down to even present generations. In times of stress and trouble, it has proven to be a bulwark of strength and sometimes somewhat of a liability.

Robert was a strong Presbyterian and never hesitated to voice his sentiments and prejudices in regard to religious matters. He was deeply fearful and prejudiced towards Papal Rome. The bloody battles between England and Scotland, so recent in his memory, had been primarily over Catholicism. His fears and hatreds had been evolved in these tragic struggles.

We next take up the story of James (25), eldest son of Robert, in 1705. James at an early age showed great promise as a sailor and businessman. At 19 he was in command and also part owner of one of his father's ships. On his third voyage as master of his own vessel, he stopped at an Irish port and married a pretty Irish colleen, he had met and courted on a previous voyage. She accompanied her husband on the rest of the voyage and they returned happily after a successful trading trip. Events were not as happy at home, however. Robert was greatly irritated that James had taken a wife without his advice or consent and when he discovered she was of the Catholic faith he was highly enraged. After considering this insult to his authority and self esteem, he issued the following unchristian edict: "Neither the son nor the wife should ever attend services at any Catholic Church; the bride must refrain from any act of Catholic worship or service in his or James' homes, she must attend regularly, the services in the Presbyterian church where the MacLaughn family worshipped; the wife must make herself familiar with the catechism in use in the Presbyterian church; the children must all be reared in the doctrine and ritual --the forms and government of the Presbyterian church; the wife must do her part in the worship and charities of the family kick."

This cruel treatment almost destroyed James and his family ambitions.

Next in our line of descent was John (26), youngest of James. At age 17, he became an apprentice on one of his father's ships. By hard work and thrift and aided by his father, he soon became part owner of one of his father's ships. He married an English girl at one of the ports he visited. She proved to be an efficient helper, and John and his wife were soon able to buy a complete interest in the ship.

Unable to stand the bitterness and restraint engendered by his domineering grandfather, John and his wife left for the New World, making Kingston on the island of Jamaica their home port. Trading with the colonies, especially at Boston, he soon built up a thriving business and his one ship to a fleet of three. Never a man of robust health, he died in 1773 leaving a wife and one son James William (27) then about 15 years of age. John's wife, a woman of great business ability, assumed management of her husband's trading business.

James William was an adventuresome boy who did not care a great deal for school. Shortly after his father's death, he sailed as an apprentice on his father's ship that was then under the command of his father's first mate. James did not like the captain and the hatred was mutual. The captain was desirous of marrying the widow and the MacLaughn fleet. James William would only be an impediment to the success of this ambition. James sensed the captain's ambitions and sought to thwart this event.

James, only fifteen, was still a lazy growing boy. He probably was also a little spoiled being an only son with a wealthy shipping business behind him. He probably expected to learn the shipping business without too much hard labor. The captain, however, sought to make life on ship as difficult as possible. James was driven from morning till night beyond the limits of his strength. An Irish sailor who felt pity for young James tried to help him, but he in turn was brutally flogged for his efforts. When the ship reached Boston the sailor brought charges against the captain who was tried and convicted of brutality. James testified in behalf of his friend, further antagonizing the ambitious captain. Knowing that if this story ever got back to James' mother, his chances of marrying her would be finished he resolved that James would never return to Kingston alive. In his anger, he told James this as they were leaving the courtroom. James, realizing his danger, did not return to the ship and hid himself till after the ship had sailed.

At this time there was a great shortage of labor in Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was common practice to indenture orphans to guardians who used their labor until they were twenty-one. Certain corrupt magistrates "sold" these orphans to those who were willing to pay. James, who intended to get a berth on another ship and return to Jamaica, fell in the toils of this illegal practice. He was indentured to a guardian and taken out of Boston to work at clearing a large tract of land and to add to his woes he was charged as being only thirteen instead of sixteen which would add three more years to his period of slavery. Angered by this brutal treatment and hard work, James soon planned his escape. He knew that he would have to escape beyond the limits of the Massachusetts Bay Colony or he would be captured and returned.

He decided to go south into the Rhode Island Colony, and knowing that Boston and Rhode Island people visited back and forth, he decided it would be wise to change his name. As a boy, he had been called James by his father and William by his mother. She had wanted him to be named William after William the Conqueror, being English. His father had wanted him named James to please his grandfather. James decided to drop the Mac and use his middle name. On his arrival in Rhode Island he gave his name as William Laughn.

To reach Rhode Island, he traveled mostly by night and kept from sight as much as possible. After about a week of this difficult travel, he arrived at a settlement named Gloucester in Rhode Island. He attended church on Sunday and made his choice of a family to whom he was indentured as a shoemaker under the name of William Laughn. A few months later he further changed his name to William Lowing on joining the Massachusetts Minute Men. This has been the spelling his descendents have used to this day with one rather amusing exception.

William Lowing was only a few months under sixteen years of age when he enlisted in the Massachusetts Minute Men in 1774 at Uxbridge just across the line between Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Minute Men had undergone some training and had some equipment in readiness for the outbreak of hostilities which were immanent. When the British made their raid on Concord and Lexington on April 18,1775, these minutemen took up arms. In the manner made famous by Paul Revere's Ride, these men were called to arms. William Lowing was among the Uxbridge minutemen that left Uxbridge at 4:am on the 19th of April and intercepted the British about six miles from Lexington as they fled back to the safety of their warship in Boston Harbor. This was the beginning of the eight years of war. The records of his company show that he served two weeks in this early campaign --two days coming, two days going and ten days at Boston. Later when it became evident that this struggle was to be a long affair the Minute Men were disbanded and militia were formed by the separate colonies. William Lowing enlisted in the Rhode Island Militia in 1776 and served with some absences, until the end of the war in 1783. He enlisted in the Continental Line in 1777 for three years. Among the more famous battles in which he participated were the Battle of Rhode Island, the Battle of Monmouth, the Winter at Valley Forge, the Battle of Red Bank on the Delaware River and Yorktown.

