Out of Our Past

The John Bowen Family

Here is a delightful story of a family from Coboconk area. The curiosity to discover who they were, came from an old family letter. It was written back in January 1963 by “Aunt May and Uncle Lawrence”. The missive was sent to Mrs. H. B. Brandt of South River, Ontario.

Within the letter are mentioned several people whose names had been found in an old family Bible. The question posed to KARA, was whether we recognized the Gillingham surname.  Pulled out of the letter, these were the people referenced:

            John Bowins was born April 12, 1848, England.
            His wife, Cecilia Grozelle was born 1849 and was French.
            Mrs. George Graham, was born Margaret Humphry.
            George Graham was born near Coboconk.
            William Graham was born Dec. 6, 1875, at Coboconk.
            Mrs. William Graham was born Aug. 18, 1879, in Ops Township.
            Jack Gillingham was another name mentioned in the letter.

I got to wondering how all these folks might be connected and so after some indepth research, here unfolds a story about the family of John Bowen.

He was born in England on 12 April 1848, a son of Isaac Bowen and Mary Ann Ingoldsby. Their family name is often spelled Bowins. Isaac and Mary brought their family of six children to Canada West about 1851. They settled in Hope Township in Durham County.

About 1869, John, son of Isaac and Mary, became the husband of Claire Adeline Grozelle. Known often in the family as Clara, she was a daughter of Pierre and Felicite (Laplante) Grozelle. Clara’s family came to Ontario from the Chateauguay area near Montreal, Quebec. Their family surname is found with many variations in the Ontario records. The nature of spelling of the French family surnames often caused difficulties for English speaking record keepers. The Grozelle surname appears as De Grozelle, DesGroselle, Desgroselliers and Grozell among other variations of the name.

Clara’s parents, Pierre and Felicite lived in Bexley Township, Victoria County. After their marriage, Clara and her husband, John Bowen, made their home in the village of Coboconk, Ontario. They had a family of twelve children. These were: Clara Delina, born in 1870; William born 1872; Mary born 1873; Napoleon born 1875; Hanna and Annie Adell born 1877; Isaac Daniel born 1878; Jane Jennie, born 1881; Simon Peterborough 1883; Charles born 1885; Andrew born 1887 and Eliza born 1890.

Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen died 22 July 1899 in Victoria County. She was laid to rest in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery at Victoria Road in Bexley Township. When she died, only her maiden surname was inscribed on the headstone erected by her husband John Bowins.

A few years after the death of Clara, John Bowen married again. His second wife was Annie M. Styles, born 1858 in Canada and a daughter of Benjamin and Emma Styles. In 1911, they lived in the village of Lorneville in Eldon Township, Victoria County. John appears to have died before the 1921 census was taken. Annie (Styles) Bowen, widowed, lived in Bexley Township by herself in the year 1921.

Clara (Groselle) Bowins headstone

Lifetimes of the Children

Clara Delina, daughter of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born 22 January 1870 in Bexley Township. As a young woman she married Thomas George Rutter. They lived in Coboconk and raised a family of six children, five sons and a daughter.

Lena Clara (Bowen) Rutter died at Coboconk on 13 May 1926. Her husband, Thomas George Rutter, died at Coboconk on 3 February 1948. They rest in Pine Grove Cemetery at Norland, Ontario.

William John, son of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born 18 November 1872 at Coboconk. Nothing further has been learned of his lifetime.

Mary, daughter of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born 8 September 1873. On 4 October 1909, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Lindsay, Ontario, she married John Henry Gillingham. John, known in the family as Jack, was born about 1880 in England.

They lived in Coboconk, where a son, Robert John, was born and died in 1910. Another son, Andrew, was born in 1912. He married Agnes Twort. Andrew died in 1990 and Agnes passed away in December 1999.

Mary and John also had a daughter, Sophia, born in 1915. Nothing further has been learned of her lifetime.

Napoleon, son of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born in November 1875 in Bexley Township. As an adult, he married. His wife’s name was Jean. Napoleon Bowen died 8 January 1956 at Norland, Ontario.

Hannah, daughter of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born in 1877. Nothing further has been learned of her lifetime.

On Right: Annie Adell (Bowen) Graham
Source: Public Member Trees

Annie Adell, daughter of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born 17 August 1877 in Eldon Township. On 10 June 1898, at Fenelon Falls, she married William John Graham. William was born 7 December 1871 in Cartwright Township, Durham County. He was a son of George Graham and Margaret Humphries.

Annie and William had six children, two daughters and four sons. They resided in the village of Coboconk for many years, then moved to the Temiskaming District on Ontario. Annie (Bowen) Graham died in Ingram Township, Temiskaming District, on 15 March 1937.

Isaac Daniel, son of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born 4 August 1878 in Lutterworth Township, Haliburton County, Ontario. On 1 January 1903, at St. Mary’s Church, Lindsay, Ontario, Isaac married Christina Muir. She was born in Eldon Township, in 1885, a daughter of Robert Muir and Catherine Smith. Isaac died in November 1957. He rests in St. Mary’s Cemetery at Victoria Road, Bexley Township.

Jane, known as Jennie, daughter of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born 4 April 1881 in Bexley Township. Nothing more was learned of her lifetime.

Simon Peter, son of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born 2 January 1883 in Ops Township, Victoria County. Peter died of typhoid fever on 24 November 1911 in Bexley Township.

Charles John, son of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born
23 March 1885 in Bexley Township. He died in 1957.

Andrew, son of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born
22 August 1887 in Bexley Township. He married and had a daughter, Jean. Andrew died in Lindsay, Ontario in 1957.

Eliza, youngest daughter of John and Clara Adeline (Grozelle) Bowen, was born 31 March 1890 in Bexley Township. She died in March 1945 at Gull Lake, Saskatchewan.

Andrew Bowen and wife
Source: Public Member Trees

So, this wraps up the family of John Bowen/Bowins and his wife, Clara Adeline “Cecilia” “Lena” Grozelle.

George Graham and his wife, Margaret Humphries were the parents of William who married Annie Bowen. William Graham became the son in law of John and Clara Bowen.

Finally, Jack Gillingham was also a son in law of John and Clara Bowen. Jack became the husband of Mary Bowen.

One closing note about the author of the 1963 letter. The “Aunt May and Uncle Lawrence” turned out to be Annie May, daughter of William and Annie (Bowen) Graham. May married Lawrence Andrew Watters on 27 December 1915 in Bexley Township.

Looking for more about this area?
Muskoka and Haliburton 1615-1875

Out of Our Past