Hiram Wright and the Bowden Sisters

Sarah Elizabeth Wright was born October 6, 1846 to Hyram H. Wright and Sarah Bowden Wright in Harnett County, North Carolina.  Harnett didn’t exist until 1855, so, technically, it was Cumberland County.  According to her death record, her mother was also born in Harnett County, her father in Chatham. The informant was her husband, David Fields. However, Hiram’s Find a Grave page says he was born in Cumberland County, and the death certificate of his elder daughter, Charity Ann Wright Newell, says he was born in South Carolina. The informant, Ashford Newell, was her son.

Wherever it was, Hiram was born December 12, 1813, according to his tombstone. For some reason I don’t understand many places, including Find a Grave, give James and Dolley Southerland Bowden Wright as his parents. A clear case of adding 2 + 2 and getting 15.  More on that below.

I don’t know if this next bit is relevant, but I’m throwing it out there.  There was an adult Hiram Wright in Chatham County in 1814. Listed among these Chatham County Marriage Bonds is one dated May 24, 1814 where a Hiram Wright stands bondsman for James McMath and Polly Johnson. However, he may have been a visitor, because I can’t find a Hiram Wright in Chatham County in any census or on the 1815 Tax List.  There’s also a bond for an Ira Rosson to marry a Sarah Wright, dated January 9, 1813 with James Wright as bondsman and two bonds in 1817 for persons named Hiram Rosson to marry.  James and Ira are both in Captain Brantly’s District in 1815, and there’s a James Wright in the census records for this county from 1810 until 1850 when he’s 72 years old.  Any connection?  No clue!  Oh, and because I have an inquiring mind, I looked, and James McMath, Jr. was living in Captain Roger’s District in 1815, adjacent to Isaac Henderson on Tyrrell’s Creek.  There are no Wrights in that district and the only Rosson is Benoni Rossin.  James McMath, Sr. was in Captain Crutchfield’s District.  No Wrights there, either, and no Rossons.  In fact, the only other Wright I could find on the whole freaking list was Augustine Wright in Captain Brantly’s District with one white poll.

The first mention I can find of my Hiram Wright is in the October 10, 1840 issue of The North-Carolinian.  His name was on a list of letters remaining at the Post Office since the first of the month.  Apparently, he was habitually rather slow to pick up the mail, because this isn’t the only time his name appears on such a list:

  • The North-Carolinian, October 24 and 31, 1840
  • The Fayetteville Weekly Observer, April 7, 21, and 28, 1841
  • The Fayetteville Weekly Observer, October 13, 1841
  • The North-Carolinian, October 6, 13, and 20, 1849

Hiram Wright and Sarah Bowden were married May 13, 1842 in Cumberland County. David Barksdale was bondsman. They had four children together: Charity Ann, born in 1843, Dolly Jane in 1844, Sarah Elizabeth in 1846, and James Hiram in 1847. I think Sarah may have died in childbirth with James, because Hiram married again on February 5, 1850, to Elizabeth Bowden. Tradition says Elizabeth and Sarah were sisters. I see no reason to doubt this, although I’ve seen no actual proof.  A Major Bowden stood bondsman for Hiram and Elizabeth. Their brother, according to tradition, and, again, I have no reason to doubt it. However, those same traditions say their father was also a Major Bowden, and that I do doubt.  More on that below.  I have also seen mention of a brother named Colonel for whom Hiram Wright acted as bondsman. I have not seen this bond, so, again, no proof.  I’m starting to wonder if someone mis-read the Stephen Reeves/Charlotte Bowden marriage bond (see below).

In 1850, Hyram and Elizabeth Wright, aged 33 and 21, respectively, were living in the Northern Division of Cumberland County with daughters Charity, 7, and Sarah, 3.  He was a Cooper (aka barrel maker).


Next door is a Moses Bowden, 26, wife Nancy, 24, and their one year old son, Daniel J.  I don’t know if there’s a connection there, just a point of interest.  Further on in the census we find James Bowden, 72, and wife Dolly, 65. Living with them are Major, 24, Dolly J. Wright, 6, and James H. Wright, 3.


There is a marriage bond in Duplin County for James Bourden and Dolley Southerland dated January 12, 1804 with Samuel Bourden as bondsman. Bourden is the original spelling of Bowden.  James and Dolly are a little old to be Sarah and Elizabeth’s parents, or so I thought, until I found this entered in the Spence Family Bible:

Bethsay Ann BOURDEN the darter of Jonas? BOURDEN and wife Dolly BOURDEN was born the 15 day of February 1830.
Bethsay Ann BOURDEN dec’d the 26 day of March 1835.

