New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the Bowers Family Papers
1686-1982
 MS 2902

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Christine George

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on April 09, 2020
Finding aid is written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Bowers (Family : Otsego County, N.Y.)
Title: Bowers family papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1686-1982 (bulk 1801-1899)
Abstract: The Bowers family settled in upstate New York near Cooperstown in the first years of the nineteenth century and became one of its most prominent families. This collection primarily consists of correspondence to and from Bowers family members as well as documents concerning the family's land transactions.
Quantity: 4.5 Linear feet (8 boxes, 13 volumes, 1 oversized folder)
Language: The Bowers Family Papers are written in English.
Call Phrase: MS 2902

Return to Top »


Historical Note

The Bowers family has a longstanding history with Cooperstown, New York. Henry Bowers Jr. (1747-1800) married Mary Myer in 1772. They lived in Massachusetts and then, later, relocated to New York City. In 1791, Henry began surveying land from what was known as the Bowers Patent, located across the river from Cooperstown, N.Y. Mary's father, John R. Myer, originally owned the Patent, but it passed to Henry and Mary. Henry's plan was to construct a city to be called Bowerstown. However, rather than becoming a reality, Bowerstown remained merely a plan on paper.

After Henry's death in 1800, his son, John Myer Bowers (1772-1800), moved his family up to live on the Bowers Patent. John married Margaretta M.S. Wilson in 1802. Margaretta's mother, Martha Wilson, was the daughter of Colonel Charles Stewart of New Jersey, who was a member of General George Washington's staff during the American Revolution. Robert Wilson, Martha's husband who died during the Revolutionary War, was also close with General Washington, and Martha frequently entertained the General and his wife, Martha Washington. Martha was later included in Elizabeth F. Ellet's 1848 work The Women of the American Revolution. By 1803, John and Margaret were settled in Otsego County, awaiting the competition of their house, Lakelands. They took possession of Lakelands in 1805, and Martha Wilson lived with them until her death in 1852.

John and Margaretta had nine children, the youngest of which was their only son, Henry John Ray Myer Bowers. When Henry was born in 1824, church bells rang in Cooperstown so that everyone knew that the Bowers had a son after eight daughters. John died in 1846, but Margaretta continued to stay in Lakelands. Upon her death in 1872, Martha Stewart Bowers, John and Margaretta's daughter, continued the Bowers residence in Lakelands.

Henry married Philotheta Craine in 1848. They had nine children, including John Myer Bowers, who later became one of the most notable lawyers in New York state. In 1915, John represented former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt in a libel case that had been brought against him by William Barnes who owned the Albany Evening Journal. Roosevelt won the verdict. John married Susan Dandridge and they had five children. Family was important to John. He used Lakelands as a summer home, and, when he died in 1918, his will stipulated that should any of his children contest, they would receive nothing because of "the ruinous consequences of litigation."

Spotswood Dandridge was John's oldest son, born in 1876. Like his father, Spotswood was also an attorney. He practiced in New York, Ohio, Washington, and Connecticut. In 1918, Spotswood married Marjorie Sampson Smith, daughter of Capitan Roy C. Smith who was, at the time, the Governor of Guam. Roy was a U.S. naval officer. He had married the daughter of Admiral William T. Sampson, who was a celebrated hero of the Spanish-American War. Spotswood and Marjorie had five sons (John Myer Bowers, Spotswood Dandridge Bowers Jr., Nathan Pendleton Bowers, Roy Campbell Bowers, Alexander Stewart Bowers, and Sampson Pendleton Bowers) all of whom can contribute at least part of their names to their impressive ancestors.

Bowers Family Chronology
1772 Henry Bowers Jr. marries Mary Myer. They have five children in Massachusetts: John Myer Bowers (born 1772), Mary Ann (who married James Chatham Duane), Frances (who married David Campbell), Rebecca (who married a man with the last name Scott), and Harriet (who married Bejamin Maverick Mumford).
1802 John Myer Bowers marries Margaretta M.S. Wilson. They have nine children--eight daughters and then their son, Henry John Ray Myer Bowers.
1805 The Bowers Family moves into newly completed Lakelands, their estate in Cooperstown, N.Y.
1848 Henry John Ray Myer Bowers marries Phila Thea Crain. They had five children who survived childhood, including John Myer Bowers, Henry Crain Bowers, and Martha Stewart Bowers.
1875 John Myer Bowers marries Susan Bowles Dandridge. They have five children, including Spotswood Dandridge Bowers.
1918 Spotswood Dandridge Bowers marries Marjorie Smith. They have five sons: John Myer Bowers, Spotswood Dandridge Bowers Jr., Nathan Pendleton Bowers, Roy Campbell Bowers, Alexander Stewart Bowers, and Sampson Pendleton Bowers

