Friends & Family: Samuel & Henry Smith

Reading Anna Winterbottom’s Hybrid Knowledge in the East India Company World has resulted in me focusing on the Smith family.  Samuel Smith was probably Thomas Bowrey’s uncle by marriage. It is likely that he was married to Elizabeth Bowrey.

On 27 December 1666, Samuel Smith, mariner of Stepney, gave power of attorney to his wife, Elizabeth. It is likely that he was about to depart on a voyage to the East Indies because we next hear of him in Bombay (present day Mumbai). On 6 October 1668, the officers of the East India Company at Bombay wrote to the factory at Surat that work on the new fortifications were progressing well under the direction of Captain Samuel Smith.

As few months later, it becomes clear that Smith had decided to settle down ashore as an engineer and has asked his wife to join him because, on 17 February, Elizabeth passes her power of attorney jointly to her brother, John Bowrey, and Philip Gardiner, apothecary of Wapping. She describes her husband as Samuel Smith late of Stepney and now Resident in Bombay in the East Indies.

Unfortunately, they had little or no time together in Bombay because, on 6 October 1669, our deceased friend Capt. Smith … departed this life the night past of a flux. At this stage, I have found no further mention of Elizabeth in the records. She may have died in India or, perhaps, remarried and stayed on with her new husband. On 26 November, the officers at Surat wrote: As for the women that are come hither, wee thinke fit to keepe them on the Company’s charge, till disposed of, for we must not suffer them to wante, but wee expect your further order”.  Without further research, the meaning of this statement is unclear. However, it is possible that potential European wives had been sent out to the new settlement of Bombay. Is it possible that Elizabeth had accompanied them as chaperone?

Henry Smith has been assumed to have been Samuel’s younger brother. Richard Carnac Temple describes him as an obvious ne’er-do-well who was sent home from India for being useless and ended up in Newgate prison, possibly on a charge of piracy. It is believed that Bowrey helped him at this time and later, during the aftermath of the Worcester crisis, travelled to Edinburgh to act on Bowrey’s behalf. Henry’s diary from that period survives in Bowrey’s papers.

The week after next, I have a research trip to the School of Oriental and African Studies to investigate Henry Smith’s connection to Bowrey’s Malay-English Dictionary. (Thanks to Anna Winterbottom for pointing me at this material of which I was previously unaware.)

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