The records of early Maryland give evidence of a Bowling family starting with James Bowling (1636-1693) who arrived in the province sometime before 1658. He became associated with other Catholics who eventually settled on Boarman’s Manor in what is now Charles County, Maryland. He had no children from his two marriages, but his will makes clear that there were descendants from his siblings Thomas (d. 1700) and Elizabeth (marr. Thomas Speake). There is also a John Bowling of Calvert Co (d. 1684), who may be connected to these three siblings.
These immigrants and their children can be outlined as follows:
- 1) James Bowling (1636-1693), imm. before 1658, called “Mr.” by 1677, “Capt.” by 1683.
- 2) Thomas Bowling, in Md. by 1694, returned to England 1697 and died there 1700.
- marr. —, probably in England. Sons: John and Roger
- 3) Elizabeth Bowling, prob. died or remarried before 1692.
- marr. Thomas Speake (d. 1681), a taylor. Children: John, Bowling.
- AND PERHAPS
- John Bowling (?-1684), imm. before 1663, settled in Calvert Co.marr. Mary —, who 1684 marr. Benjamin Evans. Children: John, Richard, Mary (?)
To summarize the Maryland evidence, the family was Catholic and possibly shoemakers by trade. 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. One clue to their English background is the unusual names of two of James’ plantations, Chorley and Chessham. Another is that the first records of James Bowling in Maryland show him living near (and apparently associated with) Mrs. Jane Eltonhead and John Anderton. Elsewhere he is associated with John Standish of Virginia. The most important clue to their origin comes from a 1734 deposition, where it is stated that John Bowling (son of Thomas above) “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. 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. Among the recusants listed there in 1628 are a John Bowling and wife. The township of Chorley is adjacent to it and there is a village of Chesham is about 15 miles southeast of it. Both the Eltonheads and the Andertons are from this same general vicinity.
The records of Leyland Parish record the baptisms of a Thomas Bowling’s sons John (9 Nov. 1673) and Roger (20 Nov. 1677) and the burial of Ann Bowling, widow, of Euxton (probably widow of Thomas) in 1703.
Possible earlier generations
Hypothesis 1: It is tempting to identify the Maryland family above as the children of Roger Bowling of Charnock Richard, a shoemaker who wrote a will 17 Sept. 1673, proved on 10 Nov. 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. All of this coincides well with what is known of the first generations of the Bowlings of Southern Maryland (except the omission of Elizabeth Bowling). But there are two questions about the fit of the Maryland and English evidence:
1) Can the Maryland evidence about Elizabeth Bowling and the 1673 will of Roger Bowling be reconciled? In particular, 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/Speaks of Maryland and their son Bowling Speake was born in 1675.
2) Roger’s will of 1673 mentions a grandson Roger Bowling, son of John. But John Bowling of Maryland’s 1684 will mentions only sons John and Richard. It is possible that John’s son Roger died between 1673 and 1684.
Together, these two problems (especially the first) make it unlikely that the Maryland immigrants were the children of Roger Bowling the Shoemaker (d. 1673), but the similarity of names (including Thomas’s son Roger) and the profession of shoemaking by John Bowling (3a) suggest they were close relatives of this Roger Bowling.
Hypothesis 2: Other than in the will of Roger Bowling, d. 1673 (above), there is no mention of a James Bowling in the 17th century English records for Lancashire. But the names of John, Thomas and Elizabeth Bowling are found several times. In particular, they appear as names of the children of one or more Hugh Bowlings.
At St. Laurence Church in Chorley, there are recorded the following baptisms for children of Hugh Bowling (NS = the current New Style of starting years on Jan. 1 rather than the Old Style on March 25):
- 30 Dec 1617 Roger son of Hughe Bowlinge
- 21 Feb 1618 (1619 NS) Roger son of Hughe Bowlinge [probably Roger the Shoemaker above]
- 6 Jan 1621 (1622 NS) Anne da. of Hughe Bowline of Charnock Ric:
- 10 Mar 1622 (1623 NS) Thomas son of Hughe Bollinge
- 8 Apr 1625 John son of Hugh Bowling
- 18 Feb 1627 (1628 NS) Wm son of Hugh Bowling (d. 4 Apr 1628)
- 22 Mar 1628 (1629 NS) Anne daughter of Hugh Bowling
- 26 Jun 1635 Elizabeth daughter of Hugh Boolinge of Charnocke Rich:
- 15 Jan 1636 (1637 NS) Willm son of Hugh Boolinge
- 20 Mar 1637 (1638 NS) Henry son of Hugh Boolinge
- 2 May 1640 Thomas son of Hugh Booling de Chornock Rich:
- 18 Nov 1644 Rich: f. Hogoi Boolinge de Charnok
It is not clear that all 12 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. The names in bold are those which could be the immigrants to Maryland, but it is not easy to fit in James Bowling of Maryland (born about 1636).
One of these Hugh Bowlings is the man of that name who marr. Ellen Finch on 9 Apr 1616 at St. Laurence, Chorley. Hugh’s wife Ellen Fynch is the daughter of Roger Fynch (1573-1642 Eccleston) and Isabella or Elizabeth Brears (1569-1631) who married in Charnock circa 1595. It is believed that Roger Fynch is the son of John Finch (b c 1548-84). This 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.
Is this the Hugh Bowling who was buried in Standish on 19 Oct 1638? Or the “Hugh Bowlinge of Charnock Richard” buried in Standish on 7 Sept 1651 (probably the “Hugh Bowling of Standish”, whose will was probated in 1656). A third Hugh Bowling (recorded as son of John of Charnock Richard, so possibly a child) was buried 21 Apr 1659 St Wilfrid’s, Standish.
And it also seems possible that Hugh Bowling (the husband of Ellen Finch) was none of these but was still alive on 13 Jun 1659, when the burial of “Ellin Bowlling, wife of Hugh Bowlling, of Charnock Richard” is recorded at St Wilfrid’s, Standish, with the term “wife” rather than “widow”.
We know the parentage 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?
In sum, 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 1636, a year which seems to be in conflict with the birth of other children of Hugh Bowling of Charnock. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that no child James is recorded among the plentiful progeny of these Hugh Bowlings, and that the name Hugh is never attested in Maryland. But, 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.
Hypothesis 3: The absence of the baptism of James Bowling from the parish records in the Charnock-Chorley area may indicate 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: The evidence is currently too incomplete to deduce the parents of James, Thomas and Elizabeth Bowling of Maryland. An example of the problem is seen above in Hypothesis 1. There is only one baptism recorded in the period before 1650 for a child of Roger Bowling and yet we know from the will of Roger Bowling 1673 that he had at least 6 children surviving to adulthood. This absence of records is probably due to the Catholic faith of this Roger Bowling, and it could easily be the case with others of this family too. In short, process of elimination does not work well with only partial data sets.