Rebecca was born on November 27, 1770 in Dutchess County, New York, the second of six children born to Michael and Nancy (Vaughn) Nowlin. The Nowlins immigrated to Dutchess County in the 1850s and first appear on the 1790 census for Frederickstown, New York under the name Nowland.
According to the story dictated by Jonas J. McCargar, when Thomas McCargar left Sarah he moved to Rochester, New York and met Rebecca. This assumption was probably based on the fact that Rebecca and children eventually settled in that area; however, Rochester would have been an unlikely destination at that time since that area was still a wild, unorganized, Indian Territory not fit for white people. Further, Rebecca would have still been living with her parents in Frederickstown, which makes Dutchess County a more likely destination for Thomas.
Thomas and Rebecca must have gotten together on or before August 1784 to account for the birth of their first son, Joseph, on April 8, 1785. A note of interest: if we have Rebecca’s birth date correct then she would have been at least four months pregnant on her 14th birthday. We do have conformation of their marriage from the Nowlin-Stone history (compiled in 1916), which shows that Rebecca was married to Thomas McKargar (sp) and that they had two boys, Joseph and William. The history also correctly identifies (with some minor spelling deviations) Joseph’s wife and their seven children; and five of William’s six children.
There is an unconfirmed family story that Thomas and Rebecca also had a girl in 1789 or 1790. The census records of the day (despite the fact that they only listed the names of the family heads) seem to lend support this rumor. The 1790 New York census record for Rebecca's father lists three males over 16, three males under 16 and four females. From the Nowlin-Stone genealogy, we know that Michael Nowlin's family in 1790 should have been himself, his wife Nancy, four boys (William, age 22; John, age 19; James, age 15; Bardine, age 10) and one girl (Polly, age 13). This leaves unaccounted two females and one male under 16. We believe this was Rebecca, Joseph (age 5), and the unknown girl. While the 1800 census shows Rebecca and the boys living separately from her father, there is still an additional girl (under 10) enumerated with her parents. It is unlikely that this unidentified girl was a daughter of Michael since he and his wife would have been in their 50s at the time of her birth. It seems more likely that Rebecca's daughter was staying with Grandpa and Grandma.
Sometime between April and November 1790, Rebecca and Thomas parted ways. Family lore had Rebecca deferring to Thomas's first wife, Sarah, and returning to her family. This would have required a two to three week journey for her and her two young children. A much less romantic, but more realistic, version of the story would have Thomas leaving Rebecca in Dutchess County (then pregnant with William), and traveling by himself to Whitehall where we believe he reunited with Sarah (he may have gone to Halifax first if he did not know that Sarah had already moved).
Rebecca gave birth to William in 1790, presumably in Dutchess County, New York.
The 1800 census for Frederick, Dutchess County, New York (the town changed its name from Frederickstown in 1795) lists Rebecca McCargar as head of the house with two boys--one between 10 and 16 (Joseph) and the one under 10 (William). The census record also shows her being surrounded by Knowlans. Although the spelling is different (it may be an enumerator's version of Nowlin), the first names match that of her father and her two oldest brothers.
The 1810 census for Frederick has Rebecca (age 45+) living alone but not far from her son Joseph. Also in the same area is Rebecca’s father Michael Nowland (another enumerator’s interpretation), her brother John Nowland, and her sister-in-law Rachel Nowland (her brother William’s widow).
By 1820, Rebecca and her son Joseph had moved to the Cayuga, New York area, and that year’s census has Rebecca (age 45+) living in Joseph’s household.
The 1830 census for Shelby, Orleans County, New York has Rebecca still living with Joseph, her age between 60 and 70.
The 1840 census for Joseph doesn’t show Rebecca living with him, but we think that the enumerator may have made an error and recorded her on the wrong line (there is an older woman listed on the line just above). This is the only census between 1820 and 1850 where Rebecca is not shown living with her son.
The 1850 census for Shelby has Rebecca back with Joseph, now age 84 and blind. The age is incorrect--she would have been 80.
Rebecca died on May 27, 1852, and is buried in the Shelby Center Cemetery near her son Joseph and four of her grandchildren. Rebecca’s grave marker has been broken, with the bottom half still in the graveyard while the top half was last known to reside in a garage in Arizona. Her headstone was inscribed with “Wife of Thomas and mother of Joseph”.