This series will explore the life of Dunbar Rowland (1864–1937), first director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. He served from 1902 to 1937. Today’s post features the genealogy resources of the department as we explore Rowland’s family tree.
We inaugurate this series in honor of the 109th birthday of MDAH (tomorrow)! The department was founded on February 26, 1902.
Dunbar Rowland (1864–1937) was descended from English ancestors who came to Virginia in the 1630s. His grandfather Creed Taylor Rowland (c.1802–c.1866)1 moved his family from Virginia to Lowndes County, Mississippi, around 1840. Creed later moved to Aberdeen (Monroe County) to farm at his plantation called “Rowland Place.”2
Monroe County deed records show that Creed Rowland aggressively expanded his farm in the mid 1800s. He borrowed $300 in 1849, $1,000 in 1851, and $3,086 in 1861, using African American slaves (and land in 1861) as collateral for the loans. In 1857, he paid $3,700 for a tract of land from the Chickasaw Survey.3
Creed’s son, William Brewer Rowland (1825–1870) was a physician, graduating from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1846. William wed Mary Judith Bryan (1820–1903) of Tennessee in 1849. William and Mary Rowland had five children, William Brewer, Jr. (1850–1881)4, Creed Walker (1852–1922), Robert Walter (1855–1923), Peter Whitman (1861–1943), and Dunbar (1864–1937).
Census research reveals that in 1850 newlyweds William and Mary Rowland were staying at the hotel of G. W. S. Davidson in Yalobusha County when the census taker visited. In 1860, they were living in Oakland, Yalobusha County, Mississippi. By 1870, Dunbar Rowland, born August 25, 1864, appears on the census for the first time. William B. Rowland, Sr., died in January 1870 and thus does not appear on this census, which was taken in July; Rowland’s mother is listed as head of household.
In 1880, fifteen-year-old Dunbar was living in older brother Robert’s house in Livingston, Madison County, along with his mother, listed as M. J. Rowland, age 50, “m-in law” on the census. The 1890 census burned, but as we will see in the next post Dunbar Rowland was in college and beginning his career in the intervening years between the 1880 and 1900 censuses.
1 Dates for Creed Taylor Rowland uncertain at this time; he was listed as age 58 on the 1860 census (Monroe County, page 477) and he was still living in April 1866 when the IRS assessed the value of his property (Ancestry.com, District 3; Annual, Monthly and Special Lists Dec 1865–Dec 1866, U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862–1918 [database on-line] (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008), image 73).
2 Biographical information from “Rowland, Dunbar Biographical Sketches” and “Rowland, Dunbar Death,” Subject Files (MDAH) and U.S. census records (MDAH).
3 Monroe County deed book volumes 13 (pages 554–55), 15 (pages 118–19), and 22 (pages 84–5, 174–77); on microfilm at MDAH.
4 Dates for Dr. William Brewer, Mary Judith, and William B. (Jr.) Rowland from their graves in Coffeeville Cemetery, see C. H. Spearman, arr., Yalobusha County, Mississippi Cemetery Records, vol. II “Eastern Yalobusha County” (Coffeeville, MS: The Yalobusha County Historical Society, 1980), 32, 53 (MDAH).