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First West Virginia Legislature

Biographical Sketches: John Bowen

Wheeling Intelligencer
July 22, 1863


Sketches Personal, Political and Biographical



The subject of this sketch was born in what is now Wayne county, Va., on the 4th day of January, 1818. His parents removed from Botetourt county, Va. about 50 years ago. He was raised on a farm, and having been trained up in that way has never departed from it; was married quite early in life, is the father of eight children, five of whom are girls; one of the sons is in the National army.

Mr. Bowen has always been a moral, temperate, industrious man, and has never been an aspirant for political office, though he has acted for three successive terms as a Justice of the Peace. He was the leading magistrate to take the oath of office and mainly instrumental in reorganizing the county court of his county, under the restored government of Virginia, since which time he has been presiding justice.

His family were all of the democratic faith, and in the last Presidential election his relatives clung to Breckinridge, while he voted for Douglas, believing that he was national and Breckinridge sectional. Nearly all his connections are rebel, and of course opposed to the new State.

Almost all the leading men in Wayne county were secessionists, and as a consequence the county has been overrun with rebels, and the Union men have had a hard time of it. At the last election, that county gave something over 300 votes. About one half of the county is loyal. Mr. Bowen traveled night and day, through wet and cold, in his efforts to elect the Union candidate to the Richmond Convention, but the rebel was elected by a small majority.

Mr. Bowen has lost a good deal by reason of the rebellion, and has at times had very narrow escapes from the marauders and thieves of Letcher, and has frequently lain in the woods to avoid them.

He is a member of the M. E. Church, but since the rebellion broke out has been deprived of the privileges of public religious worship.

He has been pro-slavery in his feelings heretofore, but has thought for years that slavery was a great evil, but not necessarily a sin under all circumstances - was opposed to medling [sic] with it in any way, and wanted to let those who owned the slaves manage them in their own way.

He has been a strong supporter of the new State, and voted for emancipation; and is favor of putting down this rebellion, if it can't be done otherwise, by destroying slavery root and branch. He was elected to the Senate without opposition.

Mr. Bowen is about five feet ten or eleven inches high, rather sparely built, a little stoop shouldered, hair dark brown, and pretty thin; eyes bluish brown, eye brows heavy and sandy colored; face slim and long; nose large and a little Roman; mouth large; chin small, sharp and pointed; he wears no whiskers; has a cunning intelligent expression of countenance; looks like he lived well at home and attended to his own business; dresses well, but plainly; makes no speeches, attends well to what is being done, and votes intelligently. He is a member of the Committee on Education and other committees.

Biographies of the First West Virginia Legislature

West Virginia Archives and History