Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys


A Family History donated by: Harry Windecker


The Rowell family apparently comes from England, but is a name possibly derived from the French word, Roule (wheel), or Rouelles, a town in France. The English version of the name may date back to the Norman Conquest in 1066 or to French indoctrination afterwards. Alternately, the name is considered to be of Anglo-Saxon origin, therefore, predating the Norman invasion. In Old English, roth-wella translates as "spring or stream in the clearing." In Old English, rowell may also mean "place of the deer spring." A hamlet named Rowell, is located in Gloucestershire, England. Variation on the name include: Rowelle, Rowel, Roule, Rowle, Rowles, Rolle, Rouelle, Rouell and Rothwell. Rowell is most commonly found throughout America.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, several families named Rowell entered America directly from England. Thomas Rowell, son of Valentine Rowell, arrived in Salisbury, Massachusetts in 1639. He is the first known Rowell to arrive in America. The descendants of Thomas Rowell settled throughout New England, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. Rowells may have also entered from Canada, as both the Rowell surname and Roule, the French version occur in Quebec.

Our grandfather, Howard J. Rowell, came from the Camden/Florence area of Oneida County, New York, son of Warren H. Rowell and Alice E. Morrison. Howard served as a cook in the U.S. Army during World War I. Vague recollections of conversations held many years ago with my grandfather indicate that the Rowell family may have come to New York from New Hampshire or Vermont. In searching for links to the past, the name Caleb Rowell was found several times in New Hampshire, and in Camden, New York, however, no actual connection was established.

In New Hampshire, two potential relatives named Caleb Rowell were revealed. Both were born in the 1780s and both were descended from Thomas Rowell, above. The Caleb who came to Camden New York may, in some way, be related to this family line. As this link could not be established at this time, our Rowell family line begins in Oneida County, New York.

In both Camden, and nearby Florence, there are several gravesites, which bear the name, Rowell. Of note is Caleb Rowell (1796-1883), his wife, Fanny (1795-1875), both buried in Camden; and Abram and Lydia Rowell, whose son, Levi, age 9 years, 6 months, was buried in Florence in 1858. The earliest known Rowells in the area include Caleb and Fanny as well as Clarissa Rowell (1789-1836), possibly a first wife of Caleb. Truman Rowell was also listed as a landowner in 1812.

The approximate dates of birth of Caleb and wife Fanny (or Clarissa) indicates that they are the likely grandparents of Warren Rowell, whereas Abram and Lydia are the likely parents, based on the following analyses:

The 1880 census shows Warren (age 23, born about 1857) and younger brother George (age 20, born about 1860) living with mother, Lydia (age 56, born about 1824), in Florence, New York. This appears to be the same Lydia who is the mother of Levi (1848-1858), above. This deduction was made by connecting Lydia and Abram above, with Mrs. Abram Rowell (1824-1891), who is buried in Forest Park Cemetery, Camden, New York. George Rowell (1860-1919), younger brother of Warren, is also buried there. The concurrence of name and approximate date of birth from the census and cemetery data provides reasonable assurance that they are the same people and relatives of Warren Rowell.

In all, there are 14 Rowells and two Rowels buried in Forest Park Cemetery. The list can be found on the Oneida County, New York, USGenWeb Internet site. It was somewhat difficult to read, consequently, extending beyond the analysis, above would be no more than conjecture at this time, as sufficient substantiating evidence is not available.

Our great grandfather, Warren H. Rowell, and his wife, Alice E. Morrison, are buried in Oneida County. Alice is the daughter of Jay Morrison, of Camden. Her mother is unknown, as the 1880 census shows Alice living with her father, Jay and no mother was listed.

Howard had several brothers and sisters known to our family, including Chester, Lloyd, Mildred, Ethyl and Elva. An interesting note, however, is the gravestone of Melvin Rowell, born 1897, and whose stone states that he is the son of Warren and Alice Rowell, but was heretofore unknown to our family. Melvin was raised by the Deeley family (Jesse and Lucy), and is included in their family tree. Melvin is buried in Vienna, along with his wife Hazel.

A Texas visit. Our mother and father visited Chester Rowell, our grandfather's brother, in Austin, Texas, in 1963. This visit was conducted while I was in the Air Force, stationed at Lackland AFB, near San Antonio, Texas. Our parents flew to San Antonio, as a surprise. Quite a surprise as our mother had a tremendous fear of flying.

The Rowell family we know. Children of Howard Rowell and Myra Lydia Mason include Florence, Lulu, Ruth, Thelma, Mary Jane and Harry, for whom I am named. With the exception of our mother and father, all married locally and have remained in the Frankfort/Schuyler, New York area. Our aunts and uncles, many cousins and many of their offspring still reside there.

As a young boy, during my summer visits to upstate New York, I would spend a week or so, with my Rowell grandparents. Grandpa Rowell worked for New York State on the Barge Canal, maintaining and repairing the lock system. As I tagged along with my grandfather, I recall visiting some of the locks (Lock 18, in particular, located between Herkimer and Little Falls), watching the boats and barges traverse the locks, and fishing for catfish.

Christmas revisited Along with spending Christmas Eve at the Windecker farm, we spent Christmas Day with our Rowell kin. Typically, a large Christmas feast was the main attraction there after opening gifts, as Santa stopped there too. The Rowell clan was very large and the meal, impressive! Lots to eat and lots of people to feed! We would spend time there playing with our cousins, as we had cousins of all ages, unlike the farm, where my sisters and I were by far, the oldest.

Other episodes. Florence Rowell was known for her sense of humor, as were her sisters and brother, Harry. She often teased people and got teased in return. The Rowell home was a site for fun and laughter. A more recent incident was a slip of the tongue that my mother made in identifying the nationality of her niece's husband. Asked by a friend, what the nationality was, she stated, accidentally " Lesbian", intending to say "Lebanese". Bill, his parents, and some of his other relatives then greeted Florence, in a teasing fashion, with the phrase, "Hi, I'm a Lesbian."

As young children, we also had considerable fun with our grandfather, Howard, who smoked a pipe. We would hide his pipe and make him find it, or he would chase us around the house. Our grandmother, known to her Mason nieces and nephews, as "Aunt Mowry", also had a great sense of humor and was a really good cook. Needless to say, Howard Rowell married Myra Lydia Mason, thus establishing family ties to the Masons.

Copyright 2001. Harry Windecker. All rights reserved.

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