Historic Bowman Home

The home on the corner of Roberts and East Main streets owned by Mrs. Jean Bowman was one Governor Albert H. Roberts and his wife once lived in.


The home of Mrs. Jean Bowman and husband, the late Bill Bowman, located at the corner of Roberts Street and East Main in Livingston, has history that reaches all the way back to the Civil War days. I learned about this home through a book that is now available at the Overton County Heritage Museum written by Mary Katherine Sproul. The book is entitled "A Civil War Diary" and can be purchased for $25.00 per copy. After reading only a few pages of the diary kept by Mary Katherine, it is quite obvious she was an extremely well educated young woman, and one who was not afraid to stand up and voice her political beliefs during a time when that sort of thing was unheard of. Here is some information from the Sproul book:

Bailey Owen Bowden was the youngest of eight children whose parents were Elias Bowden and wife Mary (Owen) Bowden.of Fentress County. Named for his grandfather, Bailey Owen Bowden was born in 1834 near Boatland. He worked on the farm with his father until he was twenty-two. At that age, he entered Mount Cumberland Academy which was located in Poplar Cove of Fentress County where he attended three sessions. He then enrolled in Hiwassee College, walking eighty-five miles to reach the school, and later taught Latin there. He had completed two years and six months at this college when the Civil War broke out. He enlisted in the Federal army and served until the close of the war, taking part in the battles of Nashville, Franklin, and others. Following the war, he became the first Clerk and Master of Fentress County, receiving the appointment in 1865.

It is believed that when the Sproul family first came to Overton County, Mary Katherine Sproul (Miss Molly), her parents and younger brother lived somewhere in the Hartsaw Cove or Copeland Cove area of Overton County. Miss Molly taught school at Bethlehem prior to the war in a little log building that was used as both school and church. Being an outspoken Union sympathizer in a county that favored the Confederates, life was difficult during the war years. Most families eventually withdrew their children from her school and she was forced to close it for lack of funds. In 1867, Bailey Owen Bowden married Mary Katherine Sproul, a graduate of The Female Institute of Maryville, Tennessee. Mary Katherine was a teacher there for seven years. Bailey Owen Bowden taught two years in Columbus, Kansas, and during the years 1888 to 1894, he taught at Alpine Institute in Overton County, Tennessee.

By 1900, Mary Katherine Sproul Bowden and her husband, Bailey Owen Bowden, built the house now owned by Mrs. Jean Bowman on the corner of East Main and Roberts streets. The house was originally built to face East Main Street, but since has been turned around to face Roberts Street. For a few years, the Bowden daughter, Nora Deane and her husband, Albert Houston Roberts, lived in the home with her parents. At that time, Albert Houston Roberts was a practicing attorney in Livingston.

In the foreword of Mary Katherine's book dated January 16, 1944, her granddaughter, Helen Roberts-Gayden, wrote this about her grandmother:

"This interesting story of the Civil War was written by my grandmother, Mary Katherine Sproul, better known as Molly. She was a small woman with beautiful red hair and blue eyes. She possessed something more for women in those days ... a college education. Her brother, William Henry
Harrison Sproul, sent her through school, The Female Institute at Maryville, Tennessee. She was known to be very spirited and independent. Her brothers (2), father and mother lived at Jonesville, Virginia, where she was born. Her father's name was James Sproul, her mother was a Barker
before her marriage. She always boasted of belonging to the F.F.V.'s (first families of Virginia). While she was away at school, she had a very sad love affair. The young man to whom she was engaged was forced to marry another girl in order to clear her name. Broken hearted, Mary
Katherine, along with her father, mother, and younger brother, John, moved to Livingston, Tennessee, in Overton County, where she was to open a school. It was while she was teaching there that the Civil War broke out.

"After the war, she married Bailey Owen Bowden. He also favored the Union and fought with the Federal Army, oddly enough against six brothers who were in the Confederate Army. He too completed a college education. Having so much in common contributed to a very happy marriage between Mary Katherine and Bailey Owen Bowden. She was 35 when she married, and at 36, gave birth to a little girl. Nora Deane Bowden, was to grow up and marry Albert Houston Roberts, who became a teacher, lawyer, judge, and later Governor of the State of Tennessee in 1919. Nora Deane was a brilliant child of brilliant parents and was also a talented pianist. Mary Katherine "Molly" Sproul Bowden was a very fine artist. Her house contained paintings in every available space. She destroyed these when she became old and her mind had failed. She was a very colorful and impressive character up through her last days."

Both Bailey Owen Bowden and Mary Katherine Sproul Bowden are buried in Good Hope Cemetery in Livingston. A grandchild, Albert H. Roberts, Jr., is buried beside them.

Roy McDonald and wife Sally McDonald lived in the house prior to its purchase by H. P. (Pete) Howard and wife Verta (Winningham) Howard who owned it for many years. During the years the Howards owned the house, it was turned to face Roberts Street. The property sold at auction in 1991, at which time it was purchased by the present owners, the Bowmans.