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O.C. Stonestreet

Note: This is a continuance of last Sunday’s column on Charles M. Bower, composer and lyricist of a 1922 booster song, “Statesville.” “Capt. Bower” as he liked to be called, was frequently involved with run-ins with the law. We pick up his story in December of 1913, after he is released from jail in Greensboro:

1913, December — Bower was released from jail on his own recognizance. Bower, described in the Greensboro Record as a “native Englishman,” exploited a fake English estate whereby he swindled two North Carolinians out of $8,000. Bower heard that a Mr. B. C. Deaton, of Statesville, believed there was an estate in England which belonged to the Deaton family. In the spring of 1909 Bower volunteered to go to England on Deaton’s behalf, as being an Englishman, he “knew all about the record office where information about the estate could be obtained.”

In November of 1909, the Deatons gave Bower $500 and a new suit of clothes and sent him to England. Bower returned six weeks later, reported that he had found the estate and that it covered a field of coal worth something like $20,000,000.

In spring of 1910, he came back to Statesville, got $600 more, returned to England to be present at the trial of the man who was living on the Deaton’s land. Bower later cabled the Deatons telling them the case had gone to a higher court, but would be tried in December. Things were not settled in December, and Bower sailed home about Christmas, 1910, but goes back to England in January. Another hitch followed. A new trial was set for June 1911. Bower crossed the ocean again in August, 1911, then returned in October, 1911.

One of the Deatons decided to go to England himself to see what was what. The investigation was postponed until February, 1912, and two of the Deaton family planned to be at the final suit trial. But in January, the Deatons received a letter from an English woman who said he married her and that Bower had been living with and supporting her since 1909, claiming he was a widower, which probably surprised Bower’s wife in Statesville. This all led to the following:

1914, April- Bower’s case figured in the newspapers. Arrested in New Orleans, he was brought to jail in Greensboro. He was released on his own recognizance to appear in Statesville. “If those who released him expected him to appear, they don’t know Bower,” The Landmark.

“It is said that this action — releasing him on his own recognizance — was taken because of the weak physical condition of Bower. Officers of the court and others made up railroad fare to Statesville for the defendant, where he will remain until the April term … when he will appear to answer to the charge upon which he was arrested,” Greensboro News.

1914, October — The case against Bower charged with using mail in furtherance of a scheme to defraud, was continued.

1915, April — Bower is under indictment for using the mails to defraud.

1919, August — Bower is in trouble again, arrested in Washington for “obtaining money under false pretense.” The story is carried in The Washington Times.

1919, August — Bower is in jail at Washington, D.C., for unlawfully collecting cash — about $1,000 — from Washingtonians, including presidents of two Washington banks, to recover pirate treasure, hidden since 1874 according to Bower, in Costa Rica. He is also reported to be using an alias, “Captain James Steele.”

1919, August 19 — “Capt.” Bower, who was arrested in connection with a scheme he was promoting to raise money to recover hidden treasure off the coast of Costa Rica, is free again. Reports The Landmark, “No one hereabouts entertained any other idea but that the captain would come out all right, as he has always done.”

1921, November — Bower is arrested in New Orleans for fraudulent use of the mails.

1922 — Capt. C. M. Bower, back in Statesville, publishes the booster song, “Statesville.”

1922, February 2 — Bower is issued a passport, giving his place of birth as Oswego, New York and gives his father’s name as Robert, an Englishman. The passport states he plans to visit Costa Rica and Colombia.

1922, February — Bower and Clyde Lazenby, his son-in-law, leave for Panama.

1922, June — Bower’s wife, the former Dovie Rebecca Cloer, dies.

1923, February — Bower arrives in New Orleans aboard the “S.S. Santa Marta ” , from the Canal Zone (later Panama).

1929, July — Bower celebrates his 91st birthday in Statesville, apparently in good health.

1931, November 17 — According to The Landmark and his death certificate, Charles M. Bower died of a heart attack at the Iredell County Home at age 93, but his headstone in the cemetery of Trinity United Methodist Church gives his death date as October 25, 1931.

***

Whether Mr. Bower, if that is his real name, is actually in the grave at Trinity Church, is unknown. Also questionable are his date of death, place of birth, his right to be addressed as “Captain” and other questions as to his education, military service, etc.

That he was an interesting character in Iredell County and the surrounding area, there is no doubt. His epitaph reads, “Gone, but not forgotten.” His full story is too long and complicated for summary here, but perhaps you have gotten a feel for the story. There seem to be no end to stories such as that of “Captain” Bower to be found in the old newspapers. I find them to be much more interesting than squabbles over the size of a flag.

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