Commentary About Dow Name
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[Pages 18-22]

        The acquisition of surnames by the people of Great Britain was gradual, the process covering about five centuries following the Norman conquest.  The Cromwellian wars meant a wide change of surnames.  In France and Germany and all western Europe the process was almost synchronous and equally gradual.  Surnames were not reduced to a fixed spelling until about 1700, and even after that they varied, altho mostly through ignorance of spelling.  There were in England no laws governing the taking of a permanent family name, as there were in Germany and Austria, where all Jews were compelled to take binomial names.  In England it was merely for convenience, as the population increased and the names John, William, Richard, Henry increased with each king of that name until they were not separable by the tax collector.  It was to prevent confusion that each man became known to his neighbors by a qualifying epithet.  John the little man became permanently John Little.  John who lived on a hill became John Hill and left the fixed name to his children.  So did John the smith and John the strong.  A member of a noble family got a fixed name from his land.  For the yeomanry and peasantry some personal characteristic had to be found.  In a majority of instances a patronymic was employed.  We have a John Williamson, son of William Johnson, son of John.  A son of Alexander may become Sanders, Saunders, Sandys, even Elshioner. A son of David may be Davis, David, Davison, Davidson, Dawson, Daw, etc.  A John who was in trade was generally dubbed by it - Baker, Tyler, Weaver, etc.  The son of some undersized Peter became Peterkins, then Perkins.  Many persons, however, without trade, without place, had some mental or physical characteristic seized upon by the neighbors, generally in rough jest, and were dubbed willy nilly with a surname which became permanent.  Thus, a dull-eyed became Fish; another man Lyon (unless he came from Lyons, France); another Fox, Marten, Sparkes (sparrow hawk), etc.  The first man named Hogg had habits justifying his neighbors' choice of a name for him.  Cowards might have been brave men, they were cowherds.  The surnames Cuckold, Trull, Trollop, Harridan, etc., have not entirely disappeared. 

        In many counties of England there were men of mild manner, whose personalities called for a gentle name.  One easily imagines newlyweds so given to billing and cooing that they found themselves forever dubbed the "doves."  This name is not peculiar to England.  It was applied for the same reason in Italy.  Christopher Columbus (Colombo) is a dove.  In England we find the name close to 1200 in a Parliamentary writ directed to a Nicholas le Duv and a Richard le Duv.  As time went on, the method of spelling tended to crystallize differently in different countries.  In Norfolk the whole tendency was toward Dowe and probably all Norfolk Dow have a common Dow ancestor.  In Hants the tendency was toward Doue.  In another country the spelling Dove is wholly now used.  There were not fewer than twenty original families of Dow.  The name is not indigenous to Wales or Ireland, the Dow of those places being migrants from England or Scotland.  In Norfolk it is a very common name; Smith is less common here.  In England the pronunciation is never as we pronounce it in America (as in cow and now); it is long, and half way between the pronunciation of doe and dove.  Our present pronunciation is yankee twang, and began not before 1650.  The earliest spelling Dow that we find is in Oct. 1505, when Eleanore Dow of Rekynhale received a legacy from Edmund Sparhawke of Laxfield.  Henry Dow of Runham spells his name in 1613 indifferently Dowe and Dove.  In Massachusetts Bay Colony Henry Dow in 1653 spelled it Dowe, Dow and Dove.  About 1725 the final e became lost, but has been resumed recently by a few individuals.  Several branches of the Connecticut Dows have been Dowe for three generations.  It is a matter of choice; it confuses the genealogist only a little.  A member of the Doe family thought it more dignified to call himself Dowe (pronounced long as in doe).  This was a little confusing, but we discovered him and banished him from our Book. 

        The name Doe is confused with Dow only in ignorance, but this ignorance extended to a San Francisco amateur of pretension who aided the making of the Doe Genealogy.  To get an origin to the name the travel was absurdly afield.  A Norman chevalier D'O was quoted; there was a familv Deaux.  A George Do of Jesus College, Cambridge, was quoted, who had arms --- 3 dogs rampant.  This member of the Dogge family did not like his name but he could not get rid of his arms.  The deer tribe has furnished many surnames, ---S tagg, Buck, Hoe, Hart, etc.  This is the origin of the several original families of Doe.

