an excerpt from GOWEN RESEARCH FOUNDATION ELECTRONIC NEWSLETTER Volume 1, No. 2 February 12, 1998
Gowensville, a 200-year-old community in the apex of the state, was named for Capt. [later Major] John "Buck" Gowen.The community had to fight on two fronts during the Revolutionary War. Militia companies were raised in the northwestern corner of South Carolina--to face the Cherokees on the northwest and the British on the southeast.
Captain Gowen, in charge of Gowen's Fort near the north end of the Indian line, commanded a militia company. The fort was located near the captain's home on the South Pacolet River, a short distance from Gowensville.
War swirled into the Gowensville area from the northwest in 1776 with Cherokee and Tory attacks. The Tories were led by "Bloody Bill" Bates and "Bloody Bill" Cunningham who cut a gory trail of destruction across the area.Whenever the Tories were victorious, the result was a massacre.No quarter was given to men, women or children who were surrendered to them.All were killed and scalped.
While the colonists were holding out in the west against the Tories and the Cherokees in 1780, the British advanced from the southeast, rolling up the defenses.They defeated the forces of Gen. Tuck on July 12, obliterated the troops of Col. John Thomas, Jr. on July 13 and captured Gowen's Fort.
While they were relaxing and enjoying their victory, the colonists came roaring back under the command of Col. Jones on the following day and recaptured Gowen's Fort.Capt. Gowen, whose company was part of the forces of Col. Jones, resumed command of the fort.
The Redcoats withdrew from the apex area completely after their defeat, but the Tories returned with their guerilla warfare. They made their first attack on Gowen's Fort in September 1781. In November, while part of the militia under Capt. Gowen was away on orders, "Bloody Bill" Bates struck again and swept up the defenders. Men, women and children who were in the surrendered fort were slaughtered and scalped. Mrs. Abner Thompson and her family had fled to the fort for safety. When the fort fell, she lay on the ground feigning death. Suddenly she felt a scalper's knife circling her crown, and she held back her screams as herhair was jerked from her skull.Mrs. Thompson survived her wounds and lived in Greenville, South Carolina for many years afterward, according to "Southern Lineages" by Adeline Evans Winn.
Again Capt. Gowen's forces recaptured the fort, but Bates was able to slip away during the battle to continue his harassment of the colonists. During the war Gowen's Fort changed hands five times as the winds of war swept back and forth. "Bloody Bill" Bates also survived the war, only to be arrested shortly afterward for horse-stealing. He was lodged in the Greenville jail.A deputy employed at the jail had managed to escape one of Bates' massacres during the war. At an unguarded moment the deputy escorted Bates from his cell to a vacant lot next door, gave him a minute to make peace with his maker and shot him dead.Bates was unceremoniously buried where he fell, and the Greenville post office was built over his grave.
Maj. Gowen died in November 1809. Frank Maxwell Gowen who made a study of the area in 1971 concluded that the major was buried in a pioneer cemetery located in the Earle's Mill community nearby.The Rev. Thomas Jefferson Earle, a Baptist minister founded Gowensville Seminary there in 1856.
Gowen's Fort and its blockhouse was occupied during the Civil War, some 80 years later, by Confederate deserters. To halt their foraging on the farms of local citizens, Col. J. D. Ashmore was ordered to capture the deserters.Col. Ashmore positioned a cannon before the gates of the fort. After a demonstration of cannonpower, 502 deserters filed out of the fort, on their way to courts martial.
The old fort remained quiet until World War I, and then cannons boomed again on the site.The U. S. Army had chosen the site for artillery training.Today no sign of the old fort remains, and no one can locate the site for certain.
Gowensville in 1990 had a population of 200 people--about the same number that were recorded there in the federal census of 1790--and none of them were named "Gowen" 200 years later.