I know very little about my father’s family. He died when I was a toddler, and so I wasn’t as close to that side as I might have otherwise been. There were a few family legends and tidbits of information—we were early European settlers in Georgia. There was something about the fact that the first of our family to settle there died shortly before or after the birth of his first son, who carried on the family name. They were farmers who turned merchants. That was it for most of my life.
A few years ago, my great-grandmother sent up some old pictures and remembrances she thought I might be interested in. Among those items was a white card with a name written in beautifully calligraphy: Ezra Bowers. (I’m comfortable using this last name because I have since changed mine... also there are about a billion Bowers in Georgia alone because this family bred like rabbits.) On the back of the card, she wrote “Your great-great grandfather’s calling card. He could write beautifully. He was once hanged in effigy for voting for Lincoln.”
I couldn’t get any more details about this event. I assumed, like the story about the first Bowers dying when his son was born that it was apocryphal.
I learned some other stuff pretty recently: my great-great-great-great grandfather, Job, founded two towns in Georgia. My great-great grandfather, Ezra, ran a printing company and general store with his father (and my great x3 grandfather), William. So I had some names and a little additional info. I looked up the town (which is the same size it was when it was founded, btw). The website mentions the fact that William published a newspaper for several decades called The American Union, “which reflected his political and religious opinions” which made me think “Oh shit. That’s not gonna be good...”
So just to see where I could go with all this, I Googled “Job Bowers”... and I found this 1895 mini-bio on William... or should I say “Uncle Billy.” Apparently he was one of those local famous people. But I found myself particularly intrigued by two tidbits (though the whole thing is pretty fascinating to me):
None of his family would ever own a slave; and from earliest life he was an uncompromising Union man. He claims to be, and probably is, the only man then a resident of Georgia now living, who voted for Abraham Lincoln in 1860. He did not swerve from his Union principles during the war
Oh neat! So I guess there’s something to that Lincoln story: great-grandma just attributed it to the wrong person. I didn’t see anything about hanging in effigy, but it was cool to know there was some truth to it. Also, not to give him a cookie or anything for not being a terrible human, but I was very pleased to hear he at the very least was against owning slaves. Who knows if he was actually an abolitionist...
I was also struck by this:
His paternal great-grandfather, Job Bowers, was of Welsh extraction, was a soldier in the patriot army during the revolutionary war; and who, while at home “on furlough,” was killed by the tories.
For starters, I had no idea we were Welsh. For another, no one had ever told me he was in the revolution. I did a little more digging on Job (different from the first Job I mentioned, btw) and saw the story I’d heard half of: he was allegedly killed by British soldiers while home on furlough visiting his wife and newborn son. I still figured “Okay, apocrypha.” Well, if it is, the dude himself was pretty committed to it, cuz here’s his actual grave.
(Obviously this image is enhanced—the unenhanced ones are available to, but for ease of reading I figured I’d show this.)
Oh. Okay. So... also true. Cool!
But after reading about “Uncle Billy” I became completely fascinated by this obviously charismatic patriarch. I found a picture of him...
(This Lincoln thing was clearly a claim to fame...)
(He really liked that beard.)
And I found articles talking about him in 1890 editions of The Sacramento Union and The Chicago Tribune, the former of which I’ve included below. Tl;dr— abolitionist, totally voted for Lincoln, was hanged in effigy, and was almost ACTUALLY killed after he didn’t support the Civil War.
Anyway, I am completely taken with all of this and needed somewhere to share my discovery.