Lemuel James Fowler - Part I: Childhood

 by Robert I. Pinsker

According to the 1900 federal census, enumerated on June 5, 1900, Lemuel J. Fowler (1898-1963) was born in July 1898 in Woodlawn, Alabama, at the time a town of population of about 2500 at the northeast edge of Birmingham. The town was annexed by the growing industrial city of Birmingham ("The Pittsburgh of the South") in 1910. Fowler's father and mother, Edward and Tempy Fowler, were both 24 years old at the time of Lem's (the name is given as Lem) birth (both born in March 1874). Edward Fowler was employed in a rolling mill, while Tempy does not list an outside job. Though Lem would reach his second birthday only a month after the enumeration, his age is given as 2 at his last birthday, which is an understandable rounding up. Tempy is listed as having previously given birth to two other children, neither of whom survived infancy.

By the 1910 federal census enumeration, April 27, 1910, Lemuel (this time his name is spelled out in full) has acquired a pair of siblings: sister Mabel, born circa 1901, and little brother Parks H., born circa 1908. This time, Lemuel's age at last birthday is given as 11, consistent with a July 1898 birthdate. Mother Tempe's name is rendered with that spelling in this case, and she reports having given birth to four children, three of whom are living. Strangely, this census shows both Edward and Tempy (Tempe) having been born in South Carolina, rather than Alabama, as had been reported a decade earlier. (In 1900, Tempy had reported that her mother was born in South Carolina.) Edward is again reported as working in a rolling mill.

We will learn much later that apparently Lemuel was sent to school for some period of time to St. Mark's Academy, an arm of the Episcopalian church, in downtown Birmingham (at the corner of Avenue C, now 3rd Avenue South, and 18th Street South). The fact that his parents were willing to pay for that private education, though it was partially subsidized by the church, speaks well to their commitment to their children's education. St. Mark's Academy was primarily a school for girls, but a small fraction of the pupils were boys, 58 out of 358 in 1911 , for example.

Six months after the 1910 enumeration, Lemuel Fowler's mother passed away in her mid-thirties, on October 29, 1910, leaving at least three children.

It seems possible that Lem's father Edward may have married again during the early 1910s, as an E.R. Fowler of about the right age is married to Mary Fowler in the 1920 census for Birmingham, and among the children living with them is Henry Fowler, b. circa 1908. The other two children are daughters Eloise (b. 1910) and Sadie (b. 1914). If we suppose that Parks H. Fowler, b. 1908 in the 1910 census is Henry Fowler in the 1920 census, then E.R. Fowler could be Lem's father. This is supported by the 1930 census, in which E.R. Fowler married to Mary in 1920 turns out to be Ed Fowler, and daughters Sadie and Eloise are living with them, Eloise having been married to Everett Whitfield on Feb. 28, 1928 (though Everett does not appear to be living with his wife in 1930). Also, Lem's sister Mabel appears to have been married and divorced by 1930 and is living with the family. Finally, we can identify 'Edward Fowler' in 1900, 'E.R. Fowler' in 1920, 'Ed Fowler' in 1930 with the widower 'Ed Richard Fowler', born about 1875, who died in Birmingham on October 24, 1939.

So far, no World War I draft registration for Lemuel J. Fowler has been located, though he certainly would have been eligible for the third and final registration of 1918, for which all men between 18 and 45 were required to register. This would be a key document, because registrants gave their date of birth among other information.

Fowler in 1900 Census
Excerpt from census of June 5, 1900 for Woodlawn, Jefferson County, Alabama, Precinct 34, showing Fowler family of Edward, Tempy, and Lem, born July 1898. The optical character recognition mistakenly interpreted "Lem" as "Len" in Ancestry's search.

Fowler in 1910 Census
Excerpt from census of April 27, 1910 of Birmingham, Alabama (by this time, Birmingham had annexed Woodlawn - this is the same neighborhood in which the family had lived in 1900), showing the larger family of Edward, Tempe (spelled that way in 1910) and their children Lemuel, daughter Mabel, and younger son Parks H.

St Mark's Academy before 1923
St. Mark's Academy at 18th St S and Avenue C (now 3rd Avenue S), Birmingham, before 1923, a few years after Lemuel Fowler reportedly attended. The attic floor of the original building was destroyed in a fire in 1905. The source is the book shown, from the NY Public Library.