Barking up the Bowker Tree – Major Levi B Bowker 1763-1850

January 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Posted in BARBARA BOWKER, Bean, Bowker, Stickney, Watts | 10 Comments

Previously we had a Bowker with a mysterious later life.  Today’s profile is for a Bowker with an unknown early life.  Surnames mentioned are:  Bean, Bowker, Boynton, Bugby, Dolton, Dustin / Duston, Dutton, Getchell, Hanscom, McKellar, Smith, Stickney, Watts, Weston.  Locations: Falmouth, Cumberland Co, ME; Haverhill, Essex Co, MA; Jonesboro, Washington Co, ME; Kingston, Rockinham Co, NH; Machias, Washington Co, ME; Scituate, Plymouth Co, MA

Levi B. Bowker was born on July 25, 1763 to unknown parents.  The first official record we have for him is March, 1781, when he enlisted at Scituate, Plymouth County, MA in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.  His birth is not found in the vital records or church registries for Scituate or any of the towns in the vicinity.  His military record has him as “of Scituate,” which does not necessarily mean he was born there.  There were many Bowker family units in Scituate at that time, but as far as I know, our Levi has not been positively attached to any of them.  It is my intention to explore the whole parentage problem in another post.

From Levi’s 1818 pension application, his military service unfolded as follows (transcription is mine):

I Levi Bowker of Machias in the County of Washington and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I do testify and say that I was enlisted into the Continental Service of the United States of America in the month of March in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty one for the term of three years. I was enlisted in the Town of Situate in the County of Plymouth in the state aforesaid by James Hatch head of the Clan(?) for that town from there I was marched to West Point in the State of New York there turn I to Capt King Company in the tenth Regiment Commanded by Colonel [Benjamin] Tupper in the Brig Genl Patterson Brigade in the Massachusett Line.  I was transferred from the Tenth Regiment to the Third Regiment and Eighteenth Company where I continued to serve my country until the eighteenth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty three when I received my discharge which is herewith presented.

So from March, 1781 a few months shy of his 18th birthday, until December, 1783, Levi served in the Revolutionary cause.  He enlisted as a private.  Nowhere in his pension file does it say he was promoted, yet in later life he was addressed as Major Bowker.  This may have been an honorary title.

The US Genweb Archives site has a family profile that appeared in the Machias Union newspaper on June 14, 1881.  The source seems to be Levi B Bowker, Jr.  From this article we learn that Levi, Sr. arrived in the Machias area in 1789 as a member of the party traveling with Capt G Fellows.  Internet research reveals that Captain Gustavus Fellows was a prominent citizen of Roxbury and Boston, MA, who among varied business interests, ran a shipbuilding yard in Scituate before the war.  Other members of the group included Mrs. Fellows, Gustavus Fellows, Jr. and Alexander White.  Levi, a carpenter by trade, built Captain Fellows large home on the Columbia River, then part of Jonesboro.  Gustavus Jr. lived at “Chandlers Villa” at Look Point.

In late 1789, Levi married Elizabeth “Betsey” Watts, daughter of Captain Samuel Watts (1716-1788) and Alice “Elsie” Bean (born Nov 9,1736 in Kingston, Rockingham Co, NH to Samuel and Sarah Bean).  Betsey Watts was born in 1764 in Falmouth, Maine which is now part of Portland.  Many sources cite all the Watts children as having been born in Haverhill, MA.  However, they are not listed in the town’s vital records, and Samuel and Elsie moved to Falmouth around 1760 while he continued military service during the French and Indian War.  In 1769 the Watts family moved to Plantation 22, which became Chandler’s River and later Jonesboro, Maine.  At that time, however, the area was part of Lincoln County, Massachusetts.  Betsy’s father was a retired soldier who took up farming and milling lumber.  His parents were Samuel Watts (1691-1763) and Abigail Duston (1680-1727), both of Haverhill, MA.

