7. Short Sketch of the Dowling Family
(The following notes are but introductory comments to Dowling family history - a history which deserves recording and which, under the leadership of Mrs. Beulah B. Dowling, may become available in future years. In the interest of accuracy it should be observed that much obscurity surrounds the early times of the Dowling family - an obscurity not made easier to penetrate and clarify by the ravages of wars, fires, untimely deaths of learned and informed elder members of the current generation of Dowlings. So far as is known no statement is given below but which can be authenticated; however, space limitations prevent citation of all reference sources. - Maude Dowling Turner)
One of the traditions as to the origin of the Dowling family in America - at least of that branch which is represented in the South Carolina reunion group is that there came together to the Colonies three Dowling brothers. One of these brothers arrived in Virginia, another landed in Carolina and a third set up in western Virginia, Pennsylvania.
In 1674, the will of one Mathew Dowling of Charleston, S. C., was proved. By this will the estate was left to a Captain O'Sullivan, first Surveyor-General of South Carolina. In 1671, the Grand Council gave one Joseph Dowling (Dowden) liberty "to go to Barbadoes to better manage his extensive affairs." In 1659, one Hugh Dowling (Dowding) bought land in Upper Machodich Neck, Stafford County, Va. (One Hugh Dowling (Dulin) died, in 1680, in Maryland, leaving valuable property. In 1697, one James Dowling of St. Mary's County, Maryland, successfully engaged in a suit for damages in a breach of contract action. One William Dowling (Dowlin) was a Corporal in Talbot County in the same state from 1694 to 1697. In Pennsylvania in a record of 1685 appears the name of Philip Dowling (Doling) and other early records in that state refer to various Dowlings - one of which arrived from Wales, by way of Bristol in 1685. Richard, Elizabeth, Murdock, George, John, James and William are the Christian names of many early Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania Dowlings.
It is my belief that the Robert Dowling line which we honor, memorialize and from which we are directly descended was originated here through Fr. (Frampton) Dowling who arrived in Virginia August 1, 1643 - over three hundred years ago.
[An] Fr. Dowling was eighth on the list of passengers with Captain Samuel Matthews, who sailed from Bristol Channel ports with numerous colonists. In accordance with the practice of the time Captain Matthews received a large tract of land (4,000 acres) for bringing over colonists and Fr. Dowling took adjacent land as a grant from the Crown. The Matthews tract was on the North side of the Rappahannock River, was bounded on the West by Cassawomac Creek, on the South by the head of the Wiccomocco River and the Rappahannock River and on the East by the main bay of the Chesapeake (see Patent Book No. 1. p. 882 recorded by Sir John Harvey). This region, in 1643, was a virtual wilderness - the first colonists coming to this point about 1634. By 1652 it was well settled. Fr. Dowling came between those two periods. This section is today Lancaster County, Virginia.
It was but a few miles north by water - the only means of communication - to St. Mary's, in Maryland, the area next settled, where many records refer to Dowlings of a generation or so later. Some of the children of Fr. Dowling, finding the original lands taken up, might have moved up on the next neck of and into what is today Maryland. Others might have moved westward. A Robert Dowling is referred to in the record of Augusta County, Virginia (in Volume 1, P. 174) about the year 1700. One Jeremiah Dowling is referred to in the same Virginia records (in Volume II, pp. 316 - 329) under date of 1795 and 1798 - long after Robert Dowling II (from whom our group traces its descent) is known to have settled or, at least moved, to South Carolina.
This is my explanation of the "three brothers" legend. Indeed, I find no conflict with this explanation and another tradition that Robert Dowling I with a small child or children came to Virginia from "Wales." Prior to about 1750, it was common for most colonists to speak of their across-the-water origins and not of some little known, sparsely-settled community which would not be known to other colonists. Therefore I conclude that Robert Dowling I was born in Virginia of a line settling there earlier, originating in Wales or embarking from Bristol Channel ports - major points of exodus for Welsh, English, and Irish colonists bound for the new world. Also I conclude there is a strong possibility that Fr. Dowling was the original ancestor in America of the Robert Dowling line.
When Fr. Dowling arrived, hailing possibly from old "Frampton" in the Wales-England border region, there were only about 15,000 whites left in the Virginia communities following the second bloody Indian Massacre of 1643 - 1644. These few whites included however all classes - nobility and gentry, yeomanry, indentured servants and some who were purposely devoid of identity. There were very disturbed conditions in England, Wales and Ireland about this time, not the least of which were those arising from religious and the Parliamentary-Crown struggles.
