Ellis Lowery, Grandson of Rail-Splitter Daniel

Written by Edna Liggin – March 1978

“Good gosh, youngun” was the flattering appellation given us when we asked Ellis Lowery about rail fences in the days of his grandfather, Daniel Lowery.  “That’s all we had for fences in those day’s” Ellis reminded us. Rather put down, we remembered from previous research that barbwire did not become legal in Union Parish until the 1880’s.

“Fires would get out in those days” said Ellis, “and naturally burn up all the rail fences. Neighbors would then jump in and we’d have a rail splitting, and rebuilt the man’s burned fences”. This was a new endeavor to us having heard of barn raising’s, quilting bees, crop gatherings of a sick neighbor and so on. Now to these we could add rail splitting.

This “good gosh, youngun” man  Ellis Lowery is full of legends of his grandfather, Daniel Lowery. “He came in a wagon from Alabama” Ellis told us “and stopped down below Monroe, unhitched a mule from the wagon and rode up D’Arbonne and Cornie leaving the rest of the family behind.” When this young man, Daniel Lowery, had selected a place to homestead the family settled in and the place became Lowery’s Ferry. It is still known as Lowery’s Ferry.

The 1860 census reveals Daniel Lowery as 33 years of age, a married man with two sons, Benjamin Franklin, 6, and William, 4. His wife, listed as F E, was Ellen Ratley and age 23.

Daniel Lowery is not listed as head of a household in the 1850 census. He might have been the D ….(unreadable) male in the household of one George Lowery, 59, listed as worth $5000, a goodly sum in those days. This George Lowery and wife Elizabeth were born in Georgia. Others in the household were children Mary, Thomas, Frances, Larkin and Elizabeth. In the next census the older Elizabeth Lowery was included in the household of young Larkin Lowery, now married and the father of three young children. If this George Lowery of the 1850 census was the father of Daniel Lowery we can presume him dead by 1860.

In 1860 Thomas Lowery is also married with one child and a young George Lowery, age 30, with five children, the children born in Louisiana but the parents in Alabama.

A James Lowery is in the 1850 census, 33 years of age, with a 26 year old wife and children, Josephine, Nancy, Martha and George. Then in the 1860 census, James Lowery, age 43, is again listed with a 26 year old wife and five other children.

Perhaps the Elizabeth Lowery living in 1860 in the home of Larkin  was the mother of Daniel, Thomas, Larkin and George.

TALES OF DANIEL LOWERY

Becoming slightly confused by these early Lowerys, all of them named George, Larkin, Thomas, Elizabeth, etc., we move our thoughts specifically to the man Daniel Lowery himself.

Ellis Lowery is full of legendary tales about his grandfather. One he remembers with a chuckle was that of a salesman or drummer of some sort seeking out his rail-splitting grandfather while that skilled splitter was  hard at work. Daniel Lowery was splitting white oak rails, piling them up evenly on each side of himself deep in the woods of Cornie bottom. The salesman attempted to talk to Daniel who continued to split and pile. Finally, Daniel tossed one near the salesman and hit his foot. The visitor cried out in pain and Daniel said, “Stay out of the way”. The salesman took the hint and departed.

Ellis was full of admiration for his grandfather in this legend of him operating a keel boat down the creek to Monroe and back, which according to Ellis, was an arduous task.

Just like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow the next legend told to us by Ellis Lowery was about such a pot of gold. Somewhere back in his memory he has a tale of an Indian walking up to Daniel Lowery’s one day. The Indian was given shelter and work. Daniel Lowery was at this time cultivating his acres in cotton, a woodsman in Cornie bottoms, rearing his family. If the tale is true, another pair of hands would have helped him.

The story goes, according to Ellis, that cotton shipping time came. The Indian vowed he could lead them to something worth more than cotton, a pot of gold. The legend goes he showed it to App Lowery, a son born to Daniel Lowery after 1860. All Ellis remembers is the Indian and the pot of gold.

THE LIVING OF DANIEL LOWERY

The rail-splitting grandfather of Ellis first built a home near the creek but Ellis says a doctor told him it was not healthy to live so near, so he then built a home about a quarter of a mile from the creek. He cleared many acres for cotton, having homesteaded 160 acres, then buying an additional 600.

“Was there a gin nearby?” we asked Ellis. “Must have been.” he told us. He recalled tales of shipping cotton by boat to Monroe with other members of the family going down in a wagon to bring back the men and goods they bought. It was necessary to camp overnight.

In 1882 Daniel Lowery was commissioned to help keep a road open, possibly the one to Lowery’s Ferry. The overseer was James Austin, with another worker George W. Lowery. Was this the George W. Lowery born March 19, 1830, died August 25, 1899, buried in Weldon cemetery? Was he a brother to Daniel?

The children born to Daniel Lowery and his first wife were Benjamin, William and App. The children by his second wife, Rachel Huey, were Kitty, Betty, Larkin and George.

Ellis Lowery does not remember his grandfather Lowery. He says Daniel and his wife Rachel are buried at Shiloh.

BOYHOOD OF ELLIS LOWERY

We could scarcely believe it when Ellis Lowery told us he was born April 20, 1887. This man who moves so well and remembers tales of the past is already fourscore and ten years of age.

His father was Benjamin Franklin Lowery, oldest son of Daniel and Ellen Lowery, while his mother was Sarah Youngblood, daughter of Oswell Youngblood of Civil War blacksmith fame at Shiloh.

