Index | Intro | Cub Pilot | Licensed Pilot | River Tour 1882 | 1902 Farewell | Steamboat Men | Glossary

Natives of Hannibal, Missouri and childhood friends of Samuel Clemens.

Barton W. Stone Bowen
1830 - c. 1868

Bart Bowen
Drawing of Barton Bowen from MANSFIELD (Ohio) NEWS, April 18, 1903
"Mississippi River Steamboating of the Then and Now"

Clemens' comments: I steered a trip for Bart Bowen, of Keokuk, on the A. T. Lacy, and I was partner with Will Bowen on the A. B. Chambers (one trip), and with Sam Bowen a whole summer on a small Memphis packet.
- letter to Major John B. Downing, 26 Feb 1899 (quoted in Mark Twain's Letters, edited by Albert Bigelow Paine, p. 675).

He was a high minded, large-hearted man, & I hold him in undiminshed honor to this day.
- letter to Major John B. Downing, 25 - 28 Feb 1907 (quoted in Mark Twain's Letters, vol. 1, 1853-1866, p. 341).

Bart Bowen was the eldest of the three Bowen brothers. He was widely known for his heroism in preventing loss of life when the Garden City burned on January 14, 1855. Bowen assisted Clemens financially when his brother Henry Clemens was fatally injured in a steamboat explosion.

Samuel Bowen
c. 1838 - 1878

Clemens' comments: Will Bowen was another schoolmate, and so was his brother, Sam, who was his junior by a couple of years. Before the Civil War broke out both became St. Louis and New Orleans pilots. While Sam was still very young he had a curious adventure. He fell in love with a girl of sixteen, only child of a very wealthy German brewer. He wanted to marry her, but he and she both thought that the papa would not only not consent, but would shut his door against Sam. The old man was not so disposed, but they were not aware of that. He had his eye upon them, and it was not a hostile eye. That indiscreet young couple got to living together surreptitiously. Before long the old man died. When the will was examined it was found that he had left the whole of his wealth to Mrs. Samuel A. Bowen. Then the poor things made another mistake. They rushed down to the French suburb, Carondelet, and got a magistrate to marry them and date the marriage back a few months. The old brewer had some nieces and nephews and cousins, and different kinds of assets of that sort, and they traced out the fraud and proved it and got the property. This left Sam with a girl wife on his hands and the necessity of earning a living for her at the pilot wheel. After a few years Sam and another pilot were bringing a boat up from New Orleans when the yellow fever broke out among the few passengers and the crew. Both pilots were stricken with it and there was nobody to take their place at the wheel. The boat was landed at the head of Island 82 to wait for succor. Death came swiftly to both pilots - and there they lie buried, unless the river has cut the graves away and washed the bones into the stream, a thing which has probably happened long ago.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

Sam Bowen
Samuel Bowen

Will Bowen

Will Bowen

Will Bowen
1836 - May 19, 1893

The Dallas Morning News reported
on May 20, 1893:

WACO, Tex., May 19--Major William Bowen, a prominent insurance man, died suddenly to-night of heart disease, at the Pacific Hotel. His remains will be sent to Austin where his family reside.

Clemens comments: In 1845, when I was ten years old, there was an epidemic of measles in the town and it made a most alarming slaughter among the little people. There was a funeral almost daily, and the mothers of the town were nearly demented with fright. My mother was greatly troubled. She worried over Pamela and Henry and me, and took constant and extraordinary pains to keep us from coming into contact with the contagion. But upon reflection I believed that her judgment was at fault. It seemed to me that I could improve upon it if left to my own devices. I cannot remember now whether I was frightened about the measles or not, but I clearly remember that I grew very tired of the suspense I suffered on account of being continually under the threat of death. I remember that I got so weary of it and so anxious to have the matter settled one way or the other, and promptly, that this anxiety spoiled my days and my nights. I had no pleasure in them. I made up my mind to end this suspense and settle this matter one way or the other and be done with it. Will Bowen was dangerously ill with the measles and I thought I would go down there and catch them. I entered the house by the front way and slipped along through rooms and halls, keeping sharp watch against discovery, and at last I reached Will's bedroom in the rear of the house on the second floor and got into it uncaptured. But that was as far as my victory reached. His mother caught me there a moment later and snatched me out of the house and gave me a most competent scolding and drove me away. She was so scared that she could hardly get her words out, and her face was white. I saw that I must manage better next time, and I did. I hung about the lane at the rear of the house and watched through cracks in the fence until I was convinced that the conditions were favorable. Then I slipped through the back yard and up the back way and got into the room and into the bed with Will Bowen without being observed. I don't know how long I was in the bed. I only remember that Will Bowen, as society, had no value for me, for he was too sick to even notice that I was there. When I heard his mother coming I covered up my head, but that device was a failure. It was dead summertime - the cover was nothing more than a limp blanket or sheet, and anybody could see that there were two of us under it. It didn't remain two very long. Mrs. Bowen snatched me out of that bed and conducted me home herself, with a grip on my collar which she never loosened until she delivered me into my mother's hands along with her opinion of that kind of a boy.
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

Read a portion of one of Clemens' letters to Will Bowen available at this site.

Will Bowen marker
Will Bowen is buried beside his wife in Block 2, Lot 498 in Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Texas.
His grave is marked by a modest stone.

Index | Intro | Cub Pilot | Licensed Pilot | River Tour 1882 | 1902 Farewell | Steamboat Men | Glossary

The Bowens are featured in:

reference book
Mark Twain A to Z, The Essential Guide to His Life and Writings
edited by R. Kent Rasmussen
available from amazon.com

Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search