Friday, November 22, 2019

Eli Bowman and Family, Dayton, Iowa 1913

Written on the back: "Mr + Mrs Abraham Bowman. Oct 4. 1913"
 I believe this photo was sent by Eli to his father and stepmother back in Indiana.
Eli Emery Bowman was born in Hagerstown, Indiana in 1873 to Abraham and Louisa Bowman. Abraham and Louisa were both of the Dunkard faith and were baptized into the Church of the Brethren in 1863. Abraham was a deacon in the church before becoming a minister and eventually, an elder. Eli was the youngest of their six children, including older brothers Oliver, Daniel, Charles, William, and Abraham Jr. Eli tragically lost his oldest brother when he was 7. In 1880, 18-year-old Oliver was returning home from helping with the harvest when he suffered an epileptic seizure, fell into a water-filled ditch, and drowned. Three years later, tragedy struck the Bowmans again when the family fell ill with the measles. The children all recovered but their mother did not. Abraham remarried soon after Louisa's death to Elizabeth Mahoney, with whom he had two children, Albert and Mary Ethel. When Elizabeth died in 1889, Abraham was married a third and final time to Catharine Hoover.

Written on the back: "Ethel Allred's picture. All Bowmans picture."
Ethel was Eli's half-sister. Unfortunately the individuals in this photo are not identified.
In 1893, a notice in the Hagerstown Exponent announced the marriage of 20-year-old Eli to a Miss Letha Ann Scott. Eli and Letha had one daughter, Lola, born in 1894. A few years later, the couple separated, and Lola stayed with her mother. I wasn't able to find any official record of a divorce, which would have been uncommon at the time, but in 1899 they both married other people: Letha to a Mr. Lewis Wrightsman, and Eli to Luetta Mae Shields.

Eli had met Luetta, or Louie, in Dallas County, Iowa, where he had moved the year before. According to the Hagerstown Exponent, Eli was "getting along famously" having "struck Iowa practically without a dollar, determined to carve out his own fortune." He began as a farmhand and saved his money until he could purchase a farm of his own. The paper describes Louie as "one of Dallas County's finest young ladies, who has proven herself a helpmeet indeed." Eli and Louie's first child, Ralph, was adopted. They went on to have two more children, daughters Edna and Ruth. The Bowmans did not stay put in Iowa for long. In 1908, they moved to Wyoming, where Eli had purchased 320 acres of land near the town of Egbert. Perhaps the Bowmans were not quite as fortunate in Wyoming as they had been Iowa, as they returned to Iowa not long after. In the 1915 Iowa State Census, they are living in Dayton, where this photograph was taken.

In 1920, Eli, Louie, and Ruth are living in Des Moines. Eli is working at a brickyard, while 15-year-old Ruth has gotten a job as a "saleslady" at a grocery store. By this point, Ralph and Edna had moved out. Edna married Martin Wolff in 1918 and soon moved in with his family in Grove, Iowa. After serving in the army between 1918 and 1919, Ralph went to Sugar Grove, Iowa to work on the farm of his aunt and uncle, Mary and Edward Shields. He married Estella Britton in 1922. It wasn't long before the youngest Bowman, Ruth, was married herself. She married Frank Anthony Barber in 1923. Ruth didn't go far, however, as she and her husband, as well as their 5-year-old daughter Mary Lou, are living with the Bowmans in 1930. Eli, at 57, is now a watchman for a heating company. Ruth's husband is a clerk at a cigar store, while she works as a "comptometrist" at a packing house, meaning she worked a mechanical calculator.

Eli and Louie lived out the rest of their lives in Des Moines, though Eli did return home to his family in Indiana for special occasions. Eli worked up until three weeks before his death. He died of heart problems on December 7th, 1945, at the age of 72. According to his obituary, he left behind a wife, three children, twelve grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Louie followed him in 1947.

If you know who this family may be, let us know in the comments!