RAYMOND — Jerry Bowman begins each tour by eagerly creating a perspective for what life was like in the late 1800s. He proceeds to draws visitors into the time period with the infectious manner in which he shares stories and examines the characteristics of each carriage.
Bowman is a tour guide and curator of the Northwest Carriage Museum in Raymond. The museum opened in 2002 with 21 vehicles. Since becoming involved with the museum, Bowman has acquired, restored and conserved more than 30 of the vehicles. Today the museum, which opened in 2002, has 56 vehicles on display, including carriages, buggies, wagons, coaches and sleighs.
Bowman has acquired, restored and conserved more than 30 of the vehicles.
“We’ve grown it into [north] Pacific County’s largest tourist attraction,” he said. “This year we’ll be right around 10,000 people who come through the museum and we’re really proud off that.”
He and his wife, Laurie, the museum’s executive director, moved to Raymond from Southern California nearly 17 years ago.
They discovered Raymond on a road trip through the Pacific Northwest and decided it was the place they wanted to retire.
“We feel we’ve found our paradise,” Jerry Bowman said.
Bowman spent his career as an executive at a data processing company and in his spare time enjoyed woodwork and history.
“Even in my younger days, I was always a collector of history,” he said. “I kind of prided myself on knowing a lot about the Civil War and I have a nice Civil War collection.”
A couple of years after moving to Raymond, Laurie Bowman joined the museum’s board of directors and Jerry began doing the maintenance and restoration of the vehicles.
“So we got involved and they just became my passion,” Jerry Bowman said.
“We always loved antiques,” Laurie said. “We use to collect antiques, so when we got up here and saw the museum it was like a perfect fit.”
Each carriage in their collection has a historical significance. Several have even been featured in films, including “Gone with the Wind” and “The Little Princess.”
They believe they have the finest collection of carriages in the country. Over time, they have become more selective with vehicles they accept and turn down about 95% of the vehicles they are offered.vBowman pointed to one restored carriage given to them by the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. He said it was owned in the late 1800s by a man named F.C.A. Denkmann.
“That’s a name you’re not familiar with,” he said.
He said Denkmann was a grocer in Illinois and came home one day and told his wife he wanted to buy the lumber mill in town that was for sale. He didn’t have the money to buy it, but his wife encouraged him to ask her brother to help him. He hesitantly asked his brother-in-law to buy it with him and his brother-in-law agreed.
“His brother in law was a guy by the name of Frederick Weyerhaeuser,” Jerry said. “And so Weyerhaeuser and Denkmann created the Weyerhaeuser-Denkmann Lumber Co.”
Bowman shares his extensive knowledge about each carriage and, depending on how much time the visitor has to spend, he adjusts the tour times.
Bowman also shares his knowledge as a speaker at museum and history conferences.
“Over the course of 15 years or so we’ve developed such a reputation around the country for carriage information,” he said.
He said they sometimes receive up to a dozen phone calls a month from people all over the country asking for information on carriages and asking him to identify a type and model of a vehicle.
“I mean, we love the history of it,” he said. “It’s just so neat.”