HENRY BOWCOCK
1690 – 1730
MARY TYLER
1691 – 1751
Relationship to Fawn: 7th great grandparents (twice)

Connecting Henry and Mary to the rest of our family

I’ll start with an explanation of how these two are Fawn’s 7th great grandparents twice.  Henry Bowcock and Mary Tyler had a son, William.  William married but I don’t yet know who his wife was. However, William and his wife also had a son named William.  William Jr.’s second wife was Sarah Ann Tyree, and they had a son named Matthew in 1790.  It appears that it was in Matthew’s generation that the spelling of the name changed from “Bowcock” to “Bocock.”  Matthew married Mildred Dawson and we are descended from two of their children.

Their eldest child, Margaret, married James Henry Bondurant, and one of their children was my great grandfather, William Carter Bondurant.

William Carter Bondurant

Matthew and Mildred’s son Drury, married Sarah “Sally” Dawson or Dorson and one of their children was my great grandmother Mary Ann Bocock, who married William Carter Bondurant.  So, Mary Ann and William were first cousins.

Mary Ann Bocock Bondurant gravestone

Consequently, Henry and Mary are Fawn’s 7th great grandparents through two lines that intersect when William Carter Bondurant and Mary Ann Bocock marry.

It’s not clear where the Bowcocks originated, but some genealogies have them derived from Bowcocks in Lancashire, in northwest England, arriving in the American Colonies in the mid-17th century.

Henry and Mary in 18th century Virginia

I ran across a listing in another genealogy for Henry that listed him as a Tavern Keeper.  I wondered where. It said he died in Williamsburg, Virginia, so some very simple digging turned up a few facts about Henry and Mary, and other genealogies bore out the connections described in the beginning of the essay.

The Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library references him in a document entitled Wetherburn’s Tavern Historical Report, Block 9 Building 31 Lot 20 & 21.  

The story involves the relationship between three men: Thomas Jones, Henry Bowcock and Henry Wetherburn.  Both Bowcock and Wetherburn operated “ordinaries” for Jones.

The record shows that Jones owned lot 54, which is where the reconstructed Raleigh Tavern exists today.  Bowcock owned lot 53, but did not buy it until 1724.  The record reads that Henry Bowcock operated an ordinary, which was what a tavern was called, in Williamsburg as early as 1717, one year after Jones acquired lot 54 . . . He may have been operating a tavern for Jones on lot 54 from 1717 to 1730.”

The below picture of the existing reconstructed Raleigh Tavern is meant only for context, not to imply it is exactly as the tavern looked in Henry Bowcock’s day.

Raleigh Tavern - 1

The record shows that Bowcock renewed his license for an ordinary annually up to his death, his last license being dated August 18, 1729.  His widow Mary, “was granted a license one year later, July 20, 1730.”

While women did not usually own property in their own right in colonial America, husbands sometimes willed property directly to them which they controlled through their life, and widows often continued the business of the husband, which often had been a joint venture from the start.  The article, Daily Life in the American Colonies: The Role of the Tavern in Society states that at one point, almost three-quarters of the taverns and inns in New England were ran by women.”

Mary married the Henry Wetherburn mentioned above in 1731 and Wetherburn was granted his first ordinary license on August 16, 1731.

There was some question as to whether or not Bowcock had run an ordinary on Lot 53 after purchasing it.  However, the record concludes that when Wetherburn married Mary, had Mary been running an ordinary on the property she inherited (Lot 53) Wetherburn would have run that ordinary.  Rather, it is clear that he ran one for Jones, and only had one ordinary license issued per year. So, he and Mary continued to run the ordinary on lot 54 until the five owners of the property evicted him in 1743, at which time he moved across the street to Lot 21 and operated an ordinary there.

When Henry Bowcock died, his son was not of age and could not have inherited.  The records offers this reflection: “It may have been that upon becoming of age the son came into possession of lot 53 and held it until he died in 1742. Apparently the son left a daughter who was not yet of age and at his death the property may have reverted back to Henry Wetherburn in trust until the daughter became of age or married.”

Census records indicate that our line of Bowcocks left Williamsburg at least after the revolution.  William and Matthew show up in the 1810 census as farmers in Franklin County, Virginia, and a Bocock cemetery is referenced as being in Henry County, Virginia, though I do not know exactly where.

Taverns were  the center of social life in colonial America. There were no other restaurants, so it’s where people ate, drank, caught up on news, gambled, listened to music, danced, transacted business, and had political meetings. Often a separate parlor was available for women. Sometimes there were curtains or other means of creating separate spaces for dining and drink in.  For further information, The Tavern in Colonial America by Steven Struzinski is a good introduction.

I imagine Henry Bowcock’s tavern was a lively place.  Williamsburg was not that old when Henry was there.

A royal charter created the College of William and Mary, which was founded at Middle Plantation in 1693, and classes began in temporary quarters in 1694.  After the statehouse in Jamestown burned again in 1698, the government relocated temporarily to Middle Plantation, where it had use of the College’s facilities. The colonial capital was permanently moved to Middle Plantation in 1699. A village was laid out and Middle Plantation was renamed Williamsburg in honor of King William III.

Just 18 years later we find Henry Bowcock operating an ordinary.  Williamsburg was an important center of colonial life and the processes that led to the American Revolution.  Men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and George Mason frequented Williamsburg.  Being a tavern keeper at the time must have kept our ancestor in the flow of the social and political life of the period.

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