The Bowers family, as well as the families that they are connected to, have a longstanding history with Cooperstown, New York. Henry Bowers Jr. (1747-1800) married Mary Myer in 1772. They lived in Massachusetts and then, later, relocated to New York City. In 1791, Henry began surveying land from what was known as the Bowers Patent, located across the river from Cooperstown, N.Y. Mary's father, John R. Myer, originally owned the Patent, but it passed to Henry and Mary. Henry's plan was to construct a city to be called Bowerstown. However, rather than becoming a reality, Bowerstown remained merely a plan on paper.

After Henry's death in 1800, his son, John Myer Bowers (1772-1846), moved his family to live on the Bowers Patent. John married Margaretta M.S. Wilson in 1802. Margaretta's mother, Martha Wilson, was the daughter of Colonel Charles Stewart of New Jersey, who was a member of General George Washington's staff during the American Revolution. Robert Wilson, Martha Wilson's husband who died during the Revolutionary War, was also close with General Washington, and Martha Wilson frequently entertained the General and his wife, Martha Washington. Martha Wilson was later included in Elizabeth F. Ellet's 1848 work, The Women of the American Revolution. By 1803, John and Margaret were settled in Otsego County, awaiting the completion of their house, Lakelands. They took possession of Lakelands in 1805, and Martha Wilson lived with them until her death in 1852. In 1813, John was appointed as a replacement for the 15th District for New York in the U.S. House of Representatives.

John and Margaretta had nine children, the youngest of which was their only son, Henry John Ray Myer Bowers. When Henry was born in 1824, church bells rang in Cooperstown so that everyone knew that the Bowers had a son after eight daughters. John died in 1846, but Margaretta continued to stay in Lakelands. Upon her death in 1872, Martha Stewart Bowers, John and Margaretta's daughter, continued the Bowers residence in Lakelands.

Henry married Phila Theta Crain in 1848. They had nine children, including John Myer Bowers, who later became one of the most notable lawyers in New York state. In 1915, John represented former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt in a libel case that had been brought against him by William Barnes who owned the Albany Evening Journal. Roosevelt won the verdict. John married Susan Dandridge and they had five children. Family was important to John. He used Lakelands as a summer home, and, when he died in 1918, his will stipulated that should any of his children contest, they would receive nothing so as to avoid "the ruinous consequences of litigation."

Spotswood Dandridge was John's oldest son, born in 1876. Like his father, Spotswood was also an attorney. He practiced in New York, Ohio, Washington, and Connecticut. In 1918, Spotswood married Marjorie Sampson Smith, daughter of Capitan Roy C. Smith who was, at the time, the Governor of Guam. Roy was a U.S. naval officer. Roy had married the daughter of Admiral William T. Sampson, who was a celebrated hero of the Spanish-American War. Spotswood and Marjorie had five sons (John Myer Bowers, Spotswood Dandridge Bowers Jr., Nathan Pendleton Bowers, Roy Campbell Bowers, Alexander Stewart Bowers, and Sampson Pendleton Bowers) all of whom can contribute at least part of their names to their impressive ancestors.

Sources:

Biographical Review: This Volume Contains Biographical Sketches of the Volume 11: Leading Citizens of Otsego County, New York, Boston: Biographical Review Publishing, Co., 1893.

Ralph Birdsall, The Story of Cooperstown, Cooperstown, N.Y.: Arthur H. Christ Co., 1920.

Bowers Estate $3,000,000,   N.Y. Times, March 14, 1918.

Captain Roy Smith, Ex-Guam Governor; Retired Naval Officer Received Surrender of First German Vessel in War—Dies at 82,   N.Y. Times, April 12, 1940.

Oscar Jewell Harvey and Ernest Gray Smith, A History of Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, volume 1, Wilkes-Barre, Penn.: Raeder Press, 1909.

