The following was written by Sara Bowyer O’Connor in June 1965 and given as a talk for the Historical Society of the Town of Chester
The Bowyer Family
Samuel and Sarah Bowyer probably came to this country from England soon after 1860. I believe they followed her brother, William Mundy, to America. William Mundy located in Chester about 1859, according to the Warren Co. History. He was a tanner by trade and lived and operated his tannery where Mrs. Perrine now lives.
Samuel and Sarah Bowyer lived in several places – a short time near the entrance to what is now Chester Shores, and a short time near Friends Lake. I regret that I don’t have better records, but Laura Sanders had a search made of the Bowyer property in Chestertown, NY, which she now owns. This shows that the Bowyers bought the property in 1865, 1866, 1890 and shows the names of Scofield, Young, LaFlure and Remington as former owners of part of the house, although I cannot prove this, but I remember hearing the name Scofield often as a child. I would think that the property bought from Young, LaFlure and Remington might be the land out back of the house, on which stood many farm buildings.
Samuel and Sarah Bowyer had five children –
Annie – died young
Frederick M. – died young
Pattie E. – 1855 – 1907
Wm. W. – 1861 – 1915 ae. 54 yrs.
Franklin F. – 1868 – 1953
All are buried in Chester Cemetery, except Frank, who is buried in Jersey City, NJ, where he was a practicing physician. Sarah Bowyer’s mother, Ann Lynch (1797 – 1849) is also buried in this cemetery.
Samuel Bowyer 1822 – 1882 – buried in Chestertown Cemetery
Sarah Mundy Bowyer 1827 – 1915 ( ae 89 yrs) – buried in Chestertown Cemetery
They were married about 1847 at Bradford-on-Avon, England.
Samuel bowyer came from a farming family in England, and was a horse lover, as was his son, William, my father. Samuel Bowyer ran a four-horse stage from Riverside to the foot of Schroon Lake - see tickets attached, although the name is spelled “Boyer”. I do not know how long he ran his business, but this type of business would account for some of the many barns that were in back of the house. I feel sure my father, William Bowyer, added many of these buildings.
Samuel Bowyer died in 1882, but Sarah Bowyer lived until 1915, and died soon after her son William died,. Grandma bowyer was a unique personality. She had an exceptional mind, was very independent but never disagreeable, and completely hopeless in all household matters. I believe it was for that reason that my father and mother moved in with her soon after Samuel died. The house was enlarged by Samuel Bowyer, I believe, as Grace Duell says her brother went to the house to deliver eggs and came home and reported that the house was being enlarged. Grandma Bowyer took as her special charge a music teacher named Ellen Filley, who taught music to literally every child in town – and she was good! She was somewhat of an invalid, never left the house, and Grandma ran all her errands, tended to her mail, and generally took over. That was her life work, and she worked hard at it. She also ran the legs off 40 kids doing the errands for Miss Filley. Grandma never forgot her ancestry, and was English to the core.
I had a wonderful childhood. For a child who loved animals, it was a great place to live. Possibly it is the other way around, and I may have loved animals because I grew up with them. We had horses, cows and calves, sheep and lambs, hens and chickens, geese and goslings, pigs and piglets, dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, turkeys and little ones, even guinea hens – the last of which we had to get rid of eventually, because of their noise. But if you have never seen a guinea hen take off after a hawk, you have not lived. The only young animal I never can remember having on the place is a colt – I think the horses were too busy working, and could not take the time off.
We always had a huge family, because we boarded some of the hired men. My father, William Bowyer, was a butcher and in those days a butcher slaughtered his own meat. So we had flocks of animals out back in the barn yard, and in the several buildings. In the summer the animals were moved outside town – the sheep and cows up in a big pasture on top of Knapp Hill, where you now turn to go to Harold Ellsworth’s place. The pigs were taken over to the “summer slaughterhouse” – to get there you drove through the Pine woods to the spot where Jim Roden’s house now stands, turn left and go down the hill, cross a bridge which was there at the time, then up a hill and over – and there you were.
The meat market was in the basement of what is now known as “Reoux’s Apartments”. It was a lovely cool place in the summer. Above it was Charlie May’s harness shop – the lady who wrote the piece before me remembers Charlie May for something else, but I remember his shop as having a wonderful smell of leather. My father owned the building, and it was later sold to Kettenbach Brothers. He drove a meat cart – a large wagon with a refrigerated space for meat – and this meat cart had a bell which a child could clang all around town. This was not a hand bell, but one on which you yanked a rope with rewarding results. William Bowyer had regular routes in the summer – around Friends Lake one day, around Brant Lake one day, up to Millbrook (now Adirondack), etc. These were long hauls for a team of horses, so you can see what I mean when I say the horses did not have time off. Besides this, the horses drove all around the country picking up spring lambs from the farmers, calves, etc. My father knew everyone in the country, and never refused anyone a piece of meat. He often “swapped” instead of taking cash, and would come home with huge pails of berries in season, eggs, etc.
A side line of the meat business was the ice harvest in the winter. We had a huge ice-house out back, and the year’s supply on ice was cut from Cunningham Pond. When the ice was the proper thickness, the men spent days and days harvesting it. It was cut out with a long saw, cut into squares, loaded onto sleighs and brought up to the ice-house. Each layer was insulted with sawdust. We sold ice to anyone is town who wished it, especially the drugstore – the drugstore then made their own ice cream, and what ice cream it was. Budding young pharmacists, like Louis Potter and Roy Boles, served their apprenticeship by hauling ice in a wheelbarrow from our ice-house up to the drugstore.
Like the lady before me, Dorothy Baldwin Alsdorf, I too remember Will Tennyson, but for a different reason. In those days all the stores kept open every evening – then no-one had heard of the 8-hour day. Will Tennyson lived below us in the house that is now the Catholic rectory. Will was not exactly what you would call a pious man, but he loved hymns, and he was a good whistler. Late in the evening, when we all were sitting on the “front stoop” we would heat Will coming down the street whistling “Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown?” A very good hymn that is, too.
My family smoked their own hams and bacons, made their own sausage (I learned to use a sewing machine by running up sausage bags), tried out their own lard, etc. When I say their own, I mean this was done for sale in the market. There was plenty of work the year around.
The hides from the slaughtered animals were salted down in one of the buildings, and several times a year an agent came through to buy them for making leather. In the meantime, they smelled TERRIBLE.
My mother had a wonderful flower garden between our house and the house that is now Gertrude Rankin’s. At the farther end of this flower garden was a row of black currants that Grandma Bowyer had brought from England. She was very fond of then, but I was not. I believe those currant bushes stayed there until the blister rust agents removed then, because of infection to pine trees. In back of the flower garden, beginning about here Hugh Gilbert’s house now is, was an extensive vegetable garden, My maternal grandfather Hosea Remington (Uncle Hosey to everyone) worked this vegetable garden, and he was an expert. Our soils were wonderful in those days, because of the manure from the animals, and we never heard of fertilizer (commercial). The only pest I remember was potato bugs, for which we used Paris Green. We certainly did not spray. Grandpa Remington had a large hot-bed, in which he started tomato plants, etc.
After my father’s death in 1915, my mother and her brother (Uncle Dan Remington) lived on the place for a while, but it was much too large for them to take care of, and it was sold to the Sanders family. For a while during this period, they took “lodgers” and by the time these lodgers left they were one of the family, and Uncle Dan knew their whole past history. He and mother thoroughly enjoyed this, and for years they received letters from these transients.
In retrospect, it was a good time in which to live – but I am sure that the present day children will think the very same thing about their own childhood. That is the way it should be – with every child.