Robert Dowling, RS

Robert Dowling is considered the father of the family of Dowlings in the southern United States. He lived from around 1730 until 1808 and served in the Revolutionary War. Note that in the 1946 booklet to the Dowlings Who Served in America's Wars that Robert is mistakenly1 referred to as "Robert Dowling II" in the belief that his father was also named Robert.

From: A Dowling Family of the South 1959 (DFS)

The Father of Our Family: ROBERT

It is known, however, that in Virginia about 1730 a small Dowling was born and given the name of Robert. Had he died without issue, no Dowling-blooded person mentioned in the book would have ever lived. For he was the father of this Dowling family -- a family that has more descendants in the South than any other by the name Dowling.

When this lad married, no one bothered to write down the wife's name. Everyone knew it . . . then! Yet a century later an elderly grandson, Dempsey Dowling, did remember that she was of Virginia birth and that she had borne one child: his half-uncle William1.

Passing on the breath of life in the 1750's was costly. Robert's young wife died in childbirth. Son William1, true to his Irish ancestry, would prove to be a thorn in the side of the British, then dominant in America.

After Mrs. Dowling's death, family-founder Robert married a second time (see [DFS] Chart 101). This marriage was in 1754; bride Sarah Guinn was also a Virginian, a member of the Guinn family who so distinguished themselves in the Revolution. Little did Sarah know that forty-six years later she would be in far-off Darlington District, South Carolina (where as the widow "Dooling" she would have only memories of the "Old Dominion").

By 1773 something caused Robert and his family to leave Virginia. For that is the date in South Carolina that King George II's deputy-surveyor, John Bremar, Esquire, "admeasured and laid out unto Robert Dowling a plantation or tract of land containing 300 acres. It is on Boggy Gully, bounding on all sides on vacant land and hath such shape and marks as the above plat represents."

The preceding document and thousands of others (where duplicates were preserved by the King's men, nearly two centuries ago) may be seen in the War Memorial Building collection at Columbia, South Carolina. Robert's tract was cut through the middle by Boggy Gully branch, a stream that can be seen on present-day Darlington County maps.

It is not known where Robert and Sarah's home stood. Dempsey stated that his grandfather's home was on Jeffries Creek, a larger stream two miles east of Boggy Gully. By 1900 the site of Robert's old log-house or that of one of his son's was faintly visible. Descendant John Marsh and his grandfather Simeon went there from Alabama searching for the place; they probably had the aid of Francis Asbury, Sr. (born twenty-nine years after Robert's death). All they could find was a "hollow-tree" well casing that had once enclosed the primitive well shaft. The home had probably been abandoned after the death of Sarah Guinn Dowling in 1908.

Robert moved to South Carolina five years after the first Methodist church was founded in America. His daughter-in-law is known to have joined a Methodist Church twenty-six years after this. With all Dowling emigrants from Ireland, that the author had knowledge of, being Catholic, he wonders when and how Robert or his forbear was converted. Did Bishop Francis Asbury accomplish the task? If so, the job was well done, for three of the grandsons shown on Chart 101 became Methodist preachers. Apparently, Robert had no use for strong drink; the year after he arrived in South Carolina, court records of the district in which he lived mention his complaint to the Grand Jury of a Joseph Gourly's drunkenness.

Little is known of Robert's three daughters. Mary An Stewart's husband was probably named John; John Stewart was given fifty cents by Simeon Dowling's administrator for the purchase of planks with which to make the latter's coffin. A Noel Stewart bought the Bible of the deceased. All other information on these Dowling girls is given in Robert's will below. The author believes, however, that Sarah married a man by the name of Frederick Lee and resided in the Salkehatchee River area of South Carolina by 1786.

Shortly after the call to arms by America's revolutionists, Robert became a soldier. He chose to fight with the men of his home state; by May of 1777 he was enrolled as a private with Captain William Vause's Company of the 12th Virginia Regiment. Records of the same unit several months later showed his name (Robert Doling!) on the Invalid List with eight and 24/72nds dollars of pay due him. Later he was with the 6th Regiment of the North Carolina Continental Infantry with Captain White's outfit. He fought at Musgrove's Mill, Guilford Courthouse, and in two battles that historians mention as America's mightiest blows for freedom: the Battle of the Cowpens and the Battle of King's Mountain. Pay voucher number 1563 in North Carolina records (Volume 16, page 1042) shows that Robert's pay for eight years of military service was a total of $186!

The contributions made to the independence of our nation by all three of Robert's sons are listed in following chapters. Prior to the death of this first ancestor whose Christian name we know, the author catches a last glimpse of him (on America's first census). He was still a backwoods farmer; he owned no slaves; the four youngsters living with him and Sarah were most likely those of his martyred son William. Nearby were the pioneer families of Saoni Boutwell and John Stokes -- families whose descendants would later marry Robert's offspring. Sons James and John still lived; also, there was over a score of grandchildren . . . Then, there was something else that the Dowlings had never owned . . . never in all the centuries through which their ancestors had flowed. That was the freedom to govern themselves. This father and his three boys showed great wisdom in fighting for it.

He left a will on 20 Mar 1794 in Darlington, South Carolina; Robert's last testament, here reproduced, is on record in the courthouse at Darlington, South Carolina:

I, Robert Dowling of State of South Carolina, County of Darlington, being very weak of body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be given to God calling into the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die do make and ordain this my last will and testament that is to say princepely and first of all I give and recommend my Soul into the hands of Almighty Good that gave it, and my body I recommend to the earth to be buried in decent Christian burial at the discrietions of my executors nothing doutting at the General Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the Mighty power of God and as touching such wordly estate wherein it hath pleased God to bless me in this life. I give demise and dispose of the same in the following manner and form. First I give and bequeath to Sarah Dowling, my dearly beloved wife all my goods and chattels land and tenements to act and to take and dispose as she sees good for her own use and support during her life or widowhood if she be in want. I give and bequeath to my eldest daughter five Shillings -- I give to my daughter Mary-An Stewart five Shillings. Also I give to my oldest son James Dowling five Shillings. Also to my son John Dowling one bed and furniture. Also to my daughter Elizabeth Ogelsbee and my daughter Sarah I leave the land I now live upon to be divided between them. Also to Milly Dowling the daughter of Elizabeth one pided cow -- Earling and hur name marked with a split in each ear if cow should breed the beaf cattle shall be sold and the money put on interest after the death of the Testator till she cums of age and then to be delivered to hur or hur lawful hairs; (author's comment: it is unknown why the inheritor of this "earling" should not have been referred to as Milly Ogelsbee); and also to my youngest daughter I give and bequeath after our deaths all the rest of our goods and chattels lands and tenemets to hur and hur hairs forever. I leave my wife Sarah Dowling and James Dowling (both of the state of South Carolina) for and absolute Executors to them my last will and testament and I do hereby utter my disalow revoke and dessavou all and every other former testament wills segours bequeaths and executors by me in any wise before named willed and bequeathed ratifying and confirming these this and no other to be my last will and testament in witnys where of I have hearunto set my hand and seal this 20 day of March in year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety four.
By: Robert Dowling"


1 A 2002 book, The Dowling Family -- Their Ancestors and Descendants indicates that William Dowling is not the son of Robert but is his brother and that both Robert and William are brothers and sons of a Michael Dowling (c 1698 - bef. 1751).

Descendancy Chart for Robert Dowling RS

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