John Bowman (pioneer)

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Col. Johannes "John" Bowman
Born Johannes Bowman
17 Dec 1738
Cedar Creek, Shenandoah Valley, Orange/Federick County, Virginia Colony
Died 4 May 1784
Bowman Station, Burgin, Lincoln/Mercer County, Kentucky, USA
Resting place Bowman Family Graveyard
Addie Curd farm near Burgin, KY where the Old Bowman Station was located.
Nationality German-American
Known for Early Kentucky pioneer and militia officer
Title Commissioner of Botetourt County of Virginia Colony, Safety Committee member in Harrodsburg in Kentucky County, First Kentucky County Lieutenant, Colonel in the Revolutionary War, Military Governor of Kentucky County Virginia, Sheriff and presiding Justice of the Peace of Lincoln County in the state of Kentucky.
Term 1770-1784
Successor Benjamin Logan
Spouse(s) Elizabeth McClung (c. 1731–1784)
Children John Jr.
Parent(s) Hans Jerg (George) Baumann (Bowman)
Maria Elizabeth (Mary) Heydt (Hite)
Relatives Jost Hite (the Old German Baron), grandfather
Jacob Bowman, brother
Colonel Abraham Bowman, brother
Major Joseph Bowman, brother
Capt. Isaac Bowman, brother

Col. John (Johannes) Bowman (17 Dec 1738 – May 4, 1784) was an 18th-century American pioneer, colonial militia officer and sheriff, the first appointed in Lincoln County, Kentucky. In 1781 he also presided as a justice of the peace over the first county court held in Kentucky. The first county-lieutenant and military governor of Kentucky County during the American Revolutionary War, Col. Bowman also served in the American Revolution many times second in command to General George Rogers Clark during the Illinois Campaign which at the time doubled the size of the nation.

He and brothers Joseph, Isaac and Abraham Bowman were excellent horsemen and later known as the "Four Centaurs of Cedar Creek", all of whom were among the earliest pioneers to settle in Kentucky and prominent officers in the Continental Army.[1] He was the brother-in-law of frontiersmen Isaac Ruddell, Lorentz Stephens, Peter Deyerle, George Wright, Henry Richardson and George Brinker. His grandnephew, Abraham's grandson John Bryan Bowman, founded Kentucky University and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky.[2][3] He is the younger brother of Jacob Bowman.


Early life

Born to Virginia pioneer George Bowman and Mary Hite (daughter of pioneer Jost Hite) on Cedar Creek in Orange later Frederick County, Virginia,[4] he is first recorded as a captain in the local militia in 1760.[2] Living in Botetourt County during the late 1760s, he was a witness to the land deed of Andrew Miller, heir-at-law of John Miller, to Israel Christian for a tract of land (81 acres) in southern Catawba later donated to build the first county courthouse and other public buildings. During that same year, he acted as an appraiser for the estate of David Bryan.[5]

In July 1768, he sold his share of the inheritance received from his father's death, 545 acres (2.21 km2) of the Bowman family estate in Linvel's Creek, and settled on the Roanoke. He was later recommended a justice of the peace in Augusta County in June 1769 and was appointed as commissioner of Botetourt County following its official incorporation into Virginia Colony.[5]

Marrying Elizabeth McClung who was the widow of David Bryan and eight years his senior, he was involved in a minor legal dispute during the early 1770s over land which Bryan had directed in his will be sold to William Cox upon his death. He successfully acquired the 166 acres (0.67 km2) along Glade Creek[disambiguation needed] and kept it as part of the Bryan estate until selling the Glade Creek claim to Esam Hannan and the rest of the estate to Toliver Craig, Sr. shortly before moving his family to Bowman's Station.[5]

Soldier and frontiersman

Visiting Kentucky in 1775, he served on the safety committee at Harrodsburg the following summer and was appointed as Colonel of the Kentucky militia by Virginia Governor Patrick Henry in the fall.[4] The following year, Bowman was named as the first county-lieutenant of Kentucky County on July 14 and, with his officers Captains Henry Pauling and John Dunkin, marched with two companies numbering 100 men from Holston River area to Kentucky County stopping at Boonesborough on August 1 and Logan's Fort on August 26 before finally arriving at Harrodsburg on September 2. Immediately after his arrival, he was elected a presiding judge in the first court of quarter sessions held at Fort Harrod and included Richard Callaway, John Floyd, John Todd and sheriff Benjamin Logan on September 2, 1777.[6]

During the Illinois campaign, he received a message from General George Rogers Clark shortly after the capture of Kaskaskia requesting support for his planned campaign into Detroit. Promising Clark at least 300 men, Bowman began gathering men and provisions during the spring of 1779.[7][8]

Accompanied by Benjamin Logan and Levi Todd, Bowman led between 160[9][10] and 300 militiamen[7][11] against the Shawnee town of Chillicothe in late May. Dividing their forces, he and Logan attacked the camp from both sides but their forces were eventually repulsed. Unable to draw the Shawnee from their single blockhouse, Bowman burned much of the camp and left with over 300 horses valued at $32,000. He and his men repulsed the Shawnee as they marched two days south to meet Clark at the mouth of the Licking River. Later they participated in Clark's expedition along the Little Miami and Ohio River.[12][13]

Although initially blamed for not taking the Indian blockhouse, as well as the eight or ten casualties suffered, Bowman and Logan were credited with the raid at Chilicothe as a major victory for the Kentuckians. With the destruction of a major Shawnee settlement and the death of Chief Blackfish,[14] additional Indian war parties were discouraged from moving against Kentucky colonists. According to Theodore Roosevelt in The Winning of the West, "the expedition undoubtedly accomplished more than Clark's attack on Piqua next year."[9]

