By Danny Crownover
During October of 1893, Etowah County residents enjoyed some fine bicycle racing at the fairgrounds in East Gadsden.
The one-day meet was the beginning for Ben Stowers, who became a nationally known bicycle racer professional. Stowers won the half flying start and the five-mile lap race in the event. Gadsden competitors won 16 of the event’s 22 contests, while Attalla participants winning six. Stowers was from Attalla.
Many newspaper correspondents witnessed bicycle races at the Alabama City Park and at the small eighth of a mile track in Foster’s Grove at Walnut and Ninth streets in Gadsden. Included in the press contingent was a roving staff writer from the Cincinnati Post and a noted columnist of the Detroit Free Press. In their dispatches, they noted that Gadsden had more bicycle wheels per population than any town or city anywhere. The newsmen witnessed a parade of decorated bicycles on the eve of the races in July of 1897 and described it as a fine spectacle.
During that series of races, Stowers won the championship of the South from George Quinn of Memphis, Tenn. He and Quinn ran five half-mile heats over a period of three days. Stowers trained for the big event for several weeks in Chattanooga. He won three out of five races and was declared Southern champion.
Stowers was riding for the Fowler Bicycle Company at that time, but in pre-races he raced for the Stearn Machine, which was painted yellow. He appeared in all of his races throughout the country dressed in a yellow suit, as his hair was yellow. He was called the Yellow Kid and the Alabama Sunflower.
Amateurs who competed in those local races included Will A. Echols of Gadsden. There also was Von Grammon of Rome, Ga., who was later killed during a football game. The Georgia state legislature tried to pass a bill forbidding the playing of football in that state before his mother appeared before the legislature and asked it not to pass such a law. She said that her son’s death was accidental and that three weeks before his roommate at college fell down a stairway and broke his neck, an injury that resulted in death. She said the legislature might, with equal justification adopt a law abolishing stairway. She won.
After winning the southern championship, Stowers left for Kansas City to ride that circuit, where gave a good account of himself.
In September of 1897, Stowers suffered a very painful accident in Attalla. He was riding down the street and met B.H. Copeland on a horse. Copeland was turning into an alley, and Stowers started to go around him, the horse kicked and struck Ben on the elbow at the point, breaking the bone.
Stowers was the son of John W. Stowers, a Wills Valley farmer and one of the leading men of Etowah County. His brother Fred was a store clerk in Gadsden for many years and later became wealthy through iron ore mining around Crudup and Attalla. Fred was mayor of Attalla and donated his salary to the city. He essentially was a builder, and his administration was one of progress.
Ben Stowers was born July 14, 1872 and died Jan. 29, 1915 at the age of 42. He married Mollie Elizabeth Cox on Nov. 18, 1899. The couples’ two children were Ben Frank Stowers (1904–1991) and Dorothy Stowers (1909–1990).
Ben Stowers was stricken with paralysis several days before his death, and it was thought at first that he would recover. He was at his residence at 1438 15th Avenue South when he passed away. Stowers is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.