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The Robert Bowles Family of Quebec City and Fenelon county, Ontario

Back to The Bowles Family of Quebec City

See also  The Robert Bowles Family Tree

Robert Bowles was born in Dunleckney, county Carlow, Ireland on Sept. 27, 1813 and came to Canada in 1818 with his parents, John Bowles and Ann Mills, and the rest of his siblings making up a party of 9.  Their family is listed as #569 in a record of 709 families in Carlow and Wexford preparing to emigrate from Ireland to Canada in 1818.  His father is on record in Quebec City in April 1820 signing a lease for the house on St. John Street in the upper town of Quebec City where he would operate his shoe store and in which the Bowles family would live for the next 40 years.

The earliest direct reference to Robert being in Quebec City was when another Quebec City merchant John Hethrington, testified in an 1849 lawsuit against Robert for non-payment of a promissory note that he had known the defendant (Robert) since 1830.

In 1841 Robert married Elizabeth Ray, the daughter of a Quebec City ship builder, John Ray.  The following entry is from the registry of the Wesleyan Methodist Church on St. Stanislas Street just around the corner from their house on St. John St.

May 8, 1841  Robert Bowles, bachelor of the City of Quebec, merchants clerk and Elizabeth Ray, spinster, both of the City of Quebec by special license of His Excellency the Governor General.  Witnesses:  Mary Ray (mother, Robert Webb, William Bowles, Walter Ray, Sophia Ann Webb, Ann Black, Elizabeth Baldwin, Sarah Lacheminant, Mary Watt, D. Coyle,  looks like Enthe (Esther?) Coyle.

The signers include Elizabeth’s mother, her brother Walter, her sister Sophia Ann Webb note and husband Robert Webb plus Robert’s brother William and his sister’s Sarah LeCheminant and Mary Watt.  See more about the Webb family and the tragedy at Wolfe's Cove.  Their relationship to Ann Black (Mrs. William Black), Elizabeth Baldwin and the Coyle’s isn’t known yet.

Robert and Elizabeth moved into rooms on St. Angele street.  At that time and later when their daughter Mary Ann was baptized in June 1842 Robert gave his occupation as a grocer’s clerk possibly for one of his brother-in-laws, Wilcock LeCheminant (who his sister Sarah had married in 1832) or John Watt (who Mary married in 1833) who were both grocers.

When their son, Walter Ray, was baptized in September 1843, Robert gave his occupation as grocer but the first record we have for Robert having his own shop was on January 25, 1844 when Robert signed a lease on his grocery shop at 44 St. John Street in the Upper Town (within the old citadel’s defensive walls) which he had rented from William Henry Roy for the sum of 70 pounds per year.  The building included their dwelling (probably over the store) and a yard.   He seems to have been involved in wholesale distribution as well as retail sales from his store.  In an 1847 lawsuit he is described as a trader and was suing a grocer, Pierre Beaulieu, for £25 for the non-payment of goods received.  The list of goods at issue included items like 2 gallons syrup, 12 pounds of tobacco, the same of sugar, 3 dozen oranges, 5 gallons gin, 9 gallons rum etc. which Robert had supplied to him going back to Nov. 22, 1843.  When Beaulieu admitted to the debt and asked for 6 months to pay, Robert applied to seize his “chattels” and was awarded the entire contents of the merchant’s store and house, everything from the tobacco and rum to their beds and family bible. 

