William and Rebecca Kirkpatrick Bowton


William Bowton was born August 3, 1819 in England. Some family researchers believe the location was Essex County, northeast of London. He immigrated to America with his parents, Mark and Mary Ann Nash Bowton, when he was nine years old (1828). William’s obituary states that upon arrival, the family moved to Dearborn County, Indiana.

By the time the Bowton family arrived in Dearborn County, Indiana in about 1829, it was a thriving center of agriculture and business. Following both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, people migrated into the area in large numbers seeking cheap land, many building homes along the Ohio River on the southeastern border of county. (McHenry)

I have not been able to discover how or when they met, but William and Rebecca Jane Kirkpatrick found each other. She was the daughter of Hugh and Nancy Baird Kirkpatrick. She was born May 3, 1828 in Ohio, but evidently her family had moved to the Dearborn area. William and Rebecca married January 15, 1846 in Dearborn, Indiana.


There are no family letters and diaries to lend “color” to the Bowton story, but other information tells us they moved from Indiana to Illinois (via Ohio) sometime between 1852 and 1855. I imagine they traveled by wagon, perhaps with others going west. This description gives us picture of life on the wagon train.

The pioneers from Pennsylvania, Ohio and the southern states betrayed their nativity and prejudice in the schooner-shaped wagon box, the stiff tongue, the hind wheels double the size of the forward ones and closely coupled together, the whole drawn by a team of four or six horses guided by a single line in the hands of the teamster riding the nigh wheeler…

The contents of the immigrant wagons were astonishing indeed in amount as well as variety of articles. A glance under the canvas covering disclosed a startling array of baggage if ‘women, guns, rifles, boys, girls, babies and other knick-knacks’ may be called baggage. Below on the axles of the wagons dangled pots and kettles of all forms and sizes. Sometimes dogs and even cats were included among the movables of the immigrating families. To the Yankee mover, a plough, a bed, a barrel of salt meat, a supply of tea and molasses, a Bible and a wife were the indispensable articles. (Pooley)

I found very little reliable information about William until I located him on the 1860 United States Federal Census as William Boton. He, his wife, Rebecca (36), and their five children were living in Orion, Fulton, Illinois. The children listed on this census are William (12), John Taylor (8), Hugh Taylor (5), Mary Taylor (3) and Nancy Taylor (1/12). I do not know why four of the children have the “Taylor” name. This particular census does not give the relationship to Head of Household, but I am reasonably sure they are William and Rebecca’s children. William is farming and has real estate valued at $2000 and personal estate valued at $500.

Note: The misspelling of names on the census was not uncommon. Enumerators often spelled phonetically – they wrote down what they heard. Those giving the information may have had a foreign accent, such as the case of William Bowton (British). Also, those taking or giving the information may have had limited education.

It is helpful that the 1860 census gives a place of birth for each person. From that, we find that Rebecca was born in Ohio; William and Rebecca’s oldest son, William Henry, was born in Indiana; their son, John, was born in Ohio; and Hugh, Mary and Nancy were born in Illinois. This information sheds light on William’s whereabouts during his earlier years. The travel pattern was somewhat confusing, but perhaps the moves went something like this:

1828 – Bowton family immigrates and settles in Indiana.

1846 – William and Rebecca marry in Dearborn, Indiana.

1846 – William Henry is born in Indiana.

1852 – John is born in Ohio.

1855 – Hugh is born in Illinois.

1857 – Mary Emma and Nancy are born in Illinois.

Though we have little information about William and Rebecca’s life during the 1860’s, we do know that the United States became embroiled in the Civil War. Illinois paid allegiance to the Union. I found no military record for William, and his sons would have been too young to serve. Nevertheless, it goes without saying, the Bowton family must have felt the impact of the war on their lives and livelihood. It is likely they had friends and neighbors who enlisted, and perhaps some of these men gave their lives for the Union cause.

