George F. Bowles house receives historical marker

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The George F. Bowles House is the latest recipient of a historical marker, which was dedicated recently in recognition of Black History Month. Those participating in the dedication ceremony included, from left, Rev. Birdon and Debra Mitchell, Alderwoman Valencia Hall, Brenda and Larry Holmes, and Mayor Dan Gibson.

JANS – The George F. Bowles House, located at 13 St. Catherine St., Natchez, is the recent recipient of a historical marker presented by the City of Natchez and NAPAC museum.

Mayor Dan Gibson and a group of local residents unveiled the marker in front of the house during a dedication ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 28. The mayor was joined by Larry and Brenda Holmes, the current owners of the house; Alderwoman Valencia Hall; Rev. Birdon and Debra Mitchell, next door neighbors; and Dr. Neifa Hardy.

Friends and family members of the Holmes also attended the event which was held in recognition of Black History Month.

“It is such a blessing to witness the great things happening in Natchez,” said Gibson. “Being able to celebrate the history of this home, located in the Holy Family Catholic Church Historic District, and in the heart of the historic Black business and residential area of North Natchez, is just another step forward in telling our story, all of it, for One Natchez.”

The marker is inscribed with the words, “The George F. Bowles House: 1886 – 1890.” It displays the NAPAC museum logo and a QR code for additional information on the site.

Larry Holmes said that he and wife were elated about the marker.

“We both feel good about it,” he said. “This is something we’ve wanted for a long time. George F. Bowles was an important man in our history and his story, as well as the story of his wife, needs to be told.”

Larry Holmes grew up behind the house, across the street known as Bowles Alley. In 1977, he moved into the house as a tenant. He said that he and Brenda purchased the house in 1984, and it has been their home ever since.

Rev. Mitchell, pastor of Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church, has been the Holmes’ neighbor for many years. He said he was happy to see the recognition given for their property.

“Larry and Brenda are very knowledgeable about the history of this property,” Rev. Mitchell said. “They love telling the stories about this house and they’re eager to share this information with the broader community. Natchez is fortunate to have this property preserved for the present and future generations.”

George F. Bowles (1844-1899) was a prominent African American who played a significant role in Natchez’s history in the 1800s. Born enslaved in Charleston, S.C., he gained his freedom before the start of the Civil War.

Bowles came to Natchez in 1871 after practicing law in Tennessee. In the 1880s and 1890s, he served as a member of the state House of Representatives from Adams County. He was a successful businessman, inventor, newspaper publisher, and philanthropist. His wife, Laura E. Davis Bowles, was a member of a prominent Black family.

George Bowles built his house between 1886 and 1890, according to Mimi Miller of the Historic Natchez Foundation. It is located in the Hospital Hill neighborhood on the very site that was home to Natchez’s first public hospital building, the Mississippi State Hospital, built in 1813.

Before its main section was demolished in 1866, the hospital existed on the north side of St. Catherine across from the present location of Holy Family Church. The Bowles house is flanked on the west by the Dr. John Bowman Banks house and on the east by the parsonage of Zion Chapel A.M.E. Church.

The Bowles lived in the house until 1899, the year that both of them died. Laura Bowles died on Aug. 17, 1899, and George died in their home on Dec. 26, 1899, at the age of 55. His pallbearers included Dr. John Banks, G.W. Brumfield, and L.D. Kastor. John Roy Lynch was listed as an honorary pallbearer.

The Bowles house is the latest historical site to be added to the city’s Self-Guided African American History tour, which features 29 sites related to African American history. Barber Jessie Winston’s home was added to the tour in December 2023.

The city’s self-guided history tour project was unveiled during a Black History program in February 2023. It is a joint initiative of the City of Natchez and NAPAC Museum. Mayor Gibson has said the project is one of many ways through which the city is telling its complete history.

A detailed article on the history of the George F. Bowles House can be read in the September/October 2023 issue of Natchez Magazine.

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George F. Bowles house receives historical marker

By Jackson Advocate News Service
March 25, 2024