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Pioneer Memories of Mary Ellen Will Bowen
As Related to Her Daughter Esther Bownen
Retyped by her great-grandson Curt Larsen November 30, 1990

In the spring of 1857, James St. Clair Will and wife (Catherine Berlin and two children, Mary and John W. started with two covered wagons--a driver, Mr. ( ) hauled the household furniture in one wagon to Parkersburg, W.Va., and the family traveled in the other wagon. They traveled by wagon as far as Parkersburg, Va., then took the boat to Keokuk, Iowa. When they left the boat at Keokuk, Grandfather loaded all of the furniture and the family on one wagon and started for Story County. Grandfather Will owned his wagon and team--a bay and a gray.

Mother was just eleven years old at this time. While they were at the hotel in Keokuk mother remembers seeing two men carrying a huge catfish--they were carrying the fish hanging from a rail on their shoulders and the fish dragged on the ground. Mother remembers that it as a beautiful time of year, the prairies were full of beautiful flowers. They had a lot of rainy weather, thunder and lightning. At night the family stopped at farm houses, but they ate their meals along the way. They would travel miles and miles without seeing a house.

When they arrived in Story County they went to George Berlin's farm (mother's stepmother's father) west of Maxwell near Schuyler's Hill. Berlin's lived in a lovely hewed log house, one of the best houses in the cuntry at that time. In about a month, Grandfather Will opened a tailor shop in Iowa Center, and a bought a home there, a small house located on a hill just south of Iowa Center, and east of the road across Ruffle Creek. Their nearest neighbors were William and Amelia Kline. (Mrs. Kline later married Mr. Pritchard). The Will family lived in this little house until the close of the war. In the fall of 1864, the Will family took rooms at the White House (an Inn) owned by Mr. and Mrs. White until they started for Virginia.

Grandfather Will disposed of his business at Iowa Center, made a business trip to Illinois and then on to Buckhannon, W. Va. On November 1, 1864, they boarded the train at Colo, Iowa, which was the western terminus of the railroad and the nearest railroad station to Iowa Center. The Will family started for Virginia the day after father and mother were married. Mother did not get to say good bye to them because she was afraid Grandfather would make a scene because his daughter had married a northern soldier.

Harry Clayton Will was born in Buckhannon, W.Va., February 22, 1866, near "Sand Run". Mother's stepmother died at Harrisonburg, Va. and is buried there. Grandfather Will lived in Buckhannon and Harrisonburg, doing whatever work he could find to do. He remained in the south six or seven years, then came to Iowa Center and lived in the brick house with mother and father. One night at the supper table, father and grandfather had a hot argument on politics and grandfather decided to move. Mother always was on her guard to see that politics and the war were never discussed. Grandfather Will had a tailor shop just across the street from the Iowa Center Store. He moved there with his three boys.

October 31, 1864, mother and father were married at Iowa Center, Iowa. In the evening they went over to Mrs. Jim Bale's home. Mrs. Bales lived in a little log cabin just across the street west of the store later owned by Uncle John Will. Guests at the wedding were Mr. and Mrs. Bales, Mrs. Mel Berlin, Miss Minerva Titchner, Dave Vincent and the minister, Rev. J.M. Dudley. Mother wore a very pretty light tan and green stiped calico dress, made very full waist and skirt with wide pointed girdle. (Calico was 50 cents per yard) (Same dress worn in daguerreotype). After the ceremony all went over to the Sessions Hotel (where we lived afterwards) to a grand ball which Mr. Sessions was giving in honor of Jesse Bowen's safe return from the war. This was a very large and swell affair for that time. Mother and Father stayed and danced until someone whispered around that "Jesse and Molly are married". Mother was afraid that Grandpa Will would get word that she and father were married and would make it unpleasant for them. Grandfather and Grandmother Will had rooms at the White House just across the road south of the hotel. Dave Vincent took mother and father in his lumber wagon out to Grandpa Bowen's farm.