Bethsay Ann was close in age to Elizabeth, who being 21 in 1850, would have been born in 1829.

Note that James Bowden is still alive in 1850.  Would someone, please, explain to me how it is that Dolly Southerland Bowden was supposed to have married a James Wright and born him a son in 1813.  Unless you’re going to tell me she married two James Bowdens.

Elizabeth Bowden Wright gave Hiram three children: Nathan in 1851, Mary Catherine in 1855, and Charlotte in 1856. Either she died giving birth to Charlotte, or shortly thereafter, because she doesn’t show up in the 1860 census:


Who were Sarah and Martha Bowden? In 1850, in the household of Mitchell Bowden, we find:


I wonder what the connection is? Mitchell was born in about 1792, making him too old to be a son of James and Dolly. Although, I did find this one genealogy, Some Early Families of Eastern North Carolina, that does have Mitchell as their son. How that worked when Dolly was born between 1785 and 1790 and Mitchell in 1792, is not explained. James would have been about 14 in 1792, thus Mitchell being a product of a previous marriage of his would be, though not entirely impossible, highly unlikely.

There are other questions raised by that genealogy, but they’re for another post.  Back on topic…

On January 15, 1861, a summons was issued for Hiram Wright to testify in the case of Elizabeth Buie vs. Robert Wooten (everything I’ve underlined was handwritten):


To the Sheriff of Cumberland Harnett County, Greetings:

YOU are hereby commanded to summon Hiram Wright
personally to appear before the Judge of the Superior Court of Law, at the next Court to be held for the County of Cumberland, at the Court House in Fayetteville, on the seventh Monday after the fourth First Monday in February next, then and there to testify and the truth to say, on behalf of Plff
in a certain matter of controversy in the said Court depending, between

Elizabeth Buie Plantiff and

Robert Wooten Defendant

Herein fail not, and have you then and there this Writ, with your doings thereon, to render to the said Court.  And this shall in no wise omit, under the penalty prescribed by act of Assembly.

Witness, JOHN W. BAKER, Clerk of our said Court, at Office, the seventh Monday after the fourth Monday in Septm — A. D. 1860

Issued the 15th day of January 1861.

J. W. Baker Clerk.

What’s with the “seventh Monday after the fourth Monday” crap?  Like legal documents aren’t difficult enough.

I don’t know exactly what Hiram testified to, but, from what I can understand of the legalese, John D. Buie, son of the Plaintiff, sold one of his slaves to his mother for $730. He owed a lot of money to several people and someone called in the debt and filed a suit.  Robert Wooten, the Defendant, a constable, in what I assume to have been a court ordered response, seized and sold this same slave as the property of James D. Buie in recompense.  The question before the court appears to have been:  Was the slave actually, truly, the property of Elizabeth Buie, bought in a legitimate transaction, or was some sort of fraud being perpetuated.  In other words, were they trying to pull a fast one?  The facts of the case were made murkier by the fact that the cardinal witnesses to the transaction were John’s sister, Jane Buie, and his brother-in-law, Thomas Murphy.  The Court would eventually rule in favor of the Plaintiff.  One feels sorry for the poor slave.

There is a note on the back of the summons that says “Not to be found in my County” and “in Cumberland Co. working with W. T. Rhodes.”  The date of the note is January 31, 1861.  W. T. stands for Wiley Trice.  According to the 1860 census, Mr. Rhodes was a Distiller.  This means he made booze.

Also in 1861, on July 4, and again on the 8th, this little tid-bit ran in The Fayetteville Semi-Weekly Observer:

From the subscriber on the 22d ult., a small Sorrel Roan HORSE, red mane and tail. A liberal reward will be paid for the delivery of said horse to me, or any information of said horse thankfully received.

From Fold3

From Fold3

September 2, 1863, at the age of 47 (according to this record), Hiram joined the 2nd Battalion, Local Defense Troops, Company D as a Private (this record).  A list of Cumberland Confederate Soldiers printed in the January 9, 1902 issue of The Fayetteville Weekly Observer, page 1, says Hiram’s unit was part of the Armory Guard.

After Elizabeth died, Hiram married again. To another Bowden. He and Nancy Ann Bowden married in Cumberland County on October 23, 1863. Stephen Reives was their bondsman. A couple of months later, on December 22, his daughter, Charity, married Edward Robert Newell. Stephen Reeves was their bondsman, too. On November 11, 1865, Stephen Reaves marrried Charlotte Bowden. Hiram Wright acted as bondsman. Stephen and his first wife, Isabella Guy, lived next door to Hiram in 1860.  The Isaac Guy in Hiram’s household was her brother.

