John Fowler 1776 - 1867
Born: July 94, 1776 Kentucky
Died: Nov. 26, 1867 Kelseyville, Lake, California
Lucinda Ussury 1785 - 1853
Born: 1785 Montgomery Co., North Caroline
Died: 1853 Rockport, Atchison, Missouri
The story of John and Lucinda Fowler and their descendants is the story of the founding of our great nation. It starts in the Indian wilderness of Kentucky, continues through the taming of new lands in Tennessee, follows a winding path through Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, crosses the plains and western mountains as the family moved west and the ten sons and daughters and their families spread throughout California and perform their part in the founding of the Golden State. Johan and Lucinda raised their children to be good citizens and to participate in the affairs of their communities. These characteristics continue in the family to this day.
It is not known for sure who John's father was. A family record by Frank Fowler, of Pittsburg, Missouri, who states that he got his information from his grandmother, Mary Fowler, says that John was a cousin to Sylvanus Fowler which would make John a descendant of the Fowler family of Ulster County, New York. Extensive examination of the records of that family indicate that John may have been the son of James Fowler, a Revolutionary War soldier who died in 1781. However, John' s granddaughter, Frances Ann, claims that his father was named John and that his mother's maiden name was Bloomer.
We do know that John was born somewhere on the frontier on July 4th, probably in 1772. A sister, Mary, was also born to the family. When John was four years old, his father died. As was a necessity on the frontier, his mother promptly remarried. Before John was eight years old, tragedy struck his life again when his mother died. His stepfather, a Mr. Lard or Laird, raised him until he was 15 years old when he went out on his own.
John grew up in Kentucky at a time when Indians frequently attacked the settlers who were carving Indian hunting grounds into farms. John later told his family many stories of friends and neighbors who had exciting and tragic encounters with the Indians. His youngest son, Samuel, recorded those stories in a book published in Visalia, California, about 1906, when Samuel nearly 80 years old. In this book, Samuel tells about the Indians attacking the fort where John was living when he was eight years old. The men were away from the fort cultivating the corn, so the frightened women dressed in men's clothing and used sticks that resembled guns to fool the Indians, while they sent John on a horse to bring their husbands to the rescue.
The first permanent settlement in Kentucky was Harrodsburg in 1774. If John was 98 when he died in 1867 as his son, Samuel, claims, he would have been born in 1769. Samuel also wrote that John was born in Kentucky. John stated in a census record that he was born in Virginia. The fact that Kentucky belonged to Virginia at the time John was born may explain that apparent discrepancy. However, in 1767, Daniel Boone was just setting out to explore Kentucky, and the first white migration into the area was in September 1773.
So John certainly wasn't born in 1769 in what we now know as Kentucky. According to the 1850 and 1860 censuses, John was born in 1776, which would make him 91 when he died in 1867. His son Samuel claimed his father was 54 when Samuel was born in 1826, which would make John born in 1772.
So we can say that John was probably born between 1772 and 1776, in either Virginia or Kentucky and grew up in central of southern Kentucky. The surname Laird is found in the records of that location.
According to his son Samuel, John moved to Tennessee as a young man. He took a trip back east to visit friends in Massachusetts, Vermont and New York. One speculation is that these "friends" were relatives and that John belonged to the Fowler family of Ulster Co., New York. The Bloomer family was long associated with the descendants of Henry Fowler of New York.
A newly discovered history of Nevada published in 1900, contains a biography of John' s grandson, John Lothrop, in which John claims that his great-grandfather was a Capt. John Fowler who led a company in the Revolutionary War and that he was a descendant of Thomas Fowler who immigrated to Virginia in 1679. Much effort is being expended to prove John's parentage, but no proof has yet been uncovered.
When full grown, John was 6'3" tall and weighed 225 pounds. He was big-boned and muscular. Samuel tells how John decided to visit friends on the East Coast. These could be relatives in New York and Massachusetts. As he rode off in homemade clothes, he was embarrassed when he reached civilization and found he was not dressed fashionably. He promptly had new clothes made so that he could present himself in style. On the way home from that trip, he visited with friends in present-day Clay County, Tennessee, which was then a part of Jackson County, Tennessee. It was there that he met and fell in love with Lucinda Ussery. He talked to her father, and they were married by Rev. Philip Mulkey of the Brimstone Creek Baptist Church in 1800. They were probably married in the Ussery home as there is no evidence that the Brimstone Creek congregation had a meeting house in those early years.
