Biography of Rev. Samuel Bowden of Le Roy, NY

Rev. Samuel Bowden, A. M., S. T. D., was born in the city of New York, August 26, 1822. His parents, Andrew Bowden and Rose Witherspoon, were both Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, a race from which our country has derived so many of its most valued and useful citizens. His mother was a relative of John Witherspoon, the well-known signer of the Declaration of Independence. She came to New York city with her parents when she was a young child, and always remained a resident of that city. His father was born January 12, 1786. When 26 years of age he left his father's house and sailed for America, expecting a prosperous passage; but while he was on the ocean war was declared between Great Britain and the United States. In those days news traveled slowly. As the ship neared the American shores a British war vessel approached, stopped, and boarded the merchantman. The able-bodied men were taken away and pressed into the British service. A few days afterward they were landed at Halifax. Mr. Bowden was offered a good position in the British cavalry, as he was a man of unusual power and a superior horseman.

But it was not his object in leaving his native land to become a British soldier. His mind was made up from the first to become a merchant in the city of New York, and that object he lost not sight of for a moment. At the earliest opportunity he escaped from Halifax, boarded a smug_ gling boat, with the captain of which he had made the necessary arrangements, crossed the Bay of Fundy, narrowly escaping death by drowning, and landed in Maine, then a part of Massachusetts, and almost entirely a trackless wilderness. Ignorant of the country. with nothing to sustain him but his unfaltering trust in God and a stout heart, he started on his long journey. It was nearly all prosecuted on foot, through the most of Maine, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Yet with all these hardships he used to say, "Within a little over three months after leaving my father's house I was seated at a communion table, in Dr. McLeod's church, in the city of New York." His long journey had almost exhausted his means; still, in about three years, he commenced business as a merchant in the same building where he and his sons prosecuted it for nearly half a century. He retired from active mercantile life at the age of 62, and devoted himself to the care of his invalid wife, and to works of active beneficence. In 1876 came his great sorrow, the death of his wife, after a singularly happy union of 62 years. After her death he lived six years, and died August 17, 1882, at the advanced age of nearly 97 years. To the last he was strong of body, and his mental powers were absolutely unimpaired; with scarcely a day's illness he quietly closed his eyes and passed within the vail.

Samuel Bowden, the subject of this sketch, was the fifth child in a family of six sons and one daughter. Four of his five brothers still survive. All the family attended private schools in the city, and the sons with one exception went into the father's business. Samuel Bowden entered Columbia College, N. Y., and graduated in 1840, with the degree of A. B. In 1843 he received the degree of A. M. from his Alma Mater. Meanwhile he had devoted himself to the work of the Christian ministry, and after a four years' course of theological study, chiefly prosetuted in the city of Allegheny, Pa., he was licensed to preach October 29, 1844. His health having, become impaired by so long and constant study he then spent one year in European travel, and another year in travel through our own country. While he was traveling he was called to the pastorate of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of York, Livingston County, N. Y. This call he accepted, and he was ordained and installed as pastor December 31, 1846. In this pastorate he remained until 1876, when his health again broke down through excessive study and labor. He was obliged again, as in 1844, to obtain relief in travel; after spending some months in Florida and South Carolina he spent the summer among the mountains of Switzerland. Upon his return, not finding his health sufficiently reestablished, he resigned his pastoral charge. For three or four years he preached occasionally as strength permitted.

In 1882 he removed to Le Roy, for the purpose of educating his daughters in Ingham University. Finding that his health would probably permit the resumption of regular work he has now been for seven years the stated supply of the Tonawanda Valley Presbyterian Church at Johnsonsburg, Wyoming County, making his home, however, in Le Roy.

Mr. Bowden has been twice married, first, to Maria, daughter of James Beattie, of Orange County, N. Y., her surviving children being Charlotte Jane and Margaret I. His first wife died in 1858. In 1864 he married his second wife, Mary E., daughter of John Donnan, of York. She died in 1873, leaving three daughters, Mary R., Elizabeth D, and Emma S. The trustees of Columbia College. New York, this year conferred on Mr. Bowden the honorary degree of S. T. D.

Gazetteer and Biographical Record
of Genesee County, New York
Edited by: F. W. Beers
J.W. Vose & Co., Publishers, Syracuse, N. Y. 1890



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