That the religious faith of most of the Dowlings who are descended from the Lancaster, Virginia - Robert Dowling lines is strongly Protestant (and Non-Conformist) suggests that the historic ties of the very ancient Dowling name in Ireland may have been broken some time before the family came to America. As is well known many Welsh and English adventurers were given lands in Ireland by Oliver Cromwell and his aides during the period 1640 - 1660 (see J. O'Harts Pedigrees, Volume 2, p. 698 for Dowlings so listed). Possibly our lines come down from Welshmen who went to Ireland, returned to Wales, and then journeyed to the new world. We know, for example, that both sons of Robert Dowling by his marriage to Sarah Guinn chose wives who were Welsh - the daughters of Burtonhead Boutwell of the distinguished Virginia and Carolina family.
Here it may be well to state again, some of the facts detailed in connection with the biographical sketches of Robert Dowling, of William, John and James - the children of Robert, of James' son, John (Jabez) and of John's son, James Theophilus Dowling as an aid in tracing descent in reading the sketches. Robert Dowling II came (without his father Robert Dowling I) from Virginia to settle near the present town of Darlington, S. C., on Jeffries Creek. By Robert II's first wife, an unknown Virginian who died in childbirth, there was one son, William. William, who had married in Virginia to a Virginian left numerous descendants, although he was killed in the War of the Revolution by the Tories. Before his death he had settled in old Barnwell District of S. C. By Robert Dowling II's marriage to Sarah Guinn (sometimes Gynn or Gyuin) the children were James, John, Elizabeth, Sarah and Millie. The plaque names include principally those of the line of James and James' son John (Jabez), John (Jabez)'s son James Theophilus Dowling and collaterals. Some of the descendants of the original John - son of Robert II are included in the plaque, as are William and a few of his line.
A general note has been prepared and included with the plaque sketches of the lines through William and the original John, but it is by no means complete. It has been stated that the original James and the original John married, respectively, Mary and Nancy Boutwell. Historians of the family record that John remained in the Darlington area but that most of his children moved to Alabama and some to Mississippi.
James Dowling and Mary (Polly) Boutwell also remained in Darlington and their children were William, James, John (Jabez), Willis, Henry, Sarah, Mary and Letitia. (Note: (James) Jabez Dowling, shown on the plaque is apparently descended from William Dowling and, in any event is not to be confused with John (Jabez) Dowling, James' son.) It is through John (Jabez), who married Susan Barns, that most of the names shown on the plaque have a common ancestor. John (Jabez) and Susan Barns Dowling's children included James Theophilus (eldest), Madison, Jefferson, Elbert, Oliver Perry, Renie, Hettie, Julia, Mary and Eliza. These children were all born in Prince William Parish of old Beaufort District as, about 1807, their parents and several of their father's brothers and sisters had taken residence in the "low country."
James Theophilus Dowling, my grandfather, married Mary A. Long and their children were Rev. William Hamilton Dowling, John Virgil Dowling, Lucius Rhett Dowling. Decanie Dexter Dowling, Susan D. Tuten, Orrie D. Rivers, Mellie D. De Loach, Emma D. Speaks, and Annie R. Dowling (unmarried). The remainder of the lines are set out in the sketches.
Despite the removals to the low country and to Barnwell District, old Darlington, with Hampton of today, may be regarded as the Carolina family seats. Robert Dowling II and his sons were instrumental in establishing the old Philadelphia Church in Darlington - the first Methodist Church in that section. With the exception of those who moved to Beaufort District most of the family in South Carolina were Methodists. Robert Dowling II is buried in a private plot across the road from the original site of the first Philadelphia Church near Darlington (there being a later church built on a new site but taking the old name).
And that is the story. Taking into account all the known facts it appears that Robert Dowling I, father of Robert Dowling II, may have been the second or the third generation in this country. We do not know whether the original settler was of long residence in Wales or if he came from Ireland or Scotland by way of Wales.
It is recalled that the sea channel - connecting Wales and England and Ireland - is scarcely more than fifty miles wide at a point opposite Wexford. The maximum length of Wales itself is about 150 miles. By the addition of County Kilkenny, in Ireland, there results an extreme range of 200 miles from the English border to the boundaries of the ancient Irish Kingdom of Leinster. in this 200 miles is the Dowling family base.
It is in the Leinster region where Dowling history certainly begins or has a permanent connection. Irish families regularly settled in Wales from the fifth century onward and the converse was true. For more than a thousand years - those bearing the Dowling name, in one or more of its variations, have had seats in Ireland. Ancient Leinster embraced what is today Wexford, Wicklow, Carlow, Queens, much of Kildare, Kings, Kilkenny and part of Dublin (south of the River Liffly). One of the early Dowlings was Murdock, whose brother was ancestor of the famous Duncan line; another was Eochaidh, King of Leinster who eventually moved to Scotland. His son, Brandubh (Raven Black Hair) was also King of Leinster, being the 10th Christian monarch in 594 A. D.
