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Andrew BOWERS (Jr.)
Katherine HOWETH
(1810/1811-After 1884)
(Abt 1839-Abt 1872)
John DeWitt BOWERS


Family Links

Tilitha Ann ANDERSON

  • Ola Pearl BOWERS+
  • Nora Edna BOWERS+
  • Ruby Ethel BOWERS
  • William Polk BOWERS
  • John DeWitt BOWERS Jr.+
  • Fred Edward BOWERS+
  • Jewel Elizabeth BOWERS
  • Stella Mildred BOWERS+

John DeWitt BOWERS 3 4

  • Born: 24 Jul 1867, Rutledge, Grainger County, Tennessee 3 4 5
  • Marriage: Tilitha Ann ANDERSON on 6 Dec 1891 in Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory (Wister, Le Flore County, Oklahoma) 1 2
  • Died: 23 Aug 1935, Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona 3 4 6
  • Buried: 26 Aug 1935, Camelback Cemetery, Scottsdale, Maricopa County, Arizona 3 4

bullet   Another name for John was J. D. or De.


bullet  General Notes:

PRISON YEARS, 1898-1901:

For many members of our family, the fact that John DeWitt Bowers spent time in prison was painful to talk about. Pearl, the oldest daughter, was particularly affected, probably because she had the added trauma of attending his trial in Paris, TX when she was just old enough to know something terrible was happening to her father. She never could talk easily about it with her family. Nor did other family members talk about it much either. The author's mother, who was the baby of the family, did not learn of her father's prison record until she was an adult. Nor did the author's mother tell him about it until he was an adult. As the years passed, it seemed less and less something to be ashamed of, particularly because the other positive aspects of his life overshadowed this early incident. Now, of course, subsequent generations view the incident almost with pride, since it makes him seem like a colorful figure of the old west.

In some ways, this crime was just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but in other ways it was more than that. From other sources the author has discovered that counterfeiting was rampant in this time and place. It was probably thought of as a victimless crime for the most part and thus lured many otherwise law-abiding citizens to give it a try. Still, John DeWitt was not an innocent who just happened to come into the possession of some counterfeit money. He and his partner had plates, the quality of which he was quite proud, which they used to print the counterfeit currency.

It is not known who his partner was, but Aunt Ruby says it was a relative of some sort. I suspect it may have been his uncle, Green Berry Anderson, but I can't be sure. Rather than both go to jail, John DeWitt agreed with the unknown family member that he would assume full responsibility for the crime and in return the unknown family member would take care of his wife and children while he was in prison. According to Aunt Ruby, the unknown family member did not keep his part of the bargain and thus received a whipping from her father when he was released from prison.

The copy of the Judgment and Sentence by the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Texas contained in his prison file provides the following details: (i) the case carried the heading "The United States vs. J. D. Bowers," and was no. 2011 on the criminal docket; (ii) the presiding judge was the Honorable David E. Bryant; (iii) the prosecuting attorney was S. Taliaferro (?); (iv) a jury found him guilty on 30 Nov 1898 of "uttering and passing certain falsely made forged and altered obligation and security of the United States of America;" (v) he was sentenced to hard labor in the U. S. Penitentiary at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas for a term of three and one half years from 30 Nov 1898 and was also fined $50; and (vi) the sentence was dated 2 Dec 1898 and he was remanded to the custody of the Marshall and held in the Lamar County jail pending transfer to the penitentiary.

He was received at the U. S. Penitentiary at Ft. Leavenworth, KS on 29 Dec 1898 as prisoner no. 113 (Reg. No. 1440). The penitentiary admission sheet has spaces for personal information and history, but no such information was included.

The mail log shows that he received seven letters (name and place spellings are as they appear in the records): two from his wife, Letha Bowers, the first from Wilburton and the second from Stewart Hartshorn; one from his brother, D. Bowers, of Wister; one from his cousin(?), W. Bowers of Stuart; one from his sister, L. McAlvain, of Kennedy; one from his uncle, B. Anderson, of Hartshorn; and one from his sister (in-law), Minnie Bowers, of Wister. He sent out five letters: two to his wife, Litha, the first presumably to Wilburton and the second to Stuart Hartshorn; one to his brother, D. J.(?) Bowers, of Kennedy; one to his sister (in-law), Minnie Bowers, of Kennedy; and one to his sister, Helen Estes, of Kennedy.

His Parole Agreement showed that his record in prison had been good and that he was employed in the Dynamo Room, which probably provided his early training for his later careers as a master mechanic for mining equipment and as a well driller and may also have served as the seed for his dream to bring water and power from the Verde River to the Paradise Valley area north of Scottsdale, Arizona (see below). He was paroled 14 Jan 1901. He was discharged from his parole status on 29 Oct 1901, which was the completion of his "good time" sentence.


The following excerpts from the 50th Anniversary Edition of the Latimer County News-Democrat, dated 21 Aug 1947, concerning Bowers, Latimer County, OK were obtained from Ruthie King (the bracketed comments are mine):

"BOWERS HAS INTERESTING HISTORY . . . [but no longer seems to exist]

In 1900, DeWitt [spelled Dweitt in Ruthie's transcription] Bowers moved to a farm six miles west and a mile south of Wilburton. [The year was probably 1901, since John DeWitt Bowers was not released from the U. S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, KS until 14 Jan 1901.] In 1902 his brother-in-law and sister, Mr. and Mrs. John Estes bought out his farm and he moved to an adjoining farm. [Rather than move to an adjoining farm right away, this was probably when the family moved to Mexico, where John DeWitt would work as a master mechanic for a mining company. It was probably when they returned from Mexico, which was sometime before the birth of their daughter Ruby on 19 Apr 1903, that they moved to the adjoining farm.] . . .

At this time there were no improvements of any kind in the community, but before long the men felt such a need for a school for their children that they, under the direction of Mr. Bowers, built a school on his farm. [Aunt Ruby recalls her father telling her that he taught school in Indian Territory.] This school was destroyed by fire in a few years.

