Wife and Baby of Larkin Gowen Burned to Death In Indiana
Larkin Gowen, son of Frederick Gowen and Nancy Coomer Gowen, was born in 1833 in Lee County, Virginia. Two years later his family lived in Pulaski County. In 1849 they removed to Green County, and in 1850 he appeared in Adair County in his father’s household as an 18-year-old illiterate farmer.
He was married about 1854 to Louisa C. Coffey who was born in 1829 in Adair County. In 1857 the couple lived in Carroll County, Virginia, adjoining Patrick County where he must have still had relatives. One of their sons was born there. By 1859 they had returned to Adair County.
In 1860 the family appeared in Adair County, Civil District 1 in the federal census as:
Going, Larkin 27, born in Lee County, VA, farmer, $200 real estate
Louisa C. 31, born in Adair County, KY
Matthew W. 4, born in Adair County, KY
Frederick D. 3, born in Carroll County, KY
Larkin L. 11/12, born in Adair Co, KY”
Larkin Gowen and Louisa C. Coffee Gowen did not appear in subsequent enumerations of Adair County. He was a resident of Gibson County, Indiana when his father died there in 1872, according to Gibson County Probate Book S, page 284.
Apparently Louisa C. Coffee Gowen died, and Larkin Gowen was was remarried about 1879, wife’s name unknown. His wife and their baby were burned to death at Midway, Indiana in Spencer County. A news story about their deaths appeared in the April 25, 1881 edition of the “New Albany Ledger-Standard:”
“The details of a most horrible calamity that occurred near the little town of Midway, in Spencer County, a few days ago, have been related to a Ledger-Standard reporter by a gentleman who today returned to this city from a business trip to that part of the state. Mr. Larkin Gowen is a farmer who resides near Midway. His wife, while he was out at the barn at work, was engaged in her domestic duties, her infant lying asleep on the bed nearby. Mrs. Gowen, in passing near the open fire place, accidentally set fire to her dress, and the inflammable material was speedily in a blaze.
The unfortunate woman in her fright, leaped into the bed where her infant lay, intending to smother out the flames by covering herself with the bed clothing. Her blazing garments, however, set fire to the bed clothes, and the wretched woman leaped from the bed to the floor where she fell in a swoon, overcome by her fright and the intense pain that she suffered. She was literally roasted, all of her clothing having burned from her body.
Her screams were heard by her husband who hastened to the house. His first care was to snatch the infant from the burning bed; but it had already been fatally burned. The poor mother lay in an insensible condition on the floor, but the agony of her suffering was not of long endurance, for death came to her relief. The calamity is one of the saddest that ever occurred in that part of the state. Mr. Gowen had a severe struggle with the flames ignited by the burning bed before he got them suppressed. He is an excellent citizen and has the sympathy of all who know him.”