The Bowman Family of Berino, New Mexico
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Frank D. Bowman, a native of up-state New York, moved West in the early 1900’s. On leaving home he traveled across the continent to the State of Washington, going there in 1898. He spent two years in Seattle, King County, Washington, being employed by the Allen-Nelson Mill Company, lumber manufacturers. From Washington he went down to Los Angeles, California, entering the service of the Southern Pacific Railway Company. He spent seventeen years serving as bridge foreman for the company, working over the system from Yuma, Arizona, to El Paso, over the Tucson Division proper. His headquarters most of the time were at Tucson.
Frank met Lena Baker of Brushy, Galatia County, Illinois, when she was visiting friends in California. They were married in Nogales, Arizona December 12, 1908. They lived in a railroad car of a work train on a siding as he was still working for the railroad. During this time, Frank, Jr., Charles, and Edra were born. Lena would go to Tucson and stay shortly before their birth and return to the work train when the baby was a few weeks old.
Frank Bowman liked the Mesilla Valley. With Elephant Butte under construction, he started purchasing land near Berino, New Mexico in 1910. One farm that he purchased was from a family named Snyman, who I believe had been, slaves in one of the southern States prior to moving to Berino. This was virgin soil, and in the succeeding years he had it leveled off and cleared and brought into cultivation. He acquired 160 acres and put half of it into cultivation. Finally, in 1917, he took a layoff from the railroad, made it permanent, and devoted all of his energy promoting the farming industry.
He hired men to clear the land and do some farming. After the dam was completed, he moved the family to Berino in 1917. They lived in a small adobe house that was on the property. During this time Eva Fay and Robert were born. He then added thirty-four acres of level and alluvial soil, which was used chiefly for growing alfalfa and grain.
In later years he followed the example of other progressive farmers and raised long staple cotton. His crops in 1923 totaled thirty-two bales, a yield of over a bale to the acre. He gave his time fully to his farm and interests that go with it, including active membership in the Dona Ana County Farm Bureau and Alfalfa Growers Association, both of which he was a director. He marketed his cotton through the Texas Farm Bureau Cotton Growers’ Association.
Another source of profit on his farm was poultry raising, and he was a member of the Mesilla Valley Poultry Growers’ Association. Mr. Bowman was a director and vice chairman of the Mesilla National Farm Loan Association, and through these organizations he worked effectively for the welfare of his state and locality. At the time of his death in 1935, he was Board Chairman for Southwest Irrigated Growers (SWIG). A new house was built in 1925.
Frank, Jr. in 1932 went to California to learn to fly. He later was co-owner of an airport east of El Paso, Texas that eventually became El Paso International Airport. He flew mining machinery and gold bullion into Mexico quite frequently. On February 10, 1935 he was ferrying a new airplane home, accompanied by his father, when they ran into stormy weather and crashed east of Engle, New Mexico. They were both killed in the crash. His son Charles, Sr., along with J. C. Savelle, Tommy Savelle, Gil Desmond, Guy Green, B. W. Russell, Milton "Mutt" Godwin, Franklin Kennedy, Victor Hugo, George Amis, Claude Kilgore and Charles Tede were in the search party that was looking for the crash site.
On October 18, 1982, Jose "Conke" Viramontes wrote a letter to the Dona Ana County Commissioners, asking that the then new Santa Teresa Airport be named after Frank D. Bowman, Jr., but that did not happen. A copy of that typewritten letter, along with other supporting documents is in the possession of Charles Bowman, Jr. of El Paso, Texas.
In the letter "Conke" cited Frank’s flying expertise, especially his success in the first Transcontinental Night Air Derby from Los Angeles to New York. Frank finished third even though he didn’t have the experience that many of his competitors possessed. For accomplishing that feat, Frank was presented a five hundred dollar check by the actress Helen Hayes in a ceremony in New York City. Lena Bowman, with the help of her young son Charles, continued to run the farm. She lived on her farm until her death November 14, 1967.
While Charles was managing the farm, he married Louise Bowers of El Paso, Texas. They had four children; Charles, Jr., Beverly, Donald, and Frank. Charles, Sr. passed away in his home at Berino on 3 February 1997, and Louise passed away on 13 May 1999 in El Paso.
On 3 Aug 1940, Edra married Claude Edmonds of Berino, New Mexico, who had recently moved to Berino from Shreveport, Louisiana. They had three sons, Claude, Jr. (Pete), Robert, and Michael. Claude Sr. passed away in May 1991 in El Paso. Edra still lives northwest of Anthony, New Mexico. Fay married Hugh Whitfield of Las Cruces, New Mexico on 12 Mar 1943. They had one daughter, Susan Kay. After Hugh’s death in December, 1976, Fay continues to live in Las Cruces.
On 28 September 1942, Robert married Eileen Chew of Las Cruces, New Mexico. After he was discharged from the Army Air Force in 1945, they returned to Berino, New Mexico. He went into farming with his brother Charles. Robert and Eileen had three children: Roberta, Carl, and Vicki. After Robert’s death on May 12, 1986, Eileen still lives northwest of Anthony, New Mexico.
By Charles Bowman, Jr.