After statehood, Mr. Bowers with the help of neighbors, built another school. A school district was formed and because of his great community interest and helpfulness, the persons in the community chose to name the district after him. [Again, the timing of these events is probably off, since we know that the family moved to the Bradshaw Mountains near Prescott, AZ sometime after the birth of their son, Polk, on 30 Nov 1904. While it is true that the whereabouts of the family from 1907, the year Polk died as the family was moving to Phoenix, until 1910 is somewhat unclear (see below), it seems unlikely that the family returned to OK during the time of statehood. So, these events probably occurred before the move to Arizona.] . . .

In 1907, the question of statehood was on everyone's tongue. When the time came to vote, residents of the Bowers Community met at the three room home of Mr. and Mrs. Estes and voted on the big issue. The group elected Mr. Latimer to their delegate for the Constitutional Convention and the county was named for him."


In 1976, after Aunt Ruby and her husband, Mac, had moved from Phoenix to Prescott, AZ following Mac's retirement, she wrote a memoir about our family's beginnings in Arizona, to wit, "Childhood Memories of Life in the Bradshaws." The following is this memoir in its entirety (without editorial changes):

"One evening after a rain storm as I walked home along Mt. Vernon, a special feeling of contentment came over me. The sun was gently placing a golden crown over Thumb Butte and the Prescott Blue sky twinkled through branches of ancient Elms. I was happy spending my "September" years here in the mountains where I lived as a child.

In front of a fine old house, a small girl waited. My little friend wore a dainty pink pant suit which she calls an outfit. Her father, carrying a brief case, came up the walk and the lovely child ran to meet him. He smiled, clasped her hand as together they entered the opening door.

Memories tiptoed in! I saw myself, long ago, waiting in front of a miner's shack watching a tall man come out of the Poland Tunnel. He was handsome, too, and young. He wore overalls and carried a shiny tin lunch bucket with the cup on top of the lid. I wore flannel petticoats under a calico dress, high laced shoes and long black stockings. His smile was loving, his handclasp strong, as we enterd the cabin door.

I remember the warm kitchen, the old wood cook stove, the bacon and fried potatoes my mother was cooking. My two older sisters and little brother were waiting and a coal oil lamp was the light for our table.

My father, J. D. Bowers, brought us to Arizona from Oklahoma late in 1904 where we settled first in Walker. He worked for the mines which were producing great quantities of high grade ore. We lived in three houses in Walker at different times, all Company houses. There was a spring in back of one of the houses. My little brother and I were always playing in the water, getting sick with colds. Mama tried to stop us but when her back was turned we would be in the water again. I was afraid of black boots and he was scared of black hats. One day our mother tied a string to an old black hat and stepped out of our sight. When the hat crawled away we never went near the spring again.

Later, we moved to Poland where Papa was a Master Mechanic for the Mining Companies. He owned part interest in a twenty horse team and huge wagons. He hauled heavy equipment and supplies for the mines. We have an old picture of the team and wagon loaded with an enormous boiler. His team and wagon carried the great boulder on which the famed statue of Buckey O'Neil stands in our plaza here.

On October 5, 1906, our brother, J. D. Bowers, Jr., was born in Poland. The night of his birth, my l4 year old sister, Pearl, cried and pounded on the locked bedroom door of the cabin, she was so afraid they were killing Mama. One of her sons, David L. Johnston, has lived in Prescott for any years.

Little J. D. grew up to become a Civil Engineer in Arizona and Alaska. At one time he was city engineer of Prescott, appointed by Mayor Joe Allen, at the same time being Superintendent of Water and Sewers. He is buried in Prescott in Mountain View Cemetery. His wife, Helen, still lives here and his children were raised here.

In Poland we lived in several different houses and my sisters attended the Company school, one room only, for 30 or 35 pupils. Their teacher was a lovely young lady, Blanche Lowry. She was engaged to a young man., James Whetstine, who worked at the company store as bookkeeper, later as manager for Bashford Burmister Company in Prescott. My sister Edna, ten years of age at that time, was loved by everyone in the mining towns. Now at age eighty years, she lives in Phoenix and is still loved by all who know her. In Poland, this little gadabout was here, there and everywhere. Miss Lowry would send Edna with notes to her sweetheart, James Whetstine, for needed supplies for the school, especially wood for the heating stove. The Children loved Miss Lowry very much. One Christmas time she took up a collection of cash from all the miners with which she purchased pretty books for all of the school children. Edna's book was "A Loyal little Maid" and Pearl's was "The Lightning Conductor", both out of print by now, I suspect.

Once I was invited to a party at the school. Miss Lowry had all kinds of goodies and there was a pretty table cover and napkins. She was dressed in a frilly blouse and smelled of powder and perfume. I thought I was in heaven. In 1907 Miss Lowry married James Whetstine and later he was Mayor of Prescott with a street named for him. Love story, 1906!

The children of the camp often played in the snow with homemade sleds. I was too young for that, the hills were so steep, but I do remember watching and wishing. We bought groceries from Bashford-Burmister in Prescott once a month. If we ran out of supplies between times, we went to the Company store or the boarding house. Mama would send the little gadabout Edna on errands, often to the boarding house. She made friends with the Chinese cooks. Our cousin Nell, lived in Poland near us and the Chinese cooks gave the little girls handouts of cake and other treats. When he left the camp they kissed him good-bye. They promised each other they wouldn't tell but Nell had a quarrel with Edna and told about the kiss. All Edna did was smile. She said the cook had children in China and she just felt like kissing him for them.

I was just past three when I fell in love with the Company book-keeper. His name was Herb Meany. He wore white shirts and pretty ties. Mama washed and ironed his shirts. I was always singing around the house. He would ask me to sing for him which I did. For one Fourth of July he bought yards and yards of red white and blue bunting for Mama to dress me in. She spent hours making a complete "outfit", even hat and tiny slippers. I remember singing at the celebration, mostly Glory, Glory, Hallelujah and My Country Tis of Thee, among other songs. Mr. Meany always looked clean, smelled as if he had just had a bath. No doubt there was a bathtub at the boarding house but the miners had to use wash tubs and not very often at that. In later years Herb Meany became prominent in Prescott. I understand he was right hand man for the great Frank Murphy's many enterprises.

