By Mick Woodcock
When Herbert and Phoebe Bowers were raising their family of twelve children in Greenfield, New Hampshire in the 1820s and 1830s, they had no idea that six of their sons would have an impact on America’s westward expansion. Bowers was a stonemason by occupation. He was afflicted with consumption, known today as tuberculosis, which caused his death in 1860.
Three of the Bowers’ sons, Benjamin Dexter, Herbert (named for his father), and John Taylor, left home during the gold rush to California in 1849 and were among the first settlers of Nevada City in that state. They would go on to become involved in mining and other business pursuits as the years went on.
By 1863, Herbert had followed the lure of gold to the Prescott area and was enumerated in the 1864 special census as a miner, 41 years of age, single and having a net worth of $250. The April 20, 1864 Arizona Miner noted he had been appointed Sutler to Camp Whipple and that he was on his way to California, via La Paz, to purchase goods for the business. When he returned in August, it was with his brother Nathan Barker, who was a partner with him in the business known as Bowers & Bro.
By 1865, two more brothers, George Washington and Edward Franklin, were in Prescott, looking to make a life in the new territory. Except for Herbert, who apparently had no middle initial, the others were generally referred to in the newspaper by their initials, N. B. Bowers, G. W. Bowers and E. F. Bowers. All were soon making their way in the new territory.
By 1870, the Bowers clan had grown in number according to that year’s census. Herbert was listed as 47 years of age and a post trader by occupation. There is no mention of a Mrs. Herbert Bowers in the local newspapers.
Nathan B. was by then 40, a farmer and married to Theresa A. Crist, 24, originally from Ohio. George W. was 42 and a trader by occupation. Edward F. was 45, a merchant worth $11,000 in the aggregate and married to Olive J. Ehle, 19 years of age and originally from Iowa.
The growing territory brought another Bowers to the Prescott area in 1865. This was a nephew named George. A partner with Wales Arnold in the Sutler store at Camp Verde, he was coming from there to Prescott with a small group of men when they were ambushed. The October 31, 1868 Weekly Arizona Miner gave the details. “Next day (Monday) about ten o’clock, another or the same party of Indians, attacked a party of five men, composed of George D. Bowers, Jos. C. Lennon, and three soldiers, as they were coming from Camp Lincoln to Prescott. The attack was made upon this party at a point about a mile east of the Cienega. [sic]… Poor, brave George Bowers was shot in the abdomen, and the soldier who rode behind him was shot from his mule, wounded in six places.
A subsequent article in the November 7, 1864 edition of the Weekly Arizona Miner gave further particulars, “George D. Bowers died at Camp Lincoln, in this county and territory, on Friday morning, October 30th, at 15 minutes past one o’clock…. How his mother and father will weep for the loss of their only child when the news of his death reaches them in their California home….”
Life on the Arizona frontier was difficult. George D. would not be the only Bowers to die at an early age.
Next week, Bowers & Bro.
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