“I have heard that Lieutenant Ellis had a brother Reuben, and I know my father had a cousin Reuben called ‘Little Reuben’.” From a letter written by Godfrey B. Fowler
My dad — 82 years old — can remember talking to his grandfather, Thomas Gillman Fowler, who was born in 1858. Thomas Gillman Fowler lived in the 1860 household with — and one can assume talked to– his grandfather, Reuben Fowler, who was born in 1797.
In my mind, because I know someone who talked to someone who talked to Reuben Fowler, I have an indirect connection to my great, great, great grandfather — he who was Little Reuben Fowler.
There is very little documentation to get a clear picture of the life and times of this man. But, thankfully, there is enough to prove his existence.
The first shred of evidence is the 1840 Union County, SC Census. Reuben Fowler and his family lived in the middle of families as familiar to me as my own. The Fowlers lived alongside and intermarried with the families Hames, Whitlock, Sprouse, Millwood, James, Coleman, Hodge, Mitchell, Jones……..
Reuben Fowler was listed in the 30-39 year old age bracket. There was one female age 20-29, three daughters age 5-9, one daughter under age 5, and one son under age 5.
Where was Reuben Fowler in 1830 and whom did he marry? I do not know. I cannot find him as head of household anywhere in 1830. It is possible that he was living with parents, a brother, other family, or friends. It is also possible that he just did not get counted in 1830.
I have not been able to prove the parents of Reuben Fowler. I think that he may have been a son of Ellis Fowler (b. 1770) son of Henry Ellis Fowler; or a son of John Fowler the Elder (d. 1818); or a son of one of John Fowler the Elder’s sons. Know that I have spent many hours searching for the origins of Reuben Fowler. I am still looking and hoping that one day a magical, previously unfound document that tells all will fall into my hands.
Since it appears that Reuben Fowler was a newly married man – circa 1830 — and had a young wife and five young children under the age of ten in the 1840 census, it is possible and maybe even likely that 1840 was the first census in which he was head of household.
In 1850, we have more than a head count; we have the names of the sons and daughters of Reuben Fowler. We also have an idea of where in Union County they lived: the Joseph Stark Sims family was enumerated next door and the Sims had lived in a house built near Grindal Shoals. The Womack Fowler family home place was just a short distance away toward Gilead Church.
Reuben Fowler was 53. There was no adult woman in the household so it may be assumed that his wife had died after the birth of the youngest child. The wife of Reuben Fowler would have been born between 1810 to 1819, and would have died between 1845 to 1850 if one is to believe what was written down in the census record.
The oldest daughter in the 1850 census record is Mary Fowler at age 13. Her brother John Fowler was 12; sister Martha Fowler was age 10, and another brother Robert Fowler was only five years old.
In 1840, there were 3 daughters 5 to 9 years old. Mary Fowler, age 13, would have been one of these daughters. Did the other two marry and leave home, or had they died by 1850?
In 1840, there was one daughter under the age of 5. Was this Martha Fowler, or a daughter who had died by 1850? It is possible that Martha Fowler was born in 1850 after the census was taken, or even 1851. I do not know the answer, but my money says that Martha Fowler was the female under the age of 5 in the 1840 census.
John Fowler — age 12 in 1850 — was the son under five years of age in 1840, no doubt in my mind. Robert Fowler was born circa 1845, give or take, as the men collecting census data only had the word of sometimes illiterate people to remember the dates of births and correct spellings of names. With no wife in the household, the births of children ceased for a while.
In 1860, in what would be the last census record that Reuben Fowler would appear, Reuben Fowler was 63 years old; Mary Fowler was 23 years old, and her sister Martha Fowler was 20.
Mary and Martha Fowler had two children each by 1860: Martha’s daughter Frances Fowler was 3; Mary’s son Gillman Fowler was 2.
Mary and Martha Fowler both had unnamed infant daughters: Mary’s daughter would be named Alice Fowler and Martha’s daughter would be called Mary Jane Adelaide Fowler.
In 1860, Reuben Fowler and family lived next door to Ellis Fowler and Sarah Clark Fowler and family. This Ellis Fowler was the son of Ellis Fowler (b. 1770), son of Henry Ellis Fowler. It is possible that Reuben Fowler and the Ellis Fowler next door were brothers.
John Fowler, son of Reuben Fowler, had married Jane Moseley and moved out of the household before 1860. There was a daughter in their home name Malissa and I’ve not determined if she was the daughter of John Fowler or a first husband of Jane.
In my search for Reuben Fowler’s origins, I turned to yDNA testing. DNA is truth. The only two sons that I believe to have been born to Reuben Fowler and his wife were John Fowler and Robert Fowler. John Fowler had no sons born during his marriage to Jane Moseley. After her death, he may have married a woman named Francis Hall, but the couple had no children.
Robert Fowler must have died before adulthood. The only record I can find of him is the 1850 census stating his age as five. He was not to be found in 1860. With no living sons of sons of sons to test, there is no hope of DNA salvation.
Mary Fowler and her sister Martha Fowler never married. Mary’s son Thomas Gillman Fowler was fathered by a Cook and was my great grandfather. Thomas Gillman Fowler married Lura Mabry, daughter of Sarah Watts and William Thomas Littlejohn.
Mary’s daughter Alice Fowler may have been the daughter of a Rochester. Alice married Davidson Mitchell, a grandson of the Rev. Elias Mitchell.
Martha Fowler’s daughter Francis Fowler married Marcus Bryant. Martha’s daughter Mary Jane Adelaide Fowler married Robert Smith Cook.
There is one more document that I shall have to add later. I ran across an estate settlement in probate in the mid 1860s whereas Reuben Fowler owed someone $2.50.
Reuben Fowler must have died before 1870 as I can find no other records of him after the mid-1860 probate document.
I, for one, am very glad of the existence of Little Reuben Fowler. Had he not lived and passed on his genes to the next generation, I would not be writing his story today.