Jabez Bowen

Jabez Bowen

American judge

Jabez Bowen, Sr. (June 2, 1739 – May 7, 1815) was an American shipper, slave trader and politician. He was a militia colonel during the American Revolutionary War, and served as Deputy Governor of Rhode Island and Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Early life

Bowen was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Ephraim Bowen and Mary (Fenner) Bowen.[1] His father was a prominent doctor in Providence in 1739, and his great-uncle Jabez Bowen was also a prominent Providence physician. In 1757, Bowen graduated from Yale College.[2]

He married Sarah Brown on December 19, 1762, a cousin of Moses Brown and John Brown of the prominent Brown family (see Brown University) of Providence. Bowen was deeply involved with the Browns in the shipping business, involving slaves, molasses, rum, and the China trade.[3]

Political career

He was a member of the Providence town council from 1773–1775, and was a representative in the General Assembly in 1777.[4] During the American Revolution, Bowen served in the Rhode Island Militia from 1774–1777, serving as the colonel of the First Regiment of Providence County from 1776–1777.[5] He served under Brigadier General William West who would later, like Bowen, serve as Deputy Governor of the state.[citation needed]

Bowen was Deputy Governor of Rhode Island for a total of seven years from May 1778 to May 1780, and from May 1781 to May 1786.[6] He was a delegate to the Annapolis Convention in 1786 and the Constitutional Convention in 1790.[7]

He served as a Superior Court judge from August 1776 to May 1778, and became Chief Justice in February 1781 following the death of Shearjashub Bourn, holding that office until May 1781.[8][9] Bowen was an ardent federalist (pro-Constitution) supporter, and was on the city committee which negotiated a peaceful end to William West's antifederalist protest on the Fourth of July in 1788.[10] Bowen served as Chancellor of Brown University from 1785 until his death.[6]

He died on May 7, 1815, in Providence,[11] and is interred in Swan Point Cemetery in Providence.[12]

Personal life

Bowen and his first wife, Sarah Brown, married December 19, 1762, had 11 children together. After Sarah's death, he married Peddy Leonard on May 21, 1801; they had no children together.[1] Bowen's son Henry served as Rhode Island Secretary of State from 1819–1849.[13]

He was a Freemason in St. Johns Lodge #1 Providence, and served as Master of the lodge from 1779–1790,[14] and served as Grand Master in Providence from 1794–1798.[7] Bowen was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1814.[15]

His mahogany tea table is currently at the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library in Winterthur, Delaware. The tea table was made in 1763 by John Goddard at Goddard and Townsend in Newport, Rhode Island.[16]


  1. ^ a b "Bowen Family Papers". Rhode Island Historical Society. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  2. ^ Butterfield, Lyman Henry (2007). Adams Family Correspondence: March 1787 – December 1789, Volume 8. Harvard University Press. p. 375. ISBN 9780674022782.
  3. ^ Rappleye, Charles (2007). Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution. Simon and Schuster. p. 35. ISBN 9780743266871. jabez bowen brown family.
  4. ^ Dexter, Franklin Bowditch (1896). Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College: May 1745 – May 1763. Holt. p. 453. jabez bowen yale.
  5. ^ Sons of the American Revolution. and, Rhode Island Society (1900). Sons of the American Revolution. Rhode Island Society. The Society. p. 50.
  6. ^ a b Lee, Eric McCauley (2004). The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma: Selected Works. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 86. ISBN 9780806136806.
  7. ^ a b Rugg, Henry Warren and Freemasons. Grand Lodge of Rhode Island (1895). History of Freemasonry in Rhode Island. E. L. Freeman & son, state printer. p. 273. jabez bowen deputy governor rhode island.
  8. ^ Johnston, Henry Phelps (1888). Yale and Her Honor-roll in the American Revolution, 1775–1783: Including Original Letters, Records of Service, and Biographical Sketches. G.P. Putnam's Sons. p. 210. jabez bowen yale.
  9. ^ Manual – the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (1891), p. 208-13.
  10. ^ Rhode Island Historical Society Collections, (The Society, 1843), pg. 332 [1]
  11. ^ Dexter, Franklin Bowditch (1896). Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College: May 1745 – May 1763. Holt. p. 453. jabez bowen yale.
  12. ^ Sons of the American Revolution.Sons of the American Revolution and, Massachusetts Society (1901). Register: With Lists of Soldiers, Sailors, and Patriots at Whose Burial. The Society. p. 67.
  13. ^ "Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters". Rhode Island Historical Society Postal History Collection. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  14. ^ Jackson, Henry (1958). 200-Year Histoty of St Johns Lodge No. 1 Providence, F. & A. M. Providence, RI. pp. 33–34.
  15. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  16. ^ "Tea table, RIF1424". The Rhode Island Furniture Archive at the Yale University Art Gallery. Retrieved February 4, 2020.

Further reading

  • Charles Rappleye, Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006)

External links

Political offices
Preceded by Deputy Governor of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
Preceded by Deputy Governor of Rhode Island
Succeeded by

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