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John Bowman
(December 2, 1733 - June 13, 1780)

The following excerpts were taken from:
Phifer, Edward William, Jr. Burke: The History of a North Carolina County, 1777-1920: Revised Edition. 1982.

White, Emmett R. Revolutionary War Solders of Western North Carolina:Burke County Vol. I. Southern Historical Press, Inc. Greenville, SC. 1998.


Not much is known about Captain John Bowman's childhood, excluding the fact that he was born into a wealthy family in Opequon Creek, Frederick Co. Va.. His grandfather, Joist Hite of German descent, and his father, George Bowman (b. 1706, d. 1768), had arrived in Virginia in 1732 and purchased a 40,000 acre land tract from John and Isaac Vanmeter.  His mother was Mary Elizabeth Hite (b. January 2, 1706 Treschklingen, Prussia, d. 1768 Frederick Co., Va.).


John married Miss Grace Grizzell Greenlee (b. June 23, 1750, d. May 13, 1823), the daughter of James Greenlee and Mary Elizabeth McDowell, and the sister of James Greenlee II, second Sheriff of Burke County. Around 1774-1778, John and Grace Bowman, along with his brother-in-law, James Greenlee (brother of Grace), and an unknown amount of others, left for North Carolina on the Old Wagon Road south.


The group reached Moravian settlements at Salem and were informed that Cherokee Indians were on a war path in the upper Catawba settlements (it is very probable that at the time they were deferred from directly coming to Burke County, the Cherokees were raiding the Catawba Valley during the summer of 1776, in which they crossed the Blue Ridge and murdered and scalped 37 people). Upon learning of this information, the Greenlee's and Bowman's went first to the homes of their relatives (Margaret McDowell Mitchell, Mary Greenlee's sister) in South Carolina.


Upon their arrival to Burke County around 1776, the Bowman's and Greenlee's were entertained by their relatives, the McDowell's at Quaker Meadows. When Gen. Charles McDowell learned of John Bowman's and James Greenlee's desire to settle in Burke County, the General took both men to see "a fine tract of land embracing the lower valley of Canoe Creek and fronting the Catawba River at the mouth of that stream." Both men fell in love with the land and at the suggestion of Joseph McDowell, Sr., the question was to be settled by a wrestling match. The match was won by James Greenlee; therefore, Captain John Bowman crossed the Catawba River, and on February 2, 1778 received 1,380 acres embracing Silver Creek. Here at "Hickory Grove," near what was later called Calvin Station on the Southern Railways, the Bowman's built their home and prepared their fields. His land on Silver Creek remained in the possession of heirs for hundreds of years.


On March 22, 1779 at John and Grace's homestead in Hickory Grove, their only child, Mary "Polly" Bowman was born. Shortly after Mary's birth, John had to leave his young wife and child to join the McDowell's in their countless battles with the Tories in South Carolina. This was during his time serving as Sheriff of Burke County. It is interesting to note that pay and bounties were more generous in South Carolina, and under "Sumter's Law," enlistees were even given confiscated slaves as bounty. It was also lawful for militiamen balloted in for active duty to employ a substitute to serve in his place.


In June, 1778, John Bowman employed a David Conyers to substitute for him in Captain Leroy Taylor's Company of Burke County. On June 13, 1780, John was fatally wounded at the battle Ramseur's Mill, just outside the present town of Lincolnton. His wife Mary received word that her husband had been severely wounded and was taken to a house near the battlefield. Known for her superb horse riding skills and courage, she took the fifteenth-month-old Mary in her arms and rode forty miles through the Torie infested trails to the bedside of her husband, who died a short time following her arrival. Mary Bowman was remarried to General Charles McDowell in 1782, three years following John Bowman's death.


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