A Rabbit Hole and a Car Wreck       

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Down a Rabbit Hole

A while back I purchased an old book at an estate sale. Flipping through the pages I found an envelope. 

Let’s do some searching and see where this leads.

It is postmarked Dallas, April 29, 1907.

The addressee is Mrs. Berta W. Bowen of Austin. She lived at 706 Colorado Street, just two blocks from the capitol grounds.

Today that block is occupied by the art moderne style Brown Building (which is closer to tan). Built as an office building in 1938, both Lyndon Johnson and John Connally officed there during their careers. It has been converted to loft style apartments.

In 1907 there was an earlier structure on the site called the McDonald Building. Unfortunately I can’t locate any photos of it.

The Brown Building
 

But who was Berta W. Bowen? Another quick search takes us to an 1890 publication called Local and National Poets of America. Here we learn much.

 
 

We learn that she was born in Victoria in 1854. She was married to Walter C. Bowen. They ran a newspaper in Cotulla. She was the mother of four boys. 

We even get a sample of the poetry that landed her in Local and National Poets of America.

 
 

This snippet of her verse may have you rolling your eyes, but nineteenth century people ate this stuff up.

A little more searching reveals our Berta was the daughter of George Washington Wright, a veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto.

She died at Corpus Christi in 1938. Her husband Walter though died young. Only forty. There has to be a story behind that. 

And so there is. Here is how the news was reported in San Antonio:

 
June 4, 1891
 
Ex-Deputy Sheriff Alfred Y. Allee shot and killed W.C. Bowen, editor of the Cotulla Ledger, on the south bound train at Dilley station. From a passenger on the train which arrived here this evening the news correspondent received the following account of the affair:
 
Bowen had published an article in his paper reflecting on Allee, and Bowen had been looking for Allee but they had not met since the publication of the article, until the shooting today.
 
Bowen and his brother, W.J. Bowen, formerly county attorney, were on their way from San Antonio to Cotulla, where Allee got on the train and seeing them went into another coach which was crowded, and there being no other vacant seats Allee and Jasper Symmes, who was with him, returned to the car where Bowen and his brother were seated.
 
As they did so, it is said W.C. Bowen picked up his pistol which he had lying on the seat beside him and opened fire on Allee, holding the pistol with both hands.
 
Allee ran toward the Bowen brothers and tried to draw his own pistol, which caught in his vest. Just as Allee grabbed Bowen’s pistol the latter fired it. By this time Allee had his weapon out and stuck it close to Bowen’s breast and fired. Bowen then fired another shot while Allee was holding his pistol, when Allee placed his pistol to Bowen’s head and blew Bowen’s brains out, firing two shots into his head.
 
Bowen then relaxed his grasp on his pistol and fell dead. Allee took the pistol from the dead man’s hand. W.J. Bowen shot at Allee and Jacob Symmes, who was in the line of fire, imagined that Bowen was shooting at him and he fired and broke the arm of Bowen, who then ceased firing.
 
Allee and Symmes then got off the south bound and boarded the north bound train, the two trains meeting at the place where the tragedy occurred, and they went to Pearsall, where both surrendered to the sheriff there, and Allee delivered up his own and Bowen’s pistols, each of which had three empty cartridges, the charges of which had been recently fired.
 
The tragedy created intense excitement on the train on which it occurred. Women fainted and screamed and men in a panic jumped over each other and out of the windows.
 
The shooting causes great excitement in Frio and La Salle counties, where all of the parties connected with the tragedy are well known. Allee was formerly deputy sheriff at Cotulla and killed the celebrated stage robber, Dick Cornot, alias “Captain Dick.”
Dilley Station, where Mr. Allee killed Mr. Bowen, between San Antonio and Laredo. 
 

Walter Bowen’s behavior sure seems odd. Until you read up on Alfred Y. Allee. Then it makes perfect sense.

Here’s what I found out:

He had served as a deputy sheriff in both Karnes and Frio Counties. He had a reputation for “quick and casual violence.” Suspects in his custody had a habit of dying.

While on the job in Frio County, Allee got into a “debate” with a fellow deputy over which was the fastest draw. Allee proved it was him, putting eight slugs in the other man. He was acquitted because witnesses said the other man drew first. So maybe Deputy Allee just had the better aim. A witness would never lie.

Allee stood trial in February of 1892 for the murder of Editor Bowen. He was acquitted. Again.

 

So, what became of the dangerous Mr. Allee? He lived another four years. This 1896 clipping is long, but worth reading.

 

I hope you enjoyed this trip down the rabbit hole. It’s pretty amazing where an old envelope can lead you.

 
 
 
 

I Should Be Dead

 

Last week another car hit mine while on an overpass. The impact sent me into the guardrail which acted as a launch ramp, sending me up and over.

My car rolled multiple times in the air, and at least three more times on the ground. I should be dead, but by the grace of God I’m still here.

People are good. An angel named Julie, a total stranger, held me down and kept me from going back into the car to get things. A man, whose name I never got, held my hand and prayed for me. The paramedics were on the scene in under five minutes and were fantastic. Same with the trauma team and Christus-Spohn Shoreline.

So many friends have gone out of their way to see to my needs for everything from food to transportation. Like I said, people are good, and I am blessed with more than my share of true friends.  

We lost a little over a week of work time, so orders placed the 10th and 11th are just now going out. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Mark

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