Mystery Monday – What Happened To Edward Lowry?

Edward Lowry is a mystery. A brick wall. After 1904, an apparition being sought. He is also my 2nd great grand uncle, a son to my third great grandfather Michael Lowry. Throughout Edward’s life, he worked hard, but was never able to stay in one place and to some degree, appears to have had a strained relationship with his family. Over the course of a few dozen years, he made a trek west starting in Pennsylvania before the final mention of him appears in Washington State. But it’s only the final mention, and probably not the final record. I’ve been trying for years to figure out what happened to Edward. The easiest thing to do to help locate someone is study what you already know.

Edward was born in 1855 in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, the second child of Michael and Bridget Lowry. He had an older sister, Mary, who edged him by a year. At least three more children would follow, including Anna in 1858, Margaret in 1861 and my great great grandfather Michael Jr. in 1868. For at least the first five years of his life, Edward and his family lived in Carbon Township in Huntingdon County. Michael Sr. was a coal miner and that dangerous work is how the family paid its bills. There is speculation that he was a member of the Molly Maguires, an often violent Irish secret society believed to be active in Pennsylvania coal fields. They used murder, extortion and kidnapping to fight for better working conditions on behalf of the Irish American miners. Whether or not Michael was a ‘Molly’ remains to be determined.

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By 1870, the family had moved to Saline Township, Ohio, along the banks of the Ohio River. Edward, only age 15, was already at work in the coal mines with his father. Today, a child this age can’t drive, vote or drink, but 140 years ago, he was sent into the dark and dangerous depths of a coal mine to extract whatever million year old carbon he could.

In 1877, Edward married Sarah Humphrey. Sarah was born in Ohio to Welsh parents but spent much of her childhood in Bevier, Missouri. By 1879, the family of three lived in Boulder, Colorado where their first child, Edward Jr was born. In addition to being a miner, Edward was an organizer for the Knights of Labor. This early labor union rose quickly prominence and size in the early 1880’s but by the middle of the decade, largely failed because of a weak organization and a penchant for violence.

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By the end of the 1880’s, Sarah was in Bevier with her family. We know this because it is where their second son, Ralph, was born on 18 April 1889. How long they stayed with Sarah’s family or the reasons for leaving Colorado are unknown, but by 1900 the family  was together in Republic, Washington. Republic is the county seat of Ferry County in northeastern Washington. Ferry County was created in 1899 from a part of Stevens County, located to the east. Ferry County is so large and so desolate that its population density even today is just 3 people per square mile. Large amounts of snowfall and very cold temperatures in the winter no doubt made living in Republic less than ideal in the late 1800’s.

At the turn of the century, Ralph was busy studying in school while his older brother and father worked in the coal mines. It’s hard to image an 11-year old dreaming about escaping that life if it was all he had known. We know, however that while his brother continued to work in the mine, Ralph would go on to obtain an engineering degree from Washington State College and become a senior engineer for the Bureau of Reclamation. He would be involved in some of the largest and most important construction projects ever conceived in the United States. (See my article about Ralph here.)

The last mention I have of Edward Sr. is a 1904 obituary for his mother Bridget that appeared in the Leetonia Reporter. It says only that he was living near Spokane, Washington, 120 miles away from Republic. I haven’t located either of them in the 1910 Census. Sarah Lowry died in 1915 at age 57 in Spokane and is buried alone in Republic. Her obituary makes no mention of Edward, only her sons.

Sarah’s grave in beautiful Republic Cemetery. Edward is not buried there.

In 1904, Edward was only 48 years old. So the important questions to be asked are when and where did Edward die? Where is he buried? Why did Sarah go back to Bevier for the birth of her son when the family was otherwise living in Boulder? This is a brick wall that I really want to answer to both help explain Edward’s journey west.

(PS: Today is supposedly the 184th birthday of Edward’s father and my third great grandfather Michael Lowry. How they tracked birthday’s in 1830 in rural Ireland is beyond me, but sure, let’s celebrate. Happy birthday grandpa Mike!)

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