Here’s a quick look at the relevant marriage bonds to refer to:

Bride Groom Date Bondsman
Sarah Bowden Hiram Wright May 13, 1842 David Barksdale
Elizabeth Bowden Hiram Wright February 5, 1850 Major Bowden
Isabella Guy Stephen Reeves October 30, 1850 John R. Cribbs
Mary Ballard Bryant Bowden April 28, 1853 Alexander Johnson
Sarah Autrey Major Bowden July 14, 1855 Alexander Johnson
Sarah Bowden James H. Marshall October 9, 1862 Robert M. Atkinson
Nancy Ann Bowden Hiram Wright October 29, 1863 Stephen Reeves
Charity Ann Wright Edward R. Newell December 22, 1863 Stephen Reeves
Jane Wright George Ely June 22, 1865 David Fields
Sarah Wright David Fields July 5, 1865 George Ely
Charlotte Bowden Stephen Reeves November 9, 1865 Hiram Wright
Sarah Jernigan Denning David Bowden September 12, 1872 n/a

Most genealogies say Nancy Ann Bowden Wright was a sister of Sarah and Elizabeth. I disagree. Look again at the family of Mitchell Bowden in 1850.  Notice Nancy A., aged 12, and Lotta, aged 8?  Further, look at this: on September 21, 1876, in Wake County, Charlotte Reives married Paschal Johnson.

…Charlotte Reivs of Wake County aged 35 years, color white, daughter of Mitchell Bowden and Lottie Bowden (nee Reves?) the father living, the mother dead, resident of Wake County…

Charlotte was definitely the daughter of Mitchell and Lottie Bowden. But it gets even more interesting.  There is another Wake County marriage license, dated January 4, 1880, for Ann Wright and William I. Rowland:

…Ann Wright of Wake County aged 42 years, color white, daughter of Mitchell Bowden and Rachel Bowden the father dead, the mother dead, were resident of Harnett County…

This begs the question: Was there a divorce? Or am I completely off base?  Cause Hiram ain’t dead in 1880.  He’s alive and, presumably, well, in Burnt Swamp Township, Robeson County.

By 1900, Annie was a widow living in Middle Creek, Wake County, in the household of John Allen Johnson and wife Martha.  She also lived there in 1910 when her name was listed as Nancy A. Rowland.  She could neither read nor write and had born no children.  In both censuses, her relationship to Mr. Johnson is “sister-in-law.” Another sister-in-law living with them was Sallie Marshall.  Remember the Sarah, aged 11, and Martha, aged 6 in the household of Mitchell Bowden in 1850, then in Hiram’s own house in 1860?  However, just to confuse everything, according to Martha Bowden Johnson’s death certificate, she was the daughter of Moses Bowden, whereas Annie’s gives her parents as Mitchell Bowden and Charlotte Jones.  Sallie Marshall’s isn’t as specific.  It just says her father was “Bowden”.  Martha died of “cancer of the face”,  Annie suffered from dementia, and Sallie burned to death in a house fire.  John Allen Johnson also died in that fire.  His death certificate says Pascal Johnson was his father.  The twists and turns just keep getting weirder the more I go into this, I swear.

I have no idea where Hiram lived right after the war.  Nor do I know where he was in 1870. Charity and Sarah lived in Robeson County with their husbands and children.  Both men were coopers.  I wonder if Hiram taught them the trade.  As I said, in 1880 he was living in Burnt Swamp Township, Robeson County. Sarah and David Fields lived there as well. My great-grandfather’s just 2 years old.

I wonder if he was the Wright father-in-law, aged 86, next to Frank and Kate Harris in Burnt Swamp in 1900. The problem is, they are all listed as Indian.  Frank and Mary Catherine Harris had a son named Hiram Franklin.

Hyram H. Wright died May 27, 1907, Pembroke Township, Robeson County.

2 thoughts on “Hiram Wright and the Bowden Sisters

  1. Pamela Johnson

    My great great grandmother was Sarah Wright.I find all this very complicated as I’m trying to find all my ancestors.great great grandfather W.T Wright.my grandfather Norris Johnson.son of Grace Oneal Johnson


  2. Adam Johnson

    I am a descendant of Mitchell Bowden through his daughter Charlotte Bowden and Paschal Johnson.Thanks to autosomal DNA I can say with certainty that Mitchell Bowden was a son of Baker Bowden and Mary Branch, also that Moses Bowden was a son of Mitchell Bowden. Thank you for this website it is fantastic for Bowden family info.



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