Samuel Watts Bowker (1868-1955)

February 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Posted in BARBARA BOWKER, Bowker, Brand(t), Browne, Potter, Rae, Rankin, Stickney, Watts, Whitney | 3 Comments

Today’s post is about my mother’s grandfather, Samuel Watts Bowker, who was generally called Sammy. Surnames mentioned: Bowker, Brand, Browne, Potter, Rae, Rankin, Stickney, Watts, Whitney.  Locations mentioned:  Bronx, Bronx Co, NY; Brookline, Norfolk Co, MA; Centerdale, Providence Co, RI; Charlottetown, Queens Co, PEI, Canada; Coll, Argyleshire, Scotland; Fredericton, York Co, NB, Canada; Greenwich, Kent Co, RI; Jonesboro, Washington Co, ME; Machias, Washington Co, ME; Montclair, Essex Co, NJ; New Bedford, Bristol Co, MA; New York City, New York Co, NY; Roque Bluffs, Washington Co, ME; Taunton, Bristol Co, MA; Togus Springs, ME.

Samuel Watts Bowker was born October 31, 1868 in Machias, Washington Co, Maine.  His father was William Clark Bowker (1830-1896), son of Watts Bowker (1790-1870) of Machias and Lydia Lockwood Stickney (1794-1886) born in Fredericton, York Co, New Brunswick, Canada.  His mother was Ruth Hall Watts (1839-1917), daughter of Samuel Watts (1797-1880) and Esther Whitney (1801-1886) from the Englishmans River area of Jonesboro in what is now Roque Bluffs, Washington Co, ME.

In the 1870 Census for Machias, Samuel Bowker, age 2, is found in the household of his parents, Wm (40) carpenter, and Ruth (31) along with sister, Laura(6) and brother, Herbert (4).  The family story about Sammy’s early childhood, as told by my grandmother, was how, as a very small boy, he was sent outside to feed the chickens.  Having stayed too long, his mother went to investigate and found Sammy surrounded by dead chickens.  When asked what happened, he famously said, “No chicken peck me live.”  He had held out a handful of feed, gotten pecked, gotten angry and wrung the poor chickens’ necks.

In the 1880 Census for Machias, the Bowker family is living on Court Street and consists of William C (49) house carpenter; Ruth H (41); Laura E (16); Herbert A (14); and Samuel W (11).  There had also been a younger brother, Eugene, who was born Jul 26 1871 and died Mar 23 1872.  I’m not 100% sure, but I think this is the baby whose clothing caught a spark from the hearth fire and died as a result.  Nowadays children’s sleepwear must be treated with a fire retardant or the clothing design must be “tight fitting.”  In an ironic side note from my grandmother’s early childhood, when she was dressed up in girly clothes, she was Barbara, but when she was naughty, or dressed in sloppy play togs, she was “Eugene.”

About 1882, the family moved to Brookline, Norfolk Co, MA, where Sammy’s father, William C. Bowker, and uncle, Watts Henry Bowker, garnered success in the building trades.  Presumably, Sammy attended school around Brookline or Boston.  I don’t know if he attended any college or earned any degrees, but unlike previous generations of Bowkers, he, his brother and cousins embarked on professional, white-collar careers.

On Oct 16 1893, Samuel Watts Bowker married Amy Lauratta Rankin, born Oct 17,1867 in Taunton, Bristol Co, MA.  Amy’s father was James William Rankin (1841-aft. 1898) a Britannia worker from Taunton, who was born in Prince Edward Island, Canada to Alexander Rankin (1794-1859) from Isle of Coll, Argyleshire, Scotland and Elizabeth “Eliza” Rae (1802-1891) who was born in Charlottetown, PEI.  Amy’s mother was Susan Amy Potter (1846- aft. 1920) of Taunton, whose parents were William Potter (abt 1813-1890?) of Rhode Island and Amy Ann Brand (1822-1885) of Greenwich, Kent Co, RI.

Sammy and Amy’s marriage record is found in a previous post.  I found out that James W Rankin was not in attendance because in January, 1893, he went to live at the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Togus Springs, Maine.  I am still unclear about the identity of W H Rankin, who is listed as the bride’s father on the certificate.  I suspect it is William Hector Rankin, a cousin of James’, who lived in the same household when they were teenagers.

