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Lowry Clan Revised Part One

Erie County (PA) Genealogy

Family Histories

Lowry Clan - mostly Harbor Creek and North East Township

Contributed by Beth Simmons

The information below was written and submitted by Beth Simmons. This is a revision to a similar article posted in December 2002.  This is Part One of two parts, with this first part being the narrative story of Margaret Lowry coming to America with her children after her husband George Lowry had died in Ireland.  Part Two is the Family Tree of the Lowry Descendants.  Any comments or questions about the article or this family should be sent directly to Beth.



©Beth Simmons, 2016


On July 6, 1776, Margaret Lowry and her six of her handsome bachelor sons first set foot on American soil in Wilmington, Delaware. After her husband, George Lowry (senior – died 1770) and her only daughter had died in Grey Abbey, County Down, Ireland, Margaret sent two of her sons, Hugh and Samuel, to America to scout out opportunities in the new land. The boys arrived in 1774 and settled in Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, the seat of rebellious excitement.

Sam sent Hugh sent back for the others. So, Margaret packed her belongings and seven of the boys boarded the ship at Belfast with their mother, bound for their new hope, the Promised Land across the Atlantic. William and James stayed in Ireland to sell the family property there. They joined the others in 1778.

Margaret and her boys and grandchildren arrived the very next day after the Declaration of Independence had been signed in Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell tolled in celebration. Town criers told the message; the Revolutionary War had begun! What a time to arrive in a new land! The towns were abuzz with commotion. Amidst the confusion and chaos, the boys reunited their mother with their brothers and settled in Columbia and Northumberland Counties. 

Another large Scot-Irish family lived nearby. James Barr had come from Ireland and married Elizabeth Kirk. They had a slew of beautiful daughters – Anne, Sarah, Rebecca, Mary, Elizabeth, Jeanette, and two sons, James and Samuel.  Many were mere children during the Revolution.  Margaret’s youngest boy, Andrew, was just 18 months old when his father died, so these two families grew up together in the new land. Romances bloomed and soon, four of the Barr sisters had married four of the Lowry brothers.

After the War, westward settlement began in Pennsylvania. After the Erie Triangle was purchased from New York, the state opened those lands for surveying and then purchase in 1792. The Lowry boys seemed to have an inside story on which lands were the best. The record shows they may have been soldiers at the Garrison in Erie and definitely at Bently’s Farm. They made plans to head west. In the meantime, the Pennsylvania Population Company had organized and schemed to buy as much acreage from the state as they could.

By 1794 the sections and lots had been ‘claimed’ and the monies collected from the PPC. However, Indian Wars and raids deterred the state from permitting settlers to head to the lakeshore property until 1795.

In 1794, James and George had come north, perhaps with the regiment. The boys fell in love with the beautiful forested hills full of game, the abundant springs, and the view of lake. There was a Christmas card waiting for John Lowry (c/o Robert Steen) on December 27, 1794 in the Washington, Pennsylvania, post office. By the following  summer (1795), the case of James Lowry vs. Wm Beer was bound over for trial in Allegheny County. What the lawsuit entailed, only the court records know.

The boys went home and told their brothers and their families of the riches that lay along the lake. On May 28th, 1796, George, a corporal in the regiment at ‘Bently’s farm” went AWOL, deserted, complete with uniform. The dark complexioned 5’7” slender man owed his ‘brother soldiers’ some money, and they posted a ‘WANTED’ ad in the Pittsburgh newspaper in July of 1796.  In 1797, eight of the brothers purchased their chosen parcels of land from the state, packed their families and their mother and came to Erie County.  A letter posted Jan. 1, 1797 was waiting for Robert in Pittsburgh, who was, by this time, probably in what is now Erie County.

George who had married Elizabeth Barr in 1792, claimed and paid the state for acreage at what is now the western side of Lake Street in North East – good gravel soil with lots of timber. They established the first tavern in North East. William and his wife, Elizabeth Dickey located along the lakeshore. James, the caretaker for his mother, located his family in southern North East. Robert and Jeanette Barr, Andrew and Mary Barr, Alexander and his wife, and Morrow and Anne Barr, all settled in what is now Harbor Creek Township, along with their older sister, Sarah and her husband, William Wilson. A John Lowry  settled alone at the mouth of Sixteen-Mile Creek; John, the son of George and Margaret had died in 1790 downstate. Hugh and his wife settled in Clarion County. James Barr, the father, followed his girls into the wilderness. Unfortunately, some of the Wilson’s, Barr’s, and Lowry’s settled on land that had been previously purchased by the PPC in 1792.

