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Lazarus Lowry

There are multiple online histories: history Lazarus here and here and here, and history of his sons:  Alexander here, here and here, James here, here and here, Daniel here and John here

according to the information from it is possible to trace the ancestors of Lazarus Lowry back to the middle ages (go here)

Lazarus Lowry
Established Facts, Anecdotal Accounts & Utter Speculation

Lazarus Lowry is the eponymous ancestor of one of the two largest branches of the Lowry family in North America. For the sake of convenience and brevity Lazarus’ last name will be rendered herein as “Lowry”, but various spellings used by his identified descendants include, Lowery, Lowrey, Lawry. Lowerye, Laury, and several others. The solid and documented facts concerning Lazarus Lowry are sketchy at best, but there exist many items of circumstantial evidence, as well as numerous antidotal accounts of his life and origins, which tend to correlate with established datum. Additionally, it is possible to extrapolate several likely events in the life of Lazarus Lowry through an analysis of the historical context in which we find him. The documented facts, anecdotal accounts and contextual extrapolations will be identified as such in order to allow each a proper valence. Below are set forth persons and events relating to the life of Lazarus Lowry.

Date of Birth

Lazarus was probably born in about 1688. This date was established by extrapolation, supposing that Lazarus was about 25 years of age when he married and 26 years of age when his first son, James, was born in about 1715. The date of birth of Lazarus’ eighth child, Alexander Lowry is solidly documented as January 1723.

Place of Birth

Most of the published accounts of the life of Lazarus Lowry agree that he came to America from Northern Ireland. These accounts differ, however, as to the exact location. He is placed variously in Derry (Londonderry) and Donegal. These differences may be reconciled by factoring in the changes of boundaries over the years. Derry was, in 1688, a part of County Donegal. One item of historical background which may be factored is the armed rebellion which was underway at the time of Lazarus’ birth. The dynastic/religious war at the time had forced most of the Scots-Irish Protestants to flee to a few strongholds to avoid being killed. The major refuge of these Ulster-Scots in 1688 was the walled city of Londonderry. At the time of the Siege of Londonderry, several Lowry/Lowerye families resided together at #13 Queens Street, a short distance from the Cathedral. No direct records of the birth or baptism of a “Lazarus Lowry” has, to my knowledge, yet been uncovered in Londonderry.


The name of Lazarus’ father and mother are not known. Speculation might be entertained, based upon the prevalent Scotch-Irish naming pattern, that Lazarus’ father may have been a “James Lowry”. The tradition being that the eldest son was named for the father’s father, the second son after the mother’s father and the third son after the father. The first son of Lazarus was James Lowry. The first daughter of Lazarus we know of was Mary Lowry, so some chance exists that this might also be his mothers name. This naming tradition was not universal, nor was it strictly followed, and it should not be relied upon to positively establish the names of unknown individuals. About a 70% rate of compliance is the best that can be expected in this time and place.

