Born in England. Arrived in Massachusetts before 1641 and later settled in Rhode Island and
Probably born in England. Arrived in Massachusetts and later settled in Rhode Island.
Most of the information I have on William Bowditch comes from two secondary sources:
- Moriarty, G. Andrews, Jr. “Nathaniel Bowditch of Newport and his Family”, Historical Collections of the Essex Institute, Volume XLVIII (48), January 1912, pp. 335-38.
- Bowditch, Harold. “The Bowditch Family of Braintree, Mass.”, New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 79, April 1925, pp. 175-180.
Moriary identifies Nathaniel Bowditch (or Bowdish) of Newport as the son of William Bowditch of Salem, Massachusetts in 1641. Not much is known regarding this William Bowditch, the immigrant ancestor of the many Bowditch lines in New England. It is thought that sometime after 1641 he removed to Newport, Rhode Island “on account of Baptist proclivities”, and Moriarty reports that his wife’s name was Sarah [surname unknown].
The children of William Bowditch and Sarah are:
- William (Jr.), who remained in Salem and is the ancestor of the Bowditch line of Salem, Massachusetts.
- Nathaniel, born at Salem and removed to Newport, Rhode Island. He was a weaver by trade and sold his land at Salem on 12 Oct 1674. He was granted land at Newport on 12 Mar 1701/02. In the Newport records, Moriarty located his will dated 5 day of [illegible – probably 1706], and the inventory of his estate dated 12 Apr 1706. He calls himself Nathaniel Bowdish of Newport, weaver and mentions his sons Nathaniel and William, his daughters, Sarah Bull, Hannah and Katherine, and his cousin Richard Dunn.
- Daughter [name unknown], who married Richard Dunn. Moriarty explains his reasons for believing Richard Dunn’s wife was Nathaniel’s sister as follows: “In regard to Richard Dunn, who was a neighbor of Nathaniel Bowdish at Newport, and whom he calls cousin in his will. He was the son of Richard Dunn, sr., of Newport, and had a brother, Nathaniel Dunn, who removed to Block Island and founded a family there. I therefore conclude that the first William Bowditch had a daughter, who married Richard Dunn, sr., and thus Nathaniel Bowditch could call Richard Dunn, jr., his cousin.”
The frequent occurrence of the names “William” and “Nathaniel” in the early generations of the Bowditch family in New England makes things a bit confusing. Moriarty explains the settlement patterns of the various Bowditch lines in New England as follows:
“William Bowditch, the emigrant, and his wife were Baptists, as is shown by the records of the First Church at Salem. It would appear that they left Salem and went to Newport, where there was a flourishing Baptist church under the care of Obadiah Holmes and Dr. John Clarke. Their son, William Bowditch, returned to Salem, where he founded the Salem branch of the family, while Nathaniel Bowdish, the other son, remained in Newport. William Bowditch, jr., probably married his wife, Sarah, at Newport and this is the reason that all efforts to discover at Salem, who she was, have been fruitless.
In regard to Richard Dunn, who was a neighbor of Nathaniel Bowdish at Newport, and whom he calls cousin in his will. He was the son of Richard Dunn, sr., of Newport, and had a brother, Nathaniel Dunn, who removed to Block Island and founded a family there. I therefore conclude that the first William Bowditch had a daughter, who married Richard Dunn, sr., and thus Nathaniel Bowditch could call Richard Dunn, jr., his cousin.
William Bowditch, son of Nathaniel of Newport, married Marcy [Mercy?] (not Mary, as I wrote it in the last issue of the Collections), daughter of Nathaniel and Elizabeth (Allen) Tompkins of Newport and Little Compton; and Elizabeth Allen was the sister of the wife of Rowland Robinson, Esq., the founder of the eminent family of Narragansett planters of that name. William Bowditch was a tailor and removed to Dartmouth, Mass., where he became the progenitor of the Bowditches of that part of the State.
There appears to have been a family of Bowdish settled at East and West Greenwich, R. I., about 1750 and I am inclined to believe that they descended from Nathaniel Bowdish, jr., son of Nathaniel Bowdish, sr., of Newport.”
Harold Bowditch’s article from New England Historical and Genealogical Register (citied above) adds some additional details:
“Among the early settlers in Massachusetts named Bowditch or Bowdish was Goodman William Bowdish, who was admitted as an inhabitant of Salem 20 Nov 1639 and was generally regarded until recently as the father of the William Bowditch who died at Salem in 1681 and was the ancestor of the Bowditch family of Salem and Boston. Goodman William Bowdish, however, and his wife Sarah had disappeared from Salem by 1649; they probably removed to Newport, R. I., and their son Nathaniel, apparently the sole heir of his father was of Newport in 1674 and was the ancestor of the Bowdishes of Rhode Island, of Bristol Co., Mass, and probably of Dutchess Co., N.Y. No evidence establishing the English home and connections of Goodman William Bowdish of Salem has thus far been found (see Register, Volume 72, pp. 223-224).”
Harold Bowditch notes, however, that the English ancestry of the William Bowditch of Salem [a different man?] who appears there in 1671 and died in 1681, from whom the Bowditch family of Salem and Boston is descended, has been traced back for several generations, in an article published in the Register (Volume 72, July 1918, 223-240; cf. also Volume 78, pp. 144-146).
The lineage of the daughter [name unknown] of William Bowditch and Sarah is continued under the heading of Richard Dunn (1652-1690).
 Nathaniel’s son, William, was a tailor who removed to Dartmouth, Massachusetts. He sold his father’s house at Newport to Capt. Richard Dunn (1669-1745), my 8th g-grandfather, on 12 Apr 1712. William was the husband of my 8th great aunt, Mercy Tompkins, the daughter of Nathaniel Tompkins (Jr.) (1650-1731) and Elizabeth Allen (1655-1714) of Newport, my 9th g-grandparents, discussed under the heading of Nathaniel Tompkins (1612-1684).
 Father-in-law of my 9th g-grandmother, Mary Sayles (1652-1717), discussed under the heading of John Sayles (1602-1645).
 My 8th g-grand uncle, discussed under the heading of his brother, Joseph Clarke (1618-1694).