1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Bowen Family Papers

 Primarily physicians of Providence, Rhode Island.

 Papers, 1733-1939. Bulk, 1766-1834.

 Size: 0.5 lin. ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 301

 Processed by: Robin Flynn, December 1999

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            The papers in this collection are those of Dr. Thomas Bowen (1689-1774) and Dr. Jabez Bowen (1696-1770), both sons of Dr. Richard Bowen (1658-1736) of Seekonk, Massachusetts; and their direct male descendants. Thomas practiced his profession in Seekonk; Jabez practiced in Providence, Rhode Island, and the family eventually settled there and in Glocester, Rhode Island.  

            Dr. Thomas Bowen married Sarah Hunt in 1710. They had eleven children. Their fourth child was Ephraim (1716-1812), born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. Ephraim became a physician like his father, studying medicine under his uncle, Dr. Jabez Bowen, with whom he lived (in Providence) from the age of nine. Ephraim was married twice: first to Mary (Fenner), in 1737, and second to Lydia (Mawney), in 1746. Ephraim was the father of fourteen children, three by his first wife, and the remainder by his second.

            One of the children of Ephraim and his first wife was Jabez (Jr.) (1739-1815), who graduated from Yale in 1757. He was a member of the Providence town council from 1773 and 1775; and a representative in the General Assembly in 1777. He served in the Providence militia between 1774 and 1777, holding the rank of colonel of the First Regiment of Providence County from 1776 to 1777. Between the years 1778 and 1786, with the exception of the year 1780 to 1781, Bowen was Deputy Governor of Rhode Island. He became a Superior Court judge in August of 1776, and became Chief Justice in 1781. Jabez married twice: first, Sarah Brown (d. 1800) of Providence, in 1762; second, Peddy Leonard of Norton, Massachusetts, in 1801. He had eleven children, all by his first marriage, including Henry (1785-1867?), who was R.I. Secretary of State from 1819 to 1849; and Oliver, born in 1767.

            Three of the children of Ephraim and his second wife, Lydia, were:

                        William (1747-1832)

                        Pardon (1757-1826)

                        Ephraim Jr. (1753-1841)

William and Pardon became physicians, practicing in Providence. William attended Harvard and Yale, graduating from Yale in 1766, and studied medicine with his father at the Medical School of Philadelphia. He married Sarah Corliss in 1769. Ephraim was involved in the burning of the Gaspee in 1772, and became a deputy quartermaster during the Revolution.

            Dr. Jabez Bowen (1696-1770), brother of Dr. Thomas Bowen mentioned above, married Huldah (Hunt) in 1729. One of their six children was Dr. Benjamin Bowen (1727-1784). Dr. Benjamin married the widow Abigail Simons; one of their children was Dr. Joseph Bowen (1755-1832), who settled in Glocester. Dr. Joseph served as a surgeon during the Revolution, and was a prisoner on the British prison ship Jersey. He married Hannah R. Simon; one of their children was Clovis Hildovis Bowen (1801-1875). He was town clerk of Glocester for thirty-two consecutive years. He married twice: first, Sarah S. Congdon, and second, Nancy W. Steere. Two of the children of Clovis’s second marriage were:

                        Edward Steere (b. 1850) and

                        Clovis Henry (b. 1853).

These latter generations all lived in Rhode Island.


Biographic Cyclopedia of Representative Men of Rhode Island (Providence, National Biographic Publishing Co., 1881).

Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island (Chicago, J. H. Beers & Co., 1908).

Bowen genealogical chart (see collection file)

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Scope and content:

            The collection contains the papers of approximately six generations of direct male descendants of Thomas and Jabez Bowen. The greatest volume belongs to Jabez Bowen, Ephraim Bowen, Jr., and William (“Billy”) Bowen. Though many of the Bowens were physicians, there is little content in the collection relating to their involvement in that profession.

            The correspondence of Ephraim Bowen, Jr. includes 29 retained copies of letters he wrote to General Nathanael Greene concerning supplies and finances for the Revolutionary War. There are also three letters written to him from Greene, all written during the first half of 1779; and a 1780 letter to him from the Compte de Rochambeau concerning an invitation.

            William Bowen’s correspondence derives mainly from the years he spent at Yale and in Philadelphia studying medicine, though the letters are not exclusively related to that activity. A letter to him (1747-1832) from John Morgan, dated July 10, 1769, discusses how to treat a female patient of Dr. Bowen who has an unusual medical condition, and the condition’s possible causes.

