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Alexander Bowman (1838–1892)

by Nancy Gray

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BOWMAN BROTHERS: George Pearce (1821-1870), pastoralist, Robert (1830-1873), medical practitioner, and Alexander (1838-1892), parliamentarian, were the eldest, fifth and seventh sons of George Bowman and his wife Eliza, née Pearce, of Archerfield, Richmond, New South Wales. Their father was a member of the Legislative Council in 1851-56; he was also a powerful churchman and strongly supported John Dunmore Lang in the foundation of the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales, but in the church controversies of the 1840s he declared and later maintained equally strong allegiance to the Free Presbyterian Church. His religious convictions were matched by his reverence for education and both attitudes were strengthened by close association with the clergy. His elder sons were educated at the Australian College and on its decline the younger were sent to Cape's school, Sydney, and to Cary's school, Windsor.

George Pearce was born on 18 March 1821 at Archerfield, Richmond, and settled at Archerfield, Singleton, where he managed his father's 1824 grant of 1130 acres (457 ha) and added extensively to it. He became a leading pastoralist in the Hunter Valley, bred sheep and Shorthorn cattle, owned some fine race-horses and found time to act as a member of the Presbyterian School Board at Singleton. On 29 May 1852 he married Elizabeth Jane (1832-1913), daughter of James Taylor McDougall of Dunolly; they had seven sons and two daughters. His enlightened attitude towards higher education was evidenced by his sons' achievements; five were graduates of the University of Sydney, two taking higher degrees in medicine at Edinburgh. After his death at Singleton on 15 January 1870 his widow and sons gave continuing support to the Presbyterian clergy of the Upper Hunter; their most significant contribution was £1000 towards the erection of a new church in Singleton, to which they also gave two fine memorial windows.

Robert was born on 2 February 1830 at Richmond. He went to University College, London (M.R.C.S., 1851) and Edinburgh University (M.D., 1852). He was president for a term of the Parisian Medical Society, a member of the University College Medical Society, London, and of the Royal Medical Society, Edinburgh, and a fellow of the London Medical Society. He began practice in Sydney in April 1855, was an honorary medical officer of the Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children and in 1863 was appointed to the honorary staff of the Sydney Infirmary as a physician. Ill health caused his retirement in 1865 and he died at Richmond on 25 May 1873. His bequest of £1000 to St Andrew's College, University of Sydney, the Robert Bowman foundation for students for the Presbyterian ministry, was in the family tradition of service.

Alexander was born on 11 July 1838 at Richmond, attended the University of Sydney (B.A., 1859) and spent some time in Queensland before settling at Oaklands, Singleton, where he bred and trained a number of successful race-horses, including Spartan, Maritana and Kismet. His most notable success was with Bulginbar, which defeated The Barb in 1866 and won Tattersall's Cup at Randwick on 25 January 1868. He contributed significantly to the civic progress of Singleton, as a vice-president of the Agricultural Association and of the Mechanics' Institute, as a council alderman for thirteen years and as mayor in 1873-79. After unsuccessfully contesting the Upper Hunter seat he was elected to the Legislative Assembly for the Hawkesbury, serving in 1877-82 and from 1885 until his death. Although he claimed to have no party affiliations and was infrequently heard in debate, he was appreciated by his electorate and regarded as the unofficial representative of the Upper Hunter landowners. In 1881 he married Joanna Heuston (1856-1919), then sold Oaklands and lived permanently at the Glebe. There he died on 10 July 1892, survived by his wife, two sons and one daughter.

George Bowman's third son, William, was the first mayor of Muswellbrook in 1870-73. He was followed by the youngest son Edward, who served six terms between 1874 and 1901 and was also a councillor of St Andrew's College for forty-three years. The elder daughter Eliza married Rev. James Cameron and the younger Mary married Dr Andrew Robertson Cameron, whose bequest of £1000 in 1877 founded the Bowman-Cameron scholarship for first-year students of the University of Sydney.

Among the Bowman stations in the Hunter Valley were Archerfield, Arrowfield, Skellator, Balmoral, Gyarran and Grampian Hills; beyond the Liverpool Ranges were Maidenhead in New England and Terry-Hie-Hie in the north-west. A hundred years after the arrival of John Bowman his grandsons had fully justified Sir Joseph Banks's recommendation of the Bowmans as suitable settlers for the new colony.

Select Bibliography

  • W. Spence, St Andrew's Church, Singleton, Centenary 1837-1937 (Singleton, 1937)
  • Back to Muswellbrook Souvenir History (Scone, 1948)
  • District and Singleton News, Maitland Mercury, 1870-73, 1892
  • family records (privately held).

Additional Resources

  • photo, Australian Town and Country Journal, 23 July 1892, p 29

Citation details

Nancy Gray, 'Bowman, Alexander (1838–1892)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 14 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 July, 1838
Richmond, New South Wales, Australia


10 July, 1892 (aged 53)
Glebe, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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