According to Betsey Watts Bowker’s 1850 application for a widows pension, the marriage took place in Jonesboro on Dec 24, 1789 and was officiated by Joseph Pierpont, the county magistrate, but that no official documentation was kept back then.  Her sister, Hannah Watts Weston and sister-in-law, Polly Noyes Watts signed witness statements to the same.  From the Machias Union profile: “Levi senior moved from Jonesboro in Spring of 1797 to Machias, settling in what is now Marshfield… ”

Levi and Betsey Bowker had nine children:

  1. Watts Bowker – born Dec 12, 1790, married 1st Lydia Lockwood Stickney in 1815, married 2nd Margaret Dolton about 1843, occupation was lumberman/farmer, died April 25, 1870 at Clyde River, Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, Canada.
  2. Lydia Bowker – born Nov 1, 1793, married Otis Pineo Hanscom in 1817, died May 19, 1874 in Machias.
  3. Levi B Bowker, Jr. – born August 26, 1795, married Martha G. Crocker in 1822, occupation was land surveyor; died June 19, 1887 in Machias.
  4. Betsey Bowker – born Sep 2, 1797, married Simeon Getchell in 1818, died Jan 7, 1853 in Machias.
  5. Hannah Bowker – born Feb 9, 1800, married Stephen Boynton.
  6. Sarah “Sally” Bowker – born April 10, 1802, married Ellis Hanscom in 1827.
  7. Deborah Bowker – born July 19, 1805, married 1st James McKellar, married 2nd William Bugby, died in Perry, ME.
  8. Frederick E. Bowker – born June 26, 1808, married 1st Mary Smith, married 2nd Rachel Ann Dutton in Delaware, died in Pennsylvania, buried in Wilmington, DE.
  9. Mary “Polly” Bowker – born Feb 28, 1810, died about 1827 in Machias.

In the 1800 Census for Machias the Levi Bowker household consists of 9 “free white” persons:  Males – 2 under 10, 1 age 16-26, 1 age 26-45; Females – 3 under 10, 1 age 26-45, and 1 age 45+.  It is possible that the older woman is Elsie Bean Watts and the young man is her youngest son, Thomas, but they could also be other family or servants.

From  George W Drisko’s book “Narrative of the town of Machias : the old and the new, the early and late,” are transcriptions of old Machias town records,  showing that in 1801 and 1802 Levi Bowker was nominated twice for Grand Juror and served on a school committee.  He is also attributed with constructing various public buildings and private homes in the area.

In the 1810 Census for Machias the Levi Bowker household consists of 10 “free white” persons:  Males – 1 under 10, 1 age 10-16, 1 age 16-26, 1 age 26-45; Females- 3 under 10, 1 age 10-16, 1 age 16-26, and 1 age 26-45.

During the War of 1812, Levi Bowker the carpenter, built fortifications and barracks at Sanborn’s point (Fort O’Brien), which were subsequently destroyed by the British in 1814.  I can find no record where he performed actual military service during this conflict.  Perhaps this is when he acquired the “rank” of Major.

In the 1820 Census for Machias the Levi Bowker household consists of 6 “free white” persons:  Males – 1 age 10-16, 1 age 18 to 26, 1 age 45+; Females – 1 age 10-16, 2 age 45+

Also in 1820, as part of his continuing pension documentation, Levi, age 56, states his occupation as “housewright, which I am unable to persue by reason of infirmity, particularly by reason of a troublesome hernia.”  The schedule of his personal property includes 80 acres of land with mortgage of $1500, 3 cows, 1 yearling colt, 2 swine, 4 sheep, carpenters tools worth $40, household furniture (in poor condition), and an oat crop with a debt of $150 owed against it.  Living at home, he lists himself, wife Betsey (46), Sally (18), Hannah (16), Deborah(14), Frederick (12), and Mary (10).

As an aside, it should be noted that Congressional Acts continually granted and revoked veterans pensions programs.  Levi’s was initially granted in 1818, revoked in 1820 and reinstated 1823.  His name appears in census rolls of military veterans receiving pensions in 1835 and 1840.

According to an entry on, Levi Bowker is among the “Names of Soldiers of the American Revolution Who Applied for State Bounty under Resolves of March 17, 1835, March 24, 1836, and March 20, 1836, as Appears of Record in Land Office” (copies available for a fee from the Maine State Archives).

In the 1850 Census for Machias, taken on July 17th, Levi Bowker, age 87, and Betsey Bowker, age 86, are living in the home of their son-in-law, Otis P. Hanscom.  This is only a few weeks before Levi’s death, which Betsey reports as August 28, 1850… other sources have it as July 28th.