Early Background

There is very little known about the early life of Lazarus Lowry. Based on his affiliation with the Presbyterian Church later in life, it might be inferred that he was born to a Presbyterian family and raised in that tradition. No early Presbyterian church records of a Lazarus Lowry have yet come to the author’s attention. It might also be suspected that Lazarus came from a fairly prosperous family, possibly merchant or landed gentry. This is suggested by the fact that Lazarus arrived with a family numbering about nine persons, took up about 333 acres, purchased license and trade goods, and began trading with the region’s Native Americans. At a time when many other individuals were selling themselves as contractual bond servants in order to get to America, some degree of affluence might be inferred the circumstances of his arrival. The recurrence in later generations of the family of a “Lowry Coat of Arms” containing a cup and laurel branches might suggest affiliation with the Scots-Irish descendants of Jhone Laurie of Larg, Scotland. Jhone Laurie won this patent as the appointed “champion” of James VI of Scotland, when, during the King’s wedding celebrations with Anne of Denmark, the dauntless Laurie overcame a giant Danish Knight in a fearsome three day drinking contest. (No...really! Look it up. See the Black Whistle by Robert Burns.) The cup and laurel device has, since that time and with varying degrees of legitimacy, been differenced and used by many Lowry/Laurie titulados, such as the Earls of Belmore, the Baronets of Maxwelton, those of Bedford Square, Pomaroy, and several other branches. Another anecdotal account of the connection between these Lowrys and the cup & wreath arms comes from a biography of Lazarus’ eighth child, Col. Alexander Lowry. The Anglican, anglophile wife of Alexander was sometimes a sore trial to the fire-breathing revolutionary activist who loved her. She would, on her occasional shopping trips to Philadelphia, quietly purchase English tea, and bring it home. Alexander would routinely discover the tea and burn it. On one such trip, she obtained a finely carved coat of arms to display on their carriage door. Alexander, upon seeing it, and deeming it an inappropriate affectation for a Colonel in the Continental Army, tore it from the coach , broke it into pieces, and burned it. This coat of arms was, according to some accounts, the cup and laurel wreath. It is plausibly, but certainly not factually established, that Alexander’s loathing for this symbol might have been based on something more personal than politics. The possibility of Lazarus being a disinherited or irregular offshoot of one of these old noble families might account for both the antipathy and the lack of documentary record of the birth of Lazarus. This last is pure speculation and should not be taken as fact.


Most of the Scots-Irish/Ulster-Scots of the period were known as “Plantationers” or “Undertakers” of plantations. The Crown of a few generations prior, had , with typical social myopia, confiscated lands from the ancient Earls of the North, and replaced those Irish Lords with Scots and English Protestant holders. The Scots-Irish, or “New Irish” did much better in Ireland than did the English. Possibly there was less animosity between the Scots Irish and the Pure Irish due to a common Gaelic language and heritage. In the early 1700's, there were several disastrous harvests in rapid succession. Added to this, the English government began to suppress Irish exports and imports through punishing tariffs and mandating trans-shipment through English ports. There were also several religious “Test Acts” which originally targeted Catholics, but were later applied to all dissenting religions, including the Presbyterians. These Test Acts resulted in more tax, exclusion from public office and limitation of educational and professional opportunities. The final straw was the renewal of the crown leases on the Scots-Irish plantations. The hard working Ulster-Scots had, through capital investment and hard work, greatly increased the value of the lands they farmed. As a result, in about 1710, when the leases expired, the Scots-Irish found their new leases, if they could be gotten at all, cost two and three times as much as they had. Many Ulster-Scots couldn’t afford to renew and were forced off of their lands. This gave rise to the great wave of emigration by the Scots-Irish to North America. It is from this background that our Lazarus came to America.


The emigration of Lazarus is a given. He was born there and died here. The devil is in the details...or lack of known details. We believe that he married for the first time in Ireland, as his first nine children are reportedly of Irish birth. The date frame of 1728-1729 is indicated by biographical accounts, by land holding records and by the issuance of state trading licenses. The place of arrival was most likely Philadelphia or the Port of Newcastle, Delaware. Newcastle may be more likely, not only because the transit to their future home site of Donegal, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania was only about 40 miles, northwest, up a relatively well established route (now U.S. route 41), but also because there was rioting in Philadelphia at the time, protesting the influx of Palatine newcomers. Unfortunately for researchers, the Scots-Irish were deemed citizens of the same Great Brittan that ruled the colonies, so records kept on foreign immigrants were not then kept on those from other parts of the British Empire. Some ships passenger lists are available from that period, but many have been lost or destroyed. The ships most likely to have carried Lazarus and his family would have been part of the White Sails fleet. It is just possible that these Lowrys took ship at the port of Londonderry on Lough Foyle, but it is far more probable that they would have had to travel to Liverpool or even London in order to take ship. This remains a topic for future research. Some ships which debarked Irish passengers at Newcastle and Philadelphia in 1728-29 were: The Morton house August 1728, The Albany September 4, 1728, The James Goodwill September 11, 1728, The Mortonhouse August 19, 1729, and The Allen September 15, 1729. This is not a complete list, but may be a starting point for a passenger search.