Lucinda was a member of the very large Ussery family, descending from John Ussery who was born in about 1640, and may have been the immigrant ancestor. He was recorded as living in New Kent County, Virginia, where his son John was born about 1672. In about 1691, John Ussery Jr. married Sarah Blackwell, daughter of James and Lydia Blackwell. John Ussery and Sarah Blackwell had children: William, John, Thomas, Pleasants, Annice, and Samuel, all born in Hanover County, Virginia.
Their son, William Ussery and his wife Minerva Judith May(es) had children Richard, James, William Jr., John, Welcome and Thomas. Some of the children were born in Lunenburg County, Virginia and some born in Granville County, North Carolina.
Their son, William Jr., born in about 1730, married Sarah Bayes, the daughter of Joseph Bayes, in Lunenburg County, Virginia, and they had children 10 children, the ninth one being named Welcome, a name that continued in the Ussery and Fowler families for several generations.
While Samuel stated in his book that Lucinda's father was Thomas Ussery,
Thomas's will has been located and her name is not listed among the children. It appears that Lucinda and her twin sister Mary were daughters of Welcome Ussery who married Lucy Gross, the daughter of Edmond Gross and Sarah Childress in Montgomery County, North Carolina. Children of Welcome Ussery and Lucy Gross were: (1) Welcome, b. abt. 1781; (2) Mary, b. 1785, md. Sylvanus Fowler (said to be a cousin of John Fowler); (3) Lucinda, b. 1785 (twin to Mary), md. John Fowler; (4) Roda, b. abt. 1787; (5) Sarah, b. abt 1789.
Tennessee opened up for settlement after the Revolutionary War and several Ussery families moved there from Montgomery County, North Carolina. Among them was Welcome Ussery and his family. In 1799, he settled on 150 acres situated on Line Creek, now in Clay County, Tennessee, but which was part of Jackson County, Tennessee until 1870.
Further connection between the Fowler and Ussery families is indicated by the deed to Sylvanus Fowler in 1813 of one acre on Brimstone Creek to include the saltpeter cave called Usary's Cave. Welcome Ussery also bought 15 acres on Brimstone Creek in 1815.
At the same time that John Fowler and Lucinda Ussery were married, Lucinda's twin sister, Mary was married to Sylvanus Fowler, whom a Fowler researcher, Elise Waters, claims is John's cousin. The relationship has yet to be proved.
The newlyweds settled in Jackson County, Tennessee on the Cumberland River, near Sylvanus and Mary. Sylvanus owned saltpeter mines in the area of Tinsley Bottoms on the Cumberland River and John probably worked in the saltpeter mines. It was here that their first child, James Lee was born in 1803. He was followed by William L. in 1805, John F. in 1808, Christopher in about 1810/11, Thomas in 1813, Mary Malinda in 1816, and Welcome in 1818.
Cumberland River at Tinsley Bottoms, TN
Tennessee and Kentucky were having a long-term dispute over the territory on their border. A surveyor had made an error which gave some territory to Kentucky which really belonged to Tennessee. The dispute wasn't settled until 1859 when a new survey gave the disputed land to Tennessee. The disputed territory included that portion of Jackson County which later became Clay County and the east and west line ran right through Tinsley Bottoms. In later censuses, John's sons variously gave Tennessee and Kentucky as their places of birth, probably due to the confusion the Walker Line created.
In the early 1800s, Tinsley Bottoms was a thriving community with dozens of families with both farms and employment in the saltpeter mines. There was a brisk trading business up and down the Cumberland River. John's son Samuel described John's trade as the saltpeter business, so he undoubtedly worked with Sylvanus in the saltpeter mines which Sylvanus owned.
In time, Lucinda grew disgusted with slavery and persuaded John to sell their slaves and move away from the slave states. John packed up his family and moved to the newly opened Delaware New Purchase in Indiana. The family is listed in the 1820 Delaware County census. Edmond Isaac was born there in 1821. In 1824 when Hendricks County was formed from Delaware County, it included the Fowler land. The twins, Samuel and Lucy Ann were born there in 1826. The family stayed in Hendricks County until after the Black Hawk War, in which Christopher was a soldier. Since that war was fought in 1832 and Christopher must have been at least 15 to go with the army, Christopher' s birth year has been estimated as 1817.
