GENEALOGY OF A BOWMAN FAMILY, BYRON WHITENER BOWMAN, 1956
- BIOGRAPHY OF THOMAS ANDERSON BOWMAN, 1850-1915
Thomas Anderson Bowman, the youngest of eleven children of
Benjamin and Sophia Bowman, was born on May 7, 1850, on his mother's 45th
birthday, at what is now known as St. Albans, Kanawha County, West Virginia,
though the states (WVA and VA) were one at that time. Later the family moved
from Kanawha to Cabell County, at Bloomingdale, on the Guyandotte River, where
his father had charge of a mill owned by a Mr. Doosenberry. Here Thomas grew up
to be seven and a half years old, learning to swim and fish in the river under
the tutelage of his brother Samuel Sterling. Once he caught a fish that weighed
25 pounds and was just as long as the young angler. Of course, his big brother
had to assist him in landing it.
Small steamboats came up the river, and at the mill were a lock
and a dam. He could just remember these and the house in which they lived; the
big trees, the high river banks; a little creek crossing the road, over which
was a bridge; of being very sick once; and of moving to Missouri by boat, down
the Ohio River and up the Mississippi to Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
One thing on the trip he especially remembered: At Cincinnati,
Ohio, the father took all ashore to see, for the first time, a railroad, and his
only recollection was to see some houses, to start and run away. That was in
November 1857, and the destination was Jackson, Missouri, where his father,
Benjamin, had a position awaiting him in a mill.
At Jackson, young Thomas entered the semi-public school. Half
the tuition was paid by public taxes and half by the pupils or their parents. He
remembered well the first money he earned, which he used to pay his tuition.
That first money was earned for a summer's work for a Mr. Edward Jenkins at
twenty-five cents a day. It was first for dropping corn, then carrying bundles
in harvest, and for hoeing corn.
Soon those stormy days of the Civil War came on. The rising
clouds and muttering thunders foreboded trouble, and it was not long until
schools were closed, not to open until the four years of struggle ended, and the
school terms were exceedingly short and of little real value.
When the war broke out in 1861, the mill was burned, and the
family now consisted of ten members, for his sister "Betty," had died, and her
husband, Mr. Henley, and his four children came to live with the family. Once
more they moved to what is now Burfordville, to look after the estate of the
Daugherty brothers--Sam and Fred--who had gone into the Confederate service.
They had a fine stone mill on the Whitewater, but it had also been burned by the
Federal soldiers. It was so "squally" here that it did not take long for another
move, this time to a mill farther up on the Whitewater and off a main
thoroughfare. The mill was owned by a Mr. Greable, who was away.
The boy got to school by a two- or three-mile walk for a short
term in the winter and worked on the neighboring farms two or three months in
the summer until he was 18 years of age, spending the rest of his time hunting
and fishing. When he became 18, he began to learn carpentry and while attending
a meeting held in the residence of John T. Ford by James Reid and J. P.
Bridwell, two Baptist ministers, he was converted and baptized on December 28,
Young Thomas continued his apprenticeship until 1871. Having
been licensed to preach in that year, he resolved enter William Jewell College
at Liberty, Missouri, which he did the following September. There were 150
students in the college at that time, 50 of whom were studying for the ministry.
He was the first student to enter the school from Southeast Missouri.
Funds were scarce, so he did odd jobs and practiced the most
strict economy to remain in school until 1873 when his funds were exhausted
entirely. He then secured a school and taught at Orrick, in Ray County,
Missouri. It was during this time that his father died, and he returned to his
mother's side, who was left alone.