We lived in one section of Poland where it was necessary for my sisters to pass by the Red Light District on the way home from school. They always hurried past the row of small houses and whispered in talking but never saw any of the occupants. To them it was very mysterious. They couldn't understand why all the hurry. Innocence in a rough mining camp!

I remember the night the little brother I played with had a sudden convulsion. Papa was working the night shift. There was no way to reach him quickly. Mama, terrified, ran barefoot in the snow to the Company Doctor's house up the hill. He came immediately and saved the little boy. Another time, another place, he was not to be saved.

On several different occasions a traveling photographer came to the mining towns. We have some old family pictures taken in that area, one with an old table cloth as a back drop.

Papa decided to move to Phoenix where he opened up a restaurant. It wasn't long before he went broke and we moved back to the Bradshaw Mountains. We lived in Walker for several months, then in Crown King where he was Master Mechanic for the Old Tiger Mine. My sisters rode a fat little burro across a high mountain to school at Ora Belle. Little Edna soon made friends with the Superintendent's family, especially their Chinese cook. She doesn't remember kissing him good-bye but does recall a basket with a wedge of lemon pie in it, that he had made just for her.

On or last move from the mining country, tragedy struck! We were traveling by wagon near Minnehaha Flats when the horses became frightened at a washout in the road. The wagon lurched, turned over, and our little brother was badly hurt. We called him Polk, such a dignified name for a boy who loved to play "store keeper". I still have the tiny, cracked leather pocket-book with his play money in it. He was named for a wonderful Choctaw Indian friend we left in Indian Territory, Oklahoma. Most of us have the dark eyes of our father's Cherokee heritage. Polk had the lovely, gray-blue eyes of our mother.

There was no place to take the injured child. The Superintendent kindly put us in a spare room and forty-eight hours later, little Polk died. I remember the small white face, his soft whisper calling each of us by name before the final gentle sigh. That same day we left for Prescott in a driving rain. It was so dark from the storm the stage drivers could hardly see the tracks. I remember the home made pine box on Papa's knees, held there so tenderly as the coach rocked over the dangerous road. The roar of the wind and rain, the shouts of the drivers urging tired horses broke the quiet inside the stage. My mother's arms held the baby and me. Exhausted with grief and the long vigil, her calm acceptance seemed to comfort us all. The small broken body in the pine box will always be our beautiful boy.

Sometimes we drive to the mining area. Mountains and canyons are now covered with lofty pines and summer homes nestle in the rocks. Crumbled rock foundations shells of weathered walls and rusty pieces of machinery are all that is left of a once thriving community. In the quiet, peaceful canyon, I can almost see the shine on a tin lunch bucket as I look toward the sealed tunnel, I can almost fell the warm clasp of a calloused hand.

The end"


There is little information about the family during these years. All that is known is that at some point the Bowers family moved from Phoenix, AZ to the state of Washington for a period of time. Apparently, the dampness made the family long for the desert and so they returned. They lived in a rented house in Tempe at the time of the 1910 census.


In 1933 or 1934, Aunt Ruby wrote an account of the family's homestead years, to wit, "Desert Chronicles." Below is this story in its entirety:

"Twenty-three years ago we embarked on the somewhat thrilling adventure of homesteading a beautiful tract of desert land in the lovely Paradise Valley, sixteen miles from Phoenix, Arizona.

No pine forests there; no trickling streams; neither were there grassy meadows. But to me it will always be a wonderful memory, a memory of white clouds in a blue sky, shimmering sands, majestic cacti, feathery mesquite trees and sheets of yellow poppies waving in the spring breezes.

I was seven years old and at that time my little brother [J.D.] and I were the only children at home. Two older sisters [Pearl and Edna] were going to school in Tempe, a town about ten miles from our desert abode. I was too young to know just what sacrifices were made to keep the girls in school, but I recall the many conversations my parents held when I was supposed to be fast asleep and it seems to me they were continually endeavoring in some way to make ends meet. They did not talk of hard times before us, however, and what we did hear were just little sparks of trouble that did not then mar the happiness of our childhood.

The girls could not come home very often as there were few automobiles in the entire valley and none, of course, at our disposal. My father had gone into partnership with a friend in the well-drilling business and he was away from home the greatest part of the time. That left my mother and brother and I to hold the fort, with the nearest neighbor one mile away. The only store available was in Scottsdale, five miles from us. My father needed the horses in his work and that left us with no means of transportation while he was gone.

We had one large room with a shed built on. At first there was no floor in the shed room but later, due to snakes and insects, we put a floor in. The house was built of wide siding, the roof was of shingles and the floor in the main room was made from wide boards full of knots. In the large room we had two beds, several chairs including one high backed rocker, a stand table and corner shelf. Our clothes were packed in boxes and trunks or hung in the corner behind a curtain. In the shedroom was a cooking stove, shelves, tables and chairs and another bed. On a wall by the stove was the old coffee grinder, the cup of which my mother still uses to measure her coffee.

The well had been dug and later my father drilled it deeper for the purpose of installing a pump for irrigation needs. This, of course, was only to be temporary because his faith was so great in this valley of ours being irrigated by dams such as the Roosevelt Dam which was furnishing water for Salt River Valley adjacent to us on the south.

My brother and I were brown as Indians and freckles were sprinkled generously over my nose but our cheeks and lips were rosy and our eyes sparkled. We were healthy from running over the desert and we really ran for the sheer joy of it. One of our favorite games was Indian Pony. This, of course, was because many Indian horses and cattle roamed the desert and their paths were crisscrossed all over the valley.