When William Lowing enlisted in the Rhode Island militia it was for a term of nine months, but after six months service his company was asked to enlist in the Continental Line for a period of three years. It was understood by the men in his company that their previous six months service would count as part of that three-year term. But, when the enlistment period ended, the officers would not let them go- and insisted they serve the entire three-year term. With typical Lowing independence and stubbornness William Lowing left for his home in Vermont when he felt he had served his full term. He was reported as AWOL in November 1779. Later at the insistence of his wife and for the sake of his record, he went back and served six months and seven days to the end of the war.

During the three years that William Lowing was not in the Continental line, he was still very active in the great struggle for independence. He served the entire time with the Green Mountain Line regiment that was activated on an on call basis. Most of the campaigns were on the Canadian border on local alarms. William Lowing served as a private, corporal, sergeant and a lieutenant. He was discharged as a private because of his AWOL record. He had been promised a captaincy which was given him after the war. This commission was later destroyed in a fire that burned the home of his widow.

When William left the army in 1779 after he deemed his enlistment complete, he went to Vermont, a region he had visited during one of his campaigns. There he met and married Mary Anna Haight (28). He was 22 and she only 16. Anna Haight was the daughter of a very strict Quaker, a clerk and reader in the Friends Church at Danby, Vermont. They were married twice, the first time by a professing pastor who was serving the area, but who had not been ordained. The second time December 24, 1780 by the Baptist minister in Danby. Anna's father had not thought the first marriage legal and this was an attempt to appease the anger and approval of Anna's father.

After his marriage, William bought a 40-acre farm near Tinmouth, Vermont. He built a log house and moved to the farm probably in the spring of 1781 shortly after the birth of his first son, James, on February 3,1781. For this home, he planned and built his own furniture. That he was a fine craftsman is emphasized by the stories of the fine furniture that came down to later generations.

Although records of purchase and sale of real estate were rather sketchily kept in those days, those which remain show that William Lowing became an extensive landholder for those days, buying and selling considerable property in Rutland County in Tinmouth and Danby Townships.

Beginning with Anna's marriage to William, there was a serious split in the Quaker Church in Danmouth and Danby. If this was not the beginning of the split, it certainly was evidence of the struggle. There was much agitation among the younger group for a more liberal way of living and dressing. This resulted in the establishment of a settlement of liberal Quakers at Peru, New York. William Lowing was among the group who established homes in this area.

In 1797 William sold most of his property in Danby, Vermont and moved his family to Peru. Several other families left with him. They formed a caravan of families, stock and possessions that took ten days to cover the 100 miles over a rough-cut trail through woods and mountains.

In those days part of the taxes were worked out in road improvement. In 1797 William Lowing was one of two assessed for five days of roadwork, the largest assessment. Hence, he must have been one of the largest landholders in the settlement. In 1799, he was chosen as Assessor for his district and also as fence viewer and a year later he was elected a member of his local school board.

At the time of his early death in 1803, he was a large landholder. He owned a 100-acre farm a mile north of Peru and 156-acre farm to the east though this was mortgaged for $300. He also owned and operated a mill at Peru.

There are several versions of the cause of his death, one that he was hurt in a cave-in while building a race for his grist mill, another that he contracted typhoid fever while working on the mill and a third that he died of improperly healed wounds suffered during the war, or a combination of these.

When he died he left a family of James (29) 22, Mary (30) 21, Elisa (35), Deborah (32) 17, Stanton (33) 19, Susanna (34) 13, Isaac (36) 9, Twins (37) died at birth, Stephen (38) 5, John (39) 3 and Anna (40) only 6 months.

Although William owned considerable property, on his death his wife was not able to maintain the family fortunes. Lacking in business experience and being a very honest and trusting sort of woman, she was the victim of dishonest neighbors and "friends". In her efforts to hold all her property, she lost both the farms and the mill. She then moved back to Danby, Vermont to a small home that still remained from William's estate. James, then twenty-two and married, attempted to aid his mother but lost his own farm in the struggle. As evidence of the struggle to save the family fortunes, Isaac who is next in line of family descent, has related the story of the loss of logs being floated to market. James and Stanton, the two eldest sons, had cut some logs on their Mother's farm and with high hopes of raising money to pay off the mortgage, attempted to float a log raft down the Little Ausable River to Lake Champlain, where they could be sold. The river, however, under spring flood conditions was too swift and narrow and the log raft was destroyed. Eleven-year-old Isaac, who was helping with the raft was nearly drowned in the accident. James then went to Canada, where he worked in the woods cutting timber for several years. His wife Polly stayed behind and helped care for her husband's brothers. The family was forced to split, Stanton and John living with Aunt Polly and Isaac and Stephen staying with their Mother.

From this point, we will continue with the early life of Isaac and his move to Michigan, and from whom we are all descended.

posted by Trevor Lowing
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