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            The papers in this collection arrived at the Library through several donations and purchases over a period of approximately 145 years.

            Six letters to Lt. Gov. Jabez Bowen, all dated in 1778, were donated by John Howland in 1833. Letters and manuscripts selected from the papers of Ephraim Bowen related to his war service, 1778-1781, were donated by William Gammell, possibly in 1846 (these were once Mss 9003, v. 2, pp 131-142 etc.). A letter from Jabez Bowen to Eliphalet Dyer, dated August 21, 1795, was donated by George Henry Preble circa 1859. Mrs Lewis J. Chace donated some letters from Ephraim Bowen and other Providence merchants in 1907. In 1908, Mrs. William Butler donated a deed from Edward Arnold to Ephraim Bowen dated February 7, 1767. Unidentified papers of Jabez Bowen were donated by a Mrs. Place in 1929. In 1930, the Connecticut State Library transferred an account book, dated between 1760 and 1775, belonging to Henry Bowen and Henry Bowen Jr. (The account book had been given to the Connecticut State Library by the widow of Edward Field the same year.) F. H. Sweet sold a letter from Count Rochambeau to Ephraim Bowen, dated September 13, 1780, to the Society in 1942. Three items were donated by Frederick S. Peck of Barrington: in 1943, a letter from Nathanael Greene to Ephraim Bowen dated June 6, 1779; in 1944, a letter from Ezekiel Cornell to Jabez Bowen dated 1779; and a receipt signed by C[hristopher?] Lippitt, 1792. A letter from Quartermaster General Ephraim Bowen to Col. W[illiam?] Lee, dated August 24, 1778, was sold to the Society by Leo J. Caron in 1962. Mary Rivers donated a militia commission for Oliver Bowen 2nd in 1901. In 1970, a letter from Jabez Bowen to Thos Ivers, dated November, 1785, was purchased from Paul C. Richards for $10.

            Some papers were transferred to the collection from the Rhode Island Historical Society Manuscripts Collection (MSS 9003), as is apparent from stamped markings on several documents.

            Thirty-six letters dated between 1778 and 1780 were transferred from the Nicholas Cooke Papers (MSS 365) to the Bowen Family Collection probably some time in the early 1980s (see the processing note for the Cooke Papers finding aid). Accession numbers 1865.12.2.1-36 were assigned to these letters in 1999. Twenty-nine of them are Colonel Ephraim Bowen’s retained copies of letters he wrote to General Nathanael Greene regarding supplies and finances for the Revolutionary War. It is assumed the thirty-six letters were part of a gift given to the library by Caroline Cooke in 1865; they were definitely in the Cooke Papers as of 1890 (see the 1890 inventory filed with that collection).

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Processing note:

            Before processing in December of 1999, the collection contained approximately 1.25 linear feet of papers from several disconnected Bowen families of Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. These papers originated from various purchases and donations obtained by the RIHSL between (circa) 1833 and 1994. In 1999, the papers from the Bowen family of Providence (descendants of brothers Dr. Thomas and Dr. Jabez Bowen) were retained in this collection. The remaining papers were transferred to two separate collections: one folder of Haile and Hannah Beebe Bowen’s pension papers; two letters to Henry A. Bowen; correspondence concerning Captain John H. Bowen; and the diary of A. H. Bowen, were transferred to MSS 302, the Charles W. Bowen Family Papers; and the remainder were transferred to MSS 9001-B, Miscellaneous Manuscripts. A complete list of the transferred material can be found below. A finding aid was written for the Miscellaneous Bowen Family Papers.

            This collection is arranged by family member. Documents attributed to each individual are filed chronologically within each folder, in most cases without regard to document type (exceptions being Ephraim Bowen Jr., and Jabez Bowen Jr.).

            In Joseph Bowen's papers, the letter to Knight Dexter, dated November 30, 1787 and signed “J. Bowen”, is attributed to Joseph Bowen due to the similarity of the signature on a deed (in the same folder) dated June 27, 1819. The letter was formerly misfiled in the John Brown Papers (MSS 312) and was transferred to MSS 301 on May 18, 1995.

            A “List of Old Bowen Family Papers”, dated April 8, 1955, found with the papers has been filed in the collection file. A genealogical chart presumably done by a RIHS staff member or volunteer was transferred to the printed collection (Gen. Mss.).

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Box 1 of 1.

Benjamin Bowen (1727-1784) (son of Dr. Jabez Bowen?)

Folder 1. Anonymous letter, 1752.

