Howell – Surname Saturday

By Don Taylor


According to the Ancestry.Com, there are two main sources for the Howell surname. The first one is Welsh, coming from the Welsh personal name “Hywel” meaning ‘eminent.’ The second one is that Howell is an English habitational name coming from an Old English ‘hugol’ meaning ‘mound’ or ‘hillock.’ In particular, it has come to be a habitational name from Howell, Linconshire.[i]

Forebears indicates that it probably derives from an old Welsh word, hoew meaning ‘alert’ or ‘sprightly.’[ii]  The most famous historical bearer of this name was a 10th century Welsh prince, Howell Da.

I have not been successful in determining an immigrant ancestor in the Howell line to confirm the likely origin of this line, however, family oral history indicated they are of Welsh descent.


The United States has the most incidents of the Howell surname. There are over 123,000 incidences of the surname in the United States, and only 172,000 worldwide or to say it another way, about 72% of the individuals named Howell live in the United States. The highest frequency of Howell’s in any country is Jamaica, with 1 in 989 having the Howell surname.

The 1920 Census indicates that the greatest number of Howells lived in New York. Likewise the largest number Howells lived in New York during the 1880 and 1840 censuses.[iii]

Howell Ancestors

Peter M. Howell

My wife’s Howell ancestors were in Virginia in the late 1700s. In the mid-1800s they located to North Carolina and in the mid-1900s her branch moved to Maine.

My wife’s earliest known Howell ancestor is probably James Howell. I’m not confident that he was Peter M Howell’s father, but he was in the right place at the right time and died about 1817 when Peter M Howell’s father died. If correct, James Howell would be my wife’s third great-grandfather.

Peter M. Howell is my wife’s 2nd great-grandfather.  He was born in Buckingham County, Virginia.  He married in Cumberland County, Virginia, and died in North Carolina. He was an itinerate preacher. He published a book, The Life and Travels of Peter Howell, in the 1840s that chronicled his life. The book had an illustration of Peter Howell, which is the earliest image that I have of any ancestor.

Peter Fletcher Howell

Peter Fletcher Howell is my wife’s great-grandfather. He was born in Buckingham County, Virginia, but lived most of his life in Halifax County, North Carolina. He was a civil war veteran (CSA). He fought at “The Crater” and many other battles.

James Dallis Howell was my wife’s grandfather. He was born in Halifax County, North Carolina. He too was a preacher and lived most of his life in North Carolina, although he died in Maryland.

My wife’s father, Clarence Fletcher “Pete” Howell, was also born and raised in North Carolina. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and became an engineer. He located to Washington, DC in 1939 and lived there until the 1950s. In the 1960s he moved to Maine where he started several businesses that continue to this day. Pete passed in 1999.


James Dallas Howell

In hopes of a breakthrough in the Howell ancestor research, Jerome Howell has taken a Y-DNA test. His nearest Y-DNA matches are surnamed “Howle,” but no link between the families has been discovered. It appears that the common ancestor between them is more than five generations ago and, apparently, before a Howell/Howle surname split. The Howle line ancestors were in South Carolina in the 1780s while the Howell line ancestors were in Virginia at that time.

Known relatives.

My records have 138 direct-line descendants of James Howell identified over eight generations. This is about 5% of my Howell-Darling research.


[i] Ancestry.Com – Howell Family History – Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press. See:

[ii] Forebears – Howell surname and meaning – Source: Surnames of the United Kingdom (1912) by Henry Harrison – See:

[iii] Ancestry.Com – Howell Family History – Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press. See:

J. D. Howell – Beulaville Minister 1917 & 1918

Howell-Darling Research
Howell Line

“Pete” Howell was born in Limestone Township, Duplin County, North Carolina on 10 Oct 1918. At the time of his birth, we know that his father, James Dallas (J.D.) Howell was a minister in Beulaville. (Beulaville is a town within Limestone township.)  I knew that his father’s tenure at the Baptist Church was short, but I never knew how long it was for sure. We know that Pete’s next older brother Frank Armstrong Howell was born in 1916 in Bladen County, NC, and his sister, Mary Elizabeth was born in 1925 in Onslow County, North Carolina. So, J.D.’s time in Beulaville must have been less than 9 years.

October 9 and 10, 1917

The Minutes of the Annual Sessions of the Eastern Baptist Association provide the answer and, luckily, it is available through Archives.Org[i]. According to the Minutes,

  • In 1916, J. G. Bostic was the pastor at Beulaville.
  • In 1917, J. D. Howell was the pastor at Beulaville.
  • In 1918, J. D. Howell was the pastor at Beulaville.
  • In 1919, Geo. W. White was the pastor at Beulaville.

Beulaville was a self-sustaining congregation. Brother Howell also preached at “Cedar Fork, Hallsville, Springfield, Sharon, and some other stations at school houses.”[ii] During 1916-1917, his church gained 6 individuals by baptism and lost four, three by letter and 1 by death.  Membership was 118, 65 men and 53 women.

