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The Search for Jeremiah Rowell, the Immigrant

(Dedicated to Caleb M. Rowell)

When I first began to climb my ancestral tree and research the names of my ancestors, the old home-places on which they once lived and tilled the land, the women they married, the children they raised together, I soon quickly learned that the names of all these kin-people had faces, too. They had lives of their own. Not unlike my own generation, these ancestors endured their own hardships each day, but went about it with pride and determination to achieve their goals. Being mostly farmers of the land, the Rowell?s and their wives had numerous children, as did their neighbors. Large families meant more hands in the fields to plow the crops and harvest those crops when they ripened at the vine. It would also mean more work for the transcriber who, years later, would attempt to track down these ancestors and their children.

I first became interested in my ancestor, Caleb M. Rowell, the Civil War Confederate, and my father?s grandfather. Caleb was my own Great grandfather. I sought to join the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans here in my hometown of Conyers, Georgia, and I needed to connect myself to Grand-paw Caleb M. Rowell. This part was relatively easy. I had Caleb?s date of birth and the date he died. I had been to the Old Sparta Cemetery many times during family reunions held there. What was Caleb?s middle name? No one in my father?s family could tell me. I still don?t know to this day, for there is nothing in the written record to say!

I began my research by getting land records of his old home-place in Sparta, the county seat of Bienville parrish at the time of his death in 1914. I wrote to Baton Rouge, the State Capitol of Louisiana and obtained not only Caleb?s death certificate, but his Civil War enlistment and pay records. These papers described Caleb?s height (6?) and weight (thin), hair color (black) and even his eye color (blue). It described his skin as dark and even mentioned the fact that he appeared to be sober at the time of enlistment into the Cause at the town of Natchitoches. He was assigned, along with several other friends from the Bienville parrish area, to the 11th Louisiana Infantry, Company C. He was, I am sure, prepared to fight the damned Yankees and prevent them from conquering his new country, the Confederate States of America. His unit was involved in several skirmishes with the Yankees along the Mississippi and Red River. His unit eventually became part of the Trans-Mississippi Army of the CSA and fought as far north as Arkansas, and as far south as New Orleans, protecting his home state. His unit, suffering many losses, was finally attached to the 24th Regiment and 12th Battalion. This unit would become known as "The Consolidated Cresent Regiment." Caleb and his unit fought in the last major battle of the Civil War in Mansfield, Louisiana. (And, with the Cresent Regiment leading the charge, the Rebels kicked the Yankees back to the Red River.) After laying down their arms, the Regiment surrendered and the records indicated that Caleb was actually paroled while he was in the Mt. Lebanon Hospital. Had he been wounded in the last battle of the war, or was he suffering from some illness that killed more than half those who died in the war? We will never know!

After finding Caleb and his family in Alabama just prior to his moving to Louisiana in 1861, I looked up the 1850 census and found where he was living with a John and Catharine Rowell, just down the road. This was his mother and father. They, including Caleb, stated on the census that they were all born in Darlington, South Carolina. I was charting new ground. This was well before computers and the internet. Most research had to be done by hand and leg, searching old dusty courthouses and libraries. I loved it, though, and being a retired police officer, I treated it as I would a homicide case, trying not to leave anything unturned.

In Darlington, I found Caleb?s grandfather, Jonathan who had first came to the Welsh tract there near Society Hill in the Darlington district, back in 1740 when he and his father Jeremiah were each granted 400 acres of land along the Pee Dee River in that area. I went to the Darlington Courthouse, met an elderly gentleman named Horace Rudisell, who turned out to be a goldmine of information for my research. The firs thing he said to me was, "You know you?re Welsh, don?t you?" Of course I didn?t and so, he proceeded to tell me the story of how the young Jeremiah Rowell first came into William Penn?s colony in 1704. Some relatives have told me he was probably an indentured servant at that age, since he was alone, no family, and took the indentured servant route to the new world because it paid for his passage, room and board. It would usually take about seven years to pay the person off who had arranged the deal. Jeremiah settled with the Welsh in the Welsh Tract area of Iron Hill, now part of the state of Delaware, in the Pencader Hundred (for county). He married a young girl named Mary and they had children. Within 35 years, King George wanted to open up the South Carolina region and offered land grants to the Welsh in his Pennsylvania colony. Jeremiah and John and their families jumped at the proposition to head South for uncultivated farm land.

In 1812, the British invaded the newly formed United States of America and burned Washington DC, including the White House. They sailed down from Washington, around Florida and sacked New Orleans. American General Stonewall and his band of regulars met his great army on the Calimide Plantation located just east of New Orleans and the Americans chased the English Regulars down to the gulf with the help of French Cajuns from the swamplands in the area. The English were forced to sign a peace treaty. Today, I have some old bricks where the peace treaty was signed in the old plantation house. I mention this war, because there is a Rowell form the State of Pennsylvania that fought the British in the War of 1812. I have, of course, Jonathan Rowell, whom I feel is my g-g-grandfather. There is a William and David Rowell also mentioned, but I feel these were English Rowells from the Virginia area who later would move to the western South Carolina and provide many wasted hours on my research. However, there is also a Valintine Rowell listed. Jonathan had four sons, one of who may have been Valintine, the oldest son.

Search as I may, I could not find a direct link to a Rowell who fought in our nations founding war, the Revolution of 1775. There is a John Rowell, but I have always assumed he was connected to the Rowells in the Western part of the state. If it were our John Rowell, he may have been in his sixties or seventies, but he could still carry a rifle. I do have plenty of Rowells in the community of Darlington doing their share to feed the militia. There is a John Rowell as well as a Captain Jonathan Rowell mentioned in the roll calls for Marion?s raiders, later called the "Swamp Fox" and for whom the movie with Mel Gibson starring, called Patriot.

Now that I am in my new home, I want to research the internet more thoroughly for the Rowell?s in South Carolina and Pennsylvania. I want to make a connection to the Revolutionary War. It is also quite possible that some of our Rowell?s fought under President Andrew Jackson?s orders to round up the Indians and take them to Oklahoma to be placed on reservations. Contrary to popular correctness, the Indians were fierce fighters and killed and massacred many soldiers, especially in Alabama and Florida. Near where John and Caleb settled their families in Pine Apple, an old Army Fort remains where the Indians massacred hundreds of soldiers.

At the present time, I can only do research on the internet. One day, I hope to travel to Pennsylvania and Delaware, then to England and Wales. But first, I want to look into the war connections. I will pick this up at a later date.

Jim Rowell, 11-11-01

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