The records of the Bowling family in early Maryland start with the arrival in the province of the well-documented James Bowling (1636-1693) sometime in the 1650s. He became closely associated with Major William Boarman and other Catholics who eventually settled on Boarman’s Manor in what is now Charles County. He had no children from his two marriages, but his will makes clear that there were descendants from his brother Thomas (d. 1700) and sister (or cousin) Elizabeth (marr. Thomas Speake).
These immigrants and their children can be outlined as follows:
- 1) James Bowling (1636-1693), immigrated in 1650s, called “Mr.” by 1677, “Capt.” by 1683.
- Became a significant landowner.
- marr. 1) Ann — (in England), 2) Mary Brooke
- Became a significant landowner.
- 2) Thomas Bowling (b. 1640-50), in Md. by 1694, died 1700.
- marr. Ann — in England. Sons: John and Roger
- Both Thomas and his son John were shoemakers.
- 3) Elizabeth Bowling, prob. died or remarried before 1692.
- marr. Thomas Speake (d. 1681), a tailor. Sons: John, Bowling.
Other relations: James Bowling in the 1660’s mentions a “neare relation” in Virginia and his 1692 will makes reference to his “cosen Millesent Higden”, to whom he gives a cow and calf.
N .B. There is also a John Bowling of Calvert County (d. 1684), who shares a surname with these three siblings, but no relationship has been demonstrated and there is no mention of this family in James Bowling’s will or codicils. This John Bowling immigrated before 1663, settled in what was then Calvert Co. (now Prince George’s Co.), married Mary Wadsworth, who later married Benjamin Evans. Children: John, Richard, Mary.
A direct statement of their origin comes from a 1734 deposition, where it is stated that John Bowling (son of Thomas) “came from Lancashire and left a brother there by the name of Roger Bowling” (Charles Co. Court R2:528). In Lancashire, practically the only family of the Bowling name is one centered in Charnock Richard in the parish of Standish. Since the people there were physically closer to the churches in Chorley, Euxton and Eccleston than to their official church in Standish, they sometimes baptized, married and buried in those other churches.
This specific place of origin is supported by a number of other items:
—Thomas Bowling, with baptisms of sons John and Roger, can be specifically traced to Charnock Richard and later to Euxton (3 miles away). Also, “Thomas Bowling of Exton in Lancashire” imported servants to the Chesapeake.
—two of James Bowling’s plantations are named Charley (transcribed also as Chorley) and Chesham. The township of Chorley is adjacent to Charnock Richard and the village of Chesham is about 15 miles away. James Bowling’s friends, the Eltonheads and the Andertons, are from this same Standish-Chorley area.
—Charnock Richard was a very Catholic area. T. C. Porteus, in his 1927 history of the parish, describes the township of Charnock Richard as “a nursery of recusants”, i.e. a hotbed of Catholic nonconformity to the new Elizabethan church. “Recusants” means “refusers”, i.e. those who refused to attend the state church, and upon conviction they were subject to ongoing fines which would lead to confiscation of their property. Among the recusants listed in Charnock Richard in 1591 were Constance Bowlinge wife of a Hugh Bowling, and her son John, and in 1628 a John Boullinge and wife (45 recusants were recorded in Charnock Richard that year).
Charnock Richard was a very Catholic area in the 16th and 17th century. T. C. Porteus, in his 1927 history of the parish, describes the township of Charnock Richard as “a nursery of recusants”, i.e. a hotbed of Catholic nonconformity to the new Elizabethan church. “Recusants” means “refusers”, i.e. those who refused to attend the state church, and upon conviction they were subject to ongoing fines which would lead to confiscation of their property. Among the recusants listed in Charnock Richard in 1591 were Constance Bowlinge wife of a Hugh Bowling, and her son John, and in 1628 a John Boullinge and wife (45 recusants were recorded in Charnock Richard that year).
Unfortunately, in this small area within a 5-mile radius of Charnock Richard, there were a great number of Bowlings and there is at present no clear evidence to identify the parents of the Maryland Bowlings. The structural problems are the following:
— a large number of Bowlings. The baptisms of about 40 Bowlings are attested in the area from 1550 to 1650. In the 16th century, there was no church in Charnock Richard and the official parish church in Standish was at some distance, so baptisms and burials were sometimes done in the nearby parishes at Chorley or Euxton.
