Come on in to the dining room --

Dinner is being served. . .


Bower Family with Hunters

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yellow flower


Frankly, our ancestors might have been hungry, but their descendants are starving! WE NEED INFORMATION! We need their stories.

We're going to put the younger, more current ancestors here in the dining room and let them tell us about themselves, their lives, their families. "More current", as far as we're concerned, is after 1790.

To start with, you might want to return to the top of this page. See the painting? It's of the Bower family in 1824. Clicking on the picture will move you to an enlargement, some of its history, and put you in contact with its submitter.

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Sally Irvine would like to present her great-grandfather, Bigger John Bower, aka "B.J." He was born in Monroe City, Missouri on September 15, 1867 to Jane Hardin Bower. At this time I do not know his father's given name but I think it may be Jacob. B. J. was the eldest of 3 children. His brothers were Frank and James Horrace Whitfield Bower.

The Bower's were a farming family but B.J. must have had other ambitions. He was in St. Louis as a young man and then found his way to Seattle sometime prior to 1892. In Seattle he worked as a carpenter & engineer. He met and married a beautiful young dressmaker, Miss Amelia Alexander, and they had a son, Edwin in 1894. There was a daughter, Loraine born in 1895 who died at the age of six months. B.J. and Amelia's last child, Gladys Marie, was born August 26, 1896.

Amelia died at the age of 26, of peritonitis, on February 15, 1898. We don't know how long B.J. stayed exactly but by the census of 1900 we know that he was in Alaska, prospecting. Five year old Edwin was a victim of accidental drowning on June 5, 1899. He and little sister were living with their maternal grandparents in the Fremont District of Seattle. Gladys made it to adulthood. She married and had a son and a daughter. She was my beloved grandmother and she lived to be 95 and died peacefully of old age in Spokane, Washington on November 24, 1991.

There are letters written by B.J. to his sister-in-law, Lucy, and to his daughter Gladys dating from 1902 through 1914. I will let them speak for themselves. I know that he spent time in Circle Hot Springs, Alaska in the early 1930's where he supervised the building of a hotel and did some trapping. [NOTE from Colleen: The letters mentioned here can be accessed by way of links at the bottom of this bio.]

There are letters written by Raymond Alexander from Alaska also. Raymond was my grandmother's uncle although they were very close in age and very close emotionally. It looks like he arrived in Ruby, Alaska on June 9, 1914, he was 21 years old. There are 4 letters written to family members dating from June 14, 1914 through August 31, 1914. Raymond's letters give good descriptions of life in Alaska and his views of the mining business. Raymond did not make a career of mining, I don't know exactly when he left Alaska but he did and became a Master Pilot in the Merchant Marine.

Family legend says that B.J. only returned to Seattle 4 or 5 times for visits until returning for good sometime in the 1930's or 1940's. It is said, by those who remember Uncle B.J., that when he came to town in was an event. He loved the opera and the theater and he would treat the whole family to the arts, spend what was in his poke and then go back to Alaska to try for more.

B.J. was known as Billy Bowers in Alaska and he was a minor legend there too. In Circle Hot Springs, which is very near to the Arctic Circle, he had a cabin. In that cabin he had a phonograph and a stack of records, mostly opera. During the long, dark Alaskan winters he would invite his neighbors to take their phones off their hooks and wile away the hours listening to the music.

B.J. never remarried but I am told he had an acquaintance named Mrs. Walker who lived maybe a hundred yards from his cabin and there was camaraderie but nothing else! My source of this information actually talked with Mrs. Walker up at Circle Hot Springs and was told that she (Mrs. Walker) had mushed along, with only her dogs, from Dawson to Nome. We do not know where she landed once she left the Central area. There is a picture of a Mrs. Walker in B.J.'s photo collection that was made in Seattle, I have no way of knowing if it is his neighbor from Alaska but I am hoping it is!

B.J. returned to Seattle to live out his life in his daughter's home, now a married lady with two grown children with families of their own. He passed away when I was just two years old, on July 17, 1949 at the age of 81. The cause of death was prostate cancer. He was cremated and his ashes are buried between the graves of his wife and his son in Lake View Cemetery in Seattle.

I had the opportunity to visit Alaska during the summer of 2001 so I couldn't resist making the trip to Circle Hot Springs. My husband, Rick, drove me up 130 miles of bad road where we found swarms of mosquitoes and a museum. There in the museum we were helped by the archivist, Jane Williams, and found a bit of information on my great grandfather. We stayed one night in the hotel that Billy Bowers helped to build.


The letters

[Please note, BJ's spelling and vernacular have been kept in tact. Misspelled words are his and not those of the submitter.]
Click on the button to access the letter you wish to view.

02 Dec 1909

Letter from Bigger John Bower to his daughter, Gladys

04 Dec 1909

Letter from Bigger John Bower to his daughter, Gladys


22 Sep 1912

Letter from Bigger John Bower to his daughter, Gladys


05 Nov 1913

Letter from Bigger John Bower to his daughter, Gladys

07 June 1914

Letter from Bigger John Bower to his daughter, Gladys

28 June [_?_]

Letter from Raymond Alexander to his sister [Lucy?], probably dated 1914


09 July 1914

Letter from Raymond Alexander to his mother

17 July 1914

Letter from Raymond Alexander to his niece, Gladys

31 Aug 1914

Letter from Raymond Alexander to his niece, Gladys


Submitted by Sally Ann Irvine [7Jan2002]