My summer diversions came crashing to a halt last week with the start of school, which means that I am back to work now. Throughout this past summer I have spent one day a week at the BYU Family History center. Downstairs in the Harold B. Lee Library is a cozy little genealogy center full of rows and rows of microfilms. Several hundred of these microfilms contain the old newspapers from small towns in Utah. Since my ancestors are all Utah Pioneers (literally), and since many of them settled these small towns, I have been able to find mention of them in their hometown newspapers!
In particular, I have been searching for obituaries. Yes, I know that I could go to Utah Digital Newspapers and let them help me find obituaries. That is a great website; however, there is something very satisfying about the hunt through the pages of a little newspaper to find your ancestor’s name. And there is so much more to see! In that day, the deaths in town were front page news and that is where I have found all my obituaries… alongside whatever other meaningful activities were taking place in that town. This is how I came across the tragedy that befell the Gowers family of Nephi, Utah during the summer of 1921.
I am not related directly to the Gowers family, but have an indirect connection through my great-great auntie Deltha. Those that have followed my blog may remember my three-part series on the life of Deltha and her tragic end. (Here is part one, part two and part three.) For a quick refresher, Deltha Bowles (at right) married Clyde Gowers (at left) and then both were killed three years later in an automobile crash during June 1921. I found Clyde’s & Deltha’s double obituary on the front page of the town newspaper in Nephi. “All Nephi mourned” for them and their parents were left to raise their two sons.
*Photo above says it was taken in 1921. Must have been taken just after the death of Clyde & Deltha since Clyde is not included in this picture with his siblings and father. However, Clyde’s & Deltha’s two sons (Don & Jay) are included in this picture. Left to Right Seated: Elmer, AlfredJr, Don (lap), Ronald, AlfredSr and Mont. Left to Right Back: Jay (baby), Eva, Clarence, Bernell, Eugene and Laura.
Then, as I continued to scroll through the weekly newspapers that followed, I was saddened to see that the Gowers lost another son, Ray, just two months later. His body was shipped home from France where he had been killed in the world war. The Gowers were forced to hold another funeral that summer in August 1921 and again the town rallied around them, this time with full military honors for their son Ray Gowers (at left). Subsequently, imagine my shock to find that only one month later in September 1921, the Gowers’ 15-yr-old son Elmer died from complications due to an appendicitis attack. The town newspaper announced the funeral for Elmer Gowers saying, “Mr. and Mrs. Gowers have the heartfelt sympathy of the people of this city in their latest bereavement, as it is felt that the present summer has been filled with sorrow and trouble for them.”
Check out this news article describing the interesting ‘health crusade’ to honor Elmer Gowers (at right) and the manifestation of love from the entire town for the Gowers family in their multiple losses over the summer of 1921. The town newspaper said, “Every available seat in the North ward meeting house was occupied Sunday afternoon at the funeral services of Elmer Gowers, while a large number were unable to get inside of the building, all of which bore silent testimony of the sympathy that was felt for the parents and family of the young man in their latest bereavement.”