James Dallas Howell

James Dallas Howell attended the Seventy-Fourth Annual Session of the Eastern Association, held with the Baptist Church at Piney Grove, Duplin County, N. C. on October 9 and 10, 1917

He is mentioned on several pages of the minutes of the proceedings.

During that first year at the Annual Session, J. D. Howell addressed the Association regarding the Layman’s Movement, the temperance movement and the Report on the Biblical Recorder.[iii] He spoke to the assembly regarding “Time for your best.”[iv]

Church gained 6 individuals by Baptism and lost four, three by letter and 1 by death.  Membership was 118, 65 men and 53 women.

October 29, 1918

J.D. Howell attended the Annual Session a second time in 1918. He had been very busy working on the Laymen’s Movement Committee.[v]  Brother Howell also worked for the Executive Committee for the year 1917-1918. He resigned from that position in 1918[vi]

As Laymen’s Movement Committee Chair, he reported on the Laymen’s Movement.


The day has been when the idea generally prevailed that the work of the Sunday Schools and churches was only appropriate for and should be left in the hands of women and children. That was the once prevalent idea with regards Kingdom building for the Master. We are mighty glad to say that that day has passed in many sections. Indeed we are fast coming to realize that Sunday Schools and church work – the work of Kingdom building – is the work of our clear-headed, progressive thinking business men. It is a man-sized job, for the best we have in our midst.
The Laymen’s Movement has possibly done as much or more to bring about that change as any other agency. They have done a great work, but their task is not yet finished. In some places they have scarcely touched the hem of the garment. There is a great deal yet to be done in securing the progressive co-operation of our leading business men, with or without the pastor, for the doing of several things, viz.:

  1. Taking an annual inventory of your assets in the individual churches to see what you have to do business on that year for the Lord, make an every-member canvass.
  2. Instituting systematic giving to all the needs of the Kingdom, (if they are farmers, prepare in Fall so they can give all the year).
  3. Learning for ourselves and teaching others that the tithe is a means of contributing to the Master, and enables us to help in saving the world.

Since these things are vitally essential to the proper growth and development of the Kingdom in our Association, and since I am quite sure the people would be more ready to follow the lead of laymen along these lines; therefore, be it resolved,

That the Association ask the Executive Committee to put on foot as early in this Associational year as practicable a campaign of that nature over the whole Association, utilizing the best material possible among the laymen, both in and outside the Association to successfully carry out this plan.

D. HOWELL.[vii]

During his 1918 tenure, his Beulaville church report showed the church gained seven members by letter, and lost two by exclusion and 1 by death finishing the year with 123 members.  The Pastor’s salary was $300/year.


[i] The Minutes of the Annual Sessions of the Eastern Baptist Association 1911-1920 via Wake Forest University, The Z. Smith Reynolds Library – Digitized and available online through Archive.Org.
[ii] Ibid. October 9 and 10, 1917 – Page 7.
[iii] Ibid. October 9 and 10, 1917 – Page 9.
[iv] Ibid. October 9 and 10, 1917 – Page 13.
[v] Ibid. October 29, 1918, Page 7.
[vi] Ibid. October 29, 1918 , Page 10.
[vii] Ibid. October 29, 1918 – Page 13.

100 Years ago – The Howells of North Carolina.

James Dallas Howell – c.1905
Source: The Howler

James Dallas Howell (1789-1964) & Mary Lillian Hobbs (1885-1964)

In 1915, James Dallas Howell and his wife, Mary Lillian (nee Hobbs) were living in Clarkton, Bladen County, North Carolina. The household consisted of the couple and their two oldest sons, three year-old James Dallas Howell, Jr. and one year-old Ashley Long Howell. James was 36 years-old and Lillian, was 30.

Rev. Howell was a minister at Pastor at Clarkton Baptist Church. 

Internationally, the “Great War” was in full swing in Europe but the United States was still natural. Germany began “unrestricted” submarine war and German mines sunk two US ships, the SS Carib on February 23rd, resulting in 3 lives lost, and the SS Evelyn sunk on February 19th with 1 life lost.[1]

Local sports highlighted the local newspapers of the day. An upset of the Freshman basketball team over the Sophomore basketball in a 12 to 10 contest was the top story in the Daily Tar Hill newspaper Feb 25, 1915. It is so hard for me to comprehend a basketball game with a final score of 12 to 10. How times have changed. Also on the front page of the paper, Virginia beat Carolina 43-26 the previous Thursday. [2]  An ad for Velvet Tobacco, touted the tobacco as being satisfaction in either corn cobb or meerschaum pipes, giving testimony that Velvet made everyone equal regardless of economic class.[3]

Clipping of an Advertisement for Velvet pipe tobacco.
Advertisement: Velvet Tobacco
Source: The Daily Tar Heel
Feb 25, 1915 · Page 2
Via Newspapers.Com   

James’ father, Peter Fletcher Howell,  was alive, living about 175 miles away in Weldon, Halifax County, NC. His mother had passed in 1910.

Likewise, Mary Lillian’s father, James Ashley Hobbs, was alive, living about 185 miles away in Williamston, Martin County, NC, but her mother had passed away also (in 1913).

