The exact location of the Bowman family home has been a source of speculation for years. Some have claimed the family lived on Taylor St. in either 321 Taylor St (formerly Two Thrifty Girls) or Ana’s European Café buildings.
We cannot find any evidence to support these claims, particularly since these homes date from the 1920s, at least 15 years after Marshal Bowman’s assassination.
Did they live where the court house stands today?
Historians U.S. Cleveland and Lindsey Williams claim the family lived on the site of today’s county courthouse, and many people continue to support this theory. Then again, some of us don’t. Let’s examine the statements from Lindsey Williams’s blog:
- “City Marshal John H. Bowman, 45, was dead — murdered by an assassin firing through the screened front window of Bowman’s home on Taylor Street where the Court House now stands.”
- The site referred to by Williams is across the street from the Hector House, a two-story pool hall. The Hector House was built prior to 1887 and demolished in 1988. Would a family with six children live across the street from such an establishment?
- Assuming Williams is correct, the house would have to be on the corner of Taylor and Olympia, next to George Brown’s two two-story boarding houses. Wouldn’t a law enforcement officer’s wife and kids be more comfortable living in a family community than across from a pool hall and next to boarding homes which, according to the 1900 Census report, were occupied primarily by unmarried working men?
Albert Gilchrist makes an appearance
2. “First on the scene was State Representative Albert Gilchrist, the town’s most distinguished citizen who later became governor. A bachelor, he lived at the Dade Hotel just a half-block away on West Marion Street.”
- The corner lot at Taylor and Olympia is a full two blocks from the Dade Hotel (now the corner occupied by Leroy’s, Isabel and Annabel’s and F.M. Don’s).
The calaboose location is key
3. “Prisoners were locked in the ‘calaboose’ — a shed with a strap-iron cage built by a blacksmith and paid for by Trabue. It was located on an alley (now Herald Court) and behind Bowman’s house.”
- According to the Sanborn Maps of 1909 and 1914, the calaboose was located in the alley between Herald Court and West Olympia Ave., where today we find Florida Gulf Coast University.
- In his book, Punta Gorda Remembered, Byron L. Rhode places the calaboose “on Herald Court. It was a little brick building next to Jim Goff’s Livery Stable (Rear of present Herald Court building) with a high board fence around it. It had only two cells with strap iron for bars.”
- In 1909, there was a blacksmith shop at the corner of the Herald Court alley and West Olympia Ave. The calaboose was purchased as a kit from E.T. Barnum Iron and Wire Works and likely would have been assembled by a blacksmith. Today it would be across the street from Sandra’s German Restaurant. There were two livery stables in the vicinity and a blacksmith would be required to maintain the horses’ hooves in good condition for work.
Where was the livery stable?
4. “On the evening of the murder, several boys were playing around a stable being built across from Bowman’s house. Jimmy Cooper, son of County Assessor F.M. Cooper was on the stable roof in plain view of the Bowman residence.”
- According to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of 1909 and 1914, there were two livery stables in the vicinity of the calaboose. The closer one was in the location occupied today by the free parking garage. It spanned from Herald Court (at that time an unnamed road) to about where the public restrooms are. In 1909, behind that stable, facing West Olympia Ave. was a large dwelling.
- The other stable was located where today is the Taylor Street parking garage. No matter if the marshal lived where Williams says, at the corner of W. Olympia and Taylor, or at the corner of W. Olympia and the alley, the home would not be in “plain view” from the roof of the smaller stable on Taylor St.
- The stable in this account would have to be the one in the Herald Court alley near the blacksmith’s shop to see either possible home site.
5. Reported the Punta Gorda Herald: “He saw the flash of the gun, heard the report and saw the murderer run through the stable to Sullivan Street …”
- This statement is particularly interesting because in 1903, what we know today as Sullivan St. was called Desoto Street.
In this newspaper article from March 19, 1903, there’s an account of a suspect running from the scene. Many of the names and places jibe with the Census report of 1900.
This detail from the 1900 Census lists the Bowman family at house number 137, between Charles Schmidt and T.S. Morgan, and across the street from the Williams and the Swift families.
After thorough study of newspaper articles, census reports, books, and discussion with other local historians, it is my belief that the Bowman family lived in a large home which they owned, facing W. Olympia Avenue across the street from the private school and catty-corner to the Swift family. Based on the 1900 Census, other close neighbors include the William Demere and Tolbert Morgan families. The livery stable on what is now Herald Court and the calaboose were both located behind the house.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Learn about Punta Gorda’s history!
Sources: Our Fascinating Past-Charlotte Harbor: Early Years; Lindsey Williams – Writer at Large; Ancestry.com; Historic Map Works; Charlotte County History Collections Online; Newspapers.com; Google Maps
Marshal Bowman’s dramatic portrait was created by Simona Molino of Janas Studio Artistico in Italy. Janas is a fairy whose magic flights take her to starry skies and silvery seas. She inspires Simona’s fantasy artwork of memorable characters illustrated in rich colors and scrupulous detail.