This Saturday, descendants of George Washington Grover “GWG” Bowen will gather at the old Homestead in Eddyville for the 100th anniversary reunion of the association of the family homestead. Descendants of GWG have gathered here for reunions since the 1800s.
“Reunions are all about getting families together and preserving ties with their past,” said Amy Courter Knodt, great granddaughter of GWG and president of the Bowen Association since 2001. “We are celebrating the foresight and vision to keep us together for many generations. It’s all about family.”
Family members from around the country will make the journey to the old homestead to renew their family ties. Old photo albums are spread out awaiting family members to reminisce about their connection to GWG. The front porch is waiting with rocking chairs and a feast is planned.
GWG was born in 1823 in Cooperstown, N.Y. When he was seven, he moved with his family to Orlando (near Eddyville), then Eddyville where he lived until his death in 1908. GWG owned a sawmill and cheese box factory and was very active in town affairs. After his death, the house was occupied by a relative until 1912 when the family voted on the future of the house.
Ms. Courter Knodt, “Instead of breaking up housekeeping, they would keep it as a perpetual memorial and place to meet for reunions.” As a child, she spent a week every summer here with her grandmother and aunts from New Jersey.
Since then, the house deteriorated to the point where some felt it should be torn down. Ms. Courter Knodt’s attachment was so strong that 10 years ago she and her husband Harry Knodt began a restoration, supported by the association, which has consumed every summer with projects to renovate the house to its original dwelling. She and her husband, a former public school principal with enviable handyman talents, have done an amazing amount of the work themselves.
Walking into the house gives one the feeling of entering another era. Well-preserved furnishings fill the house with wood-burning cooking stove, water pump at the sink, drywell in the little pantry, slanting wood floors, three dining room tables, period furniture and portraits of GWG, his wives, aunts, uncles and cousins staring down with stern eyes, which have frightened more than one Bowen descendent, to the point of having to cover them up.
Tiny by today’s standards, it is hard to imagine raising 12 children here with the small kitchen/dining room, two downstairs bedrooms, parlors and one dorm above for the girls and one for the boys. Harry continues to work on the old homestead, but the house has become a summer retreat not only for the Knodts, but also for family and friends who love to visit and bask in the feeling of life in another era.