                 Will, 1784.

Clovis Henry? Bowen (1853-?) (son of Clovis Hildovis Bowen?)

Folder 2. Correspondence, 1919, 1923.

                 Deed, 1877.

Clovis Hildovis Bowen (1801-1875) (son of Dr. Joseph Bowen)

Folder 3. Deeds (3), 1837-1861.

                 Letter to Charles Bushnell, Feb. 4, 1865.

                 Power of attorney, 1823.

                 Receipt, 1864.


Edward Steere Bowen (b. 1850) (son of Clovis Hildovis Bowen)

Folder 4. Correspondence (4 letters), 1880, 1901.

Ephraim Bowen Sr. (1716-1812) (son of Dr. Thomas Bowen)

Folder 5. Estate papers for Peter Mawney (Ephraim Bowen, executor), ca. 1778-1798.

Folder 6. Loose papers, 1767-1810.

 Ephraim Bowen Jr. (1753-1841) (son of Dr. Ephraim Bowen)

Folder 7. Account of persons employed in Quartermaster's Dept., RI, 1779.

Folder 8. Correspondence, 1778.

Folder 9. Correspondence, Jan. - May, 1779.

Folder 10. Correspondence, June - Dec., 1779.

Folder 11. Correspondence, 1780-1832.

Folder 12. Deeds, 1784.

Oversize storage: Deed from William Morris, April 6, 1784.

Folder 13. Financial papers, 1777-1834.

Oversize storage: Return of public stores received of Col. Ephraim Bowen, December 13, 1780.

Folder 14. Will, 1820.

Jabez Bowen (1696-1770) (son of Dr. Richard Bowen)

Folder 15. Loose papers, 1733-1767 and undated.

Jabez Bowen (1739-1815) (son of Dr. Ephraim Bowen)

Folder 16. Correspondence, 1777-1794.

Oversize storage: Letter from Jeremiah Powell, July 24, 1778

Folder 17. Deeds, 1771-1780.

Oversize storage: Indenture between Oliver Bowen and Jabez Bowen, 1770

Folder 18. Financial papers, 1874-1792.

Folder 19. Miscellaneous, 1788 and undated.

Joseph Bowen (1755-1832) (son of Dr. Benjamin Bowen)

Folder 20. Loose papers, 1782-1819 and undated.

Oliver Bowen Jr. (1767-1804) (son of Jabez and Sarah (Brown)?)

Folder 21. Loose papers, 1791-1800.

Pardon Bowen (1757-1826) (son of Dr. Ephraim Bowen)

Folder 22. Loose papers, 1791-1826.

Thomas Bowen (1689-1774) (son of Richard Bowen)

Folder 23. Deed, 1766.

William (“Billy”) Bowen (1747-1832) (son of Dr. Ephraim Bowen)

Folder 24. Correspondence, 1766-1794 and undated.

Bowen family

Folder 25. Bowen genealogy and vital records (ca. 1718-1839).

Folder 26. Miscellaneous:

            Deed for lands to Amey Mawney, from estate of Robert Gibbs, undated

            Letter, George Leonard to David Leonard Barnes, June 6, 1789

            Letter, author and recipient unknown, March 7, 1928

            Receipt to Samuel Smith, 1805

            Receipt to ?, ca 1817

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Afro-Americans - Rhode Island

Barnes, David L. (

Biddle, Clement (1740-1814)

Bowen, Benjamin (1727-1784)

Bowen, Clovis Henry? (b. 1853)

Bowen, Clovis Hildovis (1801-1875)

Bowen, Edward Steere (b. 1850)

Bowen, Ephraim (1716-1812)

Bowen, Ephraim Jr. (1753-1841)

Bowen, Jabez (1696-1770)

Bowen, Jabez (1739-1815)

Bowen, Joseph (1755-1832)

Bowen, Oliver (1767-1804)

Bowen, Pardon (1757-1826)

Bowen, Thomas (1689-1774)

Bowen, William (1747-1832)

Bowen Family

Burnet, Ichabod

Cornell, Ezekiel (1733-1800)

Greene, Nathanael (1742-1786)

Greene, William (1731-1809)

Mawney, Peter

Olney, George

Olney, Jeremiah (1749-1812)

Pettit, Charles (1736-1806)

Registers of births, etc. - Rhode Island

Rice, Thomas (Captain)

Rochambeau, Compte de (1725-1807)

Slavery - Rhode Island

United States - History - Revolution, 1775-1783

Women - Health and hygiene

Yale University

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