LETTERS FROM THE RANCH | SteamboatToday.com


— Dear Bertha,

Not until you asked for more information about my mother’s family did I realize how much I didn’t know about my mother’s side of the family! In fact, it is possible that you know more about some of these people than I do, for our little coal-mining town of Cincinnati, Iowa, where you and I were school mates those many long years ago was (and is) made up largely of coal miners from England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland and everyone there seems to be related to most everyone else in the community.

Well, when I started trying to find answers to the many questions that came up, I contacted my cousin, Clarissa Eileen Woodburn, to help me out.

Eileen (she goes by her middle name) proved to be the best possible source of information. Eileen had (a few years past) spent a year teaching school in Ayrshire, Scotland (where the Bowies came from) and for part of that year had her mother (my Aunt Jenny) there with her to show her exactly where the family lived while she (Jenny) was growing up. She had all sorts of interesting and informative stories to tell some of which I plan to share with you. Not only that, but Eileen has access to heaps of family history as recorded in the old Bowie family Bible.

This family history starts with the birth of my grandfather, William Bowie, Jan. 1, 1824, and my grandmother, Helen Stuart, born Dec. 12, 1829. They were married Dec. 31, 1847. And, of course, the Bible also contains a record of the births and deaths of the children born to this couple, and the ultimate demise of the parents themselves.

Eileen has supplied me with a copy of vital statistics from the Bible as well as notes on her own memories and observations. Some of Eileen’s notes reflect stories shared by her mother (my Aunt Jenny).

In the 26-year period from 1848 to 1875, there were 13 births. Seven of these 13 children lived to adulthood; six died at ages ranging from a few months up to 9 years.

William (my grandfather father of 13) died at age 61 in 1886. Those who died short of adulthood were Margaret, William, another Margaret, Annie, John and a second John. My Aunt Jean died at age 33. She died in childbirth when little Jean was prematurely born at less than 2 pounds. Little Jean lived to a ripe old age.

A second William (my father) was born in 1858. Father started work in the coal mines near Kilmarnock, Scotland, at a very young age, about 10 I think. When Uncle Davie became old enough to “work out,” he joined his older brother in the mines, but after several years of work in the mines, Davie contracted tuberculosis from which he never recovered.

The mines at Kilmarnock were too far from the Bowie family’s home the “Peace and Plenty cottages” along the “auld” road between the village of Ayr and Kilmarnock for Will to commute to the mines, so he took up lodging at a boarding house in Kilmarnock. The old woman who ran the boarding house insisted that if Will was old enough to work in the mines that he should smoke tobacco (as all miners smoke). Father, however, disliked smoking and never became addicted to the habit.



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