Jerry Bowman begins each tour by eagerly creating a perspective for what life was like in the late 1800s. He 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, Washington. 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.
He and his wife, Laurie, the museum’s executive director, moved to Raymond from Southern California nearly two decades ago. They discovered the town on a road trip through the Pacific Northwest and decided it was the place they wanted to retire.
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 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 said.
They believe they have the finest collection of carriages in the country. Each carriage has a historical significance. Several have even been featured in films, including “Gone with the Wind” and “The Little Princess.” Over time, they have become more selective with vehicles they accept. They turn down about 95% of the vehicles they are offered. Jerry pointed to one restored carriage given to them by the Museum of History & Industry in Seattle. He said it was owned in the late 1800s by F.C.A. Denkmann, whose brother in law was Frederick Weyerhaeuser. The two created the Weyerhaeuser-Denkmann Lumber Co.