BOWMAN, NATHAN PARISH, was born in Westford, Chittenden County, Vermont, August 24th, 1822, the eldest Son of William and Betsey (PARISH) BOWMAN. Major N. P. BOWMAN represents staunch patriotic stock; his first paternal ancestor, Nathaniel BOWMAN, came to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1639. His great-grandfather, John BOWMAN, was one of the embattled farmers who “fired the shot heard round the world at Lexington.” His father, William BOWMAN, fought at Plattsburg in the War of 1812, and he made a most honorable record as a defender of the Union. Ebenezer BOWMAN came to Westford, near Burlington, about 1685, cleared up a hill farm of about 300 acres, and reared his family of children, one of whom was William, father of the subject of this sketch. 

      William BOWMAN was a sturdy, industrious farmer, a generous, freehearted man, a liberal donor to every good cause, and for many years a deacon of the Congregational church. His father, Ebenezer, was a Jeffersonian democrat, and he was a disciple of the school of Andrew Jackson, although for many years a Free Soiler from principle. His home was one of the stations of the famous “Underground Railroad” which aided in the escape of negroes from slavery, and it is a source of pleasure and pride to Nathan that on several occasions he was a conductor on that road. 

      His mother, Betsey PARISH, a woman of remarkable force of character, was a daughter of Captain Nathan PARISH, of whom the major is a namesake. At an early age he conceived a strong desire to obtain a liberal education, and improved to the utmost the limited advantages afforded by the common schools, and two terms of academic training. He taught six terms of school, “boarded around,” and read some valuable lessons in the book of human nature, but did not go to college. In September, 1846, he married Charlotte, third daughter of Colonel Nathaniel WHEATLEY of East Brookfield, Vermont. Up to that time he had lived and worked op the paternal farm, and then at the age of twenty-five he bought an adjoining farm, and with his parents carried on both farms in common for five years. He then became agent for a farmers' store, which he conducted two years, when he resigned, having been unexpectedly elected by a small majority high sheriff of Chittenden county, by a coalition of the Democrats and Free Soilers. The prohibitory law, or “Maine Liquor law,” so called, had just been enacted and Burlington was a wide open saloon town, with a large Canadian population. The first seizure under the new law in Vermont was made by the farmer-boy sheriff, N. P. BOWMAN, the respondent being a wealthy saloon-keeper, who had retained PHELPS & CHITTENDEN to defend him, and who proposed to defend his property at the muzzle of the revolver. Sheriff BOWMAN made a large and successful seizure, spilled the liquor, and as it ran down the gutter several thirsty “sons of Erin” drank, were filled, and promptly arrested and fined. He was reelected by a handsome majority, again unanimously renominated by the three parties, through a part of three administrations. In 1862 he enlisted in the First Vermont cavalry, but before he was mustered he was appointed by President Lincoln United States paymaster of the department of North Carolina, headquarters at Newburn, with the rank of major. While there an epidemic of yellow fever broke out which caused a stampede, but this resolute man remained at his post of duty and attended the sick until he was stricken with the same loathsome disease, and was sent to the hospital. After a partial convalescence he returned to his post and remained until ill health compelled him to resign, in March, 1865. 

      Major BOWMAN removed to St. Johnsbury in 1869. He was appointed superintendent of a cotton plantation near Newburn. Two years later, in company with others, he engaged extensively in planting cotton, acting as superintendent of the enterprise at a salary of $3,000 per annum. He invested all that he possessed, and some borrowed money in the enterprise, planted 1,200 acres of cotton, and 300 of corn, with a fine outlook for an immense and profitable crop, until one dark Sunday morning, when a twenty-four hours' downpour and heavy east winds from the ocean flooded most of his cotton two fathoms deep. Major BOWMAN settled up the bills and returned to St. Johnsbury in debt. In 1869 he formed a partnership with George S. SHAW in the insurance business, which they conducted extensively and successfully seven years, when Mr. SHAW sold his interest to Rev. E. D. HOPKINS, who absconded with several thousand dollars of the firm's money. Mr. BOWMAN captured him and he was convicted, but forfeited his bonds. Major BOWMAN continued in the insurance business, at the instance of George SHAW, taking in his son, Walter, as a partner. The latter absconded with a thousand dollars of company money and has never returned. Major BOWMAN was for several years proprietor of the St. Johnsbury brickyard, with his son, Thomas H., manager, but sold out, and during the past dozen years has retired from active business. 

      In 1887 he was appointed postmaster of St. Johnsbury and acceptably filled that position five years. Major BOWMAN represented the town of Brighton in the legislature in 1862, served as assistant judge of Caledonia county court in 1875-'76, was a candidate for congress on the Democratic ticket, and also for lieutenant-governor; was candidate for elector on the Hancock ticket in 1880, and was a delegate-at-large to the Democratic national convention of 1880. 

      In the I. 0. 0. F., he has held all of the offices in the order, from treasurer to that of grand master, the last in 1885. He was made a Master Mason in 1852, and has held all of the offices in the Grand lodge of Vermont, from junior deacon to that of grand master, in 1876-'77; and also in the Grand encampment to that of deputy grand commander. He has the distinction of being the only man who has ever been grand master of both the great fraternities in this state. He is also past grand chancellor of the Knights of Pythias and a past commander of Chamberlain post, Grand Army of the Republic. He is a trustee of the Vermont Soldiers' home at Bennington. 

      The children of N. P. and Charlotte BOWMAN are Harlan (deceased), Charles P. (of Sioux City, Iowa), Thomas H. (of San Bernardino, California) and Nellie (deceased). Mrs. BOWMAN died in 1883. 

      He married in 1885 Mrs. Rosalie DENISON HALL, widow of the late Hon. Harley M. HALL of Burke, a most estimable lady. Major BOWMAN is an interesting speaker at public functions, for the spirit of youth hinders the features of age and he will never become an old man. 

Source:  Successful Vermonters, William H. Jeffrey, E. Burke, Vermont, The Historical Publishing Company, 1904, pages 20-23. 

Prepared by Tom Dunn, January 2003