Friday, January 6, 2017

Holbrook line: Griffith Bowen, Welsh immigrant and emigrant

Griffith Bowen is an interesting man.  He was from Wales, he came to England and then returned to Wales in about 1650, went on to London, has a royal descent from some of the early Welsh princes, and was married to someone of royal descent.  He also is referred to as "Gentleman", which is a step up from our usual "yeoman."  In fact, given the term "Gentleman" one would think there would be more information available than I have been able to locate.  Much of what I will write here is from the article "Griffith Bowen of Boston" found in English Origins of New England Families, Second Series, Volumes II and III, but that source doesn't include Francis's wife's name.  Oxwich woul

Griffith was born about 1600 in Oxwich, Gower, Glamorgan, Wales, the son of Francis Bowen and Ellen Franklin.  Oxwich would have been a beautiful and interesting place to grow up as it is on a beautiful bay in the south part of Wales.  The church there dates back to at least the 15th century so was 200 or more years old when Griffith was born.  There was also a castle nearby, although I haven't found who controlled it during this time period.  Griffith was one of at least 6 children born to Francis and Ellen, which may be one reason why his early history has not been noted, or at least, found.  He is on record as having owned land in 1632.  We don't know when he became a Puritan, but apparently he did.

In 1638 he sold two different tracts of land and apparently used some of the profits to bring his family to America.  He had married Margaret Fleming (there is some speculation that he may have had an earlier wife) and altogether he is credited with having 10 children, some in Wales and some in the New World.  So with most if not all of his children in tow, the family came to the New World in 1638.  Griffith and Margaret were "taken in for members" of the congregation of the church in Boston in December or 1638, shortly after they arrived.  In March, he was granted some land at Muddy River, and shortly after that he was made a freeman. 

He was granted a house lot in1643, and this is where he raised his family.  By this time, the oldest of his children were teenagers, but there were also infants to care and provide for.  About 1650, something happened to convince Griffith to return to Wales, which may not have been the best move for him.  Some of his children remained in Massachusetts Bay Colony, but we are not sure with whom they lived, or how they were provided for or provided for themselves.  I'd like to think that the ones who stayed, stayed because it was their choice. 

Back in Wales, Griffith was in financial trouble fairly quickly so he may have left America due to financial reasons, also.  He was imprisoned at Southwark about 1660 because as a customs officer, he had failed to remit about 388 pounds due the Commissioner of Customs.  Griffith reported that he had already sent the money up to London but it may not have been by the most trustworthy of carriers, if indeed he had sent the money.  Earlier he had been the victim of a hoax, when he bought land for 524 pounds, which should have set him up for life.  However, as it turned out, the land was not the owner's to sell, as it belonged partly to the City of London and partly to the University of Oxford.  What a headache he must have had when this came to light!  He filed suit, of course, but for reasons unknown, he lost both the suit and two subsequent appeals. 

In 1669, he was granted rights to a water grainmill and a fulling mill, for a period of 31 years, as long as a yearly rent was paid.  So either the king took pity on him, or someone was slipped something under the table in order to make this happen. 

Griffith hadn't disposed of all his land when he left Boston, because in 1669 he gave his new son in low two small parcels of land in Boston.  That same year, he suited Francis Bowen, John Bowen, and Edward Woodridge for property he said he had placed in the hands of his son Francis, but Francis claimed the property was rightfully his.  It appears that he lost this case, also. 

Griffith died probably about 1676, We don't know what happened to his English or Welsh estate, if he still owned land or rights to the mills or other property.  He did own property in Boston and Muddy River, and after about seven years a committee was appointed to divide the land and other property, giving a double part to Francis Bowen, Griffith's eldest son.  It seems that four adult children in the Colony shared in the estate, as well as Francis in Wales. 

There are a couple of interesting side stories involving the children of Griffith.  Son Peniel was born in 1644, "at a farm nearer to us (Dorchester) than to Boston, his wife (Margaret Fleming) was delivered of this child by God's mercy without the help of any other woman.  God himself helping his pore servants in a straight"  So said Rev. John Eliot.  Also, son William was a mariner, and was captured by the Turks, and died in captivity about 1686.  He may have been waiting for a ransom, or perhaps was being used as a slave. 

So ends the story of Griffith and Margaret, as we know it now.  Margaret especially earns my sympathy.  I'd sure like to know more of Griffith's story, and why he was in court so often.  Did he remain a Puritan when he returned to Wales?  What else can be found about him?

Our line of descent is:

Griffith Bowen-Margaret Fleming
Mary Bowen-Benjamin Child
Mehitable Child-Samuel Perrin
John Perrin-Abigail Morris
Benjamin Perrin-Mary
Mary or Mercy Perrin-David Fay
Euzebia or Luceba Fay-Libbeus Stanard Jr.
Hiram Stanard-Susan Eddy
Louis Stanard-Mary Alice Hetrick
Etta Stanard-Loren Holbrook
Gladys Holbrook-Richard Allen
Their descendants