When the 1870 United States Federal Census was taken, the Bowton family was still residing in Orion, Fulton County, Illinois. It is not a surprise to find the family had grown with the birth of two more sons. The name is misspelled as Bonton. Listed are: William (51), Rebecca (42), Henry (22), John (18), Mary (13), Nancy (10), Charles (7) and Andrew (5/12). Note that William Henry was listed as “Henry.” Other information in the census given in this census was the value of real estate ($5000) and value of personal estate ($1000). William is still farming and his older sons are farm laborers.

Note: We know from information given on the 1900 United States Federal Census, William and Rebecca had nine children. Two of the children are not enumerated on any census record. Due to the distance in ages between Charles and Andrew, I think the two children may have been born between 1860 and 1870 but did not survive. Some Bowton family researchers think their names were Albert and Cynthia.

William and Rebecca’s family had changed a lot when the 1880 census was taken. They were still farming in Orion, Fulton County, Illinois, but the older children had married and established their own homes. The three youngest children, Nancy (19), Charles (16) and Andrew (10) are still residing with William and Rebecca. One new bit of information found on this census was the fact that Rebecca’s mother was born in Ireland and her father in Ohio. However, I have not determined the names of her parents.

Note: Land records for 1871 and 1895 show that William Bowton owned land in Orion, Fulton County, Illinois.

Since the 1890 United States Federal Census is not available (much of it destroyed or badly damaged by fire, water and smoke), twenty years had lapsed before finding William (80) and Rebecca (72) on the 1900 census. This census confirms they had been married fifty-five years and had nine children. It states that only six of the children are still living. This means they had experienced one of life’s most difficult circumstances – the death of children. As best as I was able to determine, those who died before 1900 were Hugh, Albert and Cynthia. The 1900 census also asks questions about immigration to the United States. William says his year of immigration was 1828 and that he had been in the U.S. for 72 years.

William Bowton died on March 23, 1903 and was buried in the Brunswick Cemetery, Trivoli, Peoria County, Illinois. Here is a transcription of an obituary that appeared in the Glasford Gazette, Glasford, Illinois, April 3, 1903.

The subject of this sketch was born in England August 2, 1819 and came with his parents to America when he was 12 years old.

They soon after moved on to a new farm in Miller Township, Dearborn County, Indiana, when the father died leaving a wife, four boys and one girl. William, then fourteen, being the oldest, was called upon to face the real battles of life in taking the lead in sharing the burden of the family.

He was married to Miss Rebecca Kirkpatrick, January 15, 1846. To this union 9 children were born, 3 girls and 6 boys, six of whom with the mother survive him.

In 1854 he came from Indiana to Illinois and settled in Fulton County on the farm where he lived ever since.

Of the children John T. was born in Ohio, Hugh K., Mary E., Nancy E., Cynthia, Charles E., Albert and Andrew were born on the old homestead in Orion Township.

Many years of faithful toil had made for himself a comfortable home.

Mr. Bowton had been suffering with the grippe and crysiplas (?) but did not consider himself seriously ill. A physician was called just a week before the end came which was March 23, 1903. His age being 83 years, 5 months and 21 days.

Funeral services were held in Brunswick, Wednesday at 1 PM by Rev. Verlander. Buried in Brunswick Cemetery.

Mr. Bowton was held in high esteem by all who knew him as an honest, industrious, upright man and a loving husband and father.

Besides his widow he leaves 6 children, Mrs. Henry Echols of Glasford, Mrs. Mary Mohler of Orchard Township, Charles of Trivoli Twsp., and John of Sheldon, IL, besides a host of friends to mourn his loss.

Glasford Gazette, April 3, 1903

Note: Some of information given in this obituary differs from data found in my research.

Sometime following William’s death, Rebecca went to live with her son, Charles his wife, Olive and five year old daughter, Zelma. They were found on the 1910 United States Federal Census living on a farm in Trivoli, Peoria County, Illinois. Several of her children and their families lived in counties nearby, so I imagine she enjoyed their love and support during her late years.

Rebecca Bowton died on March 2, 1919 and was buried beside her husband in the Brunswick Cemetery, Trivoli, Peoria County, Illinois.


Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010.

Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2006.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

Ancestry.com. Web: Illinois, Find A Grave Index, 1809-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

Glasford Gazette, Obituary for William Bowton, April 3, 1903.

“Indiana, Marriages, 1811-1959” index and images, Family Search. http://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XXT3-3HQ

McHenry, Chris, “A Brief History of Dearborn County,” http://www.lpld.lib.in.us/briefhistory

Pooley, William Vipond, “The Settlement of Illinois From 1830-1850,” 1905. http://archive.org/stream/settlementofilli00poo

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2015.

William Bowton Pedigree Chart (click link) william-bowton-pedigree-chart-scan0001

William Bowton Family Group Sheet (click link)william-bowton-fgs-document


Mary Emma Bowton Mohler

Thomas and Mary Mohler with children.
Thomas and Mary Mohler with children.

Mary Emma Bowton’s life began in Fulton County, Illinois on May 23, 1856. She was the fifth child of William and Rebecca Kirkpatrick Bowton. As we might expect, they were a farming family. When the 1860 United States Federal Census was enumerated the Bowton family was living in Orion, Fulton County, Illinois. Their name was spelled incorrectly as “Boton. Nevertheless, I think this was our Bowton family. William and Rebecca were recorded with their children William (12) John Taylor (8) Hugh Taylor (5) Mary Taylor (3) and Nancy Taylor (1 month) Also listed was a “Farm Hand” by the name of Washington Beadso. (I have not determined where the name “Taylor” originates.) William gave his place of birth as England.

The American Civil War broke out in 1861 and Illinois was one of the twenty-five states that was a part of the Union. Like other families in this place and time, the Bowton’s must have experienced the agonies of this tragic war. William would have been in his early 40’s so it is possible he was enlisted. I found several Civil War military records on Ancestry.com for a William Bowton or Booten. Further research would be required to determine if any of these records were for our William Bowton. The Bowton’s sons would have been too young to serve. Whether or not William was in the military, the Bowton family would have been impacted by the Civil War. Communities and families around the country suffered the brunt of this terrible conflict when all were called on to contribute in some way to the war effort in manpower, goods, services, and lives.

Even though no major battles were fought in Illinois, it was a primary source of troops for the Union army and of military supplies, food, and clothing. Also any history buff knows about the two Illinois men who became prominent in the politics and the army during this time – Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.

William, Rebecca and children were still living in Orion, Fulton County, Illinois when the 1870 United States Federal Census was taken. They were recorded with their children – Henry (22) John (18) Mary (13) Nancy (10) Charles (7) and Andrew (5 mo). Note that two more children were born since 1860. However, as I read the census record I also noted that their sons William and Hugh were no longer with them and that a son Henry was listed. It raised two questions in my mind. Where was Henry in 1860 and where were William and Hugh in 1870?

Sometime in the early 1870’s Mary met a young man by the name of Thomas Jefferson Mohler. He was from a farming family in Warren County northwest of Fulton County. More than likely, after they met, there was a period of courtship. There must have been a mutual attraction because they were married on January 27, 1876.

Thomas and Mary remained in Fulton County, Illinois and set up their household on a farm. On January 11, 1877 they had their first child, Floa Rebecca, and on October 11, 1879 a son, Lorain Ellsworth, arrived. This family of four was recorded on the 1880 United States Federal Census.


Since there is no longer an 1890 United States Federal Census, we leap to the 1900 United States Federal Census to find our next record for Thomas and Mary Mohler with their family. In those intervening twenty years they had moved west and were found in York County, Nebraska. Their two oldest children were no longer living with them but their family had definitely grown. Six children are recorded – Charles, Lena, Ethel, Darrel (Dara), David and Ewort (Ewart). Thomas and Mary also had a son named William, born in Illinois in 1885, but evidently he was not residing with them. The last three children were born in Nebraska, so it meant that they moved to York County sometime between 1891 and 1896. The Mohler family was large by any standard of measurement.