He started to run into financial trouble himself in 1849 when he was sued for non-payment of a promissory note for £43 which he had signed for goods received for his store in 1848.   Robert admitted to the debt in court and so the court ordered the bailiff to inventory his goods and possessions.   His landlord, William Henry Roy, had also sued him for £25 unpaid rent in October 1849.   Robert was also the defendant in three more non-payment suits that year between June and October.  On Jan. 16, 1850 the bailiff seized his “goods and chattels”, his furniture and “all moveable effects situated in the house”.  From the court record we have the complete list of Robert’s possessions which included the usual household furnishings, a horse, sleigh, harness and cart (see the full list following).  The sale was held on April 27, 1850 and netted his creditors £5 and 13 shillings (note: there are 20 shillings in a pound) after the bailiff’s fees were paid but Robert’s family was left destitute.  Perhaps not completely though as the purchasers of all of his possessions were his brother-in-law Wilcock Cheminant (Sarah Bowles’ husband) and Elizabeth’s brother-in-law Robert Webb.  Soon Robert was back in business but we don’t know yet doing what or at what location.  When their daughter Sophia Webb was born in 1852, Robert’s occupation was still given as Trader.  Their last record in Quebec City is in December 1854 when their daughter Jenny was baptized. 

Some time before his daughter Isabella was born in 1858 Robert moved his family to Fenelon county in Ontario.  We lose track of them for a few years as there is no surviving record for Isabella's birth or baptism in Ontario and we can't find the family in the 1861 census.  However this was towards the end of a period of heavy settlement in the southern counties where new farming communities sprang up almost overnight.  The first store at Fenelon Falls opened in 1835, the post office was established in 1840, the first church the Church of England was built in 1859 and the Wesleyan Methodist which the Bowles would have attended was built in 1867.   The Bowles were of Fenelon when their daughter Mary Anne married George Cookman of Somerville (now Kawartha Lakes) in 1868.  The witnesses at the wedding were their daughter Carrie and a local wagonmaker Thomas Glaspell who she would marry in 1870.  

The 1871 Census shows Robert farming 100 acres at Cons:4 Lot 6 in Fenelon township with the rest of their children other than son George still living with them. more info  We find George living nearby on a town lot with Carrie and Thomas Glaspell (although he's recorded in the census as James Glaspell; Thomas did have a brother James who was 10 years younger and only 15 in 1871) where they have a business, the Glasspel and Bowles Wagon and Sleigh Shop. more info

The Glaspell family has a tradition that Thomas was injured in a barn raising, hit by a falling timber just prior to their wedding, that he and Carrie had a bedside wedding after the accident and that he lived about 3 weeks after his marriage and is buried at Eden Cemetery.  However there seems to be no truth to that, records show 4 years between their marriage and his death.   The Victoria Warder Newspaper issue of Nov 23, 1870 has 'By the Rev. W.R Barker at the residence of the bride's father on the 9th inst. Mr. Thomas Glaspell to Miss Caroline E. Bowles, both of Fenelon.'   The Oct. 16, 1874 Lindsay Canadian Post reported “At Coboconk, Mr Thomas Glaspell, photographer of this village, died on Sunday the 11th inst. after an illness of several years.  He came to the village about a year ago and leaves a wife to mourn him”.  Since 1871 though Thomas seems to have left the wagon business and opened a photo studio in Coboconk.

In 1873 brothers George and William Bowles married Thomas' sisters Mary Jane and Sarah Anne Glaspell and brother Walter married a Margaret Wilson of Manvers.  After Thomas' death Carrie remarried another wagon builder (perhaps an associate of Thomas') Samuel Todd also of Fenelon in 1877.  Also around then her sister Jane married Samuel's brother Hamilton Gardiner Todd.  Also in 1878 her sister Sophia Bowles married Walter's wife's brother James Wilson of Manvers.

The 1881 Census had Walter a farmer in nearby Tiny township with three children.  Robert, 70, his wife Elizabeth and their youngest daughter Isabella lived with them.  William and his family were also farming in Tiny township where we also find the three sisters Carrie, Sophia and Jenny (Jane) and husbands Samuel Todd, James Wilson and Hamilton Todd farming.  George remained in Fenelon with his family where he was still a wagon maker.


This Bowles family's story continues with the stories of The Walter Bowles Family, The William Bowles Family and The George Gillie Bowles Family.


This site was last updated 05/20/22