The Rowley Family
The first Rowley in North America was one John Rowley, born about 1645 in England. He was transported to Virginia 1 June 1664, along with 21 other men by Major John Washington. He was married to a woman whose first name was Amey, maiden name unknown. They had at least three children: Richard, William and John. John Rowley Sr. could not sign his name. When he deeded a portion of his land to son Richard about 1691, he signed with a cross. He also inventoried the estate of Thomas Folio the same year, again signing with the letter "I" with a cross mark through it. That same year, John received a levy for killing a wolf with a gun and for killing another in a “pitt”.
John, the youngest son of the original John Rowley, was born circa 1667. He married Catherine Williams, daughter of Hugh Williams and Mary Webb, about 1700. They had a son, William, about 1702.
On 30 August 1704, John and wife Catherine were murdered by the Nanzantico Indians at his plantation. Six or seven indians came to John’s house. He was in the loft and two women and a female child as well as infant William were in the lower room. The indians called John downstairs, and while talking to him struck him a fatal blow. They pursued and killed both the “young woman” and the “old woman”, Catherine Rowley and Mary Webb respectively, as they tried to escape. Catherine’s niece, Ann Hinson, did escape. The infant, William Rowley (1702) was seized by one of the indians, who “exclaiming that he loved children”, held the child between his legs, “and stuck him like a pig.”
Son William was born about 1665 and was married to Mary, maiden name unknown. He had at least three children: William, born about 1692; Amey, born about 1695; and Moses, born about 1698. William Jr. (1692) did not marry until he was 63. There was no issue. Amey married George Proctor. She died after 1751. Moses married Janet, maiden name unknown, 16 May 1739. She had been widowed twice before this marriage with Moses. He later married Elizabeth, maiden name unknown, before 1783. On 16 September 1744, one Moses Rowley (Jr.) was baptized in Potomac Church, Overwharton Parish, Stafford County VA. He was the acknowledged bastard son of Moses (1698) and a servant woman. There is nothing to indicate whether this servant woman was white or black.
Although there is no documentation to prove this, it is likely that the illegitimate Moses Jr. (1744) had two children by an unnamed woman or women: our Major Rowley, born 1787; and Mary born circa 1777. Mary left a will stating her name was Mary Rowley (the wording employed, indicates that she was not a widow and had not ever married) and she named her son William (1806) as executor. There is no indication of this William’s father. If the above is true, Mary must have had a rough life, being the child of an illegitimate father and parenting her own illegitimate son. Regardless, her son William (1806) became the progenitor of a large and extensive Rowley family in Virginia, including at least one other “Major” Rowley.
Our Major Rowley was a veteran of the War of 1812. He was a private in Parker's Regiment (111'th) of the Virginia Militia. He is listed on page 598 of the Muster Rolls as Major Roly. (The name Major is a name and NOT a title). The Major Rowley family left King George County Virginia and settled in Wheeling Virgina (now West Virginia). They came downriver to the Raleigh area of Union County in the 1830s. Major Rowley and family in Kentucky, by 1850, were relatively wealthy for the area and time. He owned substantial acreage and 15 slaves. By 1860, his wife's slave holdings had decreased to only 10. Major Rowley, his wife and 5 of their children, together with appropriate spouses and grandchildren, are buried in an abandoned and overgrown cemetery on a hillside near the intersection of Union County roads 871 and 947. Every stone is down with the exception of son Gustavus's marker. He was the last interment there in 1896. The cemetery is on land now owned by the "coal company" and there is a ventilation shaft for a mine that rears its head in the middle of the cemetery area.
Major and Lya Skinner Rowley were the parents of 8 children: John B. Rowley, 1809-1853, unmarried; Ann Frances Rowley, 1812-1862, who married Benjamin Franklin Riddle; Robert E. Rowley, 1814-1880, who married Mary Ann Duval; Jane S. Rowley, 1819-1886, who married Solomon Dewees; James Rowley, 1822-1850, unmarried; Gustavus Rowley, 1824-1896, who married Harriet Mary Pool; Sarah E. Rowley, 1829-1869, who first married John K. St. Albin and then secondly married John Ezekiel Henshaw; and Mary V. Rowley, 1834-?, who married Dr. John J. Barnett, and who settled in Tennessee.
Major and Lya's son, Robert E. Rowley, is my 3’rd great grandfather and was the one that grandma Cora always spoke of so reverently. He married Mary Ann Duval of Union County in 1843. They had either 5 or 6 children. He died in 1880, like his sons James and Willie Jeff Davis Rowley and two of James's sons, of a stroke. He is buried with his wife at Antioch Cemetery in Union County.
The house in the background of the picture at the top of the page belonged to Pearl Rowley, and was where this Rowley family reunion was held, I estimate, between 1900 and 1910. It was on the Morganfield-Raleigh Road in Union County Kentucky.