Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Robert Bower Made A Difference

Robert Bower, my maternal 2nd great-grandfather, emigrated from Liverpool to New York in 1856 on board the tall ship, William Tapscott. He fought for his country. He was an agitator for the ten-hour work day in the textile mills. He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He published The Lawrence Journal. He was a labor leader. He made a difference.

Born April 28, 1828 in Stockport, Cheshire, England, Robert was a son of William Bower and Mary Andrew of whom I know nothing about. They are on my elusive ancestor list.

My 2nd great-grandmother, Phebe Marsland, was christened March 8, 1829 at St. Michael's, Ashton Under Lyne, Lancashire, England. Robert and Phebe were married December 26, 1847. In 1851, they were both 23 years old--he was a school master, she was a steam loom weaver. They settled in Lawrence, MA, where they had 11 children. Phebe died when she was only 48 years old.

Before he even became a U.S. citizen, Robert served in the Civil War as a Private with Co. C, 50th Regiment, Mass. Volunteer Infantry from 1862-63. Family lore is that he came home from the war with a dog and a young boy. Here he is at age 80 no doubt quite proud that he could still fit into his uniform.

In 1868, Robert established his own printing business. Originally known as Robert Bower, Card and Job Printer, it was later renamed Robert Bower & Co. When his son Charles Robert Bower joined the business it was known as Robert Bower & Son.

At the age of 42, Robert was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1870-71. He was instrumental in enacting the 10-hour work day in the textile mills and is known to have lost his job in the mill on account of this activity. He is second from the left in the bottom row.

From 1873-1877 Robert Bower & Co. published The Lawrence Journal in which Robert expressed his views about labor rights and organizations. Its slogan was "Justice to All--Injustice to None."

Here he is in the back yard of the Bower home, 20 Stafford St., Lawrence, MA.

Robert died August 21, 1912 and is buried in Bellevue Cemetery, Lawrence, MA, with his first wife, Phebe, and their two sons both named James; also, his second wife Jane Robinson Bower and step-daughter, Annie Robinson Bower.

"Tis over now and God has claimed his soul, To rest in peace, behind the Heavenly gate, Where many honest hearts have gone before, But none returned from yonder past that door."


  1. Great blog post! I used to teach in Lawrence, MA 25 years ago, and my daughter just rented an apartment there on Merrimack Street near the North Andover line. I can walk to the Merrimack Valley MSOG meetings from her new apartment.

  2. Thanks, Heather! We were in Lawrence several years ago visiting a cousin who lives nearby. Your blog is wonderful--I've bookmarked it :)

  3. Dear Barbara,

    I would like to be in touch with you about this blog entry and the history you relate.

    Can I reach you by email or phone?

    Jurg Siegenthaler, Bread and Roses Heritage Committee
    Lawrence, MA

    1. Hello Jurg, my email is I look forward to hearing from you.