One Hundred Twenty-Two Years of Essential Work
It required a considerable number of people to manage, maintain, and support the Bowen households. Information about the essential workers at Roseland Cottage when it was a residence is sparse. There are documents, like the U. S. Census beginning in 1850, that provide insight. A handful of photographs exist. Individuals or positions are mentioned occasionally in journal entries and letters. Most important for our understanding are the existing spaces and the objects at Roseland Cottage. Every room or space provides information about work accomplished or a service provided. Much like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, the pieces of information can be assembled to create a picture of the often overlooked hard work that contributed to the public success of the Bowen family.
The Written Record
Letters, Journals, and the Census
Surviving family letters, Clarence Bowen’s records, and the United States Census provide additional information about the men and women employed in the Bowen household over the years. The 1850 census for Brooklyn, New York sheds light on a young household with four children and four women listed as servants. Three of the women are from Ireland, one from Scotland. Jane Stewart appears in the list, aged twenty-two, along with Elizabeth Stewart, aged thirteen. Their relationship is not stated. Jane is found in subsequent records, sometimes in New York, sometimes in Woodstock. In the 1900 census, Ellen Bowen is head of the household in Woodstock and Jane Stewart’s occupation is seamstress.
Lucy Bowen’s letters provide additional insight into the household. In a letter to a friend she writes that “I now have a professed Cook . . .She cooks beautifully, makes ice creams . . ” In 1854, Lucy writes to staff member Jane Miller that “Lizzie we shall keep too, we need two up stairs now, as Clare requires some constancy with him.”
Further information is found in Clarence Bowen’s journals and scrapbooks. A newspaper clipping from 1889 states that “Mr. H. C. Bowen’s employees have stored two hundred tons of ice in anticipation of a warm summer.”
Image courtesy of the National Archives