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A Norfolk Lowe at Gettysburg
by Geoff Lowe, 1999
Thomas LOWE lived in Buxton. His family had lived in and around the village
for at least two hundred years, and I originally thought that he had been born
The 1841 census shows him living in Brook Street, with his wife Martha (nee
THAXTER), five sons and a brother, William. By comparing the 1841 census
with the 1833 survey of the village (which is kept at the NRO), it has been
possible to identify his home as being the thatched cottage at the end of the
Lamas Road, near the entrance to Dudwick Hall.
Thomas' parents, William and Ann Lowe lived by the Brick Kilns near Dudwick
Farm, out on the road towards Cawston. Misleadingly the census shows them
all as being born within the county.
|Lamas Road, Buxton, looking towards Brook Street and Thomas Lowe's cottage|
Ten years later, and only William Lowe and his wife, now recorded as
Elizabeth, are living in Buxton. The 1851 census shows Elizabeth was born at
Kirby, Essex; and it struck me that Ann from the 1841 census had died and
William remarried. But this was wrong, a check of the parish registers for
Kirby-le-Soken, Essex showed William Lowe a singleman, as marrying
Elizabeth Ann ANNIS on 30th December 1810. It seems that William and his
brother Abel Shepherd Lowe had moved to Kirby sometime before 1810. Both
married and had children there. This included Thomas Lowe, son of William
and Elizabeth Ann, who was baptized on 18th December 1814. Whilst Abel
remained in Essex, William and his family returned to Buxton around 1820.
Like so many others, Thomas Lowe worked on the land, as a shepherd on the
WRIGHT estate at Buxton. He married Martha Ann THAXTER at Aylsham in
1834 and their children's baptisms are recorded in the parish registers for
Buxton. They included John who was born in 1835 and James who was born
1838. Their mother, Martha, died in 1847 at which time Buxton register notes
that she was from 'Thorpe nr Norwich'. It seems that both Thomas and his
brother William had moved there. William worked on the railways; I don't
know what Thomas did at this time, but he was obviously not happy with his
lot in life. A book "The Leading Citizens of Madison County" published in 1894
contains biographies of Thomas and two of his sons. Referring to Thomas, it
says that "in the lonely watches of the night, guarding his flocks, the vision of the
far-off, golden land of America filled him with a longing to visit its shores."
So, the widowed Thomas and his children emigrated to America, sailing from
Liverpool. The journey took about six weeks and the family landed in Canada
before making their way to Madison County in the state of New York. They
may well have travelled with other Norfolk families, for shortly after landing,
Thomas married again, this time to Sarah BARNES who had been born in
Aylsham in 1815.
The Barnes family had fallen on hard times and spent a while in the workhouse
at Buxton. Sarah, her widowed brother Francis and his two daughter Mary and
Elizabeth all moved to New York State; where in the small town of Munnsville,
John Lowe and Mary Barnes - both aged 16 - were married on 19th December
So, at the same time, Mary Lowe (nee Barnes) was daughter-in-law and niece to
Thomas and Sarah Lowe.
The families seem to have mostly prospered, with the exception of Elizabeth
Barnes who in 1860 is recorded as being in Eaton Poorhouse in Madison
County, with an illegitimate daughter. Thomas Lowe settled down to work on a
farm he bought at Pratt's Hollow, Madison County, and stayed there until his
death in 1872.
Thomas' son, John and his wife, carried on the tradition of large families that
are so prevalent in England, the first of their sixteen children was born in 1852.
Life settled down to much the same routine as had existed in Norfolk, prior to
their emigration. Indeed, Norwich, New York, was only 30 miles to the south.
With the outbreak of Civil War in America in 1861, many men joined the armies
of both sides; and many died. Losses were so severe in the Union forces, that in
1862 President LINCOLN called for 300,000 volunteers to fight the Confederate
armies. John Lowe answered the call and enlisted on 1st September 1862 in
Company 'A' of the 157th New York State Volunteer Infantry.
The turning point of the Civil War began on 1st July 1863 at Gettysburg. The
157th NYSV consisted of 409 men, led by Col. Phillip P BROWN and was
ordered to support the 1st Ohio Artillery. When the Confederate artillery fire
abated, the 157th advanced, taking a line of skirmishers prisoner. The 157th
continued to move forward until they came across the 44th Georgia who were
soon supported by two other regiments.
The three regiments formed a semi-circle around the 157th who were soon
taking heavy casualties. Orders sent to instruct the 157th to retreat were not
heard in the din of battle, and the regiment was nearly annihilated before it
The Union Army won a Pyrrhic victory on the second day of the battle; by
which time the 157th could muster only 60 officers and men. On the first day
alone, it suffered 33 dead, 158 wounded and 109 missing (of whom 98 were
John Lowe, Norfolk-born, was amongst those captured. He was held at
Dumfries, Belle Island, Morris Island and Richmond, Virginia; before being
released on parole at City Point, Virginia on 29th September 1863. He rejoined
his regiment and deserted for a short time over Christmas 1863 (a son was born
later in 1864, so it's not hard to guess where he went). He returned from
desertion in January 1864 and remained with his regiment until discharge at
Charleston, South Carolina on 10th July 1865.
|US War Department, application for pension by John Lowe|
John Lowe returned to his wife and growing family and remained farming at
Pratt's Hollow until his death in 1919. A simple obelisk at Fairview cemetery
marks his grave, that of his wife, and several of his children.
Robert Lowe, a 2xgt.grandson of John, was born not far away in Syracuse, New
York. Robert and his wife, Valerie contacted in 1999 with the help of the
Norfolk Family History Society and since then there has been a fairly constant
flow of correspondence between us. I am very grateful to them both for the
hard work they have done in researching their American ancestry.
Information on the 157th NYSV and its involvement at Gettysburg was obtained
from a website created by John Martine http://members.aol.com/NY157TH/CIVILWAR.html
who has kindly allowed me to use his material.