With mining comes lawsuits. That’s just the way it is. Will was a party to several lawsuits in his mining career. Sometimes he brought the suit and sometimes he was the defendant. But the one lawsuit that lasted the longest and had the most effect on his life was Bowman vs. Patrick.
The story starts in 1882. Will had some kind of dealings with Frank Bowman a former St. Louis lawyer who had been disbarred in 1887.
Frank Bowman, a lawyer–so-called–residing in St. Louis has been disbarred, his foul name has been stricken from the roll and deprived of the right further to practice in the courts of the State of Missouri. This man Bowman has been, for years, a pestilent mischief maker. His foul nature has done much to disturb and distract the business of life insurance. Most of his miserable life has been spent in sowing the seeds of discord. Life insurance will now have a respite. We sympathize with the people with whom he is brought in contact.
The Insurance Advocate, 1887
Why did Will have anything to do with Bowman? During the lawsuit it came out that Will owed Bowman some money. But why? Will received $52,000 in the summer of 1881 on the sale of the Aftermath Mine. Where did all that money go?
In February 1882 Bowman was in Leadville to help Will with some legal problems (what, is never explained). Bowman met a mining promoter, William H. Wilson, who introduced him to a man named Stebbins. Stebbins and some partners had a couple claims on Iron Hill in California Gulch and they were looking for someone to dig the shaft and see if there was any silver.
Will and Bowman entered into a contract with Stebbins et. al. and would receive a full one-half share of the mine if they sank the shaft in a timely manner and hit mineral.
Bowman went back to St. Louis promising to send payment for his share of the expenses of digging the shaft.
In March, Bowman sold James M. Patrick, Will’s brother, one third of his interest. And in May, Mr. Wilson said he should get a share for introducing Bowman to Stebbins, so Bowman gave him a one-quarter interest. Also in May, Wilson sold his interest to Mr. Livezey.
It looks like this:
Will went to St. Louis in June and talked to Bowman. Bowman had not sent any money and was losing interest in the mine. He wanted Will to work only one day out of ten to save money. Will told him that that would not fulfill the contract they had on the mine. Bowman let Will know that he is interested in selling his remaining share. Then Bowman headed off to the wilds of Wisconsin and Minnesota where communications were difficult.
Will wanted to buy out Bowman and they began frustrating negotiations through mail and telegraph. The negotiations dragged on through August. It took so long because letters were sent to the wrong towns, or telegrams were not received for weeks at a time. Both Will and Bowman had been traveling and the communications sometimes lagged.
By August 13th they had come to an understanding and on August 28 a contract was finally signed! However, more travel and poor communications lead to the deed to Bowman’s interest in the Col. Sellers mine not being signed until October 19th.
Soon after the deed was signed, it was announced that silver had been struck. Bowman was probably very upset that he missed out, but for once he let it pass.
1885 when a letter written by Annie to James is given to Bowman.
James had been going through a very contentious divorce and custody battle for his daughter. Some of his belongings stayed in the house his wife owned in St. Louis and it was his brother-in-law who gave the letter to Bowman.
Knoxville, August 21, 1882
Dear Jimmie: I have just received a letter from Will, in which he tells me I was mistaken about his securing B’s interest in the Col. Sellers. He only had the written promise of it. The deed has not been delivered to him. In my letter to-day he tells me to caution all of our home folk not to mention the success of the prospect, and adds ‘If you have said anything to home folk about the Col. S., caution them not to mention it whatever they do, for if it should get to St.L. and to B’s ears, it might cause me considerable trouble and expense to get him out of the contract. Please caution the family not to mention it until I get a deed from B.
I am sorry I have said anything about it, but as I have for pity’s sake do not tell it, or if like myself you have said anything to Fannie or Mr. McM., do write immediately and ask them to keep it secret, so much depends upon a rigid silence. As Will said, if Mr. Bowman hears it, he can cause him a great deal of trouble to say nothing of the expense. I feel dreadfully and I shall never again put myself in this position. I am going to the “Quarry” early tomorrow to caution mother and father. Do help me to keep this business as quiet as possible. You see at a glance how much depends upon it. My sister is not so well to-day, although she is better than when I first came. With love, and an earnest request that you will burn this as soon as received, I am, hastily and truly, Annie
When Bowman saw this letter, he sued Will in the Circuit Court of St. Louis for the money that would have been his since the time the ore was discovered . It took almost four years to resolve in favor of Bowman.
Will appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States in the Spring of 1889. As part of the appeal, Will had to post a bond in the amount of $57,099.69, which would be the amount of money Bowman would have received until that point. Will posted the bond with the help of several friends who pledged their own assets as security. He also had to pay $800 every six months in interest on the bond.
The legal bills and the interest payment weighed heavily on Will and Annie. Because the matter dragged on so long, Will also had to find replacement assets when friends were in need of the assets that they had pledged. It was a constant irritant and worry to Will and Annie.
In the fall of 1889, Frank Bowman got himself killed.
Frank Bowman the St Louis lawyer who was killed recently while in the act of making a levy on property under a judgment in his own favor, seems to have been a man with more than average ability but who used that ability to make many enemies and few friends in the world. The St Louis Globe-Democrat says that when killed he was in the act of persecuting his slayer, Chambers, and adds:
But to Frank J Bowman every man against whom he chanced to be arrayed in court was a Chambers to be hounded, hunted and persecuted. Bowman knew and practiced the law not as a means of justice between man and man, but as a means of torture for all whose adversity brought them within his power. It is because of this fact that the number of those who will mourn the death of Bowman will be fewer than the number of those who will mourn the misfortune which that death has brought to Chambers– although in the death of Bowman there was cruelty, and in the misfortune of Chambers there was crime.
The Advocate, p. 424, vol.1 #22, Nov. 1, 1889
Don’t feel sorry for Chambers, he was acquitted even though Bowman had brought a sheriff with him, who witnessed the whole thing. While confronting Chambers, Bowman reached into his pocket for some reason. Chambers thought he was going for a gun and shot him. Bowman was not carrying a gun.
Chambers was arrested and tried. However, no one spoke up for Bowman, not even his wife. The sheriff who witnessed the whole thing didn’t even speak up for Bowman.
I guess Bowman was just one of those men who “needed killin’.”
By this time, the lawsuit was at the Supreme Court and it continued on without Bowman. In April 1893, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Will and the suit was over.
In a letter of congratulations, Annie’s brother, John, wrote that he wished he could go down into hell and ring Bowman’s neck while gloating that he lost the suit.
The eight years it took to settle the lawsuit were not easy for Will financially. There were other lawsuits and Annie became ill and died in June 1893. Some of Will’s friends had to ask for their assets back because Will had been slow to pay the bond company to release the assets. Even Will’s lawyer and good friend, C. C. Parsons, had to wait to be paid and eventually lost over $5,000 when Will filed for bankruptcy in 1900.