Garrett Hubert Gowan Needed
Elbowroom as He Moved West
Garrett Hubert Gowan, son of Richard Gowan and Susan Peacock Gowan, was born March 29, 1845 in Smith County, Mississippi. He was a student at Sylvarena Academy there at the outbreak of the Civil War, and at the age of 16 immediately volunteered in the first Confederate company raised in Smith County for the Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry Regiment.
His regiment quickly moved to Virginia and reported to Gen. Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson just in time to participate in the Battle of Cross Keys in June 1862.
This engagement was followed in quick succession by the Battle of Seven Days, and the desperate Battle of Malvern Hill. During the battle, Pvt. Gowan was ordered to the rear and handed a discharge–the army had become aware that he was underage.
Garrett Hubert Gowan was sent home where he stewed in impatience until his eighteenth birthday. On March 18, 1863 he re-enlisted, and because of the spirit of this eager young volunteer, he was allowed to return to Virginia to resume his place in his old company in the Sixteenth. Because of his youth, he was assigned to provost guard duty upon his return, but was finally allowed into combat in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. Here in May 1864 the armies of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant grappled with each other for two weeks in hand-to-hand combat.
Young Gowan received a severe leg wound in the battle and was sent to the hospital. Six months later, after recovering from his wound, he was retreating with his regiment.
He was taken prisoner in North Carolina in a battle on the Weldon & Petersburg Railroad. He was confined in Pt. Lookout, Maryland where he was paroled and exchanged in the following winter.
Garrett Hubert Gowan returned home and was married May 16, 1866 to Mary Elizabeth Lyles, his classmate and childhood sweetheart. She was born June 6, 1849 to John Tharp Lyles and Julia A. Davis Lyles. John Tharp Lyles was an outstanding citizen, according to “History of North & West Texas,” published in 1906 by Capt. B. B. Paddock:
“He was a prominent merchant, farmer and man-of-affairs who served with distinction in the Twentyseventh Mississippi Infantry. He died in 1874 from the effects of a terrible wound in the neck received during the Vicksburg siege the day before the surrender. He had creditably filled public office in Noxobee and Smith Counties. His brother, Dr. W. D. Lyles was Surgeon General of the Confederate Army. Mrs. Julia A. Davis Lyles was noted not only for her attractive personality and numerous accomplishments, but was distinguished by her marked intellectuality, charm of manner and gifted conversational powers.”
Immediately, the young couple left for Texas, hoping to rid themselves of the oppression of the carpetbaggers who were flooding into Mississippi.
“Being of enterprising and adventurous disposition, they removed thither, and departed by rail for Vicksburg. Upon their arrival there, they boarded the Steamship “Madam Ruth” for Little Rock where they joined his sister and her husband for the difficult part of the journey to Texas. Mr. Gowan began his preparation for the overland trip by buying a good yoke of oxen and an old Illinois wagon.
Dressed in homespun but each with a belt of $20 gold pieces around the waist, they started bravely forth.”
He began ranching in Ellis County and Navarro County, Texas and drove his herds to New Orleans when ready for sale. Ranchers allowed their cattle to roam on the open range making them easy prey for rustlers and horsethieves in the lawless post-war period. To reduce his losses to theft, Garrett Hubert Gowan strung the first barbed-wire fences in Navarro County about 1872. Settlers began pouring into Navarro County and breaking out the land for cultivation. Feeling crowded, he removed to Eufala, Indian Territory and started over in ranching amidst the Choctaws and Cherokees.
The threat of Sooners and Oklahoma land rushes convinced him that his future lay farther west. In 1876, he resettled in Clay County, Texas near the site of old Camp Wichita, a post erected for the protection of settlers from the Indians. Here he acquired 8,000 acres of grassland.
Thirty years after he arrived in Clay County, Garrett Hubert Gowan found himself again surrounded by “sodbusters.” His 8,000 acres had become an oasis of grass surrounded on all sides by sod and settlers, and he again felt the pressures of civilization. At that time his family convinced him that a 63-year-old cowboy had no business in moving and starting over again farther west. They prevailed up him to buy a home in Ft. Worth and become a “city dude.” The women in his family enjoyed the cultural advantages that “Cowtown,” a metropolitan city with 27,000 inhabitants, streetcars and an opera house could provide.
Garrett Hubert Gowan stewed and longed for the open range.
In 1912, when he could stand it no more, he bought a three-section ranch in Gaines County, Texas, on the New Mexico line for $12,000 cash. Garrett Hubert Gowan and Mary Elizabeth Liles Gowan were influenced by their children to return to Ft. Worth frequently. They observed their golden wedding anniversary there in 1916 and came back again in 1924 for their 58th wedding anniversary.
In 1918, Garrett Hubert Gowan became a pioneer again. He applied for a federal land grant on New Mexico ranchland. After four years of “proving up” on his claim, Pres. Woodrow Wilson signed a land patent in 1922 to the 76-year-old settler. Through all the years, Garrett Hubert Gowan had retained a small ranch just south of Henrietta, the county seat of Clay County. Whenever he began to feel “hemmed in,” he could recapture the pioneering spirit by returning to Henrietta.
He died there May 10, 1930, according to Clay County Death Book 2, page 23. He was buried in Bellevue Cemetery, according to “Cemeteries of Clay County, Texas” by Walter Speakman. His widow died in the same year and was buried beside her husband.
Children born to them include:
Terrie Eudora “Teedo” Gowan born January 17, 1868
Robert Sherwood Gowan born August 8, 1869
Edward Elexandria Gowan born March 9, 1871
Richard Tharp Gowan born December 2, 1873
Maggie Julia Gowan born January 1, 1876
Susan Maude Gowan born March 18, 1878
Mary Eolian Gowan born October 8, 1881
Garrett Hubert Gowan, Jr. born September 13, 1893