A Revolutionary Ancestor

Lowder Callaway (1755 – 1834)

His Mark

Lowder Callaway is my 5th great grandfather on my father’s side, born in 1755 and died on July 7, 1834.  He had eight children. His oldest boys, Lowder and Nathan, left Delaware for Ohio between 1815 and 1820.  The other six remained in Sussex County. He had one more son, Stephen, and five daughters:  Polly, Betsy, Sally, Peggy (who married Thomas Thompson) and Ann (who married Obediah Clifton, my 4th great grandfather).

He lived in Broad Creek Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware and farmed in the Laurel-Seaford area. One document I discovered had him receiving correspondence in  Concord, Delaware.  Concord, just east of Seaford, Delaware, is an unincorporated area today.  In the 1868 Beers Atlas of Delaware, however, it was significant enough  to warrant its own map insert and business directory. There are several Callaways to be found on the 1868 Beers Map in the Laurel area.

The 1st Delaware Regiment

BlueHenChickenLowder Callaway was a private in the Revolutionary  war from August 1780 until after the end of the war in May 1783. He served first in Captain Peter Jaquett’s Company with Colonel David Hall’s 1st Delaware Regiment and then with Colonel Henry Neill’s 2nd Delaware Regiment (Militia). Joining the military in 1780, Lowder would have missed some of the more famous battles involving the 1st Delaware Regiment, such as the Battle at Cooch’s Bridge and the Battle of the Brandywine, although he likely would have been at the Siege of Yorktown, Virginia.

Although it has gone through numerous changes and reorganizations over the years, David Hall’s Regiment still exists today as the 198th Signal Battalion in the Delaware Army National Guard, also known as the First Delaware. There is a website devoted to the 1st Delaware Regiment, which is where I found the history of this regiment. Delaware’s State Bird, the Blue Hen,  as well as the “Blue Hen” nickname, originated with Captain Caldwell’s Company of the regiment.  The Blue Hen was used in cock fighting by Caldwell’s Company and became famous for its fighting ability. Like the bird, Caldwell’s troops were  know for their fighting prowess.

Revolutionary War Pension Records

Pension Letter

Most of what I know about Lowder comes from his Revolutionary War Service and Pension Records housed at the National Archives and available at Fold3, a website dedicated to providing access to US Military Records. Lowder applied for a pension under the Revolutionary War Pension Act of 1818.  Prior to this, you needed to be an officer or to be designated as an invalid due to war injuries in order to receive a pension.  Starting March 1818, pensions became available to anyone who served in the Revolutionary War until it ended, or served for at least 9 months and was in “need of assistance”.  Basically, if you had served and could prove you were poor, you could receive a pension.

In his pension application of 1828, Lowder wrote that he had no property:

… except bed, bedding and a few chairs.  I have no particular occupation but work at such occupations as the kindness of charity of my neighbors affords whenever my health, which is very infirm, permits me to labour. My health does not enable me to work half my time, and at great risk and with much suffering when I do work. I have a wife living with me about sixty five years old and a grand child thirteen years old.  The health of my wife is very infirm, and the child too young to contribute to its own support.

He was awarded a pension of $8 per month (officers receive twice that amount), paid from November 25, 1828 until his death on July 7, 1834.

How am I related?

I came upon Lowder’s records quite by chance.  I was searching Fold 3 for revolutionary ware records for one of my Clifton ancestors when I found a reference to my 4th great grandfather Obediah Clifton (1783-1852). At Lowder’s death, he was owed $26.63 in back pension (about $720 dollars today), and his children applied to have the arrears paid to them.  The petition to received these funds identified each of the children, including “Ann [Callaway) who intermarried with Obed Clifton”.  From a death record for one of Obediah’s children, I knew his wife was named Ann.  Like Lowder, Obediah lived in Broad Creek Hundred his whole life and is the only Obediah Clifton found in the Sussex County census and tax records from 1810 until his death in 1852.  With this one record, I found the maiden name of my 4th great grandmother, the identify of my 5th great grandfather, and an ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War!

Lowder's Children

Finding Delaware Families

Delaware-Public-Archives-1.jpgResearchers of Delaware families are fortunate that the folks at Delaware Public Archives are willing and able to make so many of their holdings available on the internet.  Unlike most states that provide access to transcribed or index data, Delaware provides document images for birth, marriage, death along with several other record types.  Finding a fact without being able to examine at least an image of the source document is quite unsatisfying.  It’s not that I don’t trust the transcriber or indexer, but it’s unusual for everything to be transcribed from a vital record. There’s a lot of information to be gained by examining the hand-written bits and reading the marginalia.  Access to images has also allowed me to start a collection of ancestor signatures, clipped from witness and informant lines on documents (I do seem to have a number of ancestors named ‘X’, however).

My favorite online source for these images is the Delaware record collection at FamilySearch.org.  If you have a Delaware Library Card, you can also access these records (but only these records) for free on Ancestry.com, but I find FamilySearch to be a bit easier to navigate and a lot easier when it comes to downloading images for local storage.  This month, FamilySearch  started publishing Delaware Orphans Court Records.  As of today, they have part of Kent County complete and available.  They’re proceeding alphabetically by surname and you can currently find “Aa” through “Ki”.  I’ve recently learned through Public Archives that Land Records and Will Books are  in the works.  It’s a good time to be a Delaware genealogist!

I only recently became serious about genealogy and have enjoyed the advantages of online databases and search engines.  I’m able to accomplish more in a single afternoon than researchers of only a few years ago could accomplish in a month.  I know this to be true, because I’ve done my share of time working with paper and microfilm records, spending hours at a film reader to farm one small bit of ancestral information.

Which brings me to another big advantage of having most of my family roots in Delaware. If you also happen to live in the state, it’s impossible to be more than an hour away from the Mable Lloyd Ridgely Research Room of Public Archives in Dover, Delaware.  The librarians and assistants are helpful, efficient, and very willing to explain some of the finer points of their holdings.  To get the most out of a visit to the research room, I use the Public Archives Collection Gateway to identify the records I want to review. The ‘gateway’ allows you to search a large number of the public collections by the first and last name of your ancestor.  For me, the gateway  is the next step after I’ve gotten all I can from census records and the Delaware collection at FamilySearch.  Some of my most significant finds and a couple of brick walls have been knocked down by information I found through the collection gateway.  Public Archives maintains a list of the collections searchable thorough the gateway, and they update what is available on a quarterly basis, so you need to check back regularly.

A couple of tips on the records at the Public Archives – some of the most useful information for finding unknown family members is contained in the Orphans Court records, particularly if it deals with the division of property for the benefit of heirs.  Also note that while probate records sometime include wills, this isn’t always the case.  Wills are sometimes found in the ‘Will Book’, which isn’t available through the gateway.

Give the gateway a try.  If you find it useful, or if you have any tips to share, please let me know.