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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Plain Speaking & Fair Dealing

Thomas Bowen (1808-1883) settled on the border of Wisconsin and Illinois, just south of Monroe, in 1836. He had such a prosperous farm that five years later he raised 4,000 bushels of corn. This flooded the market, and corn became almost worthless, bringing only 10 cents a bushel. In frustration Bowen swore that he wouldn't take less than 25 cents per bushel and "would be d--d if he would take any more."

The next winter was long and cold and his neighbors needed corn. Hundreds beat a path to his door for the precious commodity, which he happily sold to them at 25 cents a bushel. Asked why he didn't demand a dollar or more, Bowen replied that "he had given his word and sealed it with an oath, that twenty-five cents was all he would take; and that he would not peril his soul's salvation by taking more."

Perhaps Bowen's integrity brought him good karma.

A few years later, while repairing his rifle, he accidentally shot one of his daughters while she was putting linens away in a chest. One of his neighbors recalled that "the gun went off, the ball passing through both legs just above the knees, striking the chest lid in its descent, plunged into one corner of the chest and made a little mouse nest in its gyrations among the fragments. In an instant Uncle Tom sprang, caught her in his arms, laid her on the bed, straddled a horse and shot like an arrow for the doctor.

"Dr. Bankston after a thorough examination of the wounds exclaimed, 'Bowen you could not do that again if you should shoot a thousand times. The ball has not touched a bone nor a cord nor an artery. If the girl had been standing up straight and firm the ball would have made serious work.'" Bowen's daughter completely recovered from her wounds in a short time.

These are just two of the hundreds of stories to be found in our new online collection of Wisconsin County Histories. Poke around using the Full-Text search box there, and see what other odd anecdotes you can uncover.

:: Posted in Curiosities on January 4, 2010

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