Judah Colt, the manager of the PPC, spent years of his frugal life fighting with the Lowry’s about their claims. Because of the Indian Wars and the snafu regarding the complicated legalize within the state ruling, the settlers felt their rights were violated by the PPC bringing suit against them.  The Lowry’s fought tooth and nail to keep their precious land, especially during June and July of 1797.

Finally the lawsuits went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, an institution that didn’t even exist when the Lowry’s set foot in America. At one point the U.S. Marshall was called in to evict the ‘advance settlers’; some were jailed. In other parts of the state, a U.S. Marshall’s Deputy was killed during a hostile shootout. One of the Lowry boys went to prison for disregarding a court decree. His heroic wife rode horseback through the wilderness to the federal capital where she implored upon and convinced President Jefferson to sign for his release. The wilderness called Erie County certainly had its political problems.

The lawsuit was finally settled in favor of the development company. Obviously the Lowry’s stood in the way of the development company’s plan to make ‘Lower Greenfield’ a major landing port to bring in new settlers. The Lowry’s were forced to vacate their land or purchase it with long term mortgages from the PPC. John Lowry, having to leave his beautiful land at what we now call Freeport, was so angry that he hung himself. Many of the disgruntled family moved east to Chautauqua County, NY, where they became prominent businessmen, owning water-powered mills or stores, or they moved south to join Hugh’s clan in Clarion County. Having purchased their property from Thomas Rees, who had taken land in exchange for surveying fees, the Wilson’s stayed in Harbor Creek at the corner of Davison and the Buffalo Road and the name James Barr appears on the early road book at the corner of Davison and Side Hill Roads.

In 1812, Mother Margaret Lowry died in Mayville, Chautauqua County,  New York, apparently while living with her son, either James or Alexander. During the more than seventy-five years of her life, Margaret Lowry had witnessed the Revolutionary War and the beginnings of the War of 1812. She had come across the ocean to a strange new land. She came with ox and cart to the new lands of the northwest, seeking the best for her cherished children. She broke ground and cleared forests of Erie County with her sons and their families. She had her hard earned property taken away because of the tangled new bureaucracy.

But, her children and grandchildren, future shopkeepers, lumbermen, lawyers, and congressmen now surrounded her.  Some even were eventually elected senators to the very legislature that had created such a hassle for their grandmother and great uncles. They married doctors and army officers and brave soldiers who fought in the west and died during the Civil War. Untold numbers of the descendants of these great Scot-Irish families, of the four brothers who married four sisters, now call all the states of this great nation home.

Margaret should be proud of her clan.


This outline of the Descendants of George and Margaret Lowry and their ten sons is by no means complete. But, it is an early attempt to organize the lineage of this huge family. All the notes and information are stored on my Family Tree Maker program, so if you have questions, email me, Beth Simmons, at If you find errors or can add names, please let me know. I hope Lowry-Barr-Wilson researchers, spread all across this great country, find this extensive listing helpful.

I found it interesting that members of this Scot-Irish family did not marry into the other large families of the townships such as the Bonnells or the Chambers. Only one marriage eventually resulted with the Moorhead family, the major group that surrounded the early Wilson and Barr families.

References included the standard Internet databases plus information from Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary of Erie County, 1896, Beers’ History of Erie County, 1885, and its listings and biographical sketches, Miller’s 1909 History of Erie County with its biographical descriptions, and Andrew Young’s 1876 History of Chautauqua County, New York. The early maps, 1865 and 1876, and the Harbor Creek Township Road book also provided information for those years prior to the publication of the history books. “The People and Times of Western Pennsylvania”, a special publication (#5) of the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society was very interesting reading. Another special old book is the “Judah Colt Day Book from 1798-99” that shows how early these settlers came and the massive development they achieved, carving the wilderness into productive farms and fields to feed their families.

[Change History: Article originally posted 2/4/2016; contact email information updated 10/4/2016.]

This page was last updated on  Saturday, October 4, 2016 .

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