Skip to main content

Bower family papers and photographs

Identifier: MSS-352

Scope and Contents

This collection includes photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, genealogy notes, negatives, and audio and video recordings from the Bower family of Indiana ranging from 1871 to 2001 regarding Bower and Dowell family history.


  • Creation: 1862 - 2001

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries, Muncie, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Archives and Special Collections.

Biographical Note

The Bower and Dowell families thrived for many generations in Indiana, specifically in the Lafayette-Fowler region. The families played an important role in local economies of the area, especially in agriculture, sales, and manufacturing. The collection spans nearly five generations of Bowers and Dowells, and it demonstrates the strong relationships between the family members along with their dedication to their communities and the Catholic faith.

The Bower family can be traced to Catherine Klein, a Luxembourgish woman who travelled to the United States with her widowed mother Catherine Obertin Klein. Catherine married Bernard Wetli, a Swiss immigrant, in 1862, and together they had eleven children: Mary, William, Emma, Elizabeth, John, Frank, Charles, Annie, Jennie, Eva, and Robert. Their third eldest child, Emma Theresia, married John Bower on January 25, 1887 in Kentland, IN. John and Emma relocated to Fowler, IN, and settled at Prairie View Farm. Together they had fourteen children: Charles, Genevieve, Frank, Susan (Sister Johanella), Emma (Sister Carralilla), Margaret, Bernard, Anthony, Edmund, Wilfred, Conrad, Harold, Loretta (Sister Emmalita), and Gregory. The Bowers were devoted followers of Catholicism, and each child was baptised in the same ancestral baptismal gown that was crafted by John's mother Ann Bower. Three of the Bower daughters—Susan, Emma, and Loretta—eventually became Catholic nuns.

Gregory, the youngest son of John and Emma, met his wife Elizabeth "Betty" Dowell Mendenhall after he returned to the United States from service in World War II. Betty, who was the fourth child of Ray and Celesa Dowell, was born and raised in Fowler, IN. In 1941, she married Duncan Mendenhall, and together they had a daughter, Marsha. Only one year later, Duncan was killed in combat in World War II. Betty and Gregory married on August 23, 1947, and Gregory adopted Marsha. They opened Bower Typewriter in their hometown, but eventually moved their shop to Lafayette, IN and added cards and gifts to their sales.

Betty and Gregory added five more children to their family: Mary, John, Janie, Betsy, and Barbara. Their only son John would eventually found the Healthy House Institute, which was dedicated to building and maintaining healthy homes.


7.1 Cubic Feet (10 boxes, 1 oversize folder, 1 map case folder)

Language of Materials


Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Collection includes audio cassette tapes, a 33 1/3 LP phonograph record, and an 8mm film.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Archives and Special Collections as a donation from John Bower on 2014/10/17.


No further additions are expected.

Related Archival Materials

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries, Muncie IN:

SPEC.061: John Bower and the Healthy House records and photographs

SPEC.115: John Bower Studio Indiana papers

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2015/06/03 by Lindsey M. Vesperry. EAD finding aid created 2015/06/03 by Lindsey M. Vesperry. EAD finding aid revised 2015/06/05 by Brandon Pieczko.

Bower family papers and photographs
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Stoeckel Archives of Local History Repository

Alexander M. Bracken Library
2000 W. University Avenue
Muncie Indiana 47306 USA