During the war of the
Revolution Thomas Bowlby became a volunteer in Captain Thomas’s Company
of the New Jersey Volunteers. For some years after the war, however, he
remained in New Jersey. During the summer of 1797 he, his wife and young
son, with their goods in a waggon, made the long journey to Long Point
and settled in Woodhouse, on a grant of four hundred acres of land.
Mr. Bowlby was a man of
considerable influence in Norfolk county, and a prominent member of the
Masonic order. In this connection the following story is told.
In November, 1814,
General McArthur, during his famous raid, having burned the mills at
Simcoe, Oakland and Waterford, was marching westward to Vittoria, where
he intended to burn the Russell mill.
However, the news that
General McArthur was a Mason rapidly spread over the country, and the
people of Vittoria, to whom their mill was of more value than a gold
mine, urged Thomas Bowlby, the head of the Masonic lodge of that place,
to go to meet the General and beg him to spare the mill. This he did,
and with a white ’kerchief on the end of a stick he met the American
cavalry at the top of the hill which overlooks Vittoria, and urged
McArthur to spare the mill, appealing to him as a member of the Masonic
order. To this the General consented, and though his troops murmured
mightily at the “tender-heartedness” of their General, he marched them
straight through the town without allowing one to leave the ranks. Truly
the power of Masonic duty was as strong in those early days as in these.
The writer is indebted
to Mr. T. W. Dobbie, surveyor, of Tilsonburg, for this account of his