Archaeological Investigations 2001
Bowen's Prairie Historic Archaeological District
Jones County, Iowa
- - 13JN152 Bowen's Prairie Townsite - -
13JN152 | 13JN168 |
| Celebrities |
Program | OSA
The townsite of Bowen's Prairie dates to the mid-nineteenth century.
It was named after Hugh Bowen (see Bowen's
Prairie Celebrities), reportedly the first settler in Jones County,
who arrived in 1836. The village of Bowen's Prairie is shown within
the area identified as Hugh Bowen's settlement on an 1839 map of the
Military Road. At that time, the state that
would become Iowa was part of Wisconsin Territory. The Census of the
Wisconsin Territory for 1836 also records the presence of Moses Collins,
whose farmstead (13JN196) has been discovered
and excavated in the project area.
|1856 Plat Map of Bowen's Prairie Townsite
The village of Bowen's Prairie was first platted in 1853 by Otis and
Harriet Whittemore (see Bowen's Prairie Celebrities)
and eventually included 30 blocks. The townsite extended on both sides
of the Old Military or National Road, today's U.S. Highway 151. At least
two churches are associated with the townsite, First Congregational
built in 1854 and the Methodist-Episcopal constructed in 1858. In addition
to one cemetery, which still exists south of U.S Highway 151, Whittemore
is said to have provided land for a parsonage and a second cemetery
near the Congregational Church.
Structures in early Bowen's Prairie were typically log cabins and houses
with limestone foundations, with some of brick. Documentary evidence,
oral history, and plat maps suggest the existence in the townsite of
a stagecoach stop, blacksmith shop, post office, and general store.
By the end of the century, the town was in decline, having been bypassed
by the railroad which diverted settlement and business to nearby communities
such as Cascade, Monticello, and Sand Spring. The closure of the post
office in 1902 saw the landscape revert to farmland.
|Archaeologists have discovered evidence
for the Congregational Church, parsonage, a barn or livery stable,
post office and general store, rammed earth structure, and early
cabin at 13JN152. The Church, which stood on Lot 1 of Block 3, was
constructed in 1854 and was utilized throughout the nineteenth century.
It is one of at least two churches originally associated with the
townsite. The second, the Methodist-Episcopal, has not been discovered and may not have been within the townsite as originally
reported (see The
Palmer Church Site 13JN169). Local residents dismantled the
Congregational Church after it fell into disuse, and archaeological
evidence of its existence is ephemeral. Remnants of a faint limestone
alignment and mortar confirm its northern and western walls, and
its eastern wall appears as a slight mortar stain. Artifacts found
nearby include limestone, mortar, flat glass, wire and machine-cut
nails, and white earthenware (see Artifacts
from Bowen's Prairie).
Excavation of Congregational Church
|A 1910 Jones County history documents that Otis Whittemore donated
the grounds for the church, cemetery, and parsonage. Residents today
report the removal of headstones, but no additional evidence for the
cemetery has been found. A structure identified as the parsonage, however,
was discovered in the presence of a limestone and mortar foundation, large refuse pit, cistern, collapsed limestone well, and nearby privy.
Artifacts here date from the 1860s to 1920s. A barn foundation occurs
on the same city lot.
|A limestone foundation with a substantial basement, internal chimney,
and load-bearing wall represents the former location of a building believed
to be a post office and general store. This structure had two stories
and was divided into front and back rooms. The postmaster's family probably
lived on one side of the building. The quantity and type of artifacts
found is too abundant to represent either a house or post office alone
and includes intact glass jars and bottles, metal pans, kerosene lamp
parts, porcelain doll fragments, and hardware. Six evenly-spaced, limestone
pillars, the remnants of a barn or livery stable, occur just to the
south. Artifacts from this feature consist mainly of metal items including
barrel straps, numerous nails, and harness parts. Due east of the post
office/general store, a remnant of original Church Street was uncovered
in the remains of a gravel lens mixed with coal and slag.
Cistern with fill
Foundation of possible post office
and general store
Inside post office-general store
What may be the earliest feature at the site was found during the final
weeks of excavation. It appears to be a small cabin with artifacts indicative
of a pre-1850s occupation. This may be the actual cabin of Barrett Whittemore.
The most enigmatic feature at the site is a large, rammed earth structure,
possibly a granary constructed during the 1870s (see A
13JN152 | 13JN168 |
Program | OSA
Text by Lynn M. Alex; photos by General Contracts Program.
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