Home - Search - Surnames - Documents - Parishes - News - Transcribers - Articles - Links - Help

font: larger - smaller

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 there.

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.

Lamas Road, Buxton, looking towards Brook Street and Thomas Lowe's cottage
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.

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 1851.

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 finally withdrew.

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 captured).

US War Department, application for pension by John Lowe
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.

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 who has kindly allowed me to use his material.