After the war, Christopher traveled around a bit in Illinois. When he arrived home, he told his family about the fine land in Illinois that was there for the taking, and John and some of his sons left their families in Indiana and took up land on the Chicago River at the present site of Chicago. The cold wind blew across open prairie so bitterly that John got disgusted and sold the land and moved back to Indiana. Lucinda never let him forget that he sold land which was later worth a fortune.
Back in Indiana, John grew tired of the constant battle with standing water (that part of Hendricks County has poor drainage) and the resulting flogs and mosquitos and decided to move on. He heard about good land in Iowa so he traveled there to take a look. He chose a plot on the Des Moines River and went back to Indiana to get his family. Once more they packed all their belongings into wagons and headed west. Samuel writes, "When we came to where the roads forked, one went to Iowa and one to Missouri. My father changed his mind about going to Iowa and concluded he wanted to see Missouri. There the company stopped and had a council. The majority of them voted with my father and wanted to go to Missouri. I recollect there were some pretty hard words spoken, but by the time came and we camped, everything was peaceful again."
The Fowlers, who were fast becoming a "Nation", bought land in Buchanan County, Missouri. Once again, they cleared the land, built homes and planted crops and John is listed in the 1840 census in Buchanan County. In traveling around the countryside, his boys found good land further north and decided to move them. John and Lucinda soon followed, settling just southwest of present-day Rock Port in Atchison County. Father John was in his late 60's by this time and only had Samuel at home to help.
So it was 17-year old Samuel who helped his father erect a log cabin and begin splitting rails for fences. Samuel even made himself a wooden wagon to haul the rails. He says, "I found a very large oak tree which I concluded was sound, cut it down, went to work with my ax and cut a set of wheels. After they were cut out and dressed, I didn't know how to get the holes through the hubs to run the wheels on the axletrees. My brother-in-law, Lothrop, was a carpenter and he volunteered to put the holes through the hubs. He made a good job of it. We had plenty of good black hickory in that country. I made the axletrees and completed the wagon and it did not have a quarter of a pound of iron about it. With that wagon I hauled the rails to fence the farm. I also hauled saw logs to the mill...When I left Atchison county in '54 that wagon was still at the mill my brother had sold.
"I completed the improvements on my father's farm. With my brother's oxen and my own we began 'breaking' the prairie, and he furnished a man to drive. The last work my father did was to drop corn and we turned the sod into it. We would drop a row every three furrows. When he would finish he would lie down to rest, plow three more furrows, then drop again. He was then 72 years old."
In1849, exciting news spread like electricity through Missouri there was GOLD for the taking in California. Samuel, Welcome and Thomas made the long trek to the gold fields to make their fortunes. They went first to Grass Valley, where Welcome built the first structure in Nevada county - a store. The brothers made money both in selling supplies to the miners and in mining for gold. Samuel ran the mine, while Thomas ran the store and Welcome hauled supplies from Sacramento. The rains soon drove them from the mines and the mud and cold of a rainy winter caused the boys to be very homesick as well as physically ill.
Welcome and Thomas wanted to go home, but Samuel felt they could earn even more money by buying mules in Mexico and selling them to miners heading for California. In Mexico, they got ill, abandoned the project and in Acapulco, they boarded the "John Petty", an old man-of-war heading for Panama. They wore out their shoes walking across the Isthmus and boarded a ship on the Gulf bound for New Orleans. As Samuel tells the story, the ship ran out of coal and was traveling very slowly by sail. When New Orleans was sighted, all the excited passengers ran to one side of the ship to see the city and the ship almost capsized. The captain ordered them to the other side and when they all ran to the other side, the ship almost capsized in the other direction. Then the captain ordered the passengers to stand in the center of the boat and the ship sailed safely to the dock. (Samuel could really tell a good story!)
When the men walked off the ship in New Orleans, their clothes were in rags and their hair and beards were long and scraggly. The merchants ran alongside them trying to entice them into their stores to purchase new clothes with their gold from California. One short merchant, looking up at Samuel, who stood 6'8" tall, and asked the oft-repeated question, "How's the weather up there?" Samuel says that he spit on the man's head and replied, "It's raining up here."
