Erie County (PA) Genealogy

Chautauqua Lowry Extract

Contributed by Beth Simmons


A little over a year ago, our Harbor Creek Township coordinator, Beth Simmons, provided a scanned image of several pages that had been extracted from the History of Chautauqua County, New York. This extract provided information in support of the article that Beth authored, titled "The Lowry Clan". The scanned images were transcribed into text format in March of 2003 by site volunteer Joyce Anthony, but was unfortunately "buried" in my hard drive. The documents have now been located, and are being posted at this time. Rather than adding to Beth's previous Lowry Clan article, a separate web page is being created. Any comments or questions about this extract, or the Lowry family, should be sent directly to Beth Simmons.


Extracted from History of Chautauqua County ---PP. 626-629

      Lowry Families.---As these families were among the early and prominent settlers in Erie county, Pa., and as several of them removed to this county, where some of their descendants still remain, a sketch of them is given here.

      George Lowry, of Scotch descent, was born in the north of Ireland, county of Down, where he died, April 4, 1770.  He had 10 sons, all living at the time of his death, the youngest about 18 months old; his first born, a daughter, having died in childhood.  The names of the sons were Samuel, Hugh, John, Robert, James, Andrew, William, George, Alexander, and Morrow.  Samuel and Hugh came to America, exploring for the family, in 1774.  Hugh returned to report; Samuel remained, and settled in Columbia Co., Pa., where he died in 1826.  The mother, Margaret Lowry, and her sons determined to emigrate to the land of freedom, and settle together.  They had perpetual leases of land, for which they paid an annual rent of $1.50 per acre.  They left James and William to sell their leases; and the mother and seven sons embarked at Belfast, for the state of Deleware, May 1, 1776, and landed in Wilmington, July 5, 1776.  William came in 1787, and James in 1788.  The mother and her ten sons settled near each other, in Northumberland Co., Pa.  Some of the brothers removed to other places in the vicinity, and were married.  Hugh, after his return from Ireland, settled in Union county; had a large family, and died there in 1828.

      In 1794, the mother and her sons purposed to remove to some new country, where they could form a colony and live on contiguous lands.  Having seen advertisements offering to settlers cheap lands, on the shore of Lake Erie, they formed a compact, and appointed James and George to go and explore and report.  In the spring of 1795, they went through the wilderness to Lake Erie, and down to Sixteen Mile creek, and concluded to locate there.  The land had been offered by the state to settlers, in tracts of 400 acres.

They made a measuring cord of bark, and measured off a number of 400 acre tracts, and, in each tract, built a shanty; and they procured, in behalf of the Lowry’s colony, from Gen. Rees, agent of the state, certificates of thirteen tracts, at and about Sixteen Mile creek.  James and George returned in the fall and made their report; and all were pleased.  They numbered these tracts, and drew lots for them.  In March 1796, the colony, consisting of eight brothers, John, Robert, James, Andrew, William, George, Alexander, and Morrow, and four other men, left Northumberland for what they considered the “land of promise.”  The history of their journey is a very interesting one; and only the want of room forbids its insertion.  The foregoing facts are taken from a letter written many years ago by Morrow Lowry to Judge Foote.

      The Lowrys were of the number who suffered from the insecurity of land titles in Western Pennsylvania.  Although the people on this side of the state line were not affected by these troubles, they sympathized deeply with their pioneer neighbors on the other side of the line.  And as it is presumed few of our present citizens are familiar with this portion of early history in our vicinity, a few of the leading facts will be here presented.  About the time the letter of Morrow Lowry was written, his nephew, James B. Lowry, wrote to Judge Foote the following:

      “In the year 1792, the state of Pennsylvania passed an act to encourage the settlement of her wild lands, north and west of the Allegany river, offering 400 acres to every actual settler who should settle on, and reside on and improve the same for five years, and pay 20 cents per acre.  In consequence of this inducement, the Lowry family, with a number of others, emigrated to the then wilderness.  They found no settlement in Western Pennsylvania; there was a fort at Erie, but there were no mills, no roads, or anything that pertained to civilization on the south, nearer than Pittsburgh; in Canada there were settlers at Fort Erie; in New York were some as far west as Utica.

      “About the time the Lowrys settled in Erie county, Pa., they were met by emigrants from the East, employed by the Population Company to settle the triangle.  Between them and the settlers from the interior of Pennsylvania, there was a continual warfare or strife; and mob-law prevailed to a considerable extent for some years.  In the meantime, the Population Company commenced suits against the settlers, who had to attend courts at Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, until they were worn out, impoverished, and disheartened.  They were driven from the homes they had acquired by unheard of privations and suffering, and which had cost them the best part of their lives.  Poor, discouraged, broken down in body and mind, they had to seek an asylum under other laws, or where the laws were administered with more justice.”