I have a lot of research to do regarding both James’ and Mary’s siblings. I know that one James’ sisters, Anna Lee Boseman and one of his brothers, David Bushrod Howell were alive. I don’t know if his other two brothers, John D, and G. C., were alive. Nor do I know if his other two sisters, Augusta E, and Martha F. were alive.

Of Lillian’s eight siblings, three, Annie Elizabeth (Hobbs) Armstrong, Rolland Rivers Hobbs, and James Floyd Hobbs were living. Four are known to have died before 1915, George Samuel, Mattie D. Mary Emolyn, and Fannie Hobbs. I don’t know the status of her eighth known sibling, Charles Leon Hobbs .

Mary Lillian Hobbs
Source: Flikr: Debby Ziegler

Further Research:

Determine Vital information for James Dallas Howell’s siblings:

John D Howell
G. C. Howell
Augusta E. Howell
Martha F. Howell

Determine Vital information for Mary Lillian Hobbs’ [Howell] oldest sibling:

Charles Leon Hobbs


[3] The
Daily Tar Heel (Chapel Hill, North Carolina) – Feb 25, 1915 · Page 2, – Newspapers.Com

————- DISCLAIMER ————-

James Dallas Howell – Education

Follow-up regarding James Dallas Howell

James Dallas Howell
From The Howler, 1905
Wake Forest College
Courtesy: DigitalNC

After my posting of the Bio regarding James Dallas Howell, I was speaking with my mother-in-law who knew James. She mentioned that James attended Wake Forest. A quick Google search found that Digital NC had many yearbooks from Wake Forest starting with the 1903 volume. I knew that James Dallas had a congregation in 1909 so he had to have attended college before that. I also knew that he was born in 1879, so figuring he may have graduated when he was about 22; I thought he might have graduated about 1902. Oh no – hopefully he didn’t graduate the year before the available yearbooks. A search of the 1903 yearbook (The Howler) found him on page 30 in the sophomore class roll.

The 1904 volume of The Howler found him again, as expected, in the Junior Class.

Then, as I expected, the 1905 volume of The Howler was a treasure trove of information. The 1905 volume was the first volume that included individual photos of he seniors. There was a photo of James Dallas as a senior graduation with a BA. It also indicated that he had “a way of tossing [his] head as a horse reined too high, and twisting [his] body in a peculiar fashion.” Further searching found that he was a member of the “Night Hawks” He was also a member of the “Non Compos Mentis Club” Finally it indicated that he was the manager of “The Claw-Hammer Boarding Club” whose motto was, “It’s a strong stomach that has no turning.”

DigitalNC has many digitized items; major categories include Yearbooks, Newspapers, Images, Memorabilia, and City Directories. If it is not part of your North Carolina research, it should be. Check them out at

[Note: Wake Forest College was located in Wake Forest, NC until the main campus was moved to Winston-Salem, NC in 1956. It became Wake Forest University in 1967.]

Rev. James Dallas Howell in Ansonville, NC – 1828-1931

Rev. James Dallas Howell in Ansonville, NC – 1928-1931

Rev. J. D. Howell was voted to be pastor of Ansonville Baptist Church on March 25, 1928 at a regular conference the church. They voted to pay him on a monthly basis. Apparently, the church was unable to live up to its agreement because, sometime later, Mr. Kimbrough talked and asked for voluntary contributions. $54 was raised to be used for past due pastors’ salary. 
During a called conference, there were 4 churches participating in their “field.” On October 21, 1928, J.T. Curlee wrote in the minutes, “The matter of calling a pastor for another year having been discussed by the deacons of all 4 of our churches on the field; we deacons decided to have a called conference to vote whether we wanted to call Bro. Howell for another year.”  The church voted by ballot. There were 49 votes for Rev. J.D. Howell and 5 votes against him. They then voted to make the affirmative vote unanimous.
From the Associational minutes comes the following information: Ordained ministers holding  membership in Ansonville: J.A. Summey, member; J.D. Howell, pastor.
During Rev. Howell’s time at Ansonville, the church grew slowly in terms of members, Sunday School, the Baptist Young Peoples Union (BYPU), and the Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) went up each year. 
                ch. members      S.S members      BYPU           WMU
1928:      96              108      first mentioned      X
1929:      98              114             X            13
1930:     101              141            25            17
Rev. Howell left Ansonville Baptist on June 7, 1931.
The current Ansonville Baptist Church was built in 1951 
(Thanks to Google Maps)
email-Jeff Glenn to Don Taylor – 7 Sep 2013.pdf *
email-Jeff Glenn to Don Taylor – 10 Sep 2013.pdf *
Google Maps: Google Maps

* (Jeff Glenn is the pastor of Ansonville Baptist Church in Sept 2013.)

Tip/ReminderDo not be afraid to contact key individuals or organizations from your ancestor’s life.  Thanks to the generous response of the current pastor of Ansonville Baptist Church, I was able to add new information and add texture to the life of James Dallas Howell.