Bowieland, the Book
Bowieland \boo-ee-land\n 1. slang term used by early Fairviewians to describe real estate collectively purchased by Anna, Byrd, and Evangeline Bowie primarily during the 1950s and 60s. 2. Bowie Nature Park. 3. book by that title published by The Friends of Bowie Nature Park, 2008.
What a movie this would make! The story covers all the bases:
history, love, money, achievement, compulsion, philanthropy and high family drama. Intending to tell the whole truth about the Bowies, warts and all, author Eileen Brogan spent two years in research and writing. The result: a page-turner of a book that will entertain with details of a most unusual family and familiarize the reader with the complex chronicle of Bowie Nature Park.
The final quarter of Bowieland showcases almost three-dozen stunning color pictures. Photographer Wade Hooper has captured Bowie Nature Park's exuberance in spring, the lushness of summer, the glory of fall and its austere grandeur in winter.
A few quotes for the book to pique your interest follow:
"Walter Bowie was in love. The object of his affection was one Eugenia (Genie) Miller, a distant cousin who grew up in "Belleville," a sprawling farmhouse near his hometown of Port Royal, Virginia. The Civil War veteran had moved to Nashville in 1879 seeking work.
"The Bowies had seven children, five of whom lived to adulthood. A son, Eugene Farley Bowie, was born in 1887. Anna Mary was born in 1890, and Walter Jr. in 1893. Evangeline (Van) was born in 1898, and Thelma Byrd in 1902. All the children were born at home, 808 Fairmont Avenue..."
Captain Walter Bowie,
Virginia Volunteers, 1865
Genie, Anna and baby Walter
"After the loss of her husband and eldest son, Eugenia Miller Bowie took charge of the family. Anna was 19 and a student at Peabody. Walter, Evangeline and Byrd were 16, 11, and 8, respectively. She continued to manage the rental property and invest in stocks and bonds. Eugenia did her best to ensure her children got a good education, especially her daughters."
"It was while she was teaching in Montevallo that Anna decided to go to medical school, an extraordinary decision for a woman at that time."
Anna at UTMB (1915-1920)
"Byrd's academic career was the most straight-forward of the family...in 1925...she enrolled in medical school...one of the first two women ever admitted to Vanderbilt School of Medicine."
"An advertisement led [the sisters] to Fairview, to an 189-acre farm offered for sale by Lectra and Elise Sullivan...They bought it immediately for$3,250.00, and put it in the name of all of them, including Walter."
"The agricultural exchange agent told Van the only thing that would grow on land like theirs was loblolly pine trees. So loblolly pines it was. They would have a tree farm."
"Van bought many parcels of land at auction...people would arrive, and then an elderly woman would drive up in an old station wagon, looking like shelived out of her car, or possibly under a bridge somewhere...Reluctantly, the auctioneer would accept the old woman's bids, and at the end, she was the high bidder. Then came the awkward question of how she wanted to pay for the property. She would dig through her pockets and fish out an old sock. She would reach into the sock and pull out a wad of bills and ask, "Will cash be all right?"
"An acquaintance described one of Van's houses in Fairview: 'You just had to walk on in and stagger through and this 'n that. And these were what she referred to as 'my things.' And 'my things' were newspapers and milk cartons and old cans and rusty fenders and bent hub caps. They were rocks,they were broken bricks and concrete pieces. They were lids off of jars, piled, in some cases, waist high...'"
"[The sisters] continued to buy land, and by 1975 the family owned over 1,000 acres in the Fairview area, over 800 of which were included in the tree farm; a 213-acre farm near Charlotte in Dickson County; five tracts of land in Hickman County totaling over 280 acres; and more than ten lots in Nashville."
Byrd, Anna, Van and Walter Bowie
"Almost from its inception, the Park founded by Dr. Evangeline Bowie was the subject of controversy. Supporters saw the Park as an asset, a source of pride...To many...holding the purse strings, the Park was a liability. City commissioners tried to find a way for it to make money, or at least to make it run on "zero based budgeting."'