Nathan Bowers,   Daily Star, Aug. 31, 2005, available at http://old.thedailystar.com/news/community/obits/2005/08/ob0831.html.

Return to Top »


Scope and Content

The Bowers Family Papers span four centuries and several generations of the Bowers family, as well as the families that the Bowers married into. It contains personal items, such as correspondence and photographs, and items from the family's land transactions. There are a large number of leases, surveys with descriptions and drawings, bonds for deed, and account ledgers. The bulk of the correspondence is from the nineteenth century and describes the family's everyday occurrences. There is also a section pertaining to genealogy that traces family connections back several centuries.

While the bulk of this collection is from and deals with the Bowers family, there are other families connected to the Bowers families that are represented in this collection. In particular, the Stewart and Smith families are prominent. Martha Wilson (born Martha Stewart), Margaretta M.S. Bowers' mother, corresponded frequently with her Stewart cousins, and those letters make up a section of the correspondence. Similarly, Spotswood D. Dandridge married Marjorie Smith. Marjorie's father, Roy Smith, had a particular interest in his family's genealogy. His research and efforts for familial recognition, as well as his captain's log from his time in the United States Navy, are also included in the collection. These families are distinguished from the Bowers family with the description "Other Family" within the collection.

Other materials included in this collection are photographs, patents, wills, family bibles, and published books, including a nineteenth century biography compilation that includes a section on the Bowers family.

This collection, which spans from 1686 to 1982, is organized into seven series: Correspondence; Legal Papers; Financial Materials; Surveys; Photographs; Books; Genealogy Research; and Ephemera.

Arrangement Note

The Bowers Family Papers are arranged both alphabetically and chronologically. There are a number of oversized items that are identified with OS and located in an oversized cabinet.

The Bowers Family Papers

  1. Series I: Correspondence
  2. Series II: Legal Papers
  3. Series III: : Financial Materials
  4. Series IV: Surveys
  5. Series V: Photographs
  6. Series VI: Books
  7. Series VII: Genealogy Research
  8. Series VIII: Emphemera

Return to Top »


Access Points

Subject Names

  • Bowers, Henry, 1747-1800
  • Bowers, John Myer, 1772-1846
  • Bowers, Margaretta M. S. Wilson, Mrs., 1788?-1872
  • Bowers, Spotswood Dandridge, 1876-
  • Smith, Roy Campbell, 1858-1940
  • Stewart, C. S. (Charles Samuel), 1795-1870
  • Wilson, Martha, 1758-1852

Document Type

  • Correspondence.
  • Ephemera.
  • Genealogies
  • Leases
  • Ledgers (account books)
  • Notes
  • Photographs.
  • Wills

Subject Topics

  • Land patents
  • Deeds -- New York (State) -- Otsego County
  • Land titles -- New York (State) -- Otsego County
  • Real property -- New York (State) -- Otsego County -- Maps
  • Rent -- New York (State)
  • Wills -- New York (State) -- Otsego County

Subject Places

  • Otsego County (N.Y.) -- Social life and customs

Return to Top »


Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Use Restrictions

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to 20 exposures of stable, unbound material per day. Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, rightsandrepro@nyhistory.org. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit: https://www.nyhistory.org/about/rights-reproductions

Preferred Citation Note

This collection should be cited as the Bowers Family Papers, MS 2902, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials Note

The New-York Historical Society Museum Collections holds two portraits of members of the Bowers family: one of John Bowers by Alfred Quinton Collins and the other of Spotswood D. Bowers by F. Graham Cootes.

Separated Materials

A 1791 map of a tract of land in Otsego County, NY, was separated to the Map Collection. It is cataloged in Bobcat under call phrase L9.5.1.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Ned Bowers, 2010.

Processing Information

Processed by Christine George in 2011.

Return to Top »


Container List

Series I: Correspondence, 1767–1982

Scope and Content Note

Series I consists of two subseries. The bulk of the materials is from the Bowers Family and were written during the nineteenth century. There are also materials from the Bowers's extended family.

