Charles Patrick and Elizabeth Hogg Rowley’s third child, Robert (Bob) Rowley was born on 25 July 1860. As a youth, his behavior caught the attention of lawmen in San Antonio. On October 10, 1877, the San Antonio Express wrote, “A devilish youngster, Bob Rowley, created a disturbance in the eastern part of the city yesterday, and took flight to evade arrest.” When the Rowleys moved to their Wilson County farm, Bob’s penchant for violent and reckless behavior grew.
Our search for the Rowleys ended on a narrow county road west of La Vernia, Texas. Through a leafless stand of mesquites, we could see stone markers, the ruins of an old cemetery. An inscription engraved in granite confirmed an elusive piece to our current puzzle; the location of the graves of Charles Patrick Rowley and his wife Elizabeth Hogg Rowley in the 19th century settlement of Sandy Hills.
As one travels west from La Vernia, in the Cibolo valley, into the oak covered sand hills, the land rises over a hundred feet and then gently undulates into rolling hills. In the 19th century, old Texans and new immigrants lived on small farms scattered among these hills. The celebrated potter, Isaacs Suttles, lived in the area. Captain Joseph N. Dornstin, the first Polish settler and Republic of Texas Ranger to come to the area, lived in Sandy Hills. Charles Patrick Rowley settled his family on a farm in the area.
The first clues to the existence of Sandy Hills and its residents were found among the ancient records of the Annunciation Church in St. Hedwig. The priests diligently recorded baptisms, marriages, and burials of their parishioners. Each entry included the parishioner’s place of residence. The location, Sandy Hills, was used in reference to the settlement immediately west of present day La Vernia.
Unlike the more general term “sand hills”, which refers to the vast expanse of sand that rises in far southeast Bexar County and covers much of Wilson County, “Sandy Hills” was used as a specific reference. Like its nearby neighbor, the African Doseido settlement, the Sandy Hills settlement is a lost place, known only to those who would follow the clues hidden in stories and dusty old records.
According to the research of Ms. Imogene Baurle Moore of Austin, Charles Patrick Rowley was born in Waterford, Ireland and as a young man came to the U. S. in 1847. He married Elizabeth Hogg in Baltimore, Maryland on September 4, 1849. On July 12, 1854, in New York, Charles enlisted in the U. S. Army. He was sent to Florida where he served with the artillery in the Seminole Indian War.
On December 12, 1859, he was discharged from the army at Ft. Clark in Texas. The Rowleys settled in San Antonio. The Civil War drew Charles back to military service. He served with Van Dorn’s Texas Light Artillery of the Confederacy.
In 1870, the Rowleys lived in San Antonio; Charles worked as a hostler. Their children were Andrew, Mary, Robert, William, and George. In 1875, the Rowleys bought 110 acres of land west of La Vernia from Owen Shaw, Captain of the Texas Rangers, and settled there with their family.
The Rowley’s third child, Robert (Bob) Rowley was born on 25 July 1860. As a youth, his behavior caught the attention of lawmen in San Antonio. On October 10, 1877, the San Antonio Express wrote, “A devilish youngster, Bob Rowley, created a disturbance in the eastern part of the city yesterday, and took flight to evade arrest.”
When the Rowleys moved to their Wilson County farm, Bob’s penchant for violent and reckless behavior grew. He chose as his companions, young men of like character from the nearby communities of Cottage Hill, Mount Olive, and Kicaster. A brutal gang, they threatened and assaulted local citizens with impunity.