Friday, April 1, 2016

John Redfern.....My Wandering Ancestor Part 2

So let's recap our story as of 1850-- So by 1850, John Redfern, his second wife, Mary Hagen, and their children Barnabas, Margaret, Alice, Francis and May A, as well as John's 2 sons William John and James Redfern by his deceased first wife are all in Bedford County PA.
Sarah Redfern is married to Robert Spencer Bowman back in Ireland and they have a 1 year old son, Matthew Bowman.

The next federal census in 1860 finds the Redfern family is no longer living in Bedford, PA.
They are in Richland township, Jackson County, Iowa!
Richland is 20 miles south of Dubuque Iowa right near the Mississippi River.
Today you can travel between these places by car in about 12 hours.  But back in 1860 it would have taken a lot longer to cover that 775 miles in a wagon with a horse and with some people walking alongside on primitive roads or paths.

The Iowa territory was established in 1838 and achieved statehood in 1846.
In 1858 according to a Redfern family narrative, John and his family pulled up stakes and set off west ward again and headed for Jackson County, Iowa.  1858 was about 18 years after Iowa became a state.

The Redfern clan settled near Farmer's Creek in Jackson County.  I don't know if John bought land there or not as no land documents have been found yet.  As he lists farming as his occupation in this 1860 Census it's assumed he either was farming his own land or someone else's land.
 I found a land grant for a John Redfern, signed by Ulysses S. Grant for 80 acres in Plymouth County(which is by Sioux City Iowa on the western edge of the state and nowhere near Jackson County near the Mississippi River)dated 1875.  Perhaps John moved further west between arriving in Iowa in 1858/59 and 1875?  It is only speculation at this point.

This is the sort of land speculation poster(from Wikipedia)that circulated out East to try to entice people out to the now open states of Iowa and Nebraska.  Buy land for no money down.

When John Redfern moved to Iowa he was not a young man, being 48 or 49 years old when they arrived.  His wife, Mary, was about 43-44 years old.
The 1860 Federal census gives us a snapshot of the family and their ages in that year.......

John 50
Mary 45
Alice 14
Francis 12
Peter 9
Anna 9

No longer listed with the family are the oldest sons by John's first wife, William John and James, as well as Barnabas, Margaret, and May A.
New children, born since the 1850 Census are Peter and Anna,both listed as 9 years old, most probably were twins.

Also now living with the Redferns is a Patrick Redfern who is 40 years old.  He is possibly John's younger brother or a cousin of some sort.  I believe this census is erroneous in listing Patrick's birth place as Pennsylvania(unless he is a cousin and his Redfern parents were from Ireland and immigrated).  He is listed as a stone mason just like John's occupation in the 1850 Census.

So how about my ancestor, John Redfern's oldest daughter, Sarah Redfern Bowman.....where is she and how is she doing?

The next record we find for her is the 1860 US Census.  Yes, her and her husband, Robert Spencer Bowman and their children are living in Montgomery, Orange County, NY at the time of the 1860 Federal Census. As for the children....Matthew is now 11 years old and he has younger siblings named John aged 8, Robert aged 6, Adeline aged 4 and Anna aged 1.

So when did Robert and Sarah come to America exactly?
Well in this 1860 Census we can narrow down the immigration year as the younger two Adeline and Anna are listed as being born in New York and the two boys, John and Robert, are listed as being born in Ireland. The last child born in Ireland is Robert, born 1854 and the first child born in NY is Adeline, born 1856.
So that gives us a time frame of late 1854-early 1856.

I found a record of arrival for a Robert Bowman on board the ship "West Point", in NY harbor on April 17, 1855.

An example of a clipper ship from that era courteous of Wikipedia.

The West Point  was built in 1847 by Westervelt and McKay, a company that acquired renown by constructing streamlined clipper ships and fast steamships.  The West Point was built of southern oak in a time when using iron and copper was on the rise.  10 years later, in 1857, it was refitted with iron to keep up with the times.
The West Point was a full rigged vessel for the Robert Kermit Red Star Line, which carried goods, mail and passengers on a route between Liverpool England to NYC and was in service until 1863.
The Ship's Master on that 1855 voyage was William R. Mullins.
The West Point would have disembarked her passengers at Castle Garden, the first official American Immigration Center which was located at the tip of Manhattan in the Battery area.  This is where all immigrants into NYC were processed from mid 1855 to 1890, before the Ellis Island complex was constructed.
Unfortunately a fire at Ellis Island in 1897 consumed all the Castle Garden administrative records to 1890 so if you an ancestor who arrived during this time frame you may never find their arrival date, unless they are listed among the Customs Office passengers lists that were stored in D.C. rather than on Ellis Island.
Let me add that prior to August of 1855 passengers did not have to be processed through Customs and many just walked off the ship into the streets of Manhattan and beyond.  Since my Redferns arrived in April of 1855 the record for Robert Bowman may be the only one I ever find.

Years later on the 1900 Federal Census participants were asked, if they were born outside of American shores, what year they had arrived in the US.  Robert Bowman had self-reported that he arrived in 1852 and Sarah his wife reported that 1855 was the year.  Now it's highly possible that Robert had come over in 1852 as that was often the case with married couples, the husband would come over before his family/wife, establish a home and employment and then send for the family at a later date once he had earned enough money for the passage(s).
But as there were children born to this couple in 1852 and 1854 in Ireland, Robert would have had to have left in 1852 after making his wife pregnant and would have had to have returned in either 1853 or early 1854 to "knock up" Sarah again to be both children's father and then have left for America again with his wife and the, at this point, five children.
Something tells me we will never know if Robert traveled to America by boat from Ireland once or twice.
We do know that he arrived in Spring of 1855 at NY harbor and thus my Redfern/Bowman American story begins.

In 1860, after 5 years living in America the Bowman clan are settled in upstate New York, in the town of Montgomery, Orange County(which is situated along the banks of the Wallkill River) to be exact and Robert is working as a Day Laborer and Sarah is keeping house and rearing, their now, five children.

What changes would the coming War Between the States and the 1870 Federal Census bring to our Redfern/Bowman families?  Will John Redfern get the itch to move yet again?

Stay tuned for the next installment of our saga.



  1. I love your details and your writing about your lineage!

  2. I know where Plymouth County is! Well, sort of. I grew up in Sioux City and it was close by. I'm amazed at your research.

  3. You need to put this in novel form. I love the research.

  4. I think this family had a decent amount of money. You must have inherited their frugal wise ways and saving savy.

    One little thing, I mean you know how some men are with details? Maybe they really did all come over in 1855 but Robert self reported the date wrong :)

    The PAID IN FULL certificate that I found for 53 acres for my relative that moved from New York to Michigan was dated 1833. Just a little more than 20 years before your family moved to Iowa.


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