An American Family History

William Bowles

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists."
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Many young healthy people died in colonial Maryland due to outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever.

William Bowles (Boells, Bowls, Bouls) was born in England and was the son of Edward and Isabell Bowles. He was John Bowles nephew.

William came to Charles County, Maryland with his family in 1650. They also came with an indentured servant, John Norman. On August 30, 1650 Edward "demanded" 500 acres for himself, his wife and his children, William and Joane Bowles and for John Norman his servant. He received a warrant for 400 acres on the Potomac River.

John Norman later sued for corn and clothes, but was only allowed the 50 acres promised in his indenture.

In 1657 William Marshall testified that he was at the Bowles' plantation when Robert Robins accused William Heard of an illicit sexual relationship.

William inherited his father's entire estate including Bowles (Bowlesley). It was a plantation of 200 acres on the Potomac River near Piccowaxen Creek. When his father died in 1659, John Douglas, was a witness to the will. He married Sarah Bonner.

William and Sarah did not have children.

In 1661 William Knags sued William for his wages of 250 pounds of tobacco.

On September 6, 1662 William Bowles entered his mark for hogs and cattle.

He died about 1662 or 1663 and was probably not yet 30 years old.

In 1662/63 William died. Sarah inherited Bowles and half his estate. She was the executrix of the estate. His estate was appraised at 17,850 pounds of tobacco.

In 1663 his estate was sued by Hugh O'Neale for his wife's care during his final illness.
Bowles Plantation (Bowls, Bowlesley) was a plantation on the Potomac River near Pickawaxon Creek in Charles County, Maryland.
Sarah Bonner inherited it from
William Bowles who had inherited it from his father
Edward Bowles. Sarah left it to her son,
Joseph Douglas.
Old Style Calendar
Before 1752 the year began on Lady Day, March 25th,. Dates between January 1st and March 24th were at the end of the year. Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are used to indicate whether the year has been adjusted. Often both dates are used.

Piccowaxen Creek is just south of Morgantown, Maryland. It has been spelled as Pickawaxon, Pickiawaxen, Pickwixon, Pyckywaxen and Pykawaxon in Douglas family documents.
Tobacco is a native American herb that is cultivated for its leaves which are prepared for smoking, chewing or snuff. In parts of colonial America, it was used as money. Tobacco plantations in the colonial south fueled the need for enslaving people.

The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay and is about 405 miles long.




Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume 8, edited by William Hand Browne and Louis Henry Dielman

30 Aug. [1650] Edward Bowles demandeth 500 Acres of land for transportacõn of himself his wife and Willm & Joane Bowles his children and John Norman his servant into this province this present yeare.

Warrt to lay out for Edward Bowles 400 Acres of land on Patomeck River or some branch or Creeke thereof.

The spelling cõn is the same as tion.


A plaintiff (plt, plte, plt) or orator is the person who brings a case against another.
A defendant (def tf) is a person accused of a crime or someone challenged in a civil case.

Judicial and Testamentary Business of the Provincial Court, 1637-1683: 1679-1680 by Maryland (Colony). Provincial Court

John Norman plt
Edward Bowles deft

Upo Reading of an order of the tenth of Aprill last, whereby the hearing of this cause was respited till this Court and the pltes Suit being for fifty Acres of Land and Corne Clothes &c according to the Custome of the Countrey in respect of his being Servant to the defendt

To which the defendt denyed that any Corne or Clothes were due and produced the pltes Indenture whereby there was onely fifty Acres of Land to be allowed him,

It is therefore Ordered that the defendt do allow to the plte fifty Acres of Land according to the Indenture, and the defendt with his owne Consent is Ordered to pay all Court Charges in this Suit.

An indenture is a legal contract for labor or land. Two copies on the same sheet were separated with a jagged edge so that the two parts could be refitted to confirm authenticity. An indentured servant worked without wages for a specified time to pay a debt and was bound to the employer. In the 17th century, nearly two-thirds of settlers came as indentured servants to pay for their passage.
Maryland was established with religious freedom for Catholics. The colonial economy was based on tobacco cultivated by Africans who had been enslaved.

Abstracts of the Testamentary Proceedings of the Prerogative Court of Maryland by V. L. Skinner, Jr.

1B:18 24 January 1659. William Bowles exhibited will of Edward Bowles (father of said William.)

Bequests: son William Bowles is executor.
Signed: Edward Bowlls.
Witnesses: Edward Waton, Thomas Jarues, John Douglas.

John Douglas & Thomas Jarues affirmed to will of Edward Boules (Pekeawakson).
Date: 14 November 1659
Witness: George Thompson. William Boules (son of Edward Boules) posted bond.
Date: 24 January 1659


Charles County Circuit Court, Liber A;
29 Jan 1661, Page 188
458. William Bowles petition regarding debt of Joseph Cooper and others for 910# of tobacco: Joseph Cooper, debtor to William Bowles as follows:

Per Capt. William Battin 207
Per Mr. Smith 073
for ground housing and diet 400
for his ?nursing 100
for his levy item 100
for a "lockerom" shirt 030
The total sum is #910

No one appearing to contradict the above account, attachment is ordered for Bowles for 910# of tobacco against Cooper

Mister ( Mr.) was derived from master and Mrs. and Miss were derived from mistress. They indicated people of superior social status in colonial America.