— It is clear that even those numerous baptisms are incomplete because Bowlings known from other records are not recorded there.
—The same Christian names recur very frequently, so they are not distinctive.
—It is difficult to show connections between the numerous Bowlings. Besides parish registers, there are only a handful of probated wills, no land transfers (the Bowlings were tenants) and only incidental signatures on other documents.
An example of these problems is seen regarding Roger Bowling (d. 1673, see below). We know from his will that he had at least 6 children surviving to adulthood, but there is only one baptism recorded in the period 1600-1650 for a child of Roger Bowling. This absence of the family in church records is probably due to the Catholic faith of this Roger Bowling, and it could easily be the case with others too.
In short, the process of elimination does not work well with only partial data sets.
Nevertheless, it is worth sketching out some of the Bowlings in Charnock Richard or thereabouts, insofar as they were all surely relatives of the Marylanders in some degree.
1) Roger Bowling the shoemaker. There is only one mention of a James Bowling in the 17th century English records for Lancashire, the son of Roger Bowling of Charnock Richard, a shoemaker who wrote a will 17 Sept. 1673. He refers to his children: John Bowling, Thomas Bowling, James Bowling, Ann Bowling, Jenet Bowling, eldest daughter Elizabeth (wife of John Radcliffe). He also mentioned a grandson Roger Bowling, son of John. Several of these names coincide what is known of the first generations of the Bowlings of Southern Maryland, who were born in the period 1630-45. But there is a problem: in 1673 Roger’s “eldest daughter Elizabeth” was the wife of John Ratcliffe in England and died in 1676, whereas Elizabeth Bowling of Maryland was the wife of Thomas Speake of Maryland and their son John Bowling was born in the 1660s and son Bowling Speake was born in 1675.
So at least Elizabeth (Bowling) Speake of Maryland was not the child of Roger Bowling the Shoemaker (d. 1673). However, the similarity of names and the profession of shoemaking by Thomas Bowling suggest the Maryland immigrants were close relatives of this Roger Bowling, and possibly James and Thomas of Maryland were his children and Elizabeth (Bowling) Speake was a cousin.
2) The children of Hugh Bowling(s). Although James was a rare name among the Bowlings, the names of John, Thomas and Elizabeth Bowling are found several times. For example, at St. Laurence Church in Chorley, there are recorded the following baptisms (or infant burials) for children of one or more Hugh Bowlings (NS = the current New Style of starting years on Jan. 1 rather than the Old Style on March 25):
- 30 Dec 1617 bapt: Roger son of Hughe Bowlinge
- 21 Feb 1618 (1619 NS) bapt: Roger son of Hughe Bowlinge
- 6 Jan 1621 (1622 NS) bapt: Anne da. of Hughe Bowline of Charnock Ric:
- 10 Mar 1622 (1623 NS) bapt: Thomas son of Hughe Bollinge
- 8 Apr 1625 bapt: John son of Hugh Bowling
- 18 Feb 1627 (1628 NS) bapt: Wm son of Hugh Bowling (d. 4 Apr 1628)
- 23 April 1627 burial: child of Hugh Bowling
- 25 April 1627 burial: child of Hugh Bowling
- 22 Mar 1628 (1629 NS) bapt: Anne daughter of Hugh Bowling
- 26 Jun 1635 bapt: Elizabeth da. of Hugh Boolinge of Charnock Rich. (probably the “Eliz. Boolinge buried 15 Nov 1635)
- 15 Jan 1636 (1637 NS) bapt: Willm son of Hugh Boolinge
- 20 Mar 1637 (1638 NS) bapt: Henry son of Hugh Boolinge
- 2 May 1640 bapt: THOMAS son of HUGH BOOLING de CHORNOCK RICH.
