Biography of Henry Giese Lowry

Veteran of the Civil War (Company D, 4th PA Cavalry)
Buried in the Oxford Cemetery

Henry Giese Lowry was born September 14, 1816 in Berlin, Somerset County, Pennsylvania and died February 25, 1881. He was baptized on November 12, 1816, as witnessed by his grandfather, the Reverend Johann Heinrich Giese, and his grandmother, Anna Baker Giese.

Henry Giese Lowry and members of his family settled in the vicinity of Oxford, Sumner County, Kansas in 1872; they took a homestead 3 miles west and 1-1/2 miles north of Oxford. While they are not “founders” of Oxford, they are among the very early settlers to the area and virtually all persons with the surname Lowry who live in the vicinity of Oxford today are descended from Henry Lowry. When Henry Lowry arrived in Oxford, it was barely a blot of ink on any cartographer’s map. Regarding identity of other members of Henry’s family who accompanied him, it is known that Benjamin Reeves Lowry (son, b. 1843) and his wife, Elizabeth Margery Sherwood, along with Daniel N. Lowry (b. 1856) arrived with Henry and wife Catherine. Benjamin Reeves Lowry resided in Oxford (Census 1880) and Daniel N. Lowry resided in Belle Plaine (Census 1880). Other children may have accompanied him, but I have not identified those yet. A son, Valentine Giese Lowry settled in Randolph County, Missouri.

For the moment, as explained later, I will refer to his wife only as Catherine.

Henry Giese Lowry was the son of Jacob Lowry, Jr., and Elizabeth (Betsy) Giese. In addition to Henry, they were parents to:

  1. William Hunter Lowry (b. July 10, 1827); married Susannah Weimer
  2. Susanna Giese Lowry (b. Feb. 28, 1814)
  3. Henrietta Margaretha Lowry (b. Feb. 4, 1820)
  4. Drusilla Lowry (b. November 2, 1824)
  5. John Giese Lowry (b. August 15, 1832)
  6. Allenath Lowry (b. January 13, 1830)
  7. Maria Anna Lowry (b. December 2, 1817)
  8. Jacob Oliver Lowry (b. May 17, 1822)
  9. Jane Elizabeth Lowry (birthdate not available)

Jacob Lowry, Jr., was listed on the 1850 Census of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania as a “founder” (foundry worker) and undoubtedly worked at least part of his life in the furnaces that dotted Pennsylvania. There were several furnaces in Westmoreland County. On the same census Henry Lowry was listed as being a “blacksmith”, one of the entry-level ironworking occupations. Jacob Lowry, Jr., served in the War of 1812. Both the Pennsylvania Archives and the National Archives confirm that Jacob Lowry’s service was in Capt. Casper Keller’s Company, and that he was a Private. Both he and his wife, Elizabeth, are buried in Ligonier Valley Cemetery, Ligonier, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

Henry Giese Lowry’s paternal grandparents were Jacob Lowry, Sr., and Anna Maria Waeschenbach Lowry; his maternal grandparents were Rev. Johann Heinrich Giese and Anna Baker. Reverend Giese had been educated at the University of Marburg, in Hesse, Germany, and received his Doctor of Medicine degree from that school. Jacob Lowry, Sr. served in the Revolutionary War, as attested by his Revolutionary War Pension Application as recorded by Chauncey Forward, Esq, protonotary to the Court of Common Pleas for Somerset County, Pennsylvania. His grandmother, Anna Maria, was daughter of Thielmannus Waeschenbach, whose arrival in America was recorded on October 8, 1737 at the Port of Philadelphia. He was a “Palatine German”, and arrived on the ship “Charming Nancy”. His other daughter, Maria Anna, married Michael Lowry, Jr., Jacob Lowry Sr.’s brother. The mother of Anna Maria Waeschenbaugh and Maria Anna Waeschenbach is known only as Barbara. Jacob Lowry, Sr., constructed the first “all brick house” in Berlin, Somerset County, Pennsylvania and it was placed on the historical registry in 1981. The engineering study of the house, completed in 1980, concluded the house was in very good condition.

Henry’s wife, Catherine, has been known by our Lowry family as Catherine Geesey Lowry. They were married in the Berlin Reformed Church in Berlin, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. These church records document her name as being “Catherine SHANK”, according to Dr. Ezra C. Saylor, DDS (now deceased), who was a frequent contributor to genealogical research in western Pennsylvania. Obviously we have a definite problem inasmuch as Catherine cannot be both “GEESEY” and “SHANK”. While I am awaiting copies of the infamous church records, I do not feel able to resolve this issue with any authority. Family tradition, and little else, identifies her as Catherine GEESEY.

There are two possible candidates, at this point, for the identity of Catherine. She could be Catherine SHANK, daughter of Christian Shank and Elizabeth Waeschenbach and therefore Henry’s cousin (through Elizabeth). Christian and Elizabeth were founders of Shanksville, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, having established that town in 1798. She could also be Catherine GIESE, daughter of Henry’s uncle John Henry Giese, Jr., which would also make her Henry’s cousin. These are the most likely candidates for her true identity. I have not located anyone with the surname “GEESEY” in Somerset or Westmoreland Counties. A third possibility is that she is Catherine Giese from York County. All three of these Catherine Giese’s were born around 1820-1824. Two of them were born in the month of August!

Henry was listed alone in the 1880 federal Census. Catherine is nowhere to be found in Oxford at this time. Yet we know she accompanied Henry to Oxford in 1872. She is listed in the 1875 Kansas census, and, most important, she died in 1886—five years after her husband’s death. Occasionally an enumerator does overlook citizens during the census, and this causes all manner of concern to us poor descendants 100+ years later! All kinds of speculation has arisen for this lack of her presence. By 1880 Henry was very probably in declining health (he did, after all, pass away in 1881!). Perhaps the enumerator arrived at the home during some errand being performed by Catherine, and Henry was not able to provide information about his wife. Perhaps she was at the home of a friend or family member. In 1880, she would have had infant grandchildren, and she might have been providing childcare for a busy daughter-in-law. But speculation does not build genealogies, and until further concrete evidence presents itself we must maintain a respectful silence on Catherine.

There has been considerable speculation about the cultural origins of the Lowrys of Oxford, Kansas. In Pennsylvania the Lowrys lived among, worshipped with, and married into, German-speaking peoples. In the Revolutionary War, both Jacob Lowry, Sr., and Michael Lowry, Jr., served in German-speaking units of the American Revolutionary Army. Baptismal certificates signed by Reverend Giese were always printed in the Palatine German script. There is no question in my mind that they were of German origins.

But there is an excellent chance that their immediate country of origin was not the German Palatinate, but rather Northern Ireland, as has been suggested by Loretta Lowry of Oxford, widow of Harold Hiram Lowry, one of the grandsons of Benjamin Reeves Lowry. This possibility exists because the migration of the German Palatinate occurred in waves, with some of the population sojourning in Ireland for 150 years or so before continuing across the Atlantic to America. John Michael Lowry, Sr., the earliest known ancestor of this line of Lowry in America, was married to a woman I know only as “Ann”. However, another researcher with whom I have had some correspondence in 1997 and 1998, believes “Ann” was really “Hannah Phinney”, a name with obvious British or Irish connections. If this were, indeed, the case, the Lowry family of Oxford, Kansas would have some origins in both Germany and Ireland.

I will be most happy to respond to any inquiries about my beloved Lowry lines. Later this year, I will move to Suppesville, Sumner County, Kansas.

Billy Byron Walker, Jr.
3rd Greatgrandson of Henry Giese Lowry

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