We did get lonely, though, and my mother often stopped her work to entertain us, probably getting a little comfort out of it herself as the quiet of the desert is sometimes appalling. She would play "house" with us, tell us stories, sing songs, and I know we often got on her nerves but she never complained.

One evening when she was more tired than usual, she told us if we would wash the dishes she would give us a "surprise." We eagerly agreed and she gave instructions as to what to do with the remaining food. She told me to put the butter in the cooler and the warm food in the oven. We rushed through the task and received our reward; a stick of gum each from a package she had saved for us. We were delighted and even Mama had some. I can remember we sat for a long time and made great plans that evening. My one dearest dream was to buy my mother a silk feather bed when I grew up. Someday I shall carry out that desire. But on the following morning she found the butter in the oven all melted and hardened flat on the plate. The ants had been feasting on our cooked food which I had placed in the cooler. My mother just laughed about it all. I guess she remembered the fun we had chewing our gum and day-dreaming.

On hot summer nights we slept under the stars and many a night I know my mother did not sleep for hours after our eyes had closed. There were Indians still on the desert, not dangerous perhaps, but frightening to a woman alone with two small children. The Indians would ride up to our place, six or seven of them on scrawny ponies, and demand a drink of water from the well. We kept a bright can for them to drink out of, although often they would drink from the rim of the bucket. They would then ride up on the well-dump where they invariably went to look over the desert for their cattle or horses and after guttural conversations among themselves would finally disappear in a cloud of dust, to our intense relief.

One incident I will never forget was when my father was gone and a bunch of Indian cattle broke into our corral. Mama could not get in to milk or feed our two cows. In desperation she waited and after doing everything she could think of to scare them away, she finally procured a tiny pistol my father had given her, and shot into the Indian cattle thinking only to frighten them and never dreaming the dainty firearm would kill. But it did kill two of them and the remainder ran away. Life went on for a few days until my father came home. He dragged the dead cows away from our house but did not try to cover the tracks their bodies made. We knew the Indians would return but my father had to get back to his job.

Then came a few days of anxious waiting, for my mother thought the whole tribe would be at our door. One day a big Indian rode up alone. Mama had the sewing machine in front of the door and her trusty little pistol in full sight. He asked if she had killed the cows and she told him the story. I don't think he quite understood the circumstances and he was very angry but rode away toward Scottsdale where the Indian Agent resided.

We lived in fear for a day or two until my father came home but when the Indian Agent heard of the affair my mother was either compelled to pay $30.00 for the loss of the cows or take the matter to court which was an expensive as well as lengthy procedure. They paid for the cows. It was all unjust but Arizona was then a territory. I know that loss was a drain on our winter food and clothing funds.

How I remember the first little school house, a mile and three-quarters from our place. Thirteen eager pupils in one small room, my brother the youngest of all. I can still see his sober, brown face bending over his lessons. Spelling was extremely difficult for me then and once a young school teacher called me a bad name for missing one word. I knew I could spell that word but when she cautioned me before class and demanded that I make a hundred mark, I lost my head and fumbled. Later, walking home after an hour of writing the word over and over, how the bitter tears came and the vow that I would never go back to school again. But my parents reasoned with me gently and I returned to that little school but with a hurt that will go with me through life.

I cannot forget the times when the older girls came home for the holidays or for the summer vacation. They would put ribbons on my pigtails and cook fancy things to eat, make cookies and candy, and brighten up the house with pictures cut from magazines. How poor we were in material things but how wealthy in our loving companionship. And best of all during those visits from the girls would be the times when my father could come home for a weekend. We would run upon the well dump and look longingly for clouds of dust on the road that would denote his wagon. Sometimes it would be after dark when he arrived. We would always get up and run to meet him at the door, as his return always meant a journey to Phoenix for much needed supplies. Then came the thrill of getting up before daylight, hopping out of bed and into our starched, made over clothes for the long wagon trip to the city. How appetizing were the odors of the breakfasts we smelled en route and what a treat to be going to town. Then putting the horses in a corral and walking to the stores was another thrill, to be climaxed after hours of shopping by a restaurant dinner. I can remember my brother and I shared one order but we always had two dishes of ice cream and I could never understand why my parents ordered pie for their dessert.

Then there were the times when my father would be nearer to Phoenix on one of his jobs. Then he would go do the buying before he came home and what fun it was when he drove into the lot with boxes of groceries piled in the wagon. He always brought us a little bag of candy or fruit. Then there was the Arbuckles coffee bags to open and empty so we could have the long sticks of peppermint candy enclosed.

Once before Thanksgiving, my father was working on a well near Mesa. He thought to be able to finish the job and drive to Tempe to pick up the girls after school on Wednesday. Mama knew of this plan and as a surprise she wanted to buy a turkey in Scottsdale. So she left my brother and I with the neighbors and walked the five miles to Scottsdale, expecting to get her turkey and meet the rest of the family and return home. My father's plans went wrong, however, and he didn't reach Tempe until late that night. He decided they would wait until early the next morning to drive home, which they did. Poor Mama! She waited and waited in vain. I believe someone from Scottsdale brought her home but the disappointment and tiresome waiting almost ruined her precious Thanksgiving party. Nevertheless we had a fine dinner and it was a real surprise to my father and the girls when they arrived about noon to find a table resplendent with the traditional bird. What a feast we had!

One March night, a little baby brother [Fred] came to us, without the aid of a doctor. My brother wanted to name the newcomer Ruth because he thought that name so pretty. It was weeks before my sisters knew of the baby's birth and what a happy time it was when they finally got to come home. I can remember so well the look on my mother's face when she showed the new little son cradled in her arms.

Then came the time when my sisters were to graduate from high school. They needed nice dresses for the event and many hours were spent over the mail order catalogs for dresses suitable for the occasion and to fit our pocket book. But on the great night, how pretty I thought they were in their cheap little dresses and I know my parents were proud of them and did not once think of the worry over how it was all to come about.