Subseries I.A: Bowers Family Correspondence, 1767–1982, undated

Scope and Content

Subseries A consists of correspondence to and from the Bowers family. The bulk of this correspondence is from the nineteenth century, but some date back to the late eighteenth century and as far forward as the late twentieth century. Most of this correspondence deals with day-to-day family matters. Because there were a number of letters to Margaretta Bowers and Martha S. Bowers, their correspondence is separated. The rest of the correspondence is placed in general correspondence and arranged chronologically.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 General Correspondence
1767–1798
Box: 1 Folder : 2 General Correspondence
1801–1839
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Correspondence to Margaretta M.S. Bowers
1803–1841
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Correspondence to Martha S. Bowers
1839–1874
Box: 1 Folder : 5 General Correspondence
1841–1894
Box: 1 Folder : 6 General Correspondence
1901–1982
Box: 1 Folder : 7 General Correspondence
undated

Subseries I.B: Other Family Correspondence, 1808–1938

Scope and Content

Subseries B consists of correspondence specifically to and from the Stewart and Smith families. Martha Wilson and her cousins Alexander L. Stewart and Charles S. Stewart make up the entirety of the Stewart family correspondence. The Smith family section consists mainly of correspondence from Roy Smith's efforts to gather genealogical information about his family.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Correspondence to Martha Wilson
1808–1850
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Correspondence to Martha Wilson from A.L. Stewart
1822–1835
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Correspondence from Charles S. Stewart
1854–1858
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Smith Family Correspondence
1909–1938

Return to Top »


Series II: Legal Papers, 1741-1933

Scope and Content

This series contains two subseries with materials relating to land transactions as well as specific legal instruments for the family.

Subseries II.A: Property Documents, 1741-1901, undated

Scope and Content

Subseries A contains documents pertaining to the Bowers family's land transactions. These documents include leases, bonds for deed, releases, various state documents, as well as a variety of real property documents. All of these documents are arranged chronologically.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Indentures
1741-1791
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Indentures (Numbered)
1792
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Indentures
1792
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Indentures
1792
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Indentures
1793-1799
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Indentures
1800-1803
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Indentures
1804-1810
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Indentures
1812-1901, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 1 Bonds for Deed
1765-1818
Box: 4 Folder : 2 Bonds for Deed
1819-1950
Box: 4 Folder : 3 Releases
1788-1837
Box: 4 Folder : 4 State Documents
1769-1885, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 5 Assorted Real Property Documents
1760-1884, undated
Oversize: OS Folder : 1 Oversized Leases
1714/15–1789
Oversize: OS Folder : 1 Oversized Assorted Real Property Documents
1686–1817

Subseries II.B: Estate, Marriage, Court, and Congressional Documents, 1748-1933, undated

Scope and Content

Subseries B contains other legal documents for the family. These include wills, marriage licenses, assorted court documents as well as two Congressional decrees.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 4 Folder : 6 Bowers Family
1872–1918
Box: 4 Folder : 7 Other Family
1799–1933, undated
Oversize: OS Folder : 1 Oversized Legal Materials
1748–1777

Return to Top »


Series III: Financial Materials, 1761–1907, undated

Scope and Content

This series contains the Bowers family's financial records. There are promissory notes as well as bills and receipts. Much of this series consists of accounting information on the properties, both in loose and bound forms. The bound volumes in this series, many of which are ledgers or rent roll books, refer to various lots the Bowers family owned.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 1 Promissory Notes
1761–1835
Box: 5 Folder : 2 Loose Ledger Information
1812-1879, undated
Box: 5 Folder : 3 Bills and Receipts
1772–1848, undated
Box: 5 Folder : 4 Finance Notes and Ephemera
undated
Volume: 1 Untitled Ledger
1762–1795
Volume: 2 Day Book
1840–1841
Volume: 3 Rent Roll and Ledger of the Estate of John M. Bowers
1846–1850
Volume: 4 Untitled Ledger
1847
Volume: 5 Inventory Landed Property Belonging to Mrs. M.M.S. Bowers,
1853
Volume: 6 Estate of Margaretta M. S. Bowers Deceased
1872–1879
Volume: 7 W.A. Collins Rent Book
1907
Volume: 8 Rent Roll Book
undated

Return to Top »


Series IV: Surveys, 1675–1860, undated

Scope and Content

This series consists of land surveys of the lots of land the Bowers family owned in upstate New York. The surveys are either written descriptions of the lots or drawings. Also included in the oversized section of this series is a drawing of Henry Bower Jr.'s Bowerstown.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 5 Folder : 5 Descriptions and Notes
1673–1860
Box: 5 Folder : 6 Descriptions and Notes
undated
Box: 5 Folder : 7 Diagrams and Maps
1773–1850
Box: 5 Folder : 8 Diagrams and Maps
undated
Oversize: OS Folder : 1 Oversized Diagrams and Maps
1791–1816, undated

