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:

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 ————-

Susan R. Vinson Howell (1848-1910)

Source cleanup for Susan R. Vincent 
Sometimes you know that you have done wrong. I had a lot of information regarding Susan R. Vincent/Vinson and as I looked at her information I saw that many of my sources were missing and were cited poorly in other cases. Much of what I had was done on Ancestry years ago and the citations pointed to Ancestry.Com, but didn’t have enough detail for someone without access to my Family Tree Maker or without access to my tree on Ancestry to access find the information. Not good. So, I decided to clean up my sources and make sure that they stand on their own. I left the links that Ancestry puts in to the source document but I also added a copy of the document into the attached media. I set the media to “private” because I don’t care to have my copies of the data uploaded back to Ancestry. I really hate it when I do a search on someone and the search results include other people’s copies of census pages. I also wish that Ancestry wouldn’t return things I’ve posted in my searches, or I wish that at least they’d give me a button to turn that off. So anyway, for Susan I cleaned up my sources, changed my preferred name for her from Vincent to Vinson, and did some more research to add a bit more detail into what I know about her life.

Bio – Susan R. Vinson Howell (1848-1910)

No Story too Small 

Susan R Vinson was the third child of John and Lenora Busbee (possibly Beasley) Vinson in Halifax County, North Carolina, on 22 August 1848.[i] The only source for this date is her grave marker, however, the date is consistent with the 1850, 1860, and 1900 Census records. I have been unable to find her or her husband Peter F. Howell in the 1870 Census. The 1880 Census indicates that she was 33 and she should have been 31 at that census date. I believe this to just be an error in that census.

In the 1850 Census, she and her family were listed with the surname “Vincent” and were living in Halifax County, North Carolina. The 1850 Census does not describe relationships, however, it appears that their family consisted of both her parents, her siblings, Virginia and Elizabeth, and an aunt, Eliza Beasley. It also appears that her grandmother Elizabeth Vincent (Vinson) and another aunt, Nancy Vincent (Vinson) lived next door. Her father was farming the land.[ii]

Halifax County
Courtesy: Wikimedia

There is a name change for her mother in the 1860 Census, from Lenora to Ellenior [Eleanor?] and a change in birth years from c. 1818 to c. 1825, which indicates to me a different wife. There is also a four-year gap between Susan and her next younger brother, James. Because of this, I believe that Susan had a stepmother and the rest of her siblings were half siblings. The 1860 Census also indicates the family surname as Vinson and that they were living in the “Western District,” Halifax County. (Again note the 1860 Census does not indicate relationships within the household.) Their post office was Weldon, which probably was the closest town.

I am sure that the Civil War was a difficult time for a young teenage girl. Shortly after the war, on 10 Dec 1866, the 18 year old young woman married Peter Fletcher Howell. Peter was a CSA Veteran who, although from Halifax County, had joined up in Virginia to be part of Virginia’s 61st Infantry Regiment. As might be expected, 10 months later they had their first child, Anna Lee [or Annalee] on 8 October 1867.

(I have been unable to find the family in the 1870 Census.)

There is a six-year gap between Anna Lee and John D. That would make me think that there may have been another child born to Susan between 1868 and 1872, however, the 1900 Census indicates that she had five children all of whom are living. So, now I am really confused because I’m pretty sure that she had seven children.

Snapshot of 1900 Census showing Susan R Howell as having 5 Children

Anna Lee         8 Oct 1867
John D              about 1873
Augusta            about 1875
Martha F           about 1877
James D            2 Sep 1879
David B            3 Oct 1881
G. C.                 — Feb 1884

I speculate, that she had more than the five children noted in the 1900 census and that she actually had eight children, three of whom had passed before 1900. I certainly need to do more research to prove this speculation.

During the 1880 Census, they are living in Faucetts [Faucett] Halifax County, North Carolina, USA. Susan is keeping house for Peter and their first five children.[iii] In 1886, her oldest daughter, Anna Lee was married.

(There is no 1890 Census, so we aren’t sure where the Howells were then.)

In 1892, Susan had mail that was unclaimed at the Weldon Post Office.[iv] I believe this is evidence that the Howells moved to Conocondy [Conoconnara] township before 1892. Certainly, they are in Conocondy during the 1900 Census.[v]

Her son, David Bushrod Howell, was married on 26 December 1907.

