THOMAS C. GOWEN, GENERAL MERCANTILE BUSINESS, FARM OWNER
CHARLTON COUNTY HERALD
by R. Ward Harrison, Editor
July 7, 1950
Although a resident of Charlton County since early youth Thomas C. Gowen is a native of neighboring Camden County, having been born near Harriett’s Bluff in that county on November 1, 1909. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. George R. Gowen, Sr. of this city, being the fifth in a family of nine children.
Beginning his education in the Camden County school at Woodbine he continued his studies at Newell in this county, where the family moved about 1919. After remaining at Newell a short while, the Gowen family later moved into Folkston where the subject of this sketch finished his high school studies.
Soon after completing high school here, Thomas C. Gowen, in association with his brother, B.A. Gowen, entered the general mercantile business at Woodbine where he remained for a period of two years. In November 1930 this firm bought out the general mercantile establishment operated in this city by Dean and Gowen, when Tom returned to Folkston to take charge of the business as its active manager, B.A. Gowen remaining at Woodbine in charge of the store there. In 1934 Tom bought out the interest of his brother, B.A. Gowen, in the local store, and thereafter continued the operation as sole owner under the name of Gowen Brothers.
A short while later the Folkston store was greatly expanded with the purchase of Thomas C. Gowen of the hardware store operated next door by E.C. Gowen under the name of Charlton Hardware and Supply Co. This business was consolidated into a single large mercantile enterprise by the removal of the petition between the two stores, giving an entrance on both Main and First Streets.
After consolidation, the store carried the largest stock of merchandise and was doing a greater volume of business than any store of its kind in the county at that time, Mr. Gowen recalls. He adds that the stock of general merchandise was the most complete possible, compared to meet requirements of the entire family, home, farm, business and local industrial needs. It was perhaps the largest general mercantile business ever operated in Charlton County.
At the beginning of World War Two, Mr. Gowen found himself with a large business and reduced sales force, his male employees having been called into the service. Inability to obtain merchandise replacements gradually reduced his stock also and he decided to transfer operations to smaller quarters in the store next door, formerly occupied by The Conner Company, where he has since been located.
In 1942, Clifton Gowen, a younger brother, came into the business in a working partnership basis and has since continued his connection with the concern, now being virtually in charge as manager. Last year the Gowen store was appointed local dealer for the well-known “Hot Point” electrical appliance line and has since been very active in the appliance field, having a large volume of sales.
In addition to his mercantile enterprise Mr. Gowen has in recent years taken an increasing interest in unrelated outside business activities. He has acquired extensive farm and timber acreage north of Folkston known as the old Stokes Place where he is engaged in cattle raising and pulpwood operations. He is among the Charlton County group interested in the development of permanent pastures in connection with livestock.
ctive as a civic worker Mr. Gowen has served several terms as a member of Folkston’s city council and is now president of the local Lions Club, chairman of the county Red Cross chapter, member of the Board of Trustees of the local schools and treasurer of the Charlton County Garden Club. A member of the Methodist Church, he has also been active in the work of his church, having served about 15 years as a member of the Board of Stewards and has been elected Supt. of the Sunday School.
On July 3, 1932, Mr. Gowen was united in marriage to Miss Lettie Stokes, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. L.E. Stokes of this city. They have three sons, Tommy, now a high school student, Gary, eleven years old and Ray, four. They are among the city’s most friendly, congenial family group and are held in high esteem in a wide circle of friends.