        The name Dow is even more common in Scotland than in England, and from Scotland the Dows invaded Ireland in vast hordes.  In Dublin in one year twelve Thomas Dow died.  No Scotch Dow is entitled to arms.  One is pictured in Fairbanks, but it is a dove, either stolen or belonging to an emigrant from England.  The Scotch name is Dhu, meaning dark, swarthy, any such man being conspicuous among those of the blonde or red race.  As in England, there was never a single Dow family of Scotland.  They were never a clan or a sept, and most of them took the name comparatively recently. 

        Alexander Dow of Detroit explains how the sept Appin, Clan Stewart, proscribed five generations ago, scattered and took refuge under the name of Dow.  This name in Aberdeen is today pronounced as the Dhu.  We know well the word daw, best known as jackdaw, a blackbird.  There is in England a family formerly Daw but now Black.  It is absurdly far-fetched to assume, as has Joel N. Eno, A. M., in "Fiery Cross," that the Dow of Clan Davidson are daws, or that the Dow of Clan Buchanan are doves.  For dove he gives from Colman (columba, dove), a hero of the Clan Buchanan.  In the Weekly Scotsman, March 2, 1918, there appears a note: --- "Dow, Dowe, Dove-Anglicized forms of Calum, dove from St. Columba.  The ancestor of the Dows was Colman, third son of the seventh chief of the Buchanans.  The Dows are therefore a Sept of the clan Buchanan.  This is rank absurdity.  Col means crafty, sly, and was in early Scotland a complimentary adjective.  It shows in Colfax, Colburn, etc., sly fox and sly bear.  To transpose Columba into Colman does not accord with any law of philology. 

        One must not confuse Scotch Daw with Welsh Daw, the latter merely son of David, Dawes, Dawey, Dawson being variants.  Scott's hero, Sir Rhoderick Dhu, was not of a clan, but outlaw, making his own ancestry or posterity, his own clan. T he border Dhu were dark with robbery and rapine aplenty.  The main point to be made, so far as this Book is concerned, is that there is no connection between English and Scotch Dow.   An etymological cousin of Dhu is Duirche, surviving as a surname in Durgin, possibly as Dowkin.

        The Dutch Douw have no connection, but are best known from Gerard Douw, famous painter, whose kin came to New Amsterdam about 1630, settling near Albany, and are today far from weak numerically.  A German family of Dau (pronounced as our own) has even less kinship. It is well known in New York City.

        There is no connection between Dow and Dows. The latter, a family well represented in early Boston, is Norman and originally Douce from dulcis.  One English branch of this family has become Sweet, and some sweet Isabella was the mother of families of Dowsabell, Dussabell, Duzzabel.  The Dowsons are sons of Dows, not of Dow.  The names Dowie, Dowrie, Dowing are of uncertain connection with Dow.

        We must not confuse the word Dowgate.  This is never the gate of the doves.  It is the water-gate, old Anglo Saxon.  The best known was the watergate of London, described by Samuel Pepys.  It was an exit from London, crossing a ford and going straight on to Dover.  Dover is the water town, and this was a famous Roman road.  A family of Dowser exists.  They were originally searchers for springs, with rod of witch hazel in hand, as it is still done.  To douse the glim is thieves' cant of great antiquity.  While it means to extinguish a light, it is by throwing water on a torch.  The family of Dowrst, neighbors of Dow in New Hampshire at an early date, are water-men.

        There are well known Dow in Boston and Montreal, Chinese.  Many occurrences of the syllable compounded are of Continental, or even of Oriental origin, Dowkout faintly suggests Holland, Dowhovych Russia, Dowiak Finnish or Tartar, Dowjiboom Armenia or Persia.  All of these are in the New York directory.  Chann Dow of Louisville is very black, but a faithful porter. 

