The Bowens of Tazewell

 

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Captain William Bowen Plantation House
Built around 1787, the Bowen House is truly a Tennessee treasure. Captain William Bowen was awarded land grants for military services during the Revolutionary War. He and his wife, Mary, brought four young children to the frontier, and soon Captain Bowen and Mary had 10 children. Through his hard work and own ambitions, Bowen became prosperous in the new settlement and eventually owned over 4,000 acres. William Bowen died in 1804, and Mary died in 1827. The house was then occupied by their son, William Russell Bowen, until it was sold in 1835.

 

 

Reece Bowen was the brother to my sixth great-grandfather Henry Bowen who married Ann Cunningham.

The following account is from a book called A History of The Middle, New River Settlements and Contiguous Territory by David E. Johnston (1906).

The Bowens, of Tazewell

This family is of Welch extraction, and the immediate ancestors of those that came hither were, long prior to the American Revolution, located and settled about Fredericktown, in western Maryland. Restive in disposition and fond of adventure, like all of their blood, they sought, fairly early after the first while settlements were made in the Valley of Virginia, to look for homes in that direction. How early, or the exact date, that Reece Bowen, the progenitor of the Tazewell family of that name, came in to the Virginia Valley from his western Maryland home, cannot be named with certainty; doubtless he came as early as 1765, for it is known that for a few years prior to 1772, when he located at Maiden Spring, he was living on the Roanoke River, close by where the city of Roanoke is now situated, then in Augusta County, he married Miss Louisa Smith, who proved to him not only a loving and faithful wife, but a great helpmeet in his border life. She was ev idently a woman of more than ordinary intelligence and cultivation for one of her day and opportunity. She was a small, neat and trim woman, weighing only about one hundred pounds, while her husband was a giant in size and strength. It is told as a fact that she could step into her husband’s hand and that he could stand and extend his arm, holding her at right angle to his body.

 

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Maiden Springs

 

Prize fighting was quite common in the early days of the settlements, by which men tested their manhood and prowess. The man who could demolish all who chose to undertake him was the champion, and wore the belt until some man flogged him, and then he had to surrender it. At some period after Reece Bowen had settled on the Roanoke, and after the first child came into the home, Mrs. Bowen desiring to pay a visit to her people in the Valley, she and her babe and husband set out on horse-back along the narrow bridle way that then led through the valley, and on the way they met a man clad in the usual garb of the day-that is, buck-skin trousers, moccasins, and hunting shirt, or wampus. The stranger inquired of Mr. Bowen his name, which he gave him; proposed a fight for the belt. Bowen tried to beg off, stating that he was taking his wife and child, the latter then in his arms, to her people. The man would take no excuse; finally Mrs. Bowen said to her husband; “Reece, give me the child and get down and slap that man’s jaw.” Mr. Bowen alighted from his horse, took the man by the lapel of his hunting shirt, gave him a few quick, heavy jerks, when the man called out to let him go, he had enough.

It is also related of Mr. Bowen, that in a later prize fight, at Maiden Spring, with a celebrated prize fighter who had, with his seconds, come from South Carolina to fight Bowen, and when he reached Bowen’s home and made known to him his business, he, Mr. Bowen, did what he could in an honorable way to excuse himself from engaging in a fight; but the man was persistent and Bowen concluded to accommodate him and sent for his seconds-a Mr. Smith and a Mr. Clendenin. The fight took place and the gentleman form South Carolina came off second best.

