It is both gratifying and profitable to enter record concerning such a
man as he whose name appears at the head of this life record, and in the
following outline sufficient will be said to indicate the forceful
individuality, initiative power and sterling character, which have had such
a decided influence in making their possessor a leader in enterprises
requiring the highest order of business talent, and to gain for him wide
publicity among those who shape and direct policies of more than ordinary
William Bower, the well-known druggist of Olney, Illinois, was born May 21, 1842, the second child of Philip P. and Mary (Dundore) Bower, the former a native of Germany, and the latter of Pennsylvania. The father was born in Hesse Darmstadt in 1804, and when twenty years old emigrated to the United States and lived in Pennsylvania, first settling in Philadelphia in 1840. His first wife died in the old Keystone state and he married the subject's mother, a native of Lancaster, and the daughter of Philip Dundore, of German descent. Philip Bower moved to Jeromeville, Ohio and in the spring of 1840 came to Olney, Illinois. He worked at the cabinetmaker's trade for several years, and also engaged in merchandising and farming. His death occurred in the fall of 1873, at the age of sixty-nine years.
William Bower, our subject, is a member of a family of six children, born to Philip P. Bower by his second wife, being the second white male child born in what is now the city of Olney. The mother of the subject was called to her rest in 1856. Our subject attended school at the old log schoolhouse of Olney, having finished his education at the Olney Seminary, where he applied himself in such a careful manner that he received a good education. He began to make his own way in the world soon after his mother's death, leaving his parental fireside at that time. Beginning life as a teacher, he taught a six months' term at Macksburg and afterward two terms in Olney, making a success in this line, but not feeling that this should be his life work, he began learning the trade of marble cutter and later engaged to learn the trade of watch maker, having worked a few months at each, but he never finished either. He then engaged with K. D. Horrall, then as now, a hardware merchant in Olney. He was to receive three dollars per month for the first year, four dollars per month during the second year, and an increase of one dollar each month for the third year, also board and lodging. After remaining at this for a period of two years, Mr. Bower could not restrain the patriotic fervor he felt when the War of the Rebellion began, consequently he enlisted in the spring of 1861 in Company D, Eighth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, under Colonel Oglesby, afterward Governor of Illinois. After serving his enlistment of three months, proving to be a very capable soldier, he returned home and taught school, working at night at the tinner's trade. In the spring of 1863 he engaged to Charles Schultz as sutler clerk. While thus employed he was captured by General Wheeler's forces, shortly after the battle of Chattanooga, but after being held prisoner for a few days, was paroled and sent north.
In October 1863, Mr. Bower bought a stock of tinware and stoves and carried on a business in Olney until the following December, when he sold out and bought a half interest in the drug store of Dr. E. W. Ridgway. Fifteen months later he purchased his partner's interest and has since conducted the business alone, now being the oldest druggist in point of years of continuous trade in Richland county. He was successful in this line from the first and his business has gradually increased until he has quite an extensive trade throughout this locality. Mr. Bower is the second oldest businessman in years of uninterrupted dealing in Olney. He has been actively identified with the Illinois Pharmaceutical Association for many years, having served as its first vice president and chairman of the committee on legislation during the period when the Illinois pharmaceutical law was first enacted. On November 29, 1864, Mr. Bower was married to Sarah E. Ridgway, a representative of a well-known family. Her father having been the late Dr. E. W. Ridgway. She was born in Mansfield, Ohio. Four children have been born to the subject and wife, as follows: Catella, now the wife of M. E. Sebree, now superintendent of the Indiana Southern Railroad Company; Ernst Zeledon, who is in the store with his father, also owner and manager of the "Bower Knoll Stock Farm," the home of "John G. Carlyle" and other high bred horses; Emma died at the age of four years and Nina when two years old. The children of Mr. Bower have received good educations and are cultured and popular.
Mr. and Mrs. Bower are members of the New, or Swedenborgian church. In politics our subject is a Democrat. He served as Alderman from the second ward in Olney in the early seventies, and was elected by a large majority from the forty-fourth district as representative to the Thirty-first Illinois General Assembly, where he served as a member of the Committee on Education, Printing and Militia. He was the author of some important measures and proved a most industrious and useful member, showing that he was thoroughly alive to the interests of his constituents and he succeeded in making his influence felt in that body, gaining the admiration of all concerned for his clear and logical counsel. Mr. Bower was elected Mayor of the city of Olney in the spring of 1901, serving one term during which the city's interests were carefully conserved and many new policies inaugurated that will be of lasting benefit to the community. During the two years in which he served as Mayor, among the more important things accomplished for the public good was the building of the reservoir, costing over six thousand dollars, the city building remodeled, the Bower Park established and over four thousand dollars expended for water pipes, and there was an unusual activity in all departments of the city, while the debts of the city were not increased, but on the contrary, were somewhat reduced. During Mr. Bower's term an epidemic of smallpox was wiped out at a cost of over fifteen hundred dollars.
Socially Mr. Bower is a Royal Arch Mason, also belongs to the Richland Lodge No. 180, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and he is a member of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Mr. Bower has one of the most extensive drug stores in this part of the state, carrying a very carefully selected stock ranging from twelve thousand to fifteen thousand dollars, consisting of all kinds of drugs, physicians' supplies, books, paints, wall paper. He occupies his own building, a substantial two-story stone structure, twenty-five by one hundred and sixty-five feet, running from Main to Market streets, and he also has a very pleasant home.
In all the relations of life our subject has proven true to the trusts imposed upon him, and because of his past honorable record, his public spirit, his genial disposition and his honesty of purpose, he is held in high esteem by all who know him.
Extracted 26 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 219-221.