        With heraldic devices this Book has little concern, altho the vanity of Dow is constantly appealing to his sympathy.  No Dow in America has any right whatever to any arms and the whole idea is repugnant to our sturdy original yeomanry.  We are yeomen, neither nobles or peasants, never Saxon serfs.  To say, as was said in a genealogical weekly newspaper, that the Dow arms are: Sable a fesse dancette ermine between three doves argent, is a lie, i. e., deliberately intended to deceive.  A number of families of Dow have received arms from the College of Heraldry, and the basis of all is the dove crest, the three doves, generally in a sable star, and the ribbon, generally with the word "patiens. "  A Scotch crest, figured in Fairbanks, is a pegasus rampant.  Those who have received Dow arms are of three classes, --- have paid cash, had some mayoralty or petty preferment, or been polite to the King's mistress.  There was no grant of arms to a Norfolk. Dow, altho some of them did enter the gentry by marriage to some heiress. 

        There can be no Dow plaid.  A quarter-century ago a tourist in Edinburgh brought home a piece of plaid guaranteed by the merchant who sold it to be genuine Dow plaid.  This was cut up and small pieces were given to several Dows.  Twenty years later the tale connected with it grew to include the statement that it was the plaid of Thomas Dow, immigrant of 1639.  Now, poor Thomas, who practically starved to death, never knew a plaid.  When the tale finally reached the Author, he submitted a sample to as many experts as he could reach.  A few made guarded replies, but one was honest enough to say that it was not a genuine tartan at all, that it came nearest to the plaid of Clan Davidson.  Business is business and one can readily buy in Edinburgh a plaid guaranteed to have been worn for centuries by Ipstein or Flaherty. 


    One immigrant Dow we will dispose of in passing.  Francis Dow was a pioneer of Salisbury, Mass., in the first division of land.  He came from Wilts and returned there after 1655.  In 1650 he was an influential citizen of Salisbury, and was addressed as Mr., the title reserved then for the few best.  Aug. 4, 1655, John Sanders sells to Andrew Greele a "lot for a saw mill ate the hither end of ye great meadows encompassed with ye grwat neck of Mr. Dow's Rie Lott --- in Salsberry."  The Greeley tide mill was run by a Dow in 1729.   Francis Dow had been mayor and justice of the peace in New Sarum, England, and came to Massachusetts, tempted, perhaps, by tales of great richness, of gold, etc.  It may be noted that many noblemen and gentry were among the immigrants prior to 1650 and most of them returned to England.  They found no riches here, but they found hardships such as they did not wish to stand.  They found also a democratic atmosphere not easy to endure.  While British caste ideas prevailed a little and the gentry was looked up to, even in Boston, the illiterate peasant, if he had the ability, was equal in politics and readily asserted his equality, soon getting the upper hand, if there was suffrage.  Francis Dow was a Dove, rather than a true Dow.  He had a son Peter, who never came to this country, but was a gentleman of New Sarum, high sheriff of Wilts in 1673.  Peter thought little of his American inheritance, and did not dispose of it for fifteen years.  Francis Dow was one of the first to bring rye to Massachusetts.  Two documents bear on this rye lot.  Sept. 5, 1674, Peter Dow of New Sarum in ye county of Wiltes, esquire, appointed his friend Timothy Lindall of Boston merchant his attorney to collect rents, etc., in New England.  Nov. 5, 1674, Peter Dow of ye citti of New Sarum in the county of Wilts, England, deeded to Timothy Lindall of Boston land in Salisbury, New England, which land Francis Dow owned, and which descended and came of right to Peter Dow, ye only son and heire of Francis Dow.  Feb. 1, 1683, land is deeded to Joseph Dow of Salisbury, a piece of ground of 20 acres, as it was laid out to Mr. Francis Dowe. Timothy Lindall, gent, carried on an extensive merchandizing business from Boston, and was agent for a number of English land holders.  Joseph Dow was our ad, the first Quaker Dow.  This twenty acres was one of nine purchases made by him when the Hampton Quakers were secretly planning to come to Seabrook, an uninhabited region and a semi-isolated refuge.


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