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Just when Reece Bowen first saw the territory of what is now Tazewell County cannot be definitely stated. Whether he was one of the large hunting party organized of men from the Virginia Valley, North Carolina and New River, which rendezvoused at Ingle’s Ferry in June, 1769, and hunted on the waters of the Holstein, Powell’s River, Clinch, and in Kentucky, is not known; his name does not appear among the number, but the writer, “Haywood’s Civil and Political History of Tennessee,” does not profess to give all the names of the party. Nevertheless it is highly probable that Bowen was along, or he may have gone out with the party the next year, or he may have met with the Witten’s, and others, on their way out in 1771, and joined them. He seems not to have made his settlement at Maiden Spring until the year of 1772. He went with Captain William Russell’s company to the battle of Point Pleasant, in 1774, leaving home in August of that year, and leaving Daniel Boone in command of that part of the frontier. As already stated in this volume, Boone had been forced to give up his journey to Kentucky in September 1773, on account of the breaking out of the Indian War, and had spent the winter of 1773-4 in the neighborhood of Captain William Russell, near Castleswoods.

Captain Russell’s company belonged to Colonel William Christian’s Fincastle Regiment, the greater part of which did not participate in the battle of Point Pleasant, being in the rear in charge of the pack horses carrying provisions for the army; but Shelby’s and Russell’s companies went forward with the main body and took an active part in the conflict. Moses Bowen a relative of Reece, was with Russell’s company, but died on the journey, from smallpox. (Moses Bowen was Reece’s youngest brother. He died at the age of 20 years old.)

 

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Battle at King’s Mountain

 

From 1774 to 1781, when Reece Bowen marched away to the battle of King’s Mountain, the border on and along the Clinch was harassed by bands of marauding Indians, and in many of the skirmishes and troubles Reece Bowen took a hand. During the period from the date of Bowen’s settlement at Maiden Spring until his death, to procure salt, iron, and other necessary materials he had to travel across the mountains to Salisbury, North Carolina, carrying them on a packhorse, and would be absent for weeks, leaving his wife and children alone. His trips, however, were always made in winter, when there was no danger from the Indians. He left rifle guns and bear dogs at home, and with these his wife felt safe from danger, for she was a good shot with a rifle, often exceeding the men in ordinary rifle practice. Mr. Bowen had selected a lovely country for his home, and around and adjacent thereto, prior to the fall of 1780, had surveyed and secured several thousand acres of that valuable land, of which his descendants today hold about twelve square miles.

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When it was known that Lord Cornwallis’ Army was marching northward through the Carolinas, and that Colonel Ferguson, who commanded the left wing of his Army, had sent a threat to the “Over Mountain Men” that if they did not cross the mountains and take the oath of allegiance to the King, that he would cross over and destroy with fire and sword, Evan Shelby, John Sevier, and William Campbell determined to checkmate Colonel Ferguson by crossing the mountains and destroying him and his army. Colonel Campbell commanded the Washington County Military Force, and William Bowen (William Bowen was the brother of Reese Bowen) a company that belonged to Campbell’s Command, though a part of his company lived on the Montgomery county side of the line. In this company Reece Bowen was a First Lieutenant, his son John a Private, and James Moore a Junior Lieutenant. When the order came for Bowen’s company to join the regiment it found its Captain William Bowen, sick of a fever, and this situation devolved the command of the company upon Lieutenant Reece Bowen, who led it into the battle of King’s mountain, and there, together with several of his men, was killed and buried on the field. His remains were never removed, for the reason that when the opportunity was offered for their removal the spot in which he was buried could not be identified. Campbell’s Regiment lost in this battle 35 killed and wounded; among the killed, other than Lieutenant Reece Bowen, were Captain William Edmondson, Robert Edmondson, Andrew Edmondson, and Henry Henninger from the upper Clinch Waters.

 

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Colonel Henry Bowen, son of Reese Bowen

 

Reece Bowen has in Tazewell County many highly respected, prominent and influential descendants, among them Mr. Reece Bowen, Colonel Thomas P. Bowen and Captain Henry Bowen, all brave and distinguished Confederate Soldiers; the latter, Captain Henry, being frequently honored by his people as a member of the Legislature of Virginia, and a Representative in Congress. The present Mr. Reece Bowen married Miss Mary Crockett, of Wythe; Colonel Thomas P., Miss Augusta Stuart, of Greenbrier, and Captain Henry, Miss Louisa Gillespie, of Tazewell.

 

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Thank you for reading.

J. R. Lowe

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