Monday, February 21, 2011

The Dowsett family, from Essex to Bastard township, Ontario

As with all the posts, click on the pictures to see the images full size

Craig-Dowsett Reunion Sunday August 21, 2011

Click here for details 

The Dowsett family coat of arms

     The Dowsett surname rises from the use of nicknames to describe a person's looks or disposition. It is a Middle English derivative of the word "doucet" used to describe something pleasing to the eye or ear. Doucet is from the French word "doux" or "douce" which means soft/sweet. I guess the original Dowsetts were either all good looking or exceptionally nice, maybe both. LOL Either way the name is of Anglo-French origin and came after the Norman invasion.

     My early history of the family is a little sketchy. I think I have the correct family for Philip, our forefather who came to Canada but am not completely sure. I'm going to list it because many of the family details line up and if it ends up being incorrect at least I will have eliminated a lead. I can always correct it later, that's what the edit button is for.

An old ordinance map showing Ramsden Bellhouse,
Later the town would divide into Ramsden Bellhouse and Ramsden Heath

     The origin for our Dowsett line, I believe, starts in Ramsden Bellhouse in Essex county, England with Samuel Dowsett. He married Mary Judd Dowsett. They had nine children; Samuel 1781, Philip 1783, Sophia 1784, Mary 1786, Joseph 1787, Lucy 1789, William 1790, James 1794 and Edward 1795.

     I have three different birthdates for Philip depending on the document, see Family Histories, Huh? for an explanation.

     Edward shows up in the 1851 and 61 census of England in  Newington, Surrey with Ramsden as a birth place.

     Philip and his brother James joined the army and fought in the 2nd battalion of the 57th regiment of the foot. Other relatives have his military records, I'll post them when I get them. The 57th is quite a distinguished regiment and there is lots of information on them if you care to Google the name. They fought in the Pennisula wars and James died in France. The 57th was posted to Canada after the war of 1812, around 1814-15. England was granting land to loyal subjects to help protect its interests and Philip took a grant in Bastard township, Lot 2, Concession 23.

     A silly aside, when I first started looking for Philip online I kept getting Philip Dowsett.....Bastard in the search term precis. I thought it was a reference to his birth, I had no idea there was a Bastard township. LOL

     The conditions of the grant were; five acres cleared, crops grown and a house built in five years time. That may not seem like much but imagine venturing off from Elizabethtown (Brockville) with your axe and hoe, down spotty roads, if they existed,  to get to your land and start your new life. Philip's grant was contested because he couldn't get to his land the winter it was surveyed. He successfully petitioned to get it back and fulfilled the grant conditions. He acquired other grants as well, the last being Lot 3, Consession 29. It would remain in the family for over a hundred years.

An old concession map of Bastard township
The Dowsett grants are near the bottom around Forfar

     Philip married Sarah White, 1800-1847, of Elizabethtown and they had nine children. Philip married twice more but only had children with Sarah. Philip died in 1862, Both he and Sarah are buried at the Forfar cemetery.

Philip Dowsett
His mitlitary record describes him as 5' 5", brown hair and hazel eyes

     There are three others I know of working on the family so there is quite a bit of information on Philip's children. I will include a brief outline of each, compiled by one of the family researchers, add information where I have it, then continue on with my direct line.

The Nine Family Lines:
The Descendants of Philip Dowsett (1785-1862) and Sarah White (1800-1847)

Albert Dowsett (ca 1820?-????)
“Father” of the Smiths Falls Dowsetts Albert is thought to be the eldest of the children of Phillip and Sarah Dowsett.  Albert and his wife Elizabeth Thomas had three children, two who lived to adulthood: Bently , who died as a toddler, Elizabeth Sophia (Libby) and Samuel Hicks Dowsett. At some point, Albert moved to Iowa (USA). Information obtained suggests that he was buried there. If anyone has any leads for information on his life and death in Iowa, Susan and Anne would be happy to research them.

Lucy Ann Dowsett 1821?-????)
Lucy may have been the eldest (varying dates have been found for her and her brother Albert). Some time after her marriage to George Cox in 1836 and the birth of their seven children, Lucy and her family moved “away” from the Forfar area. There was apparently a dispute on the transfer of land to George Cox from Philip Dowsett that led to this move. Recent leads indicate that Cox family descendants live in the Parham area.