“Where did you live as a boy?” we asked Ellis Lowery. He told us his father reared his family in the vicinity of the Arthur Lowery home (he is the son of Jacob and Talitha Austin Lowery). Ellis went to school at Mt. Sterling, walking the steep hills and crossing the creek. When the creek was high, they simply stayed home.

Ellis told us it was mostly boys who walked those miles to school. John Henry, Ellis, Jacob, Esau and Ben. The sisters to these brothers were Tempy and Mittie. Walking with them, also, was Henry Lowery, a cousin, son of App Lowery. The Youngblood children were double first cousins as Kitty Lowery, half sister to Ellis’ father married Lee Youngblood, his mother’s brother.

We had come across a Becky Podum (?) listed in the 1880 census of the household of Benjamin Lowery. “Yes.” said Ellis “I remember Aunt Becky riding a horse”. He also told us he remembered an uncle, Hiram Youngblood who never married.

Ellis Lowery, grandson of Daniel Lowery and Oswell Youngblood, grew up helping his father work in the woods near Cornie Creek, miles from Shiloh, Farmerville and later Bernice. They lived off the land, good rich soil that was very productive, the woods abounding in game. Ellis says the living around Lowery’s Ferry is ruined now.

One of the jobs which Ellis helped his father was floating timber down the creek. In those days timber was plentiful and boys helped their fathers, whether from a desire to learn, or due to heavy parental pressure. As with the shipping of cotton, some of the family went overland to pick up those who rode the logs to Monroe.

“Do  you remember when you first saw Bernice?” we asked Ellis thinking here was a man older than the town. “I remember the first store.” Ellis proudly told us. “And also the first time a train came through.” He said a large crowd had gathered to see the train. When it stopped a dirty, smutty fireman jumped off while passengers were also getting on and off. The fireman waved his arm to the people. “Get out of the way.” he yelled. “We are fixing to turn it around.”

“Good gosh, young un” Ellis told us, “You ought to have seen the people scatter'”

“Were you ever sick as a boy?” we asked. He said he once had the slow fever and they would not let him eat. Dr. Taylor from Farmerville called on him.

Thinking Ellis traveled more by water than by land we asked him about any experiences he had had as a boy with boats. He told us his father, Benjamin Lowery, had a work boat that would haul 100 bales of cotton and that he ran this boat from Monroe to Camden. He mentioned Cobb’s landing and Goss’s Landing up above Lowery’s Ferry.

We were interested to know how many miles it was by stream from Lowery’s Ferry to Monroe. Ellis told us promptly “one hundred miles”. He said the government once put up a hundred mile landmark, an iron pipe stuck in the ground, just below Lowery’s Ferry. At that time, Ellis said, the government owned the creek and kept it blowed out, so boats could travel. This was news to us.

THAT LOWERY FAMILY 

Once the Lowerys, spearheaded by Daniel Lowery, hit the west bank of Cornie Creek, they spread westward over an area later to be named Bernice and on the road to Homer. Many of them were buried in Lowery Cemetery, over which the Bernice High School was built.

As Daniel Lowery aged, he gave 100 acres of land to his children. However, his second son William settled up at Lille. App Lowery, the third son by his first wife, married Sarah Jane Austin, daughter of James Austin, and settled near the old Daniel Lowery place at Lowery’s Ferry.

Sarah Jane was one of twins. Later Dan Lowery, son of App, was to father twins, Woodrow and Clark, while Dan’s daughter, Nita Rogers had twin sons, Dan and Van. Two sets of twins were born to Larkin and Maggie Lowery.

To App and Sarah Jane were born Henry, Polly Ann, Tom, Lizzie and Dan. Today, a daughter of Dan, Nita Rogers, tells us of her life in the vicinity of Lowery’s Ferry. “My daddy hunted and fished a lot and I went with him from the time I was big enough to carry a gun.” Nita Rogers told us, “I remember walking the rail fences near Patrick Church. Once when the school bell rang, I jumped off too quick and fell and hurt my knee.”

In time to come, Ellis Lowery married Velma Rogers, December 22, 1921. The Rogers family had moved into the area before World War I. The only child of Ellis and Velma, Alice, is married to Blake Roach. They live in Alexandria. They have on son, Ronnie, who lives in Houston, Texas.

Some fifty odd years ago Ellis built the house in which he lives today. He has built many boats through the years, farmed, been a blacksmith and a tinker with machinery.

THE LOWERYS AND BERNICE

The link between the “good gosh, youngun” man and the town of Bernice is a strong one. When Captain C. C. Henderson, pioneer railroad man and lumberman, built the Arkansas Southern Railroad from El Dorado, Ark. to Junction City, he soon saw the advantage of going to Winnfield. He purchased land from Allen Lowery and Dave Cole and divided it into lots to be auctioned. This is the present site of the town of Bernice.

While constructing the railroad he lived with Mr. and Mrs. Allen Lowery. Later, he named the town for their baby daughter, Bernice. This was in 1899. Today, Bernice Lowery Bolt lives in Kilgore, Texas.

It is said the first purchase of merchandise, a box of matches, was by J. A. Lowery.

Today, the descendants of the first Lowery’s into Union Parish are scattered westward, many of whom today do not know just how they are related. With the knowledge of how families repeat names from generation to generation and from a study of the old census records, we believe the head of these Lowerys came from Georgia, multiplied in Alabama, with many coming to Louisiana.

Many told us the house lived in today by Ethel Roach, on the Lisbon road, was built by a Lowery. Tombstones in many cemeteries not far from Bernice record the names of many Lowerys. The mother of the Bernice Lowery for whom the town was named became a widow and later married Mr. Cook.

The name Lowery, however, will live for a long time yet as a place named Lowery’s Ferry!

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