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