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Bowen Family

Ledell & Veola BowensIn 1909, Willis Bowen came to Canada from Oklahoma with his wife Jean and their children Bowen convinced five other families to make the journey north.

The Bowens initially settled in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Willis Bowen hauled gravel with a team of horses, earning upwards of $25 a day. The Bowens were poor and, to help support the family, the oldest child, Mary, had to give up her dream of becoming a teacher to work as a maid. The family found it difficult to adjust to life in Vancouver. Willis’ baby girl developed a bacterial infection common to coastal areas and suffered from severe diarrhea. She died in 1912. That same year, the Bowens and their eight remaining children opted to move from British Columbia to Amber Valley, Alberta.

In Amber Valley, Willis Bowen was employed in a variety of jobs while his family homesteaded. Bowen worked as a freighter, hauling goods from Athabasca to Lac La Biche and Wabasca. He also worked on a ranch in Saskatchewan, in a packing plant in Edmonton, and on various grain farms in Alberta. To support the family, Willis’ oldest daughters also worked in domestic settings in Athabasca and Edmonton.

Willis and his wife Jean spent the remainder of their lives in Amber Valley. Jean died in 1932, and Willis in 1975.

Willis Bowen’s son Obadiah remained in Amber Valley and, on Sundays, he was the town preacher, delivering inspirational sermons to people of various denominations. He also worked as a construction worker at the Banff Springs Hotel. Moreover, he built roads and railways, mined, and freighted. Later, he married and had four children.

Obadiah Bowen lived in Amber Valley until 1996, when he moved into a nursing home in Athabasca. In 1938, his log house was rebuilt into a more accommodating two-storey home. The home is a heritage site now known as Obadiah Place.

Obadiah’s brother Boadie Bowen later married and had several children, including sons Willis and daughters Peggy, Ruby, Mildred, Phyllis, and Willa. Willis works as a baggage master at VIA Rail. Peggy (Brown) is a Justice of the Peace. Ruby moved to Vancouver and married Bill Chaney; they had three children. Mildred is married to Leo Ikard in Seattle, Washington, where they own a bail-bonding company.

Phyllis was an avid pianist. She went to secretarial school in Regina, Saskatchewan and eventually found work in Edmonton. She had several careers and worked as a meat packer, waitress, maid, and as corporate secretary for the Black community newspaper, The Communicant. Phyllis married Joseph Lee Johnson of Junkins. They have two children, Gloria and Sandra. Phyllis still lives in Edmonton and is an active member of the Shiloh Baptist Church.

Willa moved away from the Amber Valley homestead to work in Athabasca and then in Edmonton. In 1920, she married Noah Dallard, a man with whom her father and brothers had worked in Saskatchewan. After a small wedding ceremony in Edmonton, the couple moved to Prelate, Saskatchewan, where they farmed on the Dallard homestead. The couple eventually had four children, including sons Kenneth and Donald and daughter Phyllis. In 1968, Noah Dallard died after a lengthy illness. Willa continued to live in Prelate, Saskatchewan until her death in 1988. She was 90.

Kenneth Dallard, when he was 19, enlisted in the army during the Second World War. He returned at the end of the war to marry Emma, a widow with four children. Unfortunately, tragedy struck the family within a year of the marriage; Kenneth was killed when a motorboat on which he was riding ploughed into the Prelate Ferry on the South Saskatchewan River. Kenneth's son, Lloyd, a singer in the band The Mulgrave Road, was born shortly thereafter and became a mechanic in Calgary.

Because Willa and Noah’s daughter Phyllis had moved the Edmonton, their son Donald was left to work on the Amber Valley farm. Donald continued to farm with his wife Helen Hanson a nurse’s aide at the Redwater Hospital. Eventually, he had to work in Medicine Hat to supplement his income.


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