About Riverboat Captain
William Flint Bowen


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Dave,
I thought you might be interested in the story below, well documented in county histories of Muskingum and Zanesville. And maybe you might know how I can find out more about it.

My ancestor Charles Bowen and three of his brothers left Massachusetts for Zanesville. One of his brothers, William Bowen, ran a big flouring mill and when he hit a financial bad spot, Charles decided to bail him out (perhaps because Charles had co-signed some of his notes). He went into the grocery business. In the fall of 1845 he chartered a steamboat, (pardon me if I'm not using the right terminology) called the "Belle Zane," to take goods to New Orleans. He and his wife and his son went on the trip leaving two daughters (6 and 9 years old) behind. The Belle Zane hit a snag and sank. Of the many people on board, only the Bowen family was lost. Their bodies were never found. (I am descended from one of the orphaned daughters.)

Thanks,
Jane Peppler (Jane, I need a current e-mail address - Dave)

More from family records sent in by Jane Peppler:

Letter from the sister of Charles and William Flint Bowen, and John Langley Bowen, written to Daniel Bowen, a cousin who compiled a genealogy.

"Charles was a wholesale bookseller and publisher in Boston ... I think my brother William, who was the first to go to Zanesville, O., went in 1835, perhaps earlier; then John, a year or two afterwards, and Charles in 1838. My sister went in 1837, I believe. Charles bought a dairy farm about two miles from the town, and built a fine house for himself in a very commanding situation. ... "Charles was as successful with his farm as with his other business ... he was a Whig, and he went several winters to the State Legislature ...

"William went into the flour business on a large scale, and built large flouring mills at Duncan's Falls, about ten miles from Zanesville. He was doing very well till one of the fluctuations incident to the business caused his failure. Then Charles, who had endorsed for him, felt it necessary to go again into business. He took hold of the wholesale grocery business, something quite new to him - but he was doing well with it, when he chartered a small steamboat for a cargo of goods to and from New Orleans. He took with him his wife and son, leaving his little daughters, six and nine years old, with my mother. So they started on the trip, from which they never returned. The steamboat, Belle Jane [actually Belle Zane], struck a snag in the night in the Mississippi and sank immediately. It was in November 1845.

"My mother, with my sister and myself, were living in Zanesville, and of course the little girls remained with her. ... William took his family to Texas soon after Charles' death, [the spring of 1846] but, after about two years, George wrote to him that if he would cross the country to San Francisco, he would join hem there. He therefore sent his wife and children to my mother, in Ohio, and started on the journey, from which he, too, was never to return. [He was killed on the way by Mexicans.] His widow and children remained with us about a year, and then went to Cambridge, where they lived till 1865, when they went to San Francisco, where, as I wrote you, they now are. "John's business, at the time of his death, was that of a smelting furnace, at Dresden, fifteen miles from Zanesville. He died quite suddenly of a fever [in 1848] ... Thus my mother lost, in less than five years, the three sons she went to Ohio to live near."

For more on Capt Bowman and Zanesville boats see notes from
History of Muskingum County


More on Capt. William Bowen

01/01/08
From Site Visitor Scott Gravson

David,
I just wanted to give you a little more info on Willliam F. Bowen.

He moved to Rio Grande City, Tx by 1848, and was Captain of Del Norte (which snagged on the Rio Grande in 1849.) He was part of a overland trading party that was attacked by Mexicans near Salinas, Mexico in 1850. He and a few of his party were brutally murdered:

From 26th February 1850 Zanesville Courier, Zanesville, OH

Letters received here, on Saturday evening announce the death of Capt W. F. BOWEN, formerly a citizen of this place.

The accounts are, substantially, as follows:.

Mr. BOWEN and five others were on a trading expedition to the interior of Mexico. After crossing the Rio Grande at Roma, in Texas, they proceeded on their way until near the town of Salinas, in Mexico, about 75 miles from Roma, where they were met by three Mexicans, who demanded their passports—the party not having passports, were permitted to pass upon the payment of 50 dollars to each Mexican. Shortly after the same three men with thirty more made a similar demand.

Mr. Bowen's party then commenced unpacking their mules and making breastworks of the packs. Two of the party then went out to negotiate with the leaders of the gang, and while so doing, an attack was made—by 15 or 20 Mexicans crowding upon BOWEN's party, and the fight immediately commenced, and resulted in the death of three Americans (or 2 killed and 1 wounded) Capt BOWEN, being the last who fell. The two men who went out to negotiate were made prisoners, and sent to the Camargo prison,

Capt. IRVING, the last of the party, was by some accident a few miles in the rear, and escaped and has returned to Roma.

We also copy the account of this melancholy occurrence from extracts of New Orleans papers in the Baltimore Sun…

AMERICANS KILLED ON THE RIO GRANDE –The New Orleans papers contain new from Brownsville, Texas to the 30th ult. The Texans are much excited on the subject of protection of their frontier, and find great fault with the secretary of War for furnishing them with infantry instead of cavalry, and call for the raising of companies of rangers— The New Orleans True Delta publishes a letter dated Camargo Jan (39?), giving an account of the murder of Texans by Mexicans as follows:

A few days ago, a number of Texan merchants were brutally murdered near Salinas, by the official bandits that occupy this line, seemingly for the purpose of enforcing the revenue laws, but in reality to plunder and brutally murder, without any provocation, all parties that are not in sufficient force to protect themselves. I will state the particulars of the late atrocity as related to me by one of the Americans now in prison here. L. WARTHINGTON, W. F. BOWEN, R. CAMPBELL, --- HILLMAN and PETER MANGUS, all of Roma, brought over some goods to this side of the river. If they complied not with the law, they did with the customs of this Mexican frontier, by paying the guards to let them pass. The same was agreed upon $250. The traders were only a few leagues on the road, when the same officers who took the bribe, overhauled them and demanded another stipend, which was complied with by the Americans. A few days afterwards, while the party was encamped at a creek near Salinas, they were surprised by the very same officers, who has already received two bribes to pass the goods, and a force of twenty-five soldiers, and fired upon before they had time to seize their arms. At the first volley, Mr. WORTHINGTON was shot through the head. CAMPBELL gallantly returned fire, but he soon fell, pierced by eight balls. BOWEN, who was desperately wounded by the first fire, retreated towards the creek, and was pursued by the ruthless miscreants, who beat his brains out with the butt of WARTHINGTON's gun. HILLMAN and MANGUS being left alone, and when all hope of being able to defend against such fearful odds had ?? surrendered at discretion. The latter requested only permission to bury the remains of their fallen comrades, but even that ?? was denied them. The Mexicans, after mutilating the dead, (left them) a prey to the wolves and vultures.

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