Home History Q&A Bowers wagons, buggies, surreys date to late 1880s

Bowers wagons, buggies, surreys date to late 1880s

Published on May 18, 2012 by in History Q&A
Question: Was there ever a company in Harrison that made wagons or buggies?
Answer: Bower Brothers Manufacturing Company made wagons, buggies and surreys in Harrison for several years preceding the arrival of automobiles. The Bower family was a pioneer family of Boone County, and descendents are still community and church leaders of this area.
Bowers Brothers Manufacturing Company Bower Brothers Manufacturing Company made Bower wagons, buggies and Surreys at the factory located at the end of the block of Central, Walnut and Stephenson in Harrison.
The Bower factory was located near the end of what was Central Avenue, where East Stephenson and Walnut Streets intersect – actually covering an area from number 100 to number 114 of East Stephenson.
The Bower family, of German lineage, came to America aboard the ship “Louis” and settled in New York City. They later moved to Pennsylvania, then on to Indiana and Illinois, and in the late 1880s moved to Harrison while it was only a small village. This diligent and industrious family had left their mark on previous places where they had settled, and proved to be a valuable asset to the community.
Frank, Will and Herb Bower set up a business making Bower wagons, buggies and surreys. Frank was a wheelwright; Will worked the iron; and Herb was in charge of the wood parts and paint. Their father, George Bower, did the bookkeeping, taking orders, keeping inventories and all the records, leaving young Ned to run the errands.
George Bower bought land several blocks north of what is now the Harrison square and built a home on the corner of Bower Avenue and Main Street. This home was eventually sold to the N. N. Tims family. Hudson’s Supermarket now occupies the site where the home once stood.
Frank Bower, whose reputation as a wagon maker was well-known, was hired as general superintendent for Mutual manufacturing Company in Neosho, Missouri.
The local newspaper stated, “It is sad that Harrison should lose a man of so much worth, but Harrison’s loss is Neosho’s gain.” In the meantime, other changes took place in the Bower Wagon Company. With the shadows of World War I hanging over the country, Frank was called to Terre Haute, Indiana to make wheels for cassions, and Herb to a Springfield, Missouri wagon company for the war effort.
Without his father George (who had died in 1909) and his brothers, Will could not cope with failing health, and sold the business for $2,000 including inventory, buildings, and several city lots. Having a desire to avoid confining employment, and on the advice ofhis doctors, Will purchased a small farm west of town near what is now Old Farm Road. He set up a small dairy business that grew rapidly, having daily customers and employing a hired hand to help with the farm work.
Of George Bower’s six children, Will, who married Ida McKinney, was the only one to father children. They were: Ronald and Margery (who died young); Lena Franklin (married paul Barron); Collin McKinney (married Helen Stack); Doris (married Iler Callicoat); Maryetta (married Dick McGaughey); and Wilma Jean (married Floyd Taylor).
The children enjoyed the country life, but for Will Bower, farm work was too much for his state of health. Will purchased the Lon Coffman home at the end of West Rush, moved his family to town and continued to live there until his death in 1933.
Certainly the Bower Manufacturing Company provided a needed service to Boone County. Even small circuses coming through Harrison bought new items and left older wagons for repair, to be picked up the following year. Many old pictures show the Bower buggies with a fringe on top – maybe you have one of these in your box of old family pictures.
The complete story of the Bower family and the Manufacturing Company is told in the April-June 1992 issue of the Boone County Historian. Written by the late Maryetta Bower McGaughey, she shares the trials and accomplishments of this family.
This issue of the Historian is available at the Heritage Museum, located on the corner of South Cherry Street and Central Avenue. December 1, the museum will begin winter hours and will be open only on Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Come spend a Thursday with us and share the history of Boone County and its people.
This column appears Fridays in the Harrison Daily Times. Mail questions to Boone County Heritage Museum, P. O. Box 1094, Harrison, AR 72601. Marilyn Smith can be contacted at bchm@windstream.net
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