The Bowles Family in Cumberland of African Descent
Back to The Bowles of Cumberland
township, Nova Scotia
This story begins with James Bowles, a free man of African descent who
fought for the British during the American Revolution, who was evacuated
Nova Scotia after the British defeat in 1783 and whose son, Cornelius Bowles, was granted land in
a newly founded Black community near Amherst in 1814 in return for his
father's loyalty. See
James Bowles of Amherst's Family Tree
The importance of this community is acknowledged today in the
Black Loyalist Heritage
Center and James Bowles story is well documented in several articles
A Descendant From The
Book by JM Bowles and in the
Amherst News and Citizen-Record so I will only include here a few notes and
the family tree of James Bowles' descendants as I have been able to
piece it together. Of particular note would be the direct line of
descent from James Bowles to Dwayne Johnson, better known today as the
Movie and TV Star -
The Rock. Please also see
The Rock's Bio on
Several online references specifically state that James Bowles was born
near Charleston, South Carolina, for example:
From the Black History blog:
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose original surname is Bowles, is descended
from Black Loyalists who fled the United States following the defeat of the
British in the Revolutionary War. In the Spring of 1783, several thousand
Black Loyalists left New York aboard ships bound for Nova Scotia, Canada.
One of these Black Loyalists was James Bowles (Bowels), age 28, who states
he was born a free man, most likely near Charleston, South Carolina in 1755,
and lived with a man named Isaac Bowels. The book that recorded these 3,000
refugees, both free blacks and escaped slaves, is known as the ‘Book of
Negroes‘. The ship carrying James Bowles, named the ‘Joseph‘, was captained
by James Mitchell and arrived in Annapolis Royale, Nova Scotia on November
9th, 1783. James was a member of an all-Black Loyalist unit known as the
Black Pioneers which served under the the command of Colonel Delancey’s
brigade during the War of Independence.
However, the 'Book of Negroes' does not give us any reason to suspect
that James Bowles was from any specific locale.
Here is his actual entry in the 'Book of Negroes' which was virtually a
passenger list made in New York Harbour in 1783 as black loyalists
boarded British ships for transport away from the newly formed United
States as part of England's withdrawal from their former colony.
The record was made by British authorities and was monitored by American
officials under an agreement for the evacuation of loyalists after the
This states that James Bowles, 28, an 'ordinary fellow', had served in
the 'Black Pioneers', that he stated that he had been born a free man,
had lived with an Isaac Bowles but that he had left him in 1778.
The Black Pioneers were a non-combatant force made up in 1778 of escaped
slaves and free black men which followed the British troops performing
maintenance and support functions as they moved from New York to
Philadelphia, to Charleston and after the fall of Charleston back to New
York once again.
The reference that he lived with an Isaac Bowles could indicate any one
of several Bowles families in America that used the given name Isaac.
His claim that he was born a free man cannot be relied on. If a
man stated that he was an escaped slave, the American authorities might
return him to his owner if he was on a list of 'property loss claims' as
other black loyalists had been returned. Slavery was perfectly
legal in the British Empire until 1833.
There are several claims on the Internet that connect James Bowles to a
Tobias Bowles of Charleston who is claimed to have been from several
different Bowles lines who may have had plantations in Charleston when
James was born around 1750.
The only Tobias Bowles I have been able to find at
Charleston was born in The Bahamas in 1771 but lived in Charleston from
around 1790 until his death on 1803. Much too late to have any
relevance to James Bowles.
Establishing the truth will require more research, possibly in
Charleston but possibly in Maryland, Massachusetts or Virginia, all
states where an Isaac Bowles lived in the mid-1700's.