Tuesday, June 21, 2011



I am grasping at straws here.   Since I can find no records of the early life of Olive Bowser I have formulated some ideas to pursue.

It is know and documented (death certificate and obit) that her birthday was 4 October 1874 in Armstrong County PA.   Her parents  are listed as Jacob and Mary (UNK) Bowser of Armstrong County PA.

Also listed are “several brothers and sisters”  but no names are listed.   I still want to go and see if there are cemetery records and return to the Armstrong County Genealogy Library.

In Armstrong County there was listed an Olive M Bowser b. 1875 in Armstrong County, she was the daughter of Felix and Mary Bowser.  I later found the death and picture of her tombstone and she had died in 1885.  In the 1880 census I find Maud Bowser b. 1874 with parents of Jacob and Mary Bowser living in Armstrong County.

My Olive disappears until the 1900 census living in Pittsburgh with Robert Stephens.  The couple have three children at this time.  

A while back I received a copy of Robert Stephens Civil War Pension Record.   I did not post much about it at the time because of something I had found.  My husband and his brother told me that I could post the information because all the people involved have all died long ago.

Robert was married 9 May 1868 to Sarah Wright (b. Franklin Township PA) in Allegheny City PA. They had four children, Rachurl  (Rachel?), Robert, William and Rudy.   In 1890 Robert is living alone in the “Morgan House” in Allegheny City PA.

In 1914 Olive filed for his accrued pension.  In that statement it said that she was married under the name of Olive Bowser at Allegheny City (Allegheny County PA) in 1893 by “no ceremony.”

Olive had not been married before and the “soldier had been married and application made for divorce in 1893 from 1st wife but never carried through”  First wife (Sarah Wright) died 19 December 1910.  

In the 1900 census they stated that they had been married since 1891 and have three children at this time.   Olive was probably about sixteen when she and Robert met and were together until he died in 1913.   They were never legally married,  in an affidavit filed after his death she stated that she could neither read or write and she thought he had divorced and they were married until someone read his papers she found after his death.

My thought is did her parents know of her marital status?   Did she take the name Olive from her dead cousin Olive M?   Is my Olive really Maud also born in 1874?    At what age did she move to Allegheny City?   She worked as a domestic, did she meet Robert in the “Morgan House?”   Robert was twenty five years older than Olive.   Did she take up with Robert out of necessity?  Was she unable to support herself?

In the pension records it was stated that he referred to her as his “wife” and they lived together for twenty years and she took care of him after his spinal injury in 1903 until his death in 1913. All the affidavits given by people who knew the couple stated they the were happy together.

Will I ever find the answer?  

1 comment:

  1. I hope you will find the answer, Claudia! This is such a confusing situation - and I wish I had enough experience to give you some good advice about how to find the answers. If only Pennsylvania were more open with their records - and had started keeping records earlier! Best wishes for your finding answers about Olive!