I remember my pet lamb, given to my brother by a young sheep herder who did not wish to take the weak little thing with his flock. My brother didn't care of it so Mama gave it to me and I raised it. It was a stubborn thing and grew to be large and fine but one day it got into the house and jumped over the bed on which the baby was sleeping so they decided to get rid of it. I cried when they took the lamb away but some bricks were bought with the money it brought and my father built a fireplace in one end of our house. That was very wonderful and on cold nights we would sit and toast our toes while watching the fire going up and out into the clear, cold air. Sometimes, but not often, we would have nuts to eat around the fire and my mother would make taffy for us. During those conversations around the fire my father spoke often of the dream that was uppermost in his heart. That dream that someday this homestead of ours would be all under cultivation and that the years of hoping and waiting would end in the realization of his life's greatest wish, the wish to see that valley blooming with fruits and flowers, white with fields of cotton and yellow with life-giving grain.

I recall the mornings when my father would be at home with us. He would take us on the well dump and show us the mysterious mirages, thrilling and beautiful. Sometimes to the north we could see what appeared to be a great city, a lake or a forest. How inspiring it was even to my childish mind.

Then the summer again with its storms and hot weather. My mother was always frightened of the wind and lightning. She would take us outside the house when a storm was coming and we would huddle down in the bushes. My father was never afraid but when he happened to be home during a storm he would go to the bushes with the rest of us just to humor my mother. I can remember that I was not afraid of the storms as much as the insects and snakes. One summer night I recall my mother heard a rattle snake outside in the rain and she ventured out with a lantern to try to kill the dangerous reptile. The lantern was blown out after she got a glimpse of the thing and she just whacked away with the hoe. The next morning we found the poor snake had been cut to bits by her frenzied chopping.

Another winter and a Christmas program at the little school house. A doll hanging on the highest branch. Oh! If it could only be mine but I hardly dared hope. Yet wonder of wonders, it was! The program afterwards when every child stepped to the tree to say a little poem. A wonderful reading of "Birds" Christmas Carol given by the mother of one of the school children. Then coffee and cake after that and happy voices blending in songs around the brilliant Palo Verde tree strung with chains of crimson cranberries and snow white popcorn. The ride home with my small doll clasped in my arms! Then the thrill of hanging our stockings by the fireplace to find them in the morning filled again, with candy, fruit and toys. My parents always gave us a Christmas whether they could afford to or not and even to this day we all gather together each of us hoping that the next year will not see any dear face absent from the joyous group.

Then came the time when we installed our large pump and the first day we tried it there came a stream of water from the well large enough to irrigate a small patch of cotton and grain. The joy that was ours and the sadness that came later when the rabbits destroyed our crops and lightning struck our tower crashing it to splinters.

But through all the trials my parents went through, there remained my father's dream and a plan was entered into by more homesteaders.

My sisters had obtained positions in Phoenix and finally we all went there to live. The girls were a great help during those later years when the younger children went to school. I remember my own graduation dress was hand trimmed with yards and yards of lace. I also had white kid pumps and long silk stockings, all made possible by those sisters who had done without and those parents who had skimped on everything so that we all might have a bit of education.

During all this time interest was being aroused in regard to the irrigation of Paradise and Deer Valleys. My father's dearest dream was about to materialize. An office was equipped and proceedings started to negotiate the loan for the purpose of building the project.

Gradually more influential men became involved, more land was taken up and purchased. Plans became actualities and surveying was begun along the Verde River where the flood waters alone would plentifully irrigate our valley if they could be controlled by great dams.

Now, after years of work, defeat and renewed hope, the time has come for a decision by our Government. My father's hair is gray, his shoulders slightly bent. We are still poor and our desert home has long since been carried away piece by piece. Stolen for firewood, maybe, who knows? Some of the bricks from the fireplace are scattered around the place where the house once stood. The little trees that were tended so faithfully, are dead. Even the old well dump had been practically destroyed by the rains of the years. Nothing remains out there but memories.

Will my father's fond hopes be fulfilled? Or will the beautiful valley once again return to its native state, never perhaps to be transformed into a garden, giving life and employment to hundreds of men who have dreamed a dream? Will long lines of palm and olive trees soon border the highways through our Paradise Valley and will gleaming ribbons of steel carry cars of perfect produce to waiting markets? Will happy families be together on cool, green lawns after the day's work is done?..........Or will the sun caressed valley lie silently in her nest of purple mountains, never to thrill with the activities of happy farmers, of industry and commerce, never to welcome the tinkling laughter of little children who are warmly clothed and hungry no more?"


In the summer of 1910, John DeWitt began to look beyond well drilling as a source of water for current north Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona. At that time, he wrote a poem entitled "The Land God Never Forgot" [A version of this poem is contained in Mary Ann Brumfield's compilation of poems and memoirs by Ruby Bowers McAndrew. It seems that version has received some stylistic editing by Aunt Ruby. I believe the following version to be the original]. The first two stanzas are:

"We love our state, Arizona,
Home of the noble and free.
We have one great desire,
That's water impounded, you see.

If Uncle Sam will place it
Within our own command
We'll blossom like the roses
In all the desert land!"

John DeWitt not only dreamed of irrigating the desert in which he lived, he also played a major role in the failed effort to make the dream come true. Fortunately, the entire saga of Arizona water and Federal Great Depression politics as they involved the Verde River Irrigation and Power District has been the subject of scholarly research by Walter Rusinek, who at the time was a Ph.D. candidate in the field of United States History at the University of Arizona and who at the time this is written (2001) is a lawyer in Phoenix. His research was published in an article entitled Battle for the Verde River: Arizona's Other River Controversy. My reading of this article is that the Verde District got -- to use the vernacular -- screwed, although that statement hardly does justice to this scholarly, balanced article. It should be read by all descendants of John DeWitt Bowers interested in this aspect of his life, even though his name appears in only one footnote. Pursuing this dream was his life from 1918 to 1934, and the crushing defeat after having seemingly prevailed in a David and Goliath struggle with the Salt River Project certainly contributed to his rapid decline in health and ensuing death.