In the fall of 1779, he and Col. Abraham was instrumental in the founding Bowman's Station on Cane Run in present-day Mercer County, Kentucky. Originally housing seven families during the "Hard Winter" of 1779-80, the settlement grew to thirty families during the next year. Bowman's position was reaffirmed by then Governor Thomas Jefferson and he used the settlement as his base of operations. He was often traveling to organize the defense of Kentucky County.[15]

Later years and death

In 1781, Bowman became the first Sheriff and County-Lieutenant of Lincoln County, Kentucky. He also presided over the first county court held in Kentucky, when he and several others were appointed justice of the peace on January 16, 1781.[16] Benjamin Logan succeeded him as County-Lieutenant in July 1781[17] and Sheriff in November 1783.[18]

Settling down at Bowman Station founded by he and brother Col. Abraham Bowman, Bowman spent his last years at his home. He hired local residents to tap the maple trees on his property and sold the sugar for a substantial profit. Falling ill, Bowman died at his home on May 4, 1784.[4] Although said to be opinionated and quick to anger, he was both admired and respected by fellow settlers for his bravery.

Following his death, his brother Abraham served as executor of his estate. In customary fashion, his widow Elizabeth McClung /Bryan /Bowman received one-third of his property with the remainder going towards the education of his son.[5] John Bowman, Jr. built a fine brick mansion he called the Mt. Pleasant Estate, which is still standing near Ft. Bowman and his father's old station.[15]


  1. Hayden, William. Conquest of the Country Northwest of the River Ohio, 1778-1783. Indianapolis: Bowen-Merrill Company, 1896. (pg. 979)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wayland, John W. A History of Shenandoah County, Virginia. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1980. (pg. 588) ISBN 0-8063-8011-X
  3. Johnson, E. Polk. A History of Kentucky and Kentuckians: The Leaders and Representative Men in Commerce, Industry and Modern Activities, Vol II. Chicago and New York: Lewis Publishing Co., 1912. (pg. 1132)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Thwaites, Reuben Gold and Louise Phelps Kellogg. The Revolution on the Upper Ohio, 1775-1777. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 1912. (pg. 170)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Kegley, F.B. Kegley's Virginia Frontier: The Beginning of the Southwest, the Roanoke of Colonial Days, 1740-1783. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2003. (pg. 533) ISBN 0-8063-1717-5
  6. Hammon, Neal O. and Richard Taylor. Virginia's Western War. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2002. (pg. 62) ISBN 0-8117-1389-X
  7. 7.0 7.1 James, Alton James. George Rogers Clark Papers, 1771-1781. Virginia Series, Vol. III. Springfield, Illinois: Illinois State Historical Library, 1912. (pg. cviii)
  8. Dillon, John B. Oddities of Colonial Legislation in America. Indianapolis: Robert Douglass, 1879. (pg. 397)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Faust, Albert Bernhardt. The German Element in the United States, Vol. I. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1909. (pg. 372)
  10. Esarey, Logan. A History of Indiana: From its Exploration to 1850, Vol. I. Indianapolis: B.F. Bowen & Co., 1918. (pg. 88)
  11. Pieper, Thomas I and James B. Gidney. Fort Laurens, 1778-79: The Revolutionary War in Ohio. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1980. (pg. 74) ISBN 0-87338-240-4
  12. Schuyler, Robert Livingston. The Transition in Illinois from British to American Government. New York: Columbian University Press, 1909. (pg. 52)
  13. James, James Alton. Oliver Pollock; the Life and Times of an Unknown Patriot. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1937. (pg. 172)
  14. Zeisberger, David; Hermann Wellenreuther and Carola Wessel, ed. The Moravian Mission Diaries of David Zeisberger. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005. (pg. 506) ISBN 0-271-02522-0
  15. 15.0 15.1 Kleber, John E. The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Louisville: University Press of Kentucky, 1992. (pg. 107-108) ISBN 0-8131-1772-0
  16. Harper, Lillie DuPuy. Colonial Men and Times. Philadelphia: Kessinger Publishing, 2006. (pg. 26)
  17. Whittsitt, William H. Life and Times of Judge Caleb Wallace: Some Time a Justice of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky. Louisville, Kentucky: J.P. Morton & Co., 1888. (pg. 89)
  18. Lincoln County Historical Society. Lincoln County, Kentucky. Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing Co., 2002. (pg. 16) ISBN 1-56311-789-4

Further reading

  • Butler, Mann. A History of the Commonwealth of Kentucky: From Its Exploration and Settlement by the Whites, to the Close of the Northwest Campaign, in 1813. Cincinnati: J.A. James & Co., 1836.
  • Clark, Thomas D. A History of Kentucky. New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1937.
  • Cotterill, Robert S. History of Pioneer Kentucky. Cincinnati: Johnson & Hardin, 1917.
  • Giles, Janice Holt. The Kentuckians. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1987.
  • Rice, Otis K. Frontier Kentucky. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1975.
  • Sanchez-Saavedra, E.M. A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations in the American Revolution, 1774-1787. Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1978.
  • Wayland, John W. The Bowmans: A Pioneering Family in Virginia, Kentucky and the Northwest Territory. Staunton, Virginia: McClure Co., 1943.
      • I thought John's brother Abraham married Sarah(Henry)Bryan?