Charles County Circuit Court, Liber A;
22 Apr 1662, Page 201
487. Petition of John Bowles regarding attachment granted him against estate of Joseph Cooper departed the county


Charles County Circuit Court, Liber A;
19 Nov 1661, Page 164
William Knags demands warrant against William Bowles; 1
9 Nov 1661
subpoena to warn Mr. Robert Hundley,
William Henson to testify for Knags; Edward Williams,
John Duglas, Thomas Crakson to testify for Bowles


Charles County Circuit Court, Liber A;
19 Nov 1661, Page 167 - 168 - 169 407.
William Knages,
Plt.; William Bowles, Def.;
on 8 Mar last Knages made a contract to serve Bowles in any employment for 250# of tobacco; request for payment of wages

Mr. Francis Batcheler presented letter of attorney to represent William Bowles against Knages; dated 19 Nov 1661;
wit. George Thompson
Thomas Crakson, age ca 22 years, said that Knages and Bowles "fell out" with each other;
William Henson, age ca 35 years, said that Bowles bid Knage go home about his business;
Mr. Robert Hundly, age ca 44 years, said Bowles offered him a cow as payment;
Edward William, age ca 34, stated that Knage asked for his wages one Sunday night and Bowles told him to go home about his business and when his time was out he would pay;
John Douglas, age ca 25 years, Knages demanded the condition of agreement; court finds for the defendant


Charles County Circuit Court, Liber A; Page 201
22 Apr 1662,
Petition of Robert Hundley as trustee of the will of Capt. Christopher Russell in behalf of his children; requests order for stoppage of proceedings;

John Bowles attempting to satisfy every thing he could make appear owed to him or his nephew William Bowles; attachment ordered until next court


Charles County Circuit Court, Liber A;
6 Sep 1662, Page 240
William Bowles enters his mark of hogs and cattle

Cattle were vital to a household and an important legacy.
Unweaned cattle are calves.
Female cattle are heifers and cows (had a calf).
Male cattle are steers (castrated) and bulls.
are trained draft animals and are often castrated adult male cattle.

Testis (Test) is latin for witness. Testes is the plural.

Maryland Calendar of Wills
Bowles, William
, Pickiawaxen, Charles Co.,
15th Apr., 1662;
27th Feb., 1662.

To wife Sarah, execx., and hrs., ½ estate, real and personal.
To Robert Robbins, personality.
Uncle John Bowles and kinsman James Tyre, residuary legatees.
Test: Jas. Smith, Wm. Ayliffe, Wm. Lewis. 1. 171.


Maryland Prerogative Court, Testamentary Proceedings, Liber 1D, pp. 64-5.

Feb. 27, 1662/63 - Sarah Boules was granted administration on estate of William Bowles.
Bond: Robert Robins.
Appraisers: William Heard, Thomas Smoote.
Mr. Francis Pope to administer oath.


Maryland Prerogative Court, Testamentary Proceedings, Liber 1D, pp. 131-3.

Feb. 27, 1662/3 - Francis Pope exhibited oath of William Heard & Thomas Smoote, appraisers of estate of William Bowles.
Inventory of William Bowles.
Appraisers: William Heard, Thomas Smote
Amount: 17,850 lbs. tobacco.


Maryland Prerogative Court, Testamentary Proceedings, Liber 1E, pp. 9-10.
Jan. 22, 1663 - Inventory of William Bowls.
Appraisers: William Haird [sic; Heard], Thomas Smote
Mentions: 200 acres.
Amount: 17,850 lbs. tobacco.
Mr. Francis Pope made oath.


Inequality in Early America edited by Carla Gardina Pestana, Sharon Vineberg Salinger

Wives' healing activities were not confined solely to infants and parturient mothers. Women tended both women and men on their deathbeads, cured "dangerously" ill menservants, and cared for men with sore legs (one even "did chirurgery upon" such a leg). All this information was disclosed in lawsuits brought by one man against another; women's names appeared in the details, not in the forms of action.

In a 1663 Charles County, Maryland, suit, Hugh O'Neale v. William Bowles, "for the Care" of the defendant, the sparse case records do not reveal the involvement of O'Neal's wife Mary as the healer in question. Rather, that crucial piece of information emerges from the context of a series of five lawsuits dating back to the fall of 1661, all revolving around her medical activies. . .Were it not for this extensive litigious history, O'Neale's 1663 suit agains Bowles could not be recognized for what it is: the sixth in a string of similar cases deriving from the work of an active female healer.

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©Roberta Tuller 2020
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