Whatever Happened to John?

"The Reports of His Death Were Exaggerated"

John Rowley[1], with his brother Joseph, were kidnapped by the Indians in September of 1776, spirited away to Canada. They were kept by the Indian tribe for about two years and then sold to the French. According to A. M. Caverly who recorded this tale[2], their father found them after the close of the war and they were exchanged for British prisoners of war. The story goes on to state that he lived with his parents until the war of 1812 when he enlisted. Then he and some other scouts were on on Lake Champlain when they were attacked by the Indians and he was killed. The story was said to have come from John M. Goodnough, whose mother was a daughter of John and Mary (Rowley) Mott [sister of John Rowley, subject of this tale], for whom the following deposition was made in 1838.

DEPOSITION[3] State of New York
Ontario County ss

Before me Alonzo Beebe Esquire, a Justice of the Peace in and for the said County came John Rowley, who being by me sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, deposeth and saith that he was formerly well acquainted with John Mott who was a Lieutenants in the Revolutionary War in the Northern Army in the State of Vermont. The deponent is the brother of his wife, Mary Mott, now a widow and residing in Knox County, State of Ohio, whose maiden name was Mary Rowley, and this deponent understands that the said John Mott died in the year AD 1831 and that his widow Mary Mott is an applicant for a pension under Law of Congress of July 4th 1836 in favor of the widows of officers and soldiers of the Revolutionary War.

This deponent further states that he resides in the County of Ontario aforesaid, and has resided there for more than forty years, and that he formerly lived in the Town of Pittsford in the County of Rutland and State of Vermont to which place deponents father removed with his family from Columbia County, State of New York, about the year AD 1773 or 1774.

The deponent further states that his sister Mary Rowley now the widow of him the said John Mott was married to him the said John Mott in the Town of New Canaan in the County of Columbia, State of New York, on or about March AD 1774 as the deponent has always understood and verily believes-- And, yt though this deponent was very young at the time and cannot now positively say that he saw them married-- yet, he has no more doubts of it, than he would have, if he had actually seen them married, for they were always taken and reputed to be husband and wife, legally married by such among all their acquaintance and friends; and no suspicion to the contrary, that deponent ever knew or heard of-- they lived together nearly sixty years, and raised a large family and both were regular members of the Baptist Church for more than fifty years, as this deponent verily believes, and were persons of unblemished character.

And deponent further states that he is now about seventy years of age and is the oldest of his father's family now living, except her, the said Mary Mott who as this deponent believes is about eighty one years of age, and this deponent thinks and believes, that, the said Mary was married to the said John Mott when she was very young-- not more than 16 or 17 years old. Deponent recollects they were living together before and at the time of the battle of Bunker's Hill.

This deponent does not know if there is any person living who saw them married. And this deponent further says that he well recollects that the said John Mott was a Lieutenant in the Army in the years AD 1777, 78 and 79-- and this deponent recollects the Revolutionary War-- and that he was living in his father's family, at and prior to the commencement of the war and that the said John and Mary Mott were living nearby and were taken for and recognized as husband and wife by the father and mother of this deponent when the war commenced; and by all persons who knew them from that time to the present.

And further this deponent saith not.

John Rowlee[5]

This depositions lays a number of misconceptions to rest: 1) John Rowley did NOT die in the war of 1812 [the story was almost identical to the tale of the death of his brother, Jonathan, who was killed in that manner on a scouting mission in the American Revolution]. 2) If John was "about seventy years of age" in 1838, he was born "about" 1768, a bit later than most genealogies show. 3) He removed to Ontario County before 1798 where he has lived for "more than forty years."[4] 4) Of course, it shows his sister, Mary, was married in March of 1774 to John Mott [the actual date was March 24th] in the town of New Canaan, Columbia Co., NY. 5) Mary (Rowley) Mott was born about 1757, as he believes her to be "about eighty one years of age." 6) This also confirms she was the eldest child, since Hopkins was born 10 December 1758. 7) It also challenges the story that they came from Berkshire County, Mass. to Pittsford (even though his father's deed shows he was Jonathan Rowlee Richmond in the county of Barkshur in the Province of Massachusetts Bay" when he purchased his parcel from Roger Stevens Jr[6] 6 September 1773[7]).

This little exercise should demonstrate that local histories should be treated as stories, and perhaps as clues, but not relied upon as fact! ALSO, do not overlook the importance of examining pension file applications.

[This all came about because, Sharyn L. Marang Dana, another descendant of Jonathan Rowley of Pittsford, VT, knows me to be an avid Rowley data collector. She had seen a reference to Jonathan Rowley in a summary of a pension file on John Mott. I immediately sent for the file, and the above data has helped clear up some of the facts about the family, birthdates and prior residence. Depositions by other family members and friends helped determine other important family facts. Thank you, thank you, Sharyn!]

1. John6 Rowley (Jonathan5, 4, Moses3, 2, Henry1) was born about 1768, died after 1838 probably Chesire, Ontario Co., NY.

2. A. M. Caverly, M.D., The History of the Town of Pittsford, VT., 1872, footnote on page 722.

3. Nationa Archives Pension File W4294, John Mott. [Note: complete file requested].

4. History of Ontario Co., New York, 1788-1876, published by Everts, Ensign & Everts, Philadelphia, page 119: "District No. 5 contains the village of Cheshire, early known as Rowley's schoolhouse, from an early school-building erected there on land owned by John Rowley, the first settler on the site of the village in 1795. His house was the first in the hamlet."

5. The pension file contains the autograph of John Rowlee.

6. This was the same Roger Stevens Jr. of Pittsford who became a turncoat and once led a party of Indians to attack the village. His brother was captured on the same scouting mission when John's brother, young Jonathan Rowley, was killed by the Indians during the American Revolution. [The brother, Ephraim, was offered clemency, but spurned the offer.] History of the Town of Pittsford, VT, A.M. Caverly, M.D., pp. 141-142, 147-149.

7. Pittsford, VT LR 1:37.

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