The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Wilcher and Rhoda Marshall Bowman

By Imogene Turman © 1987

Issue: February, 1987

Seated: Wilcher and Rhonda. First 3 standing from left are unknown, then Lillian, Caleb, "Cana Lee" (no. 9 child), unknown, Matt Bowman.Seated: Wilcher and Rhonda. Standing from left are unknown, Dalene Jackson, Clementine Vass, Lillian, Caleb, "Cana Lee" (no. 9 child), unknown, Matt Bowman. Click on photo to see larger image.Wilcher, son of Bynam and Rebecca Dillard Bowman was born November 26, 1850 in Carroll County, Virginia. The old home place is located about two miles east of Groundhog Mountain.

Wilcher married Rhoda Marshall when he was 21. She was the daughter of John S. and Nancy Brancome Marshall.

Wilcher and Rhoda spent the entire 72 years of married life on the same farm which is about one mile north of Laurel Fork, Virginia. The house they built is still standing. The hundred acre farm cost $400.00 and they paid the lien in full in 1881.

Wilcher and Rhoda raised 12 children of their own plus three of their grandchildren who were left without a mother at an early age.

I have heard Wilcher speak much of his early married life. He told once of walking many miles to borrow a sifter. They sifted all the corn meal and wheat flour (and they used a lot in those days), then Wilcher walked the mile back to return the sifter. They had to make out with the few things they could get. Wilcher made shoes and I remember taking my grandmother to his house to mend her shoes. They would sit by the fire and talk of the "old days."

Wilcher didn't get to go to school. There was always to much work to do. When he was 70 years old, he decided to learn to read. His wife taught him to read the Bible. This was the Bible he bought for his wife when they were married. He read this Bible through eleven times straight. His hand prints were on the cover. He requested this Bible to be placed under his head when he was buried. This was done.

Of the 72 years of married life, 17 days was the longest period of separation. This was when Rhoda was in a hospital.

Every year Rhoda made a special dinner for Wilcher. The children and grandchildren gathered in and this was a time of celebration. The children carried this out as long as Wilcher lived, which was 101 years. He died April 15, 1952.

Wilcher was baptized into Laurel Fork Primitive Baptist Church in January of 1886. The snow was falling. He said this was the best day he lived. He was ordained Deacon, August 1908. He served the church well and helped build the building in 1904. This building has been brick sided and remodeled since.

Mr. and Mrs. Bowman are buried in the church cemetery. He remained strong in body and mind almost to the end. He attributed his long life to his steady nerve and clean living. When he was a young man, he observed many discontented old people. He determined that for himself, he would find peace and contentment, thus making this philosophy, "Life is just what you make it."

To try to imagine what a day in the home of Wilcher and Rhoda was like, remember there were 12 children to feed and clothe. The food had to be grown and kept for winter use. The clothes also had to be made at home from wool from their sheep. That was a slow process from the washing of the wool to spinning the thread, then weaving the cloth.

The names of the 12 children of Wilcher and Rhoda Bowman: Nancy Elizabeth, Rebecca Anna Belle, William Walker, Mary Magdaline, Henrietta Clementine, Caleb Dennis, John W. Daniel, Bynam Isaac Pierce, Alfred Elchana Lee, John Bolen, Madison Blansette, and Martha Lillian.