1821 William Benjamin Gowen b. 1821 of Rutherford Co, TN

From GRF Newsletter Apr 1994:

William Benjamin Gowen, Carpenter
Had Sad Coffinmaker Task

William Benjamin Gowen, regarded as a son of William
Gowen and Mary “Polly” Crutchfield Gowen, and a grandson
of Lt. William Gowen, was born May 4, 1821 in Rutherford
County, Tennessee. A “white male, 15-20” enumerated in the
1840 census of the household of Mary “Polly” Crutchfield
Gowen, a widow of Rutherford County, is accepted as
William Benjamin Gowen.

He was married about 1846 to Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Nunley,
according to Tulah Catherine Gentry Reddick, a
granddaughter-in-law of Huntsville, Alabama interviewed by
Miriam Riddick Dendy in November 1981 when she was 89
years old.

In the census of 1850 William Benjamin Gowen was enumerated
in Davidson County, Tennessee as the head of
Household 300-300 in Civil District 5. The family on
September 9, 1850, was shown as:

“Gowin, William 30, born in Tennessee, bellowsmaker
Mary 22, born in Tennessee
Jerry B. 3, born in Tennessee
Mary J. 2, born in Tennessee
Eliza 1, born in Tennessee”

Six days earlier the two older children of William Benjamin
Gowen had been counted in the home of their grandfather,
Jeremiah Nunley, Sr. of Grundy County, Tennessee, some 90
miles away. The two children have the distinction of being
enumerated twice in the 1850 census.

In the 1860 enumeration William Benjamin Gowen appeared
in Grundy County living adjacent to the Nunley families. The
censustaker recorded on July 21, 1860, page 22, the following:

“Gowins, William 37, born in TN, house carpenter, $1,400 real estate, $640 personal property
Mary A. 32, born in TN, illiterate
Jeremiah N. 13, born in TN, attending school
Mary J. 11, born in TN, attending school
Sarah B. 9, born in TN, attending school
James C. 8, born in TN, attending school
Manerva A. 6, born in TN, twin
Harriett E. 6, born in TN, twin
William R. 2, born in TN”

It is believed that Mary A. Nunley Gowen died about 1872.

She was buried in Rogers Cemetery “in Hurricane Hollow, in
Madison County, Alabama,” according to Tulah Catherine
Gentry Riddick. He was remarried to Sina Catherine
Bradshaw. The log cabin that William Benjamin Gowen built
on his property was still standing almost 100 years later when
it was destroyed by a cyclone. When the site was visited in
June 1982, its chimney was still standing. The household of
William Benjamin Gowen was enumerated June 12, 1880 in
the federal census of Madison County.

They were recorded in Enumeration District 221 on a farm
located “west of Hurricane Creek:”

“Gowan, William 59, born in TN, father born in SC, mother born in NC, farmer
Francis 49, born in TN, father born in VA, mother born in VA, wife
Eliza 26, born in TN, father born in TN, mother born in TN, daughter
Manerva 24, born in TN, father born in TN mother born in TN, daughter
Gentry, Willie 4, born in AL, father born in TN, mother born in TN, grandson”

On July 16, 1880 William Benjamin Gowen wrote his will,
mentioning “my beloved wife, Sina Gowen.” William
Benjamin Gowen, “old and respected citizen, near Maysville”
died October 1, 1881 at age 60, according to a brief obituary
published in the October 5 edition of the “Huntsville Democrat.”

He was buried in Rogers Cemetery “in Hurricane
Hollow.” His grave was located about 200 yards west of his
farm in a grove of oak trees on top of a half-acre knoll.

Tulah Catherine Gentry Riddick stated that William Benjamin
Gowen was reputed to be a good man, very faithful in his
church attendance and a hard worker. He tanned hides, made
shoes for all of his family. He hewed logs and made shingles
for their house “on their land in the hollow.” He was a “house
carpenter, wood worker and made coffins as well.” Neighbors
and family members came to him for a coffin whenever there
was a death in the community. He planed and smoothed the
lumber and assembed the casket with pegs. His wife and
daughters prepared the cushioned lining.

It was his sad task to build a casket for his first wife Mary
Elizabeth “Betty” Nunley Gowen. It also fell his lot to build a
tiny coffin for their son, William R. “Billy” Gowen who was
killed in a tragic accident. “Billy” Gowen was born in 1858,
probably in Grundy County, Tennessee. He appeared as a
two-year-old in the 1860 census of Grundy County living in
his father’s household.

When he was three years old he was crushed under the wheels
of a wagon. His brother James Carroll Gowen was hitching
up a team of oxen to the wagon, and Billy attempted to climb
into the wagon on the spokes. As he mounted the wheel the
oxen lunged forward trapping the toddler under the heavy iron
rim. He died the following day.

Shortly afterward his daughter Mary Jane Gowen died in her
childhood, and his next casket was for her. A few years later,
his little granddaughter, Willie Gentry died, and he placed her
coffin into the grave he had dug next to his own burial plot.

The coffin he most regretted having to build was for “baby sister
Mandy” who was killed when she was riding horseback to
church and her horse stumbled over a log, throwing her to the
ground. She miscarried and died shortly afterwards. Tulah
Gentry Riddick advised that [the unidentified] Mandy
[Amanda?] was married to Bill Ivy.

He died “on or about the first day of October, 1881, leaving a
home-made will,” according to his probate records dated
October 19, 1881. The will directed that the widow was to
have a life estate in his property.

Sina Catherine Bradshaw Gowen appeared living alone in the
1900 census of Hurricane Township, Precinct 21, Madison
County, Enumeration District 121, page 8:

“Gowen, Sinai 67, born in October, 1832 in TN, father
born in TN, mother born in SC,
widow, farmer, white, literate, land
owner, no mortgage.”

Apparently Sina Catherine Bradshaw Gowen died later in
1900 and was buried in Rogers Cemetery beside her husband
in an unmarked grave. In September of that year probate
proceedings of the estate of William Benjamin Gowen were

All of the heirs remained living in the area with the exception
of the oldest child, Jeremiah Benjamin Nunley Gowen who
was living “somewhere in Texas” and William Gowen Gentry
who was serving in the U.S. Army occupation forces in the
Philippine Islands. [Jeremiah Benjamin Nunley Gowen was
enumerated as the head of a household in the 1900 census of
Coryell County, Texas, Enumeration District 50, page 3.]

On September 24, 1900 the estate consisting primarily of
household items was appraised at $106.30. Additionally the
inventory included a loom at 50c, 20 bee hives at $10, 10
bushels of corn at 50c per bushel, one lot of books at $5 and
500 pounds of seed cotton valued at $15.

Children born to William Benjamin Gowen and Mary
Elizabeth “Betty” Nunley Gowen include:

Jeremiah Benjamin Nunley Gowen born May 30, 1847
Mary Jane Gowen born in 1849
Eliza C. Gowen born in 1850
Sarah Burleson “Sallie” Gowen born Feb. 14, 1851
James Carroll Gowen born July 12, 1852
Manerva A. Gowen [twin] born June 10, 1855
Harriett Elizabeth Gowen [twin] born June 10, 1855
William R. “Billy” Gowen born in 1858