As to Amy’s early life, she is listed, Amey L,age 2, in the 1870 Census for Centerdale, Providence Co, RI with James Rankin (27) , Britannia Worker and Susan A (23).  In 1880 for New Bedford, Bristol Co, MA we find Susan Rankin (32) and Amy (12) living on Maxfield Street.  Amy’s father, James, is absent in this census report, but Susan is listed as married.

As usual, I do not know the story of how Sammy and Amy met.  Her pet name for him was “Bowser.”  He called her “Buddy.”  At the time of their marriage, Samuel W. Bowker’s occupation is listed as “clerk.”  In 1897, Sammy is listed as an auditor for the Town of Brookline, receiving $60 per annum.  In the 1900 census for Brookline, Norfolk Co, MA, Sammy’s occupation is Stock Broker.  He is likewise listed in the birth record for their daughter, Barbara Bowker on February 7, 1900.  Their residence at the time was 157 Cypress Street in Brookline.  In 1901, the town records show that there was a laundry fire that caused $65.00 damage, of which insurance paid $20.  Also in the town records that year, Sammy appears as a juror, with occupation listed as Treasurer.

In 1910, the family is located in Montclair, Essex Co, NJ.  The census lists them in a boarding house on Groves Street:  Samuel W. Bowker (40), Vice President of Foundry; Amy L Bowker (38); Barbara Bowker (10); and Susan A Rankin (62), widowed.  The census questions that year include asking the females how many children they have born, and of those how many are living.  Amy has the one living child, Barbara.  The other number looks like it could be a 1 or a 7.  I seem to remember Barbara, my grandmother, mentioning a little brother who died in infancy, but I may be confusing this with the story of Eugene.  My grandmother also said on more than one occasion when talking about Amy, that in those days, having a husband who was away on business was a very effective form of birth control.  As to Sammy’s job, he joined the board of the Central Iron and Coal Company in NJ, where there had been some financial mismanagement, which Sammy was assigned to resolve.  When the company became solvent enough to be sold, he lost his job.

In 1920, the Bowker family is back in Brookline, MA.  The census lists the family renting on Gorham Ave: Saml (51); Amy L (50) ;Barbara (19); Susan Rankin (72).  Sammy’s occupation is Accountant – own business.  On July 10, 1922 Barbara Bowker married Alan Stewart Browne of Newton, MA at the Bowker summer home in Roque Bluffs, Washington Co, ME.  In 1923, Sammy is listed in a directory of CPA’s with an office located on Willow Street in Hoboken, NJ, a suburb of New York City.

I don’t have any official documentation on Sammy or Amy for the 1930’s or 40’s.  From various conversations over the years with my mother and grandmother, I gather that they went to Roque Bluffs in the summers and lived in and around New York City the rest of the time.  Sammy enjoyed playing golf.  He won a handful of silver loving cups at amateur events.  I found his name attached to a character in a humorous golf story from 1916, that is probably fictional. Click the image below to read it for yourself  (Warning, the story is 14 pages long) :

Amy L Bowker died June 17, 1948 in Bronx, Bronx Co, NY.  I found the listing in an index from the Italian Genealogical Group .  I plan to send off for a copy of her death certificate, but have not done so as of yet.  Again, relying on my increasingly flaky memory, I think it was Amy who suffered a major stroke, but it may have been her mother, Susan Rankin.

Sammy went to live with his daughter, Barbara B. Browne, and his granddaughter, Anne on Barrow Street in Greenwich Village, NYC.  He died October 12, 1955 in New York City, a few weeks shy of his 87th birthday.  His remains were cremated.  Although Sammy and Amy  both passed away before I was born, through my mother and grandmother’s stories, I feel as though they were there when I was growing up.  I enjoyed getting to know them better, and hope you did as well.

Happy Valentine’s Day,



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  1. […] think I mentioned that I am twice descended from Samuel and Elsie. My maternal great grandfather, Samuel Watts Bowker‘s parents, William Clark Bowker and Ruth Hall Watts, were grandchildren of Betsey Watts […]

  2. […] of the family was at Roque Bluffs, Maine.  They were not.  However, it did not take long to find Sammy and Amy  Bowker in Machias.  Here’s the link from the National Archives site (a friendlier image browser is […]

  3. […] October, 1893, Amy L Rankin married Samuel W Bowker  born in Machias, ME residing in Brookline, MA.  On their marriage record Amy’s father is […]

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