There are also other sources which provide information about John DeWitt's involvement with the Verde District. We know from his prison records, of all places, that John DeWitt had been elected to the Board of Directors of the Verde River Irrigation and Power District as early as 1918. These records contain correspondence from 1918 between the U. S. Attorney General's office and the Warden at the U. S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, the subject of which were inquiries being made about whether J. D. Bowers had been a prisoner and whether this was the same individual who had been elected to the Board of Directors for a large irrigation concern and, if so, whether he was possessed of his civil rights. One inquiry was made by George D. Christy, who identified himself as the attorney for the irrigation concern and who appeared to be engaged in due diligence work for an upcoming $5,000,000 bond issuance by the Verde District. The other inquiry was made by A. N. Hedgpeth, who mysteriously did not identify himself nor state the reason for his inquiry, but who the Warden thought may have been working with Mr. Christy since Mr. Christy had told the Assistant Attorney General that he had written the Warden, when in fact only Mr. Hedgpeth had written him. Note that according to Aunt Ruby, at some point in time the Arizona Republic ran a story about John DeWitt's prison record. The family always suspected that the story was given to the paper by supporters of the Salt River Project in an effort to discredit the Verde District -- an effort which, if true, was not successful. On the other hand, the story may have had as its source the bond work being done by Mr. Christy. (Locating this story requires a tedious page by page search of archived editions from 1918 forward. Thus far, it has not been located.)

Aunt Ruby remembers her papa, John DeWitt, as being the President of the Verde River Irrigation and Power District. He may have held that office at various times, but the only records I've found list him as a Director. In a 1923 Prospectus for a $23,000,000 bond issue he was listed as a Director, with E. W. Michael named as President. In a 1932 application to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation inviting a bid for the aforesaid $23,000,000 bond issue which was still pending, he was listed as a Director whose term of office was January 1, 1932 to December 31, 1934, and Burt H. Clingan was identified as President. Perhaps the publication of his prison record caused John DeWitt to adopt a lower profile. Whatever his position may have been from time to time, we know from Aunt Ruby that he was very active in District affairs. He managed the District's office, where his daughter Pearl also worked, he dealt with engineers, he traveled to Washington to lobby for the District, and he had negotiations with construction companies. He was also the sole signatory, as Director, on behalf of the Verde District of an agreement, dated June 19,1928, between the Salt River Project, the Verde District and the U. S. regarding the planning for irrigation and construction of dams for delivery of water and production of electricity for the Verde District. It was this agreement that eventually fell victim to Arizona water politics.

[Addendum: Among the papers discovered after Aunt Ruby's death in 2007, was the following resolution passed by the Verde River Irrigation & Power District on the occasion of the death of Letha Bowers, dated February 10, 1945, and signed by Wm. H. Bartlett, Secretary: "WHEREAS, ALL-WISE PROVIDENCE has taken away the widow of the District's most esteemed, former leader from the midst of the loving circle of her descendants and friends, BE IT RESOLVED that the Verde River Irrigation & Power District herby extends deepest sympathy to the relatives of John D., and Letha A. Bowers." This resolution supports Aunt Ruby's memory that John DeWitt Bowers was an early President of the Verde River Irrigation & Power District.]

The sense of betrayal by supporters of the Verde District was vividly captured in the opening paragraph of Mr. Rusinek's article:

"In an isolated desert clearing along the road north from Phoenix, Arizona, three 'bodies' hung from a hastily constructed scaffold and swayed in the October evening breeze, 1934. Fully dressed, each figure wore an identifying placard, and at the base of the scaffold a crudely printed sign read: 'Governor [of Arizona] B. B. Moeur, Isabella Greenway [U. S. Representative from Arizona] and Harold Ickes Sec. of Int., Double XX the Verde District and stole the hopes and livelyhood from 1,300 homesteaders and hundreds of sick war vets which own land in the dist. by selling out to the power trust.' The next day, nearly one thousand spectators flocked to the sagebrush-studded site in Paradise Valley to view the effigies. Then, at dusk, a crowd of four hundred watched as the figures burst into flames, although reporters at the scene stated that no one appeared to be near the scaffold. As the fire consumed its victims, the crowd stood in 'breathless awe' and gasped when the flames 'flared in the copious hair of the effigy of Mrs. Greenway.' "

As this Note is written (2001), the Salt River Project is working on a history of its first 100 years. The SRP was formed in 1903 and, according to information on its web site, it is currently the nation's third largest public utility and one of Arizona's largest water suppliers, providing water and power throughout a 2,900 square mile service area in central Arizona -- a service area that still does not include the defunct Verde District which encompassed the northern portions of Scottsdale and Phoenix. I have been informed that the battle for the Verde River is not deemed significant enough to warrant much discussion in this upcoming history, even though in 1933 Arizona Senator Henry Ashurst in a statement to the Public Works Administration called this fight "the most active question which has arisen . . . in the state . . . for 59 years." One can't help but wonder whether in retrospect the Salt River Project is not very proud of the tactics it employed to prevail and would prefer this part of its history to be glossed over. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

bullet  Research Notes:


As with many of the birthplaces handed down directly by the person whose birth is involved, John DeWitt was probably not born in Rutledge proper, but rather in a farmhouse in the general vicinity. He undoubtedly identified Rutledge as the place of his birth because that was the nearest town of any consequence.


John DeWitt Bowers' middle name was probably given him out of admiration for DeWitt Clinton Senter (1830-1898). A plaque in his honor stands on the grounds of the Courthouse at Rutledge, Grainger County, Tennessee. Per the cited Grainger County history book, the plaque states: "A native and State Representative of Grainger County, DeWitt Senter voted against secession in 1861. Imprisoned and driven from home by Confederates, he returned in 1865. He served in the State Senate until 1869 when he succeeded to the governorship. An advocate of the Constitutional Convention of 1870, Governor Senter died in Morristown."