The ancient spelling of Dowling - aside from other anglicized forms such as Dooley, Doolin, Dorden, Dowlinge, Dowdoin, etc. - was O'Dubhlaoidh. Those of this name were chiefs of Siole-Elaigh and Lagan (today the Barony of Shilelagh) and Lords of Fertullaigh (O'Dunlaing). Even beyond the time of Eochaidh the family can be traced to King Baiceada, 144 A. D. Some Irish genealogists say the line can be traced to Prince Feidlim, and King Heremon, the latter being one of the very first monarchs of Ireland about 1698 B. C. Ireland had many settlers from Spain. One family tradition has it that a brother of the last Spanish King to rule over Ireland, Milesius, is connected with the Dowling line which settled in colonial America by way of Wales.
The original meaning of the name Dowling is doubtful. One authority gives the meaning as the "Black Calf Kings." Another spelling of the ancient name signifies "Men of Defiance." The coat-of-arms shown on the memorial plaque has a top lion which is the Royal English Lion, a second lion which is the Irish lion, and a tree which is the Scottish Oak. This suggests blood lines originating in England or Wales, Ireland and Scotland. The trefoil signifies perpetuity, the lions deathless courage and the tree refers to holiness. When in color the coat-of-arms denotes royalty where purple, truth where blue, friendship where yellow. The clover leaf design denotes industry. An English translation of the Latin words Favente Deo, Supero, is "With the Help of God, I conquer." (The foregoing so authenticated to Emma Dowling Speaks.) One of several coats-of-arms granted to Dowlings, this one was (apparently) granted to Mortagh Dowling, Esq. in 1662 or earlier to Major Jeremiah Dowling about the year 1640 - probably of the same blood line as Fr. Dowling who came to Virginia in 1643 - Jeremiah served with distinction under King James II at the battle of the Boyne for "liberty of conscience."
Except for the Scottish branch noted above, the Dowlings do not appear in Scottish and English records much before 1500; after that time references are frequent. Somerset, in Southwest England, is the present seat of knighted English Dowlings and there are numerous family branches elsewhere, notably in London. One of the Dowlings gave his name to a large county in New South Wales, Australia and founded a town named, curiously, Darlington Point. A map of Erin, showing its "first families," published March 17, 1946, in New York, lists two Dowlings as eminent in Wicklow and one Dowling as chief in Leix.
There have been many distinguished Dowlings in both the old and new worlds. In the ranks of high Church dignitaries - Catholic and Protestant - are found many famous Dowlings. Vincent George D. was a famous journalist, Thady D. was an Ecclesiastical Chancellor of the See of Leighlin, John G. D. was head master of the famous Crypt School of Gloucester, Alfred Septemus D. was High Commissioner of the Yorkshire Courts, George T. D. was one of the great Baptist divines of the last century, Joseph D. was a famous judge and spotless sachem of Tammany Hall at a time of unparalleled corruption among political contemporaries; Angus and patriarch Dempsey D. of the old Darlington branch - were famous Methodist clergymen, Oscar D. was a great physician and organizer of Louisiana's public health system, Gabriel P. D. was a noted banker, John W. D. of Alabama was a distinguished legislator, Noel T. D. (direct descendant of Robert Dowling II) is Nash Professor of Law at Columbia University. The list is long; these are just a sample. But standing alone, mere claims of "kinship" with those of greatness is not the basis of genuine family pride. Indeed, unbalanced family pride can be self-debasing.
I rather think of the greatness that lies in the spirit of one Michael Dowling of Minnesota. Young Michael, an orphan at the age of seven, once became lost on the plains in a blizzard - with the temperature down to forty below. He found a pile of wood and reasoned that a house must be near. Moving to avoid freezing, he threw logs as markers in all directions in ever widening circles, re-tracing and then expanding his base. His last log finally located, in the blinding snow, a farmhouse. The well-meaning, but uninformed, farmer who answered his call bathed his frozen limbs in hot water to revive him. The result was that young Michael lost both legs and one arm. In the almshouse where he lived the orphan refused a "gift" of artificial limbs but soon found ways to earn enough to buy them. Starting in business at the age of thirteen, he became, eventually, the owner of a bank and a newspaper and Speaker of the House of Representatives in Minnesota. He was - as with many other Dowlings - never "whipped." It is upon such a spirit of family tradition that Dowlings live today and prepare for tomorrow.
Let us do our best - as did young Michael. That will be enough. That is the Dowling spirit.
- The Plaque
- The Revolution
- Wars in the 1800s
- World War I
- World War II
- Sketch of Family
- Next Page: Wm H Dowling
- Family Assoc
- Ancient Dowlings