Thomas or “Jerry” and Mary settled into life in York County, Nebraska. By the 1910 United States Federal Census their household had grown smaller with only five children residing with them. Their two oldest daughters, Lena and Ethel, were school teachers, and the three sons were working with their father on the farm. By the time the 1920 United States Federal Census was enumerated, the family consisted of Thomas, Mary, Dara, Ewart, and a family friend by the name of Anthony Rivera. In the 1930 census Thomas and Mary had a completely “empty nest.” Undoubtedly there were children and grandchildren near by.


The 1920’s and 1930’s were hard years in America and folks living in the Great Plains experienced more than their share of those difficulties. On the website for Wessel’s Living History Farm, York County, Nebraska there is an article entitled “Who Lived in York County in the 1930’s?” This excerpt gives a bit of insight into how the Mohler family may have endured very tough times.

 The Great Plains region has always been known for unpredictable weather and natural disasters – tornadoes, hail storms, blizzards, floods, drought, summer heat and winter cold. Farming on the Great Plains has always been a battle against the weather. But the weather during the 1930s was far beyond the natural cycle of seasons. The weather during the Dust Bowl days set records that still stand in Nebraska history and still stand out in farmers’ memories.

Farms in the 1930s were diversified, growing a variety of crops in the fields, vegetables in the garden and fruit in the orchard. Small farms usually raised chickens, eggs, hogs, and cattle, as well as keeping horses and mules for work, and sometimes sheep for wool and meat. Some farmers kept bees and harvested the honey. Women baked their own bread.

During the Depression, this self-sufficiency carried over into their social life. One-dish suppers and church potlucks were important ways to have fun and share food. On radio and in women’s magazines, home economists taught women how to stretch their food budget with casseroles and meals like creamed chipped beef on toast or waffles. Chili, macaroni and cheese, soups, and creamed chicken on biscuits were popular meals.

The Apetz brothers hunted rabbits to put a more meat on the dinner table. Delbert Apetz says, “We had a brooder house [for chickens]. My uncle and dad, they’d go out rabbit hunting (now this is in the winter time). Be rabbits hanging there, dressed all the way through that and any time you wanted something to eat you’d cut the string on the rabbit and bring it in the house, fry it or cook it and make soup or whatever you want. We ate a lotta, lotta rabbits. But that’s what we had to eat.” Still, it was a constant work to put food on the table, and sometimes the food was covered with dust when the wind blew dust through the cracks in the house.

 When I read an account such as this, it is astounding how people survived under such dreadful circumstances. Mary Mohler can certainly be counted among those women of great strength who worked along side her husband to provide for their family as Mother Nature wreaked havoc during those terrible days of drought and dust storms.

On December 27, 1937 Mary’s husband Thomas Jefferson Mohler died at the age of 86. They had been married sixty-one years. During those years, they had moved from Illinois to the plains of Nebraska and raised a family of nine children. Their life together was probably not ever easy, but I imagine their children and grandchildren brought them a great deal of comfort and joy. It is certainly indicated that the Mohler’s strong religious faith was a basis for their strength during the good and the not-so-good times.

We do not know how Mary spent the final years of her life, but since she had children living in Nebraska and it seems likely they cared for her during that time. She died on May 12, 1945 in Orchard, Antelope County, Nebraska and was buried beside her husband in the Greenwood Cemetery in York County, Nebraska.



Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census, [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census, [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census, [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005.

Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census, [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004.

Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census, [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2006.

Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census, [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census, [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2002.

Fulton County, marriage record, Marriage Record Book, vol. E, p. 35, no.17.

Mary E. Mohler, death certificate no. R4217, State of Nebraska, Department of Health, Lincoln, Nebraska.

“Who Lived in York County in 1930?” Wessel’s Living History Farm, York County, Nebraska,  http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/life_28.html

 Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, “Illinois in the American Civil War,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois_in_the_American_Civil_War.

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2011.

Mary Emma Bowton Pedigree Chart (click link) mary-emma-bowton-pedigree-chart