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Our Family In The News


I have been having a challenge scanning and uploading the newspaper articles about Mary Liza, so I decided to type the article verbatim until the article can be scanned into this page.

NOTE: There are a few points in this article that don't match up with fact or family history. For instance, Mary Liza's last name was Myrick not Bowers. The nephew refered to in this article was the son of her sister Priscilla Myrick who married Allen Bowers. Also, verbal family history says Mary Liza was the first black child born in Washington County after the emancipation proclamation, not before as the article claims. I haven't found any records to confirm either time period as of yet. This article does; however, paint a vivid picture of the character of this Chipley resident.

By Don Renfro
Monday May 13, 1985

In the old graveyard Northeast of Chipley, there was a headstone which read: "Mary Liza Bowers, 1861-1958".

Time and lack of interest have taken their toll, and the stone is no longer there. It is not known where the grave of one of the last of slave-born folk in Washington County rests.

That in itself is not really important; what is important is the fact that nothing has been recorded about this lady who was loved for nearly a hundred years and was a colorful figure in Chipley.

While there are a few, who are able to remember Mary Liza and the many incidents in which she was involved, the mention of her name still elicits nostalgic responses from some of the older folks in Chipley.

In 1960, the Chipley Housing Authority, with L.E. Sellers at its head, voted to name one of three housing projects for this humble lady. Bowers had endeared herself to the citizens of Chipley through her good humor and diligence in completing whatever project she undertook.

Fleda Huggins, long-time Chipley resident, recalled that Bowers was employed by the Farrior family. "Mary Liza always said Mrs. Farrior taught her to make tea cakes while she was still a girl during the 1890's," she said.

"She was a good cook and full of stories," Huggins said.

Lou Stanton, another of Chipley's older residents, agreed with Huggins that Bowers was industrious. Although she had no children herself, Bowers had done a good job rearing her nephew Addison Bowers.

Bowers told many stories about the local area before the city of Chipley actually existed. Roland Fowler remembered Bowers telling of the times, as a girl, that she caught catfish in a pond that was once located where the Jehovah Witness Hall is today at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Highway 77.

After Addison grew up, Bowers turned to the job of supporting herself. There was no welfare in those days, and it was sink or swim for a lot of unfortunate people. Bowers was not lazy. Townsfolk liked the way she did her work, and there was always plenty for her to do from laundry to housecleaning or even dressing out a hen to bake.

As she got older, Bowers obtained a wagon. She became a familiar sight pulling the wagon with groceries, vegetables and what ever she could barter to add to her small bank account.

That bank account came in to public view during the depression in 1931,when many banks, including the one in Chipley, failed. Someone told Bowers the bank had busted, and that she was going to lose her money. Bowers didn't know anything about finances, but she marched straight down to the bank. After circling the building several times Bowers turned to the people assembled and told them: "I don't see any cracks in the bank. The money's still safe. Can't nobody reach through and touch any of it."

Angus Young talked about the time a circus came to Chipley on the train. When it pulled onto the siding, it was close to where Bowers lived. Some of the animals including elephants got into Bowers garden. When she saw the huge beasts eating her turnips, Bowers was dumpfounded. She had never seen an elephant before so she ran to the neighbor's house for help.

"Ya'll come quick," she cried. They's some rubber mules in my garden, and they're tearing it up."

All the storekeepers were fond of Bowers, who was called the "yellow watermelon queen" by many. She was partial to the yellow-meated melon, and according to some merchants Bowers would buy as many as 25 of the small melons at one time. The melons never spoiled, since the merchants managed to eat them before that could happen. When Bower's wagon wore out, the merchants all contributed, and at Christmas time, they presented her with a new 'little red wagon'. She kept that wagon until her death.

In spite of hardship and troubles, Bowers never stayed depressed for long. Even when her house burned, she was able to turn the situation into laughter. She looked at the smouldering ruin of what had been her dwelling, shrugged her shoulders and said: "Praise God! No one got hurt." Then she added: "Well, at least I won't have no more bedbugs, too hot for them."

Bowers was most famous for her "Sunday walk". Angus and Callie Young recalled the way Bowers would show off. In her youth, she had learned a peculiar strut, a way of showing off for the young men of her day. It was a youthful walk and even in her 80s and 90s, people would say to her: "Come on May Liza, do the 'Sunday walk' for us." The ordinarially dignified figure, dressed in her white bonnet and ankle-length dress, would then parade herself before a delighted audience.

The community showed its love and respect for an old friend when it named the housing project in her honor. It serves as a constant reminder of one who provided pleasure and service to her town.


Special thanks to the Washington County News for permission to put this article on this web site.

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