Mother and Father lived at the Bowen farm for two years. Fred Bowen was born there. They rented the Dave Vincent farm and lived there for a few years. Maude Bowen was born on the Vincent farm. About 1870 they moved to the town of Iowa Center in the little brick house. Father traded his share in the brick house to Uncle John Will for a piece of land. Then he traded the land to Mr. Metcalf, a Presbyterian minister, as part payment for the hotel. Mother and father lived in the hotel until they moved to Maxwell, Iowa, in November 1882. Sidney, John, Kate, Curt, and Esther were born in the hotel at Iowa Center, Iowa.

The new railroad was built about three and half miles south of Iowa Center and the town of Maxwell was built there. When the Bowen family moved to Maxwell, Grandfather Will still lived at Iowa Center. Fred and Lee Will went away to school. Fred and Lee were at Ames for awhile, then Lee and Frank Thompson went to school at Pella, Iowa. Harry Will was in school at __________. Mother would have Sidney and John take turns staying with Grandfather Will while the boys were away from home. Fred Will had sent a big dog to Grandfather for a watch dog.

About two years after the Bowen family had moved to Maxwell, Grandfather Will was taken very ill. John Bowen was staying with grandfather at the time he had his first stroke of paralysis. One morning John wakened and Grandfather was standing in front of the mirror stroking his mustache, saying, "I cannot run it." Grandfather mentioned something about going to Maxwell. John got up and dressed and he and Grandfather started to walk to Maxwell. At the Bentley corner they cut across the Jesse Wood farm and stopped to get a drink out of the creek. John said, on the way down that Grandfather would fall down then get up and start on. At the corner where Mingles now live, they met Father, Steve Cooper, and Sidney Bowen going after trees. These are the trees planted on the north and east side of the old uptown hotel in Maxwell. John went on with father and Grandfather Will walked the rest of the way alone. He arrived in Maxwell in the forenoon, Just as Mother was doing up her breakfast dishes. Grandfather came in and leaned over the dining room table and said to Mother: "I thought I was going to be dead, and I brought the boy home to you." Mother made a bed for Grandfather in the sitting room and put him to bed. Grandfather had a severe stroke of paralysis which affected his speech. In a short time he was up and around the house.

He remembered about some money which he had hidden at Iowa Center. This worried him a lot. As soon as he was able to be taken to Iowa Center to get the money, he found the money gone and his big dog had been killed. There was always a feeling that Grandfather Will had been slugged and robbed, but there was no positive proof and he could not remember just what did happen to him.

When he got better his little tailor shop of two rooms was moved from Iowa Center to Maxwell and put south of the hotel. Just south of the tailor shop was a millinery shop owned by the Brodie sisters, Esther and Annie.

Mother never left Grandfather alone. When he left the house, one of the children went with him. They went down towards the park and the creek. When they came back, Grandfather went to his little house, where Mother was cleaning, and sat in his big chair. Mother looked up and say that Grandfather had another stroke of paralysis. She called for help and got him to bed. Dr. Goodman said that he was a very sick man and did not give him much hope for recovery. Grandfather Bowen was also sick at our house at this time.

Grandfather Will made a very remarkable recovery, and about two weeks later he had a third stroke of paralysis, which left him perfectly helpless and speechless. In a very short time he recovered and was up and around, but he never entirely regained his speech.

When the family moved to the Maxwell House on south Main Street in Maxwell, Iowa, Grandfather's little tailor shop was moved just north of the hotel. He lived there until we left the Maxwell House and moved to the southwest part of town (The Old Field's Farm Home). Grandfather Will had his fourth stroke of paralysis _________. He died _________ and is buried at Iowa Center, Iowa.

When we moved to Maxwell, we lived in the hotel. This building is still standing and is just across from the Christian Church, cornerwise. Jesse Bowen built the hotel. Glen Bowen was born in this house. About 1885 we moved to the Maxwell House. Annie Laurie Bowen was born in the Maxwell House. In 1904 Jesse Bowen's health failed and the family moved from the hotel to our present home. (This house was built by Mr. Field and was later owned by John W. John. We bought the house of A. Warner.)

Copyright © - 1999 Curt Larsen

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