Marker for Susan R Vinson
wife of P. F. Howell
Courtesy: Find a Grave

Susan R Vinson Howell died in her home in Tillery (which is Connoconnara township) the night of 28 Feb 1910,[vi] probably sometime after midnight early in the morning of March 1st.[vii] Her body was shipped by train from Tillery to Weldon[viii] (approximately 17 miles). Her funeral was “held at the Baptist Church,” conducted by pastor, Rev. J. G. Blalock.[ix] Today there are four Baptist Churches in Weldon. Further research is necessary to determine which church the funeral was held at. Interment was at Cedarwood cemetery.[x]

Susan R Vinson Howell led a simple life. She was the daughter of a Halifax County farmer, married a Civil War veteran who farmed the land in Halifax County after the war, She had fat least five and probably 8 children, and died at age 61 in Halifax County as simple farmer’s wife.

List of Greats

Susan A Vinson
John Vincent

Things to do

Search for a timely and/or primary source for Susan’s birth.
Research Susan R. Vinson Howell’s children closely for a missing 8th child and for the deaths of several of the children before 1900.
Research which of the Baptist Churches Susan’s funeral was held at.


[i] FInd-A-Grave,
Memorial# 82126013 – Susan R Vinson Howell.
[ii] 1850 United States
Federal Census Ancestry.Com,
1850; Census Place:  , Halifax, North
Carolina; Roll: M432_633; Page: 34A; Image: 73.
[Family 636   – John Vincent
[iii] 1880 United States
Federal Census, Ancestry.Com,
1880; Census
Place: Faucetts, Halifax, North Carolina; Roll: 966; Family
History Film: 1254966; Page: 627C; Enumeration
District: 137; Image: 0720. Family 175.
[iv] Roanoke News
(Weldon, NC, ), Newspapers.Com, 1892-04-28, Pg 5
–  Unclaimed Letters.
[v] 1900 United States
Federal Census, Ancestry.Com, 1900; Census
Place: Conocondy, Halifax, North Carolina; Roll: 1199; Page: 2B; Enumeration
District: 0027; FHL microfilm: 1241199. Howell, P. F.
[vi] Roanoke News
(Weldon, NC, ), Newspapers.Com, 1910-03-03, Pg 3
– P. F. Howell.
[vii] FInd-A-Grave,
Memorial# 82126013 – Susan R Vinson Howell.
[viii] Roanoke News
(Weldon, NC, ), Newspapers.Com, 1910-03-03, Pg 3
– P. F. Howell.
[x] FInd-A-Grave,
Memorial# 82126013 – Susan R Vinson Howell.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – Disclaimer – – – – – – – – – – – –

Veterans Day – 11/11/2013 – Howells & Darlings

Veterans Day – 11/11/2013 – The Howells & Darlings

General Frank Alton Armstrong
Official USAF Photo
The Howell/Hobbs line has had many in the military.  Certainly, the most famous of them is Greybeard’s 1st cousin, Frank Alton Armstrong. During World War II, Col. Armstrong led bombing missions over Germany, which were the basis for a book, movie, and a TV program, “Twelve O’Clock High.” After VE day, he flew many additional missions over Japan. After the war, General Armstrong pioneered a nonstop air routes from Alaska to Norway and Alaska to New York. 
In terms of direct ancestors in the Howell/Hobbs line has three veterans that I have identified so far.

Robert Bryan (1736-1794) – Revolutionary War – 5th Great Grandfather.
James Ashley Hobbs (1844-1920) – Civil War (South) – Great-Grandfather.
Peter Fletcher Howell (1842-1924) – Civil War (South) – Great Grandfather

Robert Bryan (1736-1794) – Revolutionary War – 5th Great Grandfather.

North Carolina
“Don’t Tread on Me” Flag
“Robert Bryan … assisted in establishing American Independence, while acting in the capacity of Private, N.C. Militia. Several Ladies have DAR Numbers for him. Per – Sara Long Johnson)
Robert Bryan died 3 April 1784. We do not know his burial location. 

DAR Ancestor #A016279

Sources: Martin County Heritage – [Biography] 89 – John Bryan Family by Sara Long Johnson.
Daughters of the American Revolution: Member # 517846 – Ancestor # A016279

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

David Swazey (1762-1828) – Revolutionary War – Fourth Great Grandfather.

