Another Fine Mess

During several years immediately preceding 1665, there were dwelling in Boston two men of the same name, John Lowell;  one was a cooper, the other a tanner… John Lowell, the cooper, was a son of John and a grandson of Percival Lowell.


He married, March 3, 1653, Hannah Proctor, who became the mother of John, Mary and Peter, and who was living in 1661.  He married, second, probably in 1664, Naomi ---, who was the mother of eleven children.  It is currently stated that the second wife was Naomi Sylvester, which is possible but is not proven.  Savage and Lowell Genealogy erroneously state that John Lowell, the cooper, married in 1658, Elizabeth Sylvester.  This was three or more years before the death of his first wife, Hannah, and both authorities give to John, the cooper, the children of John, the tanner.


John Lowell, the tanner, is the ancestor of the Lovewell family of Dunstable.

With those words from his "Early Generations of the Founders of Dunstable," published in 1911, Ezra S. Stearns tried to clear up some foggy notions about the origins of the Lovewell family in the New World.  (It’s all cleared up for me now, how about you?)  John Lowell, most researchers agree, was the father of the elder John Lovewell, the man who greeted Hannah Duston on her return from captivity.  The same John Lowell would also have been the grandfather of the famous ranger captain who was killed in 1725 in an Abenaki ambush at Lovewell Pond.  Gloria Gay Lovewell quotes Stearns in her epic volume “The Lovewell Family,” when she introduces John Lowell as the Lovewell family patriarch.

She also incorporates the scholarship of T. D. Rhodes and May Lovell Rhodes to trace the Lovell family from the mists of Norman history right up to the moment when Robert Lovell puts his family on board a ship leaving Weymouth, England, on March 20, 1635, bound for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Along with his wife Elizabeth are their six children, including an 8-year-old boy named John.  Gloria Lovewell brings in Stearns again to explain the evolving inconsistencies in the recording of the family name in the birth records of John and Elizabeth's children in Massachusetts.  The name, through no fault of theirs, Stearns explained, was variously rendered as Lovel, Lowel, Lowell, Lowwel, and finally, Lovewell, as their family expanded to encompass  John, Joseph, Patience, Elizabeth, Phoebe, and Zaccheus.

There.  All Done.  Ah, if only history were ever that tidy and simple.

Unfortunately, T. D. Rhodes and May Lovell Rhodes provide a lineage for their young John and his wife - not Elizabeth, but Jane - and not only do the family trees not match up, but their couple's surname stubbornly remains “Lovell” throughout.  The word “Lovewell” does not once grace the pages of the Rhodes’s 1924 book, “A Biographical Genealogy of the Lovell Family in England and America.”  Even “Lowell” only occurs as a first name.  John and Jane Lovell's children are named Phebe, John, Elizabeth, James, William, Andrew, and Jane.  There’s some overlap, but it hardly results in a passing score.  John and Elizabeth (Sylvester) Lowell’s children were born at Boston and Scituate.  According to family records, all of the children of John and Jane (Hatch) Lovell were born at Weymouth.

Gloria Lovewell crossed her fingers and blamed any conflicts in the record as a product of John's first marriage to Jane Hatch, which produced only one child.  “Their son, John Lovell,” she cautioned, "is not to be confused with the other son named John Lovell, who was born to his second wife, Elizabeth Sylvester.”

Confused?  Why would we be confused?  Do we look confused?

© Dale Switzer 2016  dale@lovewellhistory.com