In 1854 the "Fowler Nation" packed up again and headed for California. Lucinda had passed away in 1853, and John was declining rapidly. He weighed almost 300 pounds and was so ill with malaria, that the family didn't think he would survive the trip to California. They packed boards to build a coffin on the way when it was needed. One family story is that they actually built the coffin and John slept in it on the trip. However, John fooled them all. He recovered his health on the trip, even walking part of the way, and lived until 1867, enjoying good health and a pleasant life first in Sonoma County with his son Welcome and then in Lake County with his daughter Lucy Ann and her husband, William Farmer.
John died in Lake County in either November or December 1867 and is believed to be buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Kelseyville, although his grave has not been located.
On the trip to California, one child was born, Maria Jane, daughter of Welcome Fowler and Malinda Jamison. She was born in Utah on July 4, 1854.
The family also lost one member, Ruel Lothrop, the husband of Mary Malinda Fowler. He died of cholera along the Platte River. His widow with their eight children, went to Oroville in Butte County. The story is told by descendants of how she placed the baby Ruel by the side of the road and the miners would throw coins to him.
The "Fowler Nation" spread throughout California, settling in Yolo, Lake, Tulare, Ventura, Orange, and San Luis Obispo Counties. Today their descendants number in the thousands and live in all parts of the nation. Two Fowler reunions are held each year: one on the first weekend in August at Pismo Beach, California and the other in Visalia, California, on Labor Day weekend.
-Written by Lesly Klippel, December, 1999-
John Fowler : BIOGRAPHY: 1776 Born in VA (may have been born in KY which was part of VA at that time. 1800/1 Married Lucinda Ussery in Jackson Co., TN
1820 Listed in Delaware Co. IN census
1823 Bought land in Hendricks Co. ,IN
1830 Listed in Hendricks Co. IN census
1840 Listed in Buchanan Co. MO census
1850 Listed in Atchison Co. MO census
1854 Traveled to CA
1860 Listed in Solano Co. CA census
1867 Died in Lake Co. CA
Pioneer Baptist church Records of South-Central Kentucky and the Upper
Cumberland of Tennessee, 1700-1899 by C. P. Cawthorn & N. L. Warnell, 1985,
p. 502 - History of Brimstone Baptist Church (Clay County, Tennessee)
Line Creek is the name of a small stream that arises in Monroe County,
Kentucky about four miles south of the present "Old Mulkey" meeting
house. From its source the stream flows southward into Clay County,
Tennessee and turns west and continues toward Macon County,
Tennessee. From the Clay County line to the headwaters of the Right Fork
of Brimstone Creek at Pine Hill is approximately three miles across
country. From Pine Hill, Clay County, to the mouth of Brimstone Creek is
approximately eight miles, making a total of fifteen or sixteen miles
from "Old Mulkey" to the mouth of Brimstone Creek on the Cumberland
River. Somewhere on the waters of Brimstone Creek, Philip Mulkey...appears
to have gathered the church, originally called Brimstone." The earliest
record of a church on Brimstone creek is contained in an entry made in
the Mill Creek Church book April 10,1802..."Brethren enquire into the
fitness of a part of this church for constitution"..."A door opened for
the reception of members three came forward and joined by experience:
Peggy Grogg, Elijah Denton, and Abram Denton by recantation." Three
months later Abraham Denton appeared along with Philip Mulkey and Welcome
Ussery as messengers to the Green River Association. At this time the
church reported a membership of 27.
Another entry made in the Mill Creek Church Book June 12, 1802 has
possible implications toward Brimstone church: "A letter from a part of
this church on Mill creek South of Cumberland River ask for help in order
to inquire into their fitness for constitution." There is a possibility
that the members of Brimstone Church met on both sides of the Cumberland
River. It was years in some cases before the early churches in the
wilderness of Kentucky and Tennessee had permanent meeting houses. They
conducted their services in the homes of the various members. The early
members of Brimstone had family connections south of the Cumberland
River. ... William Tinsley and his wife Elizabeth came from Virginia
and...moved to the Tinsley Bottom on the Cumberland River in Clay
County, Tennessee, while it was still "a canebrake and woods."
Biography written by Viola Ellen (Crose) Ashworth states the Fowler wagon
train came to California by Feather River Route to Butte Co., CA to
Oroville, CA and settled in Butte Co. for awhile.