Jabez Bowen

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Jabez Bowen
John Singleton Coply, "Jabez Bowen," oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in.jpg
John Singleton Copley, Portrait of Jabez Bowen, undated. Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in., unlocated
Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.
In office
47th Deputy Governor of Rhode Island
In office
Preceded by William West
Succeeded by Daniel Owen
45th Deputy Governor of Rhode Island
In office
Preceded by William Bradford
Succeeded by William West
In office
Personal details
Born (1739-06-02)June 2, 1739
Providence, RI, United States
Died May 7, 1815(1815-05-07) (aged 75)
Providence, Rhode Island, United States
Resting place Swan Point Cemetery
Providence, Rhode Island
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Sarah Brown
Peddy Leonard
Relations Moses Brown
John Brown
Children Henry Bowen
Parents Ephraim Bowen
Mary (Fenner) Bowen
Residence Providence, Rhode Island
Alma mater Yale College
Occupation Shipper
Military service
Service/branch Rhode Island Militia
Years of service 1774–1777
Rank Colonel

Jabez Bowen, Jr. (June 2, 1739 – May 7, 1815) was an American shipper 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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

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 in 1776, and became Chief Justice in 1781.[8] 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.[1] Bowen served as Chancellor of Brown University from 1785 until his death.[6]

He died on May 7, 1815 in Providence,[9] and is interred in Swan Point Cemetery in Providence.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Bowen and his first wife Sarah Brown 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.[11]

He was a Freemason in St. Johns Lodge #1 Providence, and served as Master of the lodge from 1779–1790,[12] and served as Grand Master in Providence from 1794–1798.[7] Bowen was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1814.[13]


  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. 
  3. ^ Rappleye, Charles (2007). Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution. Simon and Schuster. p. 35. 
  4. ^ Dexter, Franklin Bowditch (1896). Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College: May 1745-May 1763. Holt. p. 453. 
  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. 
  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. 
  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. 
  9. ^ Dexter, Franklin Bowditch (1896). Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College: May 1745-May 1763. Holt. p. 453. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ "Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters". Rhode Island Historical Society Postal History Collection. Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  12. ^ Jackson, Henry (1958). 200-Year Histoty of St Johns Lodge No. 1 Providence, F. & A. M. Providence, RI. pp. 33–34. 
  13. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory

Further reading[edit]

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

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
William Bradford
Deputy Governor of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
William West
Preceded by
William West
Deputy Governor of Rhode Island
Succeeded by
Daniel Owen