Upon his arrival in America, Lazarus, as mentioned above, took up 333 acres of land near Donegal, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In addition to this homestead, he obtained a license from the government to “sell whisky by the small” as part of his trade with the local Indians. Lazarus and his sons were partners with other Scots-Irish immigrants in this trading venture, and became well established among the southern tribes. Lazarus was reputed to have been largely responsible for bringing many of the southern tribes to the side of the colonists during the French and Indian War. The trade routes set up by Lazarus and his sons reached as far as Kentucky and the valley of the Ohio. It is possible, but undocumented, that the furs which Lazarus received in trade with the Indians were transshipped to Great Britain not through Philadelphia, but rather by floating them down the Susquehanna River to the Chesapeake Bay, and south to Elizabeth City-County Virginia, where the other main branch of the Lowrys in North America maintained a large and prosperous shipping business with their Lowry partners in Scotland and England. This is just speculation, as insufficient documentation has been developed to prove it.


Lazarus was married, in Ireland, in about 1713. The name of his wife is Elizabeth, and she was called Etta. Some of the family histories I have seen give her the last name of Campbell, but I have seen no solid documentation on this. It is solidly established that Etta died after 1725 and prior to 1731. She may have died in Ireland, along with her youngest son David, or on the voyage to America, or, as some undocumented accounts suggest, in one of the many raids on the Donegal settlements which would eventually culminate in the French and Indian War. This last is quite possible, as these raids took a fearful toll in the area that Lazarus called home. Because Lazarus’ youngest son by Etta, Alexander, would have been only six or seven years old at the time of Etta’s death, it is unlikely that he would have waited any great length of time before the grim necessities of frontier life would have made re-marriage needful. In 1730 Lazarus married the widow of Captain Thomas Edwards, a friend killed in one of the Indian raids. Ann Millie Boggs Edwards gave five children to Lazarus. The first she named Lazarus, both in his honor and in remembrance of little Lazarus, who died with his mother Elizabeth. The second of these children was named Thomas, after her own departed first husband. Ann remained at Lazarus’ side until his death, in Philadelphia, in 1755. In the will of Lazarus Lowry, he referred to Ann as “my dear friend”. I can think of no higher praise which could be given a wife and lover.


It was the pragmatic land policies of the then largely Quaker government of Pennsylvania to welcome the Scots-Irish and the German Palatine Immigrants. These two groups were especially welcomed because of their respective natures and dispositions. The Pennsylvania frontier was lain out in three distinct aprons. The Scots-Irish immigrant were offered very attractive terms for settling in the wild, outlying areas. The Quakers felt that since the Ulster-Scots were of a disposition to fight, and were quite accustomed to it, they would act as front line pioneers. The Palatine German and Swiss, later known as the Pennsylvania Deutsch (not Dutch),were given tasks suited to their natures and skills, converting and improving the rough settlements being vacated by the Scots-Irish moving still further west, into fine, productive, beautiful farms. The Quaker families were delighted to acquire these improved properties and were quite content to lead quiet and productive lives on these safe, finished farms. The incentives provided by the Quakers kept the industrious Scots-Irish and Germans moving onward and outward. Unfortunately, living on the outermost fringes involved the Scots-Irish in fairly frequent clashes with the native Americans. Great efforts were made to maintain some degree of amicability with these tribes, but with the increase of incitement by the French military during the decades prior to the Seven Years War (French & Indian War), many hostile tribes raided south from Canada, burning, killing and taking captives as they went. Lazarus Lowry and his sons were well known among the southern tribes. Their influence brought many of those to the side of the colonists in resisting the French and Northern Indians. Unfortunately, these hostilities would eventually resulted in great loss for the sons of Lazarus Lowry and in the death of several family members at the massacre of Bloody Run. Instances of the Scots-Irish hunting down the war parties who had killed their families became all to common along the frontier.