Fort Mercer (New Jersey)
Revolutionary War Flag
David Swazey of Sussex fought in the Revolutionary War. His service was as a private under various Captains including McKinney, Hazelet, Henry, Bonnel, and Captain Ribble.  His pension number is S*W6111

David Swayze died on 2 March 1838. He is buried in
New Salem Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, Salem, Perry County, Ohio (Plot: Old Section Row 8 ( Ruth ) / 15th stone from tree line.) 

DAR Ancestor #: A111692
Please consider leaving virtual flowers and a note on his Find-a-Grave virtual marker.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – 

James Ashley Hobbs (1844-1920) – Civil War (South) – Great-Grandfather.

North Carolina Civil War Flag
James A. Hobbs enlisted, for the Civil War in Co. G 3rd Reg. N.C. Calvalry (12-1-1862) (41st State Troops) at Camp Badger as a Pvt., age 20, residing in Martin County. Present or accounted for until transferred to Co. A, 17th Reg, NCT (2nd organization) 9-23-1863.
Pvt. James Hobbs with the 17th NCT, whose home was Hamilton, NC was admitted to Hospital No 4, Wilmington, NC, on 12-6-1863; retd to duty 2-9-64. He was admitted for catarrtius, which is an inflammation of the nose or throat.  It must have been really bad to keep him hospitalized for two months. He was in Ward 8, bed 162.

Scene from Wilmington, NC Hospital
Courtesy of Hanover Genelogical Society 

Applied for clothing 2nd quarter 184, issued 6-21-64. Present or accounted for through 10-1864. Sept-Oct absent. Division Provost guard service. Pt. J.A. Hobbs appeared on “Roll of Honor” of his organization. (Resolutions ratified by General Assenbkt 12-20-1862)

COMPANY G, the “Scotland Neck Mounted Riflemen,” from Halifax County, had six commissioned, seven noncommissioned officers, and 108 privates; total, 121. Atherton B. Hill, who was made Captain 9 October, 1861, was succeeded by Benj. G. Smith promoted from Second Sergeant. First Lieutenant, Norfleet Smith; Second Lieutenants, George A. Higgs (afterwards promoted to Captain), Theodore B. Hyman, and John T. Savage.

James Ashley Hobbs died in December 1920. We do not know where he was buried.

Source:  Martin County Heritage – (Biography) 418 – James Ashley Hobbs by Hazel Armstrong Valentine.
– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Peter Fletcher Howell (1842-1924) – Civil War – Great Grandfather

Flag of Lee’s Army of
Northern Virginia
1861 – Peter Fletcher Howell enlisted on 23 October at the Sussex Court House in Virginia.
1862 – In May he was promoted to full 4th Sergeant.
1862 – In August he was Transferred to Company G. Virginia 61st Infantry Regiment.
1862 – In July he was promoted to full 2nd Sergeant.
1864 – In July he fought at “The Crater” where Sargent Peter Howell  captured the regimental flag of the 2nd Michigan Regiment.  He was with Mahone’s regiment and his participation at “The Crater” confirms oral history that he probably did participate in a “turkey shoot” of US troops.
1865 – In Feb he was promoted to full 1st Sergeant. 
1865 – He mustered out on April 9th at Appomattox, VA.

Peter Fletcher Howell died on 27 October 1924.  He is buried in Cedarwood Cemetery, Weldon, Halifax County, North Carolina, USA. Please consider leaving virtual flowers and a note on his Find-a-Grave virtual marker.  

Sources: Ancestry.Com — Historical Data Systems, comp.. U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2009.

Original data: Data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA from the following list of works.

The Daily Dispatch: August 3, 1864., via Perseus system at Tufts University.

Find a Grave entry for Sgt Peter F Howell

Robert Harry Darling (1907-1969) – World War II – Maternal Grandfather

US Navy Flag
Robert Harry Darling, aka Harry, served in the US Navy during World War II.  Little is known about his service as many records of service were lost in a fire.  We do know enlisted in the Navy on 23 November, 1943, in Salt Lake City, Utah, when he was 36 years old for two years.  He served at the Navel Training Center, San Diego and the US Naval Hospital in San Diego, CA. 
Oddly enough, he was honorably discharged on 08 Sep 1944, less than a year into his enlistment as a Seaman 2nd Class. (So, he received one promotion.) 
Robert Harry Darling died on 22 January 1969.  He is buried in Cadillac Memorial Gardens-East, Clinton Township, Macomb County, Michigan, USA.

Please consider leaving virtual flowers and a note on his Find-a-Grave virtual marker.   

Source: Find-a-Grave marker for Robert Harry Darling