Eli Dowsett (1825-1870)
The third child of Philip and Sarah, Eli married Olive Chipman in 1859 in Portland. They had three children: Charles (Charlie), Sarah Ophelia and Russell Eli. Russell Eli moved to Rat Portage (now Kenora). There he built houses and was responsible for having the Winnipeg River charted for navigation. He also had a contract to move supplies for the building of the Grand Trunk Railway with his fleet of ships on the river.  Charlie was a wood-worker and was employed by his cousin William who owned the Dowsett Boatworks in Portland.

     Russell had a son Charles, who had a son John, who had a son Charles, who has a son James. James's mother is one of the people doing research. She has traced the Chipman line, which married into the Dowsetts, back to their roots on the Mayflower.

James Dowsett (1827-1891)
James Dowsett and his wife Eliza Whitby raised 11 children on the Dowsett family farm between Crosby and Portland (part of Chantland Farms today). Daughters Ann and Sarah married and homesteaded with their husbands on Manitoulin Island before 1900. Caroline, Lucy and George married locally... linking the Dowsett line to the Leggett and Baker families.  Joe farmed locally and then moved near present-day Markdale, Ontario. Maggie married later in life and Lea and Rachel never married. Lea and Burt, the two youngest sons, remained on the home farm until their deaths. Although many of the family lived well into their eighties, Burt was the only family member to reach 90 years of age.

Sarah Ann Dowsett (1831-1861)
We know little of Sarah and her three children Patrick, Philip Henry, and Sarah Ann. At the time of her death (likely in childbirth) she was married to William Bolton.   Her eldest son is usually known as Patrick Dowsett. We know that Patrick married and lived in the Rideau area but have not been able to trace the younger two children who carried the Bolton name.

William H. Dowsett (1834-1867)
Sixth child of Philip and Sarah Dowsett, William died at age 33. He is buried in Forfar Cemetery where many of his relatives rest. There is no evidence that he was married.

Charles D. Dowsett (1837-1868)
Seventh child of Philip and Sarah Dowsett, Charles married Alvira Chipman (daughter of Ami Chipman of Portland) in 1864. They have one known son Nathaniel who in 1891 was a farmer in the district. Family sources say that he later moved out west.... possibly to Lethbridge or Edmonton.

Elizabeth Sophia Dowsett (1839-1843)
Eighth child of Philip and Sarah Dowsett, Elizatheth died at age four. She is buried in Forfar Cemetery.  Note that there are others with the name  Elizabeth Sophia in the family.

Uri A. (1844 or 1846-????)
Ninth child of Philip and Sara Dowsett, Uri married Adeline Lawson in 1868. Uri and Adeline had two daughters Mary Estella  and Ada Adella. Ada Adella died in 1872 at the age of 6 months and 9 days and is buried in the Halliday Cemetery in Elgin. After Uri`s death in about 1870, Adeline married John Henry MacDonald and lived in Lennox and Addington and then Frontenac Counties.

      Albert is the son who is in my line. His son Samuel Hicks Dowsett  was born July 8, 18?? in Iowa and returned to the Portland area as a young man. He worked with his cousin William at the Dowsett Boatworks. He married Annie Gallagher April 8th, 1880 in Oliver's Ferry  (Rideau Ferry), North Elmsley. Annie was the daughter of John Gallagher and Emily Havington. She was born Feb. 18, 1861 in North Burgess township of Lanark county. They had eleven children. I don't have birthdates for the children all I know is that Eva Belle was the youngest. The children were as follows; Philip, Samuel(Sonny), James, Elmer, Mabel, John(Jack), Albert, Burton, Ethel, Elva and Eva.

The Dowsetts   
back row - Philip, Samuel (Sonny), James, Elmer
mid row  - Mabel, John (Jack), Annie (mother), Albert, Burton
front row  - Ethel, Eva, Elva
Elva's son Burton had written that the photo was taken at a photographer's studio in Smiths Falls in the early 1920's.
Making ice cream at the Dowsett house in Portland about 1905
Mrs. Sweet, Mrs. Kendrick, Mrs. Pinkerton, William Morris, Miss Cannon, Mrs. Waffle, William John Dowsett, Florence Copus, Mrs. Austin, Miss Heath
The gentleman holding the axe is Samuel's cousin William

One of the Dowsett boats
They are sought after collector's items 
Pictures and descriptions can be found on historical boat sites

     Samuel and Annie parted ways for some reason. Samuel died in 1909 felling a tree and his cousin William claimed the body. In 1911 Annie was living in Smiths Falls with the younger? children.

