Arthur Finn Bowen 1871-1942
Arthur Finn Bowen was born in Blackstone, VA in 1871, the eldest of five sons and two daughters born to Thomas Adam Bowen and Susan Rebecca Fletcher Goulder. The name Arthur was for King Arthur, while the name Finn was to honor a Confederate officer and friend who had died in his father's arms during the war.
Thomas Adam Bowen's parents were Edwin H Bowen and Martha Lewis Meldrum. Martha's parents died when she was young, and she was raised by Rev. Thomas Adams; thus the name Thomas Adam Bowen. Edwin's ancestry is unproven, but he would seem to relate to either the Mecklenburg or Lunenburg Co. families. Since Edwin named a son Hicks Bowen, it's possible that there was Hicks ancestry in the line.
In the mid-1870's, the family moved to Raleigh, NC where Thomas Adam Bowen worked as a wheelright and wagon maker. In the mid-1890's Tom and his son Finn opened a bicycle shop in Raleigh. In 1895, Finn's mother died followed by one of his sisters in 1899. Tom remarried in 1896 and returned to Blackstone in the early 1900's, but Finn remained in Raleigh.
Finn had developed an interest in photography. One of the most interesting early photographs of Raleigh was taken by A.F. Bowen. It was taken from a high window looking down on the streets of Raleigh as the circus with its elephants, wagons, and performers paraded through the town. He also photographed his brothers and his entire family. His other hobbies included checkers, magic, hypnotism, and gardening. He excelled at anything he undertook. He became a master in all these persuits and was even invited to work with Houdini.
In 1897, he married Miss Isabelle Carew Woodward, daughter of William Joseph Woodward and Mary Jane Worth of Wilmington, NC. He had once jokingly told Isabelle that the name Finn was short for Finnetti. Since he never told her otherwise, she believed this was his name and had the wedding invitations printed up with his name given as Arthur Finnetti Bowen. He was highly upset about this, but it was too late to do anything about it. In 1902, they purchased a home at the head of Ferndell Lane (then known as Smith St.) where he could easily walk to work. On this property, he and his wife Isabelle designed beautiful, extensive formal gardens.
Finn served as the bursar/chief fiscal officer for North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering - now known as NC State University - from 1899 until his retirement at the beginning of World War II. Many a young man came to him seeking financial assistance as he was well known for trying to secure arrangements to enable aspiring students to obtain their education. He frequently helped them find jobs and sometimes even made personal loans.
Six daughters known as "The Bowen Girls" were born to Arthur Finn Bowen and Isabelle Carew Woodward: Isabelle Worth Bowen (Mrs. Edgar H. Henderson) b 1899, Eunice Woodward Bowen (Mrs. William H. Bogart, Sr.) b 1900, Annie Goulder Bowen (Mrs. Julian W. Carpenter, Sr.) b 1901, Mary Elizabeth Bowen (Mrs. James F. Johnson) b 1903, Phyllis Eugenia Bowen (Mrs. William S. Riley, Sr.) b 1905, and Rebecca Fletcher Bowen (Mrs. F. Shelby Cullom) b 1909. Isabelle Bowen Henderson was well known as an artist and horticulturalist. She and her sister Phyllis Bowen Riley lived on part of the original Bowen property until their deaths. The property is now owned by Phyllis's grandson, Russell Stephenson, who has been working to restore both the buildings and gardens. It has been designated as an historic site.
On Armistice Day in 1918, while everyone else was celebrating the end of the war, the Bowen family was grieving the death of Isabelle Carew Woodward Bowen. Although she had been recovering from surgery herself, she volunteered to care for children who were sick from the influenza epidemic and whose parents were also too sick to care for them. As a result, she too fell ill and, in her weakened condition, was unable to withstand the disease. The most beautiful tribute to a wife that I have ever read was written by Arthur Finn Bowen after her death. It was found in his papers after his death.
With the help of two hired women who did the cooking, housekeeping, and laundry, A.F. Bowen continued to raise and educate his daughters alone. Eventually all six married and had families of their own. He considered remarrying, but the woman he had in mind had six sons about the same age as his six daughters. He decided against it. He died in Raleigh in 1942 and was buried with his mother, sister, wife, and infant grandson in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. Three of his daughters, Isabelle, Phyllis, and Rebecca, have since been buried with them. In 1969, Bowen Dorm at NC State University was dedicated in his honor.
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