      It appears that the Lowrys bought their lands of the state of Pennsylvania.  But the writer last mentioned says settlers were sued by the Population Company.  Of the relation between this company and the state, we are not informed.  It is presumed the company had purchased large quantities of land from the state, and sold it to settlers.  Robert Falconer, an early citizen of Sugar Grove, Pa., and father of Patrick and William T. Falconer, of this county, in a public address delivered some forty or more years ago, the manuscript of which is now in the hands of the writer of this history, says:

      “No sooner was the act passed than individuals and companies applied for large bodies of land, paid the purchase money, and obtained warrants authorizing surveys; and then all they had to do was to put on a settler, and get him to clear the necessary number of acres, and live upon the land five years, to entitle them to a patent.  For this service they, in most cases, offered the settler a clear deed of 100 acres, to include his house and clearing his choice out of the tract; in some instances more.  The Holland Land Company went into this scheme most largely.  They built a storehouse at Warren, and supplied some of the settlers with provisions, implements of husbandry, and other goods upon credit.  The whole system operated to disadvantage.  With every exertion,  but few settlers could be got.  The warrant-holders were bound to put a settler on every tract in two years.  This was impossible.  Others then claimed the right of taking the land where no settler was put on by the warrant-holder, on the plea of his right being forfeited.

      “Many people went upon the lands in opposition to the warrantees, and many who had contracted to settle under them determined to hold the whole tract against them.  The legislature appeared inclined to favor the settler against the warrant-holder.  Fortunately for the latter, the law of 1792, contained a provision by which the forfeiture of land was prevented.  It required the settlement to be effected within two years, unless prevented by the enemies of the United States.  A man was murdered by Indians on French creek.  The war of 1794 broke out; St. Clair was defeated by the Indians; alarm extended over the country and the United States court decided that this was a prevention which did away entirely with the obligation of settlement.  This contention had an injurious effect on emigration to Western Pennsylvania.  Actual settlers, when they found they could not hold the lands against the warrantee, moved off, exclaiming that there was no good title for land to be held in Pennsylvania.  And thus, thirty years ago, our county presented the appearance of abandonment, many farms upon which extensive improvements had been made, being deserted by their former occupants.  Some, however, remained.  Numbers had taken up lands where no other warrants interfered; improvements were carried on; and population began to increase.  Robert Miles, in Sugar Grove;  John and Hugh Marsh and John Russell, in Pine Grove; Gen. C. Irvine, the Andrewses, father and sons, on Brokenstraw; Daniel Jackson, at Warren, and many others, were conspicuous among the first inhabitants of our county:  and their descendants are numerous among us.”

      The Indian murder alluded to by Mr. Falconer in a preceding page, is probably that which was described in one of a series of numbers on the “Early History of Erie County, Pennsylvania,” published in the Erie Gazette, in the winter of 1870-71.  The writer says:

      “The Indians continued their hostility until Wayne’s victory in 1794.  This made the attempt at settlement by white people very dangerous:  hence, it was of the utmost importance for the Population Company to establish the guilt of the Indians in committing these murders.  Adverse claimants located on some spots, on the plea that the land was forfeited on non-compliance with the law of settlement.  These parties set up the plea that the Rutledges were killed by white men as the instruments of the Company.  This view found many adherants; and, even to this day, this theory is not entirely eradicated from the minds of some.”

      The remains of the father were discovered near the place now known as the Union Depot; and nearby the boy was lying in a dying condition, having not only been shot, but scalped.  As a direct result of the fatal shooting of the Rutledges, the Population Company was never obliged to make their settlement, and the law became a nullity.  The few settlers there were chiefly from other counties in that state.  And some of them, unwilling to hazard the trouble and expense of litigation, or the bestowal of labor upon farms which they held by so precarious a tenure, left their lands, “crossed the line,” and selected homes in Chautaqua county.

      Of the Lowry brothers, only two are believed to have removed to this county.  George came to Mayville in 1808.  He raised a number of daughters and one son, James B., who was clerk of the county.  George removed to Illinois, where James resided, and died there.  Morrow Lowry, father of Morrow B. Lowry, of Erie, Pa., came to Mayville in 1811, and removed to Pennsylvania in 1813 or 1814.  Hugh W. Lowry, a son of another of the ten brothers, born in Pennsylvania, removed to Westfield, where he was several years in the mercantile business, and returned to Pennsylvania, where he died.  Nathaniel A. Lowry, son of Alexander, one of the ten brothers, settled in Jamestown.  (See history of Jamestown.)  The mother of George and Morrow Lowry died at Mayville in 1812.


This page was last updated on  Tuesday, April 20, 2004 .

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