John DeWitt's omission from the 1870 census and later census records which record his father's state of birth as Indiana rather than Tennessee might, for some, raise the question whether John DeWitt was a child of John Bowers and Mary "Polly" Majors. But, census records are notorious for their errors. Certainly, we know this was the family with which he was raised, that he was listed as one of their children in the daybook of Polk McAlvain, the husband of Louisa Matilda Bowers, and that he always told his children his parents were John Bowers and Mary "Polly" Majors. Most likely, he was inadvertently omitted from the 1870 census. A possible explanation for why John DeWitt may have thought his father was born in Indiana rather than in Tennessee may be that his father may have gone to live for a time with his uncle David Bowers in Indiana after being orphaned at the age of 12. While there is no evidence he lived with his uncle, it is interesting that John Bowers named his first son David. 14

bullet  Death Notes:

Cause of death per death certificate was cerebral hemorrhage. Contributory causes included high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis.

Funeral Notice, Arizona Republic, 26 Aug 1935:

"Bowers, J. D., age 68, passed away at his home, 1154 East McKinley, August 23. Funeral services will be conducted at 9 o'clock this morning from the chapel of A. H. McLellan, the Rev. Orren Root officiating. Interment in Scottsdale cemetery."


bullet  Noted events in his life were:

1. Census: 1870, Grainger County, Tennessee. 15

John DeWitt Bowers should have appeared in the 1870 household of John Bowers, but inexplicably does not. See Research Note.

2. Prison: 29 Dec 1898-14 Jan 1901, Ft. Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, Kansas. 7

Convicted of passing altered obligations of the United States on 30 Nov 1898 in the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of TX, in Paris, TX (this is the court which had jurisdiction over Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory). Sentenced 2 Dec 1898 to a term of 3 and 1/2 years and a fine of $50. Received at Ft. Leavenworth on 29 Dec 1898. Paroled 14 Jan 1901.

3. Census: 1900, Leavenworth County, Kansas. 16

Bowers, John D., W, M, July 1867, 32, Married 8 yrs, TN, IN, TN, Farmer, Read, Write, Speak English.

John DeWitt was in prison at the time of this census. Note that his father is mistakenly listed as being born in IN. See Research Note.

4. Census: 1910, Maricopa County, Arizona. 17

Bowers, J. D., Head, M, W, 45, Married 19 yrs, TN, TN, TN, Well-Driller, Read and Write English, Rented House
, Alitha, Wife, F, W, 35, Married 19 yrs, 7 children born, 4 now living, OK, MO, TX, Read and Write English
, Pearl, Daughter, F, W, 17, Single, OK, TN, OK, Read and Write English, Attended School
, Edna, Daughter, F, W, 13, Single, OK, TN, OK, Read and Write English, Attended School
, Ruby, Daughter, F, W, 7, Single, OK, TN, OK
, J. D., Son, M, W, 3, Single, AZ, TN, OK

5. Homestead: 1910, Maricopa County, Arizona. 3 18 19

Established residence on homestead in Scottsdale, AZ (area then known as Paradise Valley) on 2 Sep 1910. The homestead was located at the NE 1/4, Sec. 1, T2N, R4E. The home and well were near the southwest corner of the intersection now known as Via de Ventura and Pima Road. See Notes for story about family life on the homestead.

BLM records show that the Legal Land Patent for this 160.75 acres was issued to John D. Bowers on 7 March 1914.

6. Census: 1920, Maricopa County, Arizona. 20

1154 E. McKinley, Phoenix, AZ
Bowers, John D., Head, Home Owned with Mortgage, M, W, 52, Married, Can Read and Write, TN, IN, TN, Speaks English, Machinest -- Mining Machinery
,Litha, Wife, F, W, 43, Married, Can Read and Write, OK, MO, TX, Speaks English, No Occupation
,Edna, Dghtr, F, W, 23, Single, Can Read and Write, OK, TN, OK, Speaks English, Stenographer
,Ruby, Dghtr, F, W, 16, Single, Attending School, Can Read and Write, OK, TN, OK, Speaks English
,J. D., Son, M, W, 13, Single, Attending School, Can Read and Write, AZ, TN, OK, Speaks English
,Fred E., son, M, W, 7, Single, Attending School, Can Read and Write, AZ, TN, OK, Speaks English
,Stella M., Dghtr, F, W, 1 and 9/12, Single, AZ, TN, OK,

7. Census: 1930, Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona. 21

Dwelling 157, Family 175 at 1154 E. McKinley

Bowers, John D.; head; owns home valued at $3,000; male; white; age 62; married at age 24; can read and write; born in Tennessee; father born in Indiana; mother born in Tennessee; speaks English; a Director for an Irrigation District; not a veteran.

Bowers, Letha A.; wife; female; white; age 54; married at age 16; can read and write; born in Oklahoma; father born in Missouri; mother born in Texas; speaks English; none for occupation.

Bowers, John D. Jr.; son; male; white; age 23; single; can read and write; born in Arizona; father born in Tennessee; mother born in Oklahoma; speaks English; a helper for a Civil Engineer.

Bowers, Fred D.; son; male; white; age 18; single; attended school; can read and write; born in Arizona; father born in Tennessee; mother born in Oklahoma; speaks English.

Bowers, S. Mildred; daughter; female; white; age 12, single; attended school; can read and write; born in Arizona; father born in Tennessee; mother born in Oklahoma; speaks English.