An 1887 issue of the Bangor Historical Magazine (available via Google Book search or has a list called “Machias Inscriptions: New Cemetery”

  • 1850 July 28 Mr Levi Bowker born in Scituate Mass July 25 1763 died July 28 1850 a soldier of the Revolution
  • 1854 Feb 23 Betsey Watts his widow aged 88 yrs 9 mos

Unfortunately, I have been unable to pin down the location of “New Cemetery,” and suspect that it is co-located in the Court Street Cemetery, as that is where some sources say they are buried.  Also, in another issue of the Bangor Historical Magazine is an article listing tombstone inscriptions from the stone mason in Bangor that lists Levi’s death date as August 28, 1850.

Having heard stories about many of these folks since childhood, I really enjoyed finding out more about them.  Like I said, I’ll do a separate post to address Levi’s parentage (I’m pretty sure he had parents 😉 ).  As always, if you would like to contribute to my research here, please post a comment on the blog or otherwise contact me.

Happy New Year,



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  1. Hi Barb,
    I came across a recent note from you, and I was just wondering if you have verified who Levi Bowker’s (born 1763) parents were?
    Hope all is well / Ron Bowker

  2. […] 4. Elizabeth “Betsy” Watts (1764-1854) born in Falmouth, ME. In 1789 at Jonesboro, Betsy married Levi Bowker (1763-1850). He was a carpenter and a veteran of the Revolution. They moved to Machias and had 9 children. They are buried together at Court Street Cemetery in Machias. Levi and Betsy Bowker are also my 4 x great grandparents. Please see my profile of them [here]. […]

  3. […] recap from my previous profile of Levi: The first official sighting (or citing if you prefer) of our Levi Bowker is in March, 1781 in […]

  4. Hello! I’m nearly two years late since your previous comments, but maybe I have some helpful information. My Dad’s maternal side of the family is from Machias and were very detailed genealogists when it comes to our family. Levi Bowker is my 5th great grandfather, and is the Patriot I used to enter the SAR. I have visited his and Betsey (Watts) Bowker’s graves in the Court Street Cemetery. I’ve also been to the graves of Betsey’s parents Samuel Watts and Mary (Noyes) Watts. I have pictures of all of them if you’d like me to send them along. Again, this may be old news (no pun intended), but I thought I’d share in case it’s useful!

    As an aside, I was within 100 yards of the parents of Samuel Watts (Samuel Watts and Elsie Bean), but didn’t know it. They’re buried in a small burial ground in Jonesboro which is terribly hard to find! Anyway, Merry Christmas!

    Jeremy Robertson

    • Check that, nearly 3 years late!

    • Hi, Jeremy. Thank you for the comment and the verification that Levi and Betsey are at Court Street Cemetery. If I can make a gentle correction to your post… the Samuel Watts who was married to Mary Noyes was the brother of Betsey Watts and was, indeed, a Patriot with a capital “P”. Betsey’s parents were Samuel Watts and Elsie Bean. It’s terribly difficult to keep all the Samuel’s straight, as it was a tradition for generations of Watts to name the first-born son Samuel.
      In any case, I am thrilled to have another Cousin. What a wonderful Christmas present!

      • Hi Barbara,
        Thanks for the correction! I do get incredibly confused with the numerous Samuel Watts names floating around. I think I need to go fix my tree! Thanks for the reply, and nice to “meet” you! I hope you had a great Christmas.


  5. I happened to be looking through my Bowker genealogy, and came across your note. My “research” has all been 2nd or 3rd hand, at least, so please keep that in mind. I show a Levi as either the 11th or 12th child of John Bowker and Anna Wright. There is a bit of confusion about the dates, but it’s deflinitely the correct Levi, showing the marriage to Bettsey Watts and their 9 children as you have noted. Interestingly enough, the confusion on the sheets I have is that my own progenitor, Stephen Bowker, was also shown as being born in 1763, and Levi’s date of birth is listed differently on two different documents. It appears that John and Anna had 15 children, so lots of relatives around somewhere :). John’s parents were James Bowker and Hannah Lambert, and they had at least 12 children. James may been still called Bucer or Buker. James appears to be descended from James Bucer, of whom there are a lot of interesting stories. Apparently he came to Scituate from Sweden, but was English by birth. I can share those stories later, but for now, I hope you find this “information” interesting and useful. Nice to make the acquaintance of someone who may have the same GGGGG Grandparents as myself, Ron Bowker.

    • Thanks, Ron, for this information.

      I have suspected that Levi was a descendant of James, who does have some interesting stories attached to him. I agree that dates are sometimes subjective, so that is not a deal breaker for me if other evidence is strong enough. Can you point me to your sources about John and Anna being Levi’s parents?


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