Return to Top »


Series V: Photographs, 1880–1950, undated

Scope and Content

This series consists of photographs, both loose and bound. The loose photographs are divided into those that are annotated with either names or dates and those that are not. The photo albums contain four pictures from Matthew Brady's National Portrait Gallery as well as a few photographs taken by E. Anthony. Matthew Brady and E. Anthony were well known photographers during the Civil War. Brady was known for the portraits he took of many famous individuals of the era. The albums also contain other recognizable individuals including Major General John Adams Dix, General E. Wool, U.S. Navy Captain G.B. Wilson, James Fenimore Cooper, Secretary of State William H. Seward, Major Robert Anderson, and Union Army General Winfield Scott Handcock.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 6 Folder : 1 Annotated Photographs
1880–1950, undated
Box: 6 Folder : 2 Unnannotated Photographs
undated
Box: 6 Folder : 3 Large Photographs
undated
Box: 6 Photo Album A
undated
Box: 6 Photo Album B
undated

Return to Top »


Series VI: Books, 1817-1926

Scope and Content

This series consists of three subseries which contain a ship log, printed books, and family bibles.

Subseries VI.A: Unpublished Books, 1913–1926

Scope and Content

Subseries A contains Roy Campbell Smith's U.S. Navy Log. Smith was a naval officer, later Governor of Guam, and Spotswood Dandridge Bowers's father-in-law.

Container 1     Title Date
Volume: 9 Roy Smith, U.S. Navy Ship Log
1913–1926

Subseries VI.B: Published Books, 1817-1922

Scope and Content

Subseries B contains several published works connected with the Bowers family.

Container 1     Title Date
Box: 7 Cadwallader D. Colden, The Life of Robert Fulton, New York: Kirk and Mercein, 1817.
1817
Box: 7 Washington Irving, A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus in Three Volumes, volume 1, New York: G. & C. Carvill, 1828.
1828
Box: 7 Washington Irving, A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus in Three Volumes, volume 2, New York: G. & C. Carvill, 1828.
1828
Box: 7 Washington Irving, A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus in Three Volumes, volume 3, New York: G. & C. Carvill, 1828.
1828
Box: 7 C.S. Stewart, Brazil and La Plata: Personal Record of a Cruise. New York: G.P. Putnam & Co., 1856.
1856
Volume: 10 Biographical Review: This Volume Contains Biographical Sketches of the Volume 11: Leading Citizens of Otsego County, New York, Boston: Biographical Review Publishing, Co., 1893.
1893
Volume: 11 Rand McNally Complete Atlas of the World, Chicago: Rand McNally & Company, 1922.

Subseries VI.C: Family Bibles, undated

Scope and Content

Subseries C contains the Bowers family's bibles. These bibles do not contain much, if any, genealogical information.

Container 1     Title Date
Volume: 12 Bowers Family Bible A
undated
Volume: 13 Bowers Family Bible B
undated

Return to Top »


Series VII: Genealogy Research, 1912, undated

Scope and Content

This series consists of genealogical research. Most if not all of this research was initiated by Roy Campbell Smith. Notably in the first folder there are several documents from the Navy Department that prove Smith is descended from the Pomeroy family.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 8 Folder : 1 Pomeroy Family
1912, undated
Box: 8 Folder : 2 Campbell Family
undated
Box: 8 Folder : 3 Bard, Bowers, Dandridge, Pendleton, and Smith Families
undated
Box: 8 Folder : 4 Genealogy Notes
undated
Oversize: OS Folder : 1 Oversized Genealogy Materials
undated

Return to Top »


Series VIII: Ephemera, 1813–1933, undated

Scope and Content

This series consists of a variety of materials that show various aspects of the Bowers family's everyday life. There are newspaper clippings, some that are related to the family and others that are not. There are calling cards, a greeting card, and even a recipe for sponge cake.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 8 Folder : 5 Notes, Calling Cards, and Newspaper Clippings
1813–1933, undated

Return to Top »


Return to Top »