John married Tilitha Ann ANDERSON, daughter of Zacharia Taylor ANDERSON and Nancy Elizabeth BRANSCOMB, on 6 Dec 1891 in Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory (Wister, Le Flore County, Oklahoma).2 3 (Tilitha Ann ANDERSON was born on 20 Sep 1875 in Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory (Poteau, Le Flore County, Oklahoma),3 22 died on 5 Feb 1945 in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona 3 22 23 and was buried in Camelback Cemetery, Scottsdale, Maricopa County, Arizona 3.)

bullet  Marriage Notes:

From Choctaw Nation Marriages, transcribed by Mary Turner Kinard:


Reference is to Book 2, Page 92 of Marriage Records of McAlester, Pittsburg Co., OK. 24



1 Family Records of George G. Johnston. George G. Johnston, son of George Goold Johnston and Ola Pearl Bowers, belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Motivated by love of family and the teachings of their church, George, who passed away in 2005, and his wife, Lela, who passed away in 2001, spent much of their life together researching their families. This included not only research at the Family History Libraries in Mesa, AZ and Salt Lake City, UT, but also genealogy trips to interview other Bowers and Anderson descendants and to find the burial places of our Bowers and Anderson ancestors, as well as extensive correspondence with other descendants. George and Lela not only researched the past, but also kept up with the marriages, births and deaths of the current descendants of John DeWitt Bowers and Tilitha Ann Anderson. Our family is indebted to them.

2 Mary Turner Kinard, Compiler, Choctaw Nation Marriages, Groom Index, 1895-1907,

3 Family Records of George G. Johnston.

4 Standard Certificate of Death for John DeWitt Bowers, Arizona State Board of Health, State File No. 185, Registered No. 979. Informant was Wm. H. Bartlett.

5 "Daybook of Polk McAlvain." Polk McAlvain was Louisa Matilda Bowers' Choctaw husband. The original daybook passed from Florence Thomas nee McAlvain, daughter of Polk and Louisa, to her daughter, Lucille Blackard nee Thomas, in 1990. George G. Johnston has viewed the daybook and taken notes and photographs of it. The author has a copy of his notes.

6 Funeral Notice for J. D. Bowers, Arizona Republic, 26 Aug 1935 (copy provided by Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records).

7 J. D. Bowers, Reg. No. 1440, U. S. Penitentiary, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas (Judicial Records Group, National Archives Regional Office, 2312 E. Bannister Road, Kansas City, MO 64131).

8 Mary Ann Brumfield, Compiler, "Poems and Memoirs of Ruby Bowers McAndrew" (Tempe, Arizona; 1997). While George G. Johnston has been the historian for the Bowers and Anderson families, our Aunt Ruby has been the family story teller. Ruby and Mac, her husband, had no children of their own, but that just meant her nieces and nephews became her children and their children became her grandchildren. Because of Aunt Ruby and her writings, our family has first hand accounts of what life was like in Indian Territory and in Territorial Arizona. Aunt Ruby has not only been a gem of an aunt, she also has been a treasure chest of priceless memories! The Bowers family is indebted to Mary Ann for preserving these memories for present and future generations.

9 J. D. Bowers, "The Land God Never Forgot" (Very old carbon copy dated 1910, which is in possession of Robert Strong).

10 Walter Rusinek, "Battle for the Verde River: Arizona's Other River Controversy", Journal of the Southwest, Vol. 31, No. 2, Summer, 1989, Page 223.

11 Verde River Irrigation and Power District, "Information; Salient Facts Relavent [sic] to District Securities," (1923?), Call No. 631.7 V478 at Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records (ASLAPR).

12 Verde River Irrigation and Power District, "Application . . . to Reconstruction Finance Corporation . . . inviting a bid for its . . . bonds ($23,000,000 par value) under the Emergency Relief and Construction Act of 1932." (1932), Call No. 627.5 V48 at Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records (ASLAPR).

13 Salt River Valley Water Users' Association, "Agreement between Salt River Water Users' Association, Verde River Irrigation and Power District, and United States of America, June 19, 1928 [to plan for irrigation, constuction of dams, etc., for delivery of water and production of electrical energy]," Call No. 631.7 S17 AG at Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records (ASLAPR).

14 Grainger County Heritage Book Committee, Grainger County, Tennessee and Its People, 1796-1998 (Walsworth Publishing, Third Printing, 2000), Page 4.

15 1870 Census, Grainger County, Tennessee, FHL Film No. 553,029, Page 132 (12th District, Clear Spring P. O., Dwelling 13, Family 13).

16 1900 Census, Leavenworth County, Kansas, FHL Film No. 1,240,486, E. D. 158, Sheet 3, Line 4 (U.S. Penitentiary).

17 1910 Census, Maricopa County, Arizona, FHL Film No. 1,374,053, Page 214 (Tempe Precinct, E. D. 76, Sheet 6B, Line 56).

18 Wm. H. Becker, Engineer, "Ownership Map, T. 2 N., R. 4 E., G. & S. R. B. & M." (Maricopa Co., Arizona, Phoenix Blue Print Co., Phoenix, Arizona. January 1, 1932, Corrected to January 1, 1937). This map is considered by the Scottsdale Historical Society to be one of their most important documents, for it shows the early families who settled Scottsdale. It is also of interest to the author, because by the time the map was prepared, John DeWitt Bowers had parceled out the homestead to his children, so this map also shows the names of the author's mother and aunts and uncles. Through the cooperation of the Scottsdale Historical Society, the author possesses a framed full-sized digital photo image of the original.

19 Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States, General Land Office Records,, Accession/Serial Nr. 390364.

20 1920 Census, Maricopa County, Arizona, FHL Film No. 1,820,049, Vol. 8, E. D. 64, Sheet 23, Line 68 (Part of Precinct 4, Phoenix. Enumerated 22 Jan 1920).

21 1930 Census, Maricopa County, Arizona, Roll T626_57, E. D. 16, Page 7A and 7B, Family 175 beginning at Line 50 of Page 7A ( images 13-14 of 29).

22 Standard Certificate of Death for Lethia A. Bowers, Arizona State Board of Health, State file No. 130, Registrar's No. 200. Informant was Mrs. Bartlett, daughter, who also filed a subsequent affidavit to correct the deceased's name from Lethia to Letha.

23 Funeral Notice and Obituary for Letha A. Bowers, Arizona Republic, 7 and 8 Feb 1945 (copies provided by Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records).

24 Mary Turner Kinard, Compiler, Choctaw Nation Marriages, Groom Index, 1895-1907,, B surnames.

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