The little country church at New Bethel in Cape Girardeau
County, Missouri, called him to its pastorate, and he was ordained June 14,
1873. On October 24th the same year, he was married to Miss Sarah Emma Gholson.
To this union were born six children, of whom but two survive at this writing:
John J. the oldest, and Thomas DeWitt, next to the youngest. The others were
Connie Irene, who died at Slater, Mo., July 26, 1891, of heart failure caused by
St. Vitus Dance, age 14 years; Myrta May, who died at Fredericktown, Mo.,
September 28, 1898, age 19; Bessie Beulah, who married John Willis Alexander of
Williamsville, Mo., June 12, 1905, and died at Williamsville, July 27, 1912, age
30; and Orren Clyde, born and died in Steelville, Mo., age two
For more than forty years, he preached to churches at Jackson,
Salem, Steelville, Pacific, Slater, Corder, Chaffee, Owensville, and Belle, in
Missouri, besides at quite a number of country churches. He served as
Superintendent of the Missouri Baptist Orphans' Home at Pattonville, Mo., near
As a sideline, he also engaged in newspaper work for several
years at Fredericktown and Sikeston, Mo. He also published a little book, "Truth
in a Nutshell about Baptist," which had a rapid sale, and the edition was soon
He was fully identified with the denominational work in the
state, attending nearly all the sessions of the Missouri Baptist General
Association from 1870, when it met at the Second Baptist Church in St. Louis on
Sixth Street, until a short time before his death.
In the history of the Missouri Baptist General Association by
the Rev. W. Pope Yeaman, is the following reference: "Rev. T. A. Bowman has been
mentioned before in these records as an active Secretarial adjunct. He has been
associated in such work a greater number of years than any other agent of the
General Association. This alone testifies to the high esteem in which he is held
by his brethren. His name is inseparable from the Baptist history of Southeast
Missouri. There is perhaps not a Baptist in all that quarter of the state that
does not know and respect him. Other portions of the state are acquainted with
his work and love him for his work's sake."
"This one thing I do" was the watchword of this good man, and
that was to preach the Gospel. This he did for over 40 years, celebrating the
40th anniversary of his ordination to the ministry on June 14, 1913. Like Paul,
he worked often with his own hands at carpentry, schoolteaching once for a
little while, merchandising, newspaper editing, etc., to support and educate his
family. He never set a definite salary as a condition of acceptance of a
pastorate or other kingdom work.
He believed a workman is worthy of his hire, but he also
believed that there are fields to be cultivated that could not properly
compensate the laborers, and, in such cases, the laborers go into the vineyard
and work and trust the rest to the Master.
He kept a complete record of sermons preached, with time, place,
and text; names and dates of all marriages and baptisms performed; and also all
money received from all sources for his compensation. The record for these forty
years from 1873 to 1913 show the following items: 5000 sermons preached; 727
baptisms administered; 180 couples married; and total receipts of
He was a member of Excelsior Masonic Lodge at Jackson, Mo. He
died at Belle, Missouri, March 17, 1915.
OBITUARY OF THOMAS ANDERSON BOWMAN APPEARING IN WORD AND
Today we buried my father at his old home in Jackson, Mo. Others
have expressed much-appreciated words of tribute, but I knew him even better
than they. A stranger who attended the funeral service said: "That must have
been one of the greatest men in the state," and he was great--great in his
simplicity, great in the faith, great in his earnestness and devotion to the
cause he preached, and great in the pure, devoted life of service he
In the midst of our grief, we are proud of the heritage he has
left us, for we know that his life was one of meekness and gentleness, without
guile, hypocrisy or deceit, full of good works and service--a life in which
there is nothing to be sorry or ashamed of, but everything to be proud of. A
friend said: "I would rather have the things said about me that were said over
his body today than to be President of the United States," and the appreciation
of his virtues helps to relieve the sting of sorrow.
As pastor, missionary worker, representative of the
denominational paper, the Orphans' Home, and other interests, he has gone up and
down the state, in season and out, never faltering or complaining, but doing the
work he felt called to do and serving his Master and his brethren. Difficulties
and discouragements never halted him, and in all things he was faithful to the
With the closing of the year, he resigned his last pastorate and
expressed the belief that his work was about done. Though seriously ill only a
few days, he said he was tired and wanted to rest. He knew he was ready. After a
night of suffering, as the morning sun was rising, "God's finger touched him,
and he slept." As a tired child falls asleep, his spirit entered into that new
day of everlasting sunshine to meet his Master whom he had served so long and so
faithfully. He "crossed over the river and now rests under the
And so we are proud that we can pay this humble tribute, through
our sorrow, for we know that he fought a good fight, he finished the course, he
kept the faith, and that a crown was laid up for him.
by John J. Bowman, Bonne Terre, Missouri, March 19,