- 18 Nov 1644 bapt: Rich[ard] of Hogoi Boolinge de Charnok
- 11 Dec 1644 burial: puer (unnamed boy) Hugo Boolinge of Chornok
It is not clear that all of these children are to be assigned to the same Hugh Bowling, since they were born over 27 years, and there are several Hugh Bowlings attested at this time. No mothers of these children are mentioned and there could have been several wives of the various Hugh Bowlings (note the gap between 1629 and 1635). Several children’s names are repeated, either because some died in childhood or because they had different fathers. And these are just the children of Hugh Bowling of Charnock Richard baptized at the church in Chorley. At the church in Standish, during these same years we find several newborn children to the Hugo Bowlings:
- 10 April 1623 burial: puer (unnamed boy) Hugo Bowling
- 6 May 1624 burial: stillborn son of Hugo Bowlinge and wife
- 6 Aug 1630 bapt: Margaretta da. of Hugh Bowling and Ellen
- 5 Mar 1637 bur: fil. Hugonis Bowling de Charnock Richard [unnamed child]
- 3 Jul 1640 burial: puer Hugo Bowling [unnamed boy]
- 25 Oct 1641 bapt: ELIZABETH da. of HUGH BOWLING
The Thomas and Elizabeth in capital letters are those whose names and dates overlap with the immigrants to Maryland.
BUT there is a significant problem with the absence of James from the list. Why would parents baptize so many other children in the church but not James? Additionally, we have fairly good evidence that James was born in 1635-1637 (in the Maryland provincial court he gave his age as 22 in Oct 1658, and as 25 in Oct 1662), so it would not be realistic to fit him into a family if there were three other children born 1635-1638. Is “James” a name used by either William (b. 1636/7) or Henry (b. 1637/8)? Otherwise, it is rather problematic to assign James as child of one of these Hugh Bowlings.
3) Possible Finch connection. It is interesting to note that one wife of one of the Hugh Bowlings above is Ellen Finch: they married on 9 Apr 1616 at St. Laurence, Chorley. She was probably the daughter of Roger Fynch (1573-1642 Eccleston) and Isabella or Elizabeth Brears (1569-1631) who married in Chorley 17 February 1595/6 (if Izabell Brears on marriage record to Roger Finch is the same as Elizabeth Finch at burial). Roger Fynch is possibly the son of John Finch, who is is probably the martyr John Finch, yeoman farmer of Eccleston, who was arrested in Christmas 1581, tried in Lancaster on 20 April 1584 on the charge of harbouring Catholic Priests and subsequently found guilty and executed. He was beatified by Pope Pius X in 1929.
This same pair (Hugh and Ellen Bowling) seems to be mentioned in the record on 13 Jun 1659 of the burial of “Ellin Bowlling, wife of Hugh Bowlling, of Charnock Richard” at St Wilfrid’s, Standish. But this Hugh’s death is unknown because it was unfortunately a common local name. The term “wife” rather than “widow” implies Hugh was still alive in June 1659 — and instead we have records for four Hugh Bowlings who died before then: (1) a Hugh Bowling was buried in Standish on 19 Oct 1638; (2) a “Hugh Bowlinge of Charnock Richard” was buried in Standish on 7 Sept 1651; (3) the “Hugh Bowling of Standish”, whose will was probated in 1656; and (4) a Hugh Bowling was buried a few months before Ellen on 21 Apr 1659 in the same parish St Wilfrid’s, Standish (this Hugh is recorded as “son of John of Charnock Richard”, the kind of description appropriate for a child). We know the father of one of these Hugh Bowlings, since there is a baptismal record of “Hughe son of Raffe Bollinge” on 6 Aug 1591, St. Laurence, Chorley. But which one?
So the option of a Hugh Bowling as the father of the Marylanders is a possible one, although it is awkward that immigrant James Bowling’s birth is dated to 1635-37, years which seems to be in conflict with the birth of other children of Hugh Bowling of Charnock. Furthermore, it is very strange that no child James is recorded among the plentiful progeny of these Hugh Bowlings, and also odd that the name Hugh was never used in Maryland. Furthermore, even if Hugh is the right name for the Marylanders’ father, there are several persons named Hugh in that time and place and any spouse or parentage for Hugh is speculation at this stage.
Rather, the absence of the baptism of James Bowling from the parish records in the Charnock-Chorley area suggests that his parents were the sort of Catholic recusants who avoided the Church of England altogether. If so, then we should not expect to find the baptisms of their children Thomas or Elizabeth in the records either. The other sorts of records are so fragmentary that it would be hard to place this family.
Summary: It is clear that the Bowlings of Maryland came from the large family of that name in Charnock Richard in Lancashire, but the evidence is currently too incomplete to deduce the parents of the Bowling immigrants to Maryland.