A Soldier's Journey To Charleston
By: Illustrious McDonald "Don" Burbidge, 33°
Ill. Bro. McDonald "Don" Burbidge, 33º, 155 Chandler Drive, Ladson, South Carolina 29456-4864
Summary: Archival details contribute to an emerging portrait of Ill\ Thomas B. Bowen, 33°, a Founder of the Supreme Council, 33°, in Charleston in 1801.
Editor's Note: In Lodge of the Double-Headed Eagle, his excellent one-volume history of The Supreme Council, Dr. William L. Fox, 33°, presents a concise sketch of Ill\ Thomas Bartholomew Bowen, 33°, a soldier during the Revolutionary War and one of the 11 Founders of the Supreme Council in Charleston in 1801. Dr. Fox writes: "The fifth person listed in Dalcho's register of the founders was Major Thomas Bartholomew Bowen (1742-1805) who was born in Ireland and who arrived in America before the Revolution. He served with Pennsylvania units during the war, after which he moved to Charleston where he became a printer. In 1792 Bowen was elected Grand Master of the Ancient Grand Lodge of South Carolina. He also served as a Grand Master of the Sublime Grand Lodge of Perfection. On July 5, 1801, a little over a month after the establishment of the Supreme Council, he was among three who were elected to it. In turn, Major Bowen became the Grand Master of Ceremonies of the Council. His death four years later was the first among the Founders." (pp. 26-27) For those desiring more details, though still fragmentary, about this early Scottish Rite Brother, the following essay by Ill\ McDonald "Don" Burbidge, 33°, is of interest, and, upon request, the author can provide a list of the sources used in constructing this chronology. Unfortunately, no image of Ill\ Bowen survives, but his signature, from Eleven Gentlemen of Charleston, is pictured here. [Webmaster note, signature not available.]
Thomas Bartholomew Bowen began his military journey in the Continental Army as a First Lieutenant on April 4, 1776, when he joined the rifle regiment under Colonel Samuel Miles, then located in Pennsylvania. In his book Virtutis Praemium, John Dwight Kilbourne strongly suggests that First Lieutenant Bowen initially became interested in becoming a Mason through his involvement with Colonel Samuel Miles while Bowen was a member in his regiment. Colonel Miles was an active Mason and held one of 10 Military Lodge Charters during the Revolutionary War. The Provincial Grand Lodge of New York granted one of these Charters to Colonel Miles on July 24, 1775.
On May 11, 1778, while at Valley Forge, Captain Bowen took the Oath of Allegiance while serving as Regimental Paymaster. His last date of service with this regiment was sometime in January 1781. This regiment saw action mostly in northern New Jersey. On January 17, 1781, he was transferred to the Fifth Pennsylvania.
While stationed in Philadelphia, Captain Bowen participated in campaigns at Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. It was during this time that Sgt. John McGriff, who was a Sgt. in Bowen's regiment, kept an "Orderly Book" which provides some additional insight into Captain Bowen's life along with that his regiment from October 12 through November 11, 1780. This book is now at the Anderson House in Washington, D.C., the world headquarters for the Society of the Cincinnati.
Soon after his retirement from military service, Brother Bowen and his good friend Lt. John Markland relocated to Charleston, South Carolina, to start a new life. On August 29, 1783, the Society of the Cincinnati for the State of South Carolina was organized at Charleston, S.C., at the Corner Tavern, which was located at the intersection of Broad and Church Streets. Listed in the rolls of the "Originals," we find the names of Captain Thomas B. Bowen, Colonel John Mitchell, Lt. John Markland, and General Mordecai Gist, along with 110 other officers for the state of South Carolina. In Charleston, the first President of the Society of the Cincinnati for the State of South Carolina was General William Moultrie who held this office from 1783-1805. It should be mentioned that General Moultrie was a distance cousin of Ill\ James Moultrie, 33°, one of the original Founders, along with Colonel John Mitchell and Frederick Dalcho, of the Supreme Council when it was first established in Charleston on May 31, 1801.
On November 23, 1784, Bowen and Markland formed a partnership in a semi-weekly newspaper called The Charleston Columbian Herald or, alternatively, The Patriotic Courier of North America. The partnership dissolved on November 24, 1785, but the paper continued to be published as a semi-weekly under the names Columbian Herald or The Independent Courier of North America. On July 30, 1793, to honor the first President of America, Brother Bowen succeeded in advocating the change of the logo at the top of the Columbian Herald from that of a star to an image of George Washington.
The Charleston Courier of July 15, 1805, carried an announcement of Ill\ Bowen's death. Aside from sketching his life, the newspaper article notes that his remains were deposited in the Lining family burial grounds at Hillsbourgh Plantation, which was owned by Major Charles Lining, a close friend of Bowen.
The same article notes that the Rev. Robert Mills, along with many friends and several members of the Society of the Cincinnati, attended the ceremonies to pay their last respects to this notable soldier, publisher, and Mason.
Several Masonic historians believe Ill\ Bowen was buried in a tomb on Lining Island, Ghost Island, or Tomb Island, as it was known through the years. However, a tomb did not exist on the island until the year 1813 as attested to by the will of Major Charles Lining, owner of the plantation. In his will, dated August 27, 1813, Linning leaves instructions concerning his funeral arraignments along with note of his desire be buried in a tomb he lately built on "a small island" on his plantation.
During the Civil War, Union forces ravaged the Hillsbourgh Plantation and the Lining family burial grounds. The alleged tombs located on the island were desecrated in the hope of finding valuables. The only hope for the Lining burial grounds ever to be found is for a contemporary researcher to find a map or plat that shows the area in detail. No such map has, to date, been found. Thus, Ill\ Bowen's burial place remains unknown, and, given the fragmentary records relevant to his life, we can only speculate on the personal influence he brought to bear in his role as Master of Ceremonies during on the first years of the Supreme Council, 33°.
McDonald L. Burbidge
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF THE SCOTTISH RITE JOURNAL, SEPTEMBER, 2003
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