1911 census of Smiths Falls showing Annie and the children

     Eva Belle Dowsett married John Craig July 29, 1919. They had eleven children together; 

Thelma Kathleen 1920-2005,
Evon Milford 1921-,
Ruth Isabel 1922-2004,
Arthur John 1925 2001,
Clifford Gordon 1926-2009,
Marian Eileen 1931-,
Eva Gwendolyn 1932-,
Allen Havington 1935-2003 
Gary Milton 1937-,
Terrance James 1939-
Bonnie Elizabeth 1941-.

     I have two stories about Eva. The first is that she is named after a boat called the Eva Belle. As of yet we haven't been able to find a picture.

     The second is a little more romantic. Her brother Samuel(Sonny) carried a picture of Eva as a girl with him when he went for training for WWI. John Craig and Samuel would have trained at the same place and the photo is thought to be the introduction between John and Eva.

Eva as a girl, about 13

John Craig in his WWI uniform

Eva and John in 1961

Evon Craig,
Eva and John's first son and my grandfather

     Eva and John's son Evon Craig married Muriel Lumsden and their son Eric is my father. That is my Dowsett family connection.

     I would like to thank Susan Hull, Anne Maxwell and Lynda Renaud for all of their help in tracing the Dowsett family. There are lots more stories, pictures and information out there and I will post it as soon as I have it. I look forward to trading stories at the Craig-Dowsett reunion this summer.

     Feel free to pass along anything you would like to see here and I'll post it as soon as I can. To contact me directly, click here. Look forward to hearing from you all.

Take care, Paul


  1. Wow... I can kind of see you in that picture of John Craig in uniform! Amazing. Loving these old photos. Looking forward to seeing more. Mom says she is going to talk to someone who might have info.


    I think you have complied Excellent reference,
    love the photo inserts . Well done . :-)

  3. Thanks Anonymous, The family histories have taken on a life of their own. It has been so interesting to be able to put them in context with the pictures. Thanks for dropping by.


    1. Thanks for stopping and saying hello Richard. Every bit of information helps, thanks for passing it along.

  5. Has anyone found any relation to Arthur Dowsett

  6. Hi Rebecca, I don't have anything that I can see but I need a bit more information,ie. time frame, to be able to place him. My other relatives have far more on the Dowsetts than I do. I'd be happy to ask them.

  7. Hello Paul:::I am Kathy Dowsett, wife of Burt Dowsett in London, Ontario. Burt is from the Phillip Dowsett line. Burt's sister is Anne Maxwell, as mentioned in your article. She has done alot of family Dowsett research in the last few years. She, however is not well, and unable to continue any research. Anne has one daughter Jennifer, who lives in England. Burt and I have two daughters::Julie, married and lives in Toronto, and Heather living here in London. Burt might be interested in talking with you. His email is Send him an email. thanks Kathy Dowsett

  8. Hello Paul: My connection is through Phillip Norman Dowsett, s/o Samuel Hicks Dowsett and Annie Gallagher. Phillip was born 15 Dec 1893. He married on 2 June 1915, Iva Pearl Henry b. 4 Oct 1894 (my Great Aunt) in Smiths Falls. They had a daughter Phyllis and 2 sons Kevin Merrill & Melvin Richard (both boys died as infants, Phyllis died at 20 in 1943.) Not a happy life for these 2. Penny (Henry)

  9. Hi there,

    My sister and I are taking a look at our ancestry and I thought I'd write to let you know that we are descendants of Sarah Anne Dowsett (1831-1861) You mention above that you have little information. Her son Philip Henry Bolton ended up in Manitoba. Here is a link that provides some info if you are interested.
    Philip Henry's child Maud May Anderson was my great grandmother. His grave is in Prairie Grove Cemetery in Manitoba. Hope this fills a gap.

  10. My name is Donna-Maree Dowsett. My father was Mervyn Charles and his father was Cecil George. I am in Australia. Im not sure where it goes from there.

  11. Hi Paul,
    I sent an email about Mable and her husband. It bounced back :(



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