Family of researcher built local landmarks

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Washington Road, Sacred Heart Cultural Center, the Confederate Memorial on Broad Street and the Confederate Powderworks on the Augusta Canal are four sights that Augustans see on a frequent, maybe even daily, basis.

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Newspaper clippings and artifacts tell the stories of some of Jean Strickland's ancestors and their contributions to Augusta.  Gracie Shepherd/Staff
Gracie Shepherd/Staff
Newspaper clippings and artifacts tell the stories of some of Jean Strickland's ancestors and their contributions to Augusta.

Few residents, however, know that all four were built by men of the same family.

Not long ago, Jean Strickland, the daughter and granddaughter of these builders, didn't know too much about this story either.

Strickland started researching her family after she inherited an attic full of family records. Despite all of the photographs, business papers and newspaper clippings, she said she realized there was still much she didn't know.

In her search, she found www.augustaarchives.com and The Augusta Chronicle and Augusta Herald archives to be a treasure trove of information. She began to photocopy clippings of articles, photographs and advertisements and organize them into folios. The stack of newspaper clippings and photographs began to grow taller and taller, slowly but surely filling in the missing pieces.

"Most people, when they begin researching their family history, begin with a person's birth and death and then fill in what happened during their lives," Strickland said. "I started backwards."

In 2003, she decided to compile her clippings, papers and other findings into a book about her family and their work in Augusta.

The book, Four Builders of Augusta, Georgia, written under Strickland's full name, Virginia Bowe Strickland, details the story of her family all the way back to Germany and Nova Scotia, from where her great-grandfathers emigrated.

Those men, Theodore Markwalter and Robert James Bowe, came to America (and Augusta) in 1850. Markwalter was a bricklayer and Bowe was a stoneworker. They came for the economic opportunity, but when the Civil War broke out, they served in the military. Bowe worked on the Confederate Powderworks and served in the Home Guard, and Markwalter served in the Confederate Army.

The work her great-grandfathers received propelled them to become successful craftsmen in the region, leaving their business and legacy to their children and grandchildren. Strickland's father sold the family business in 1952.

Strickland and her husband, Allen, have three children and five grandchildren.

"I know that the next generation won't have time to read leisurely about all this like I have been able to do," she said.

Coming Sunday

For 225 years, The Augusta Chronicle has delivered the news. To celebrate the anniversary this weekend we will publish a commemorative section of historical images, and a walk through the city's history.


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