James C. Bowdon

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1819 - 1873


Just as we are going to press we hear of the death of Dr. Bowdon, late President of Lincoln University. He had left Lincoln, Ill., and traveled south to Mississippi in the hope of recruiting his failing health. But it was in vain; he there closed his mortal career. Further notice will be given in a subsequent issue.

[Source: The Banner of Peace [Nashville, Tennessee], April 24, 1873, page 2]


[In our last issue, just as we were going to press, a brief notice was given of the decease of this distinguished minister in our Church and President of Lincoln University. We have received, and here present, the preamble and resolutions unanimously adopted on Friday, the 18th ult., by the assembled faculty and students of the University in grateful remembrance of their lamented head.]

WHEREAS, for reasons unfathomable to us, the Great Dispenser of Mercies has removed to his final rest our much loved and esteemed President, Rev. J. C. Bowdon, D.D., it becomes us to express, in some way, the high appreciation we, as co-laborers and pupils, ever entertained for him; to attest the intense sorrow of our hearts, and to pay a deserving tribute to his noble and exalted character; and, whereas, we have ever found him the embodiment of charity and good-will, the earnest toiler in his Master's vineyard, the generous seconder of every laudable enterprise, the disinterested, self-sacrificing Christian gentleman, the life and joy of the social circle; therefore, be it

Resolved, That we take mournful pleasure in bearing testimony to the sacred memory of our worthy and lamented President, whose devoted and zealous labors and toils, although they have culminated in his early death, have been crowned with abundant success.

Resolved, That we bow in humble submission to the will of our All-wise Father, who creates and rules with infinite mercy, chastening his chosen ones to prepare them for heavenly mansions.

Resolved, That the Faculty have lost a wise and enthusiastic colleague, a safe and valuable counsellor; the student an efficient instructor, a kind and generous friend.

Resolved, That we will ever cherish the memory of his virtues and pure example, and will never forget his untiring efforts in our behalf, and the deep anxiety he ever manifested for our spiritual welfare.

Resolved, That the University has lost a profound scholar and educator, the Church a consecrated and eloquent minister, the pulpit one of its most shining ornaments.

Resolved, That, as mourners in common with the afflicted wife and daughters, we tender them our kindest wishes and deepest sympathies in this heavy bereavement.

Resolved, That, as a mark of respect, the University building be draped in mourning for thirty days.

Resolved, That a copy of this preamble and these resolutions be furnished the city papers, the Cumberland Presbyterian, the BANNER OF PEACE, and the sorrowing family.

[Source: The Banner of Peace [Nashville, Tennessee], May 1, 1873, page 4]


J. C. Bowdon, D.D. - Presbytery of Mackinaw

[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1873, page 106]


The memory of this sweet-spirited servant of God is so tenderly cherished by those who were associated with him during the period of his membership in this Presbytery, that it is fitting some notice of him should be here recorded.

He was born in Mississippi May 4th, 1819. His father was a man of high standing, a descendant of the Huguenots who sought refuge in Wales from the persecutions of Rome; had been a colonel in the War of 1812, also a successful merchant in Charleston, South Carolina. He left his children a large estate, but at the time the great Mississippi bubble bursted all was lost, and the children were thus left without education, or the means of acquiring it. It had been the purpose of Mr. Bowdon's father to send him to Yale College, but he died without maturing the plans for his education. He was then seventeen years old and undertook the task of educating himself. At the age of twenty-one he entered Cumberland University, at Lebanon, Tenn., whence he was graduated in July, 1847, and where he married in December following the daughter of Judge Nathan Green, one of the world's noblemen. When about twenty-one years of age he was converted at a camp-meeting in Pickens county, Alabama. He united with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, associated himself with one of its Presbyteries as a candidate for the ministry and was ordained by Alabama Presbytery October 14th, 1847. Desiring to liquidate some debts contracted in securing an education he taught school one year after his ordination. He then became pastor of the church at Columbus, Miss. Within a year his wife's mother died, and her father wishing to have her near him, he removed to Hartsville, Tennessee, a few miles from Lebanon. There he took charge of four congregations, and did much hard work, spending the greater portion of the time in the saddle. While engaged there, three years, he organized two congregations and built up the four so that each could support a pastor of its own. He was then employed as professor of mathematics in McMinville [sic] Female College, and also as pastor of the church in that place. Returning to Hartsville he remained there, teaching and preaching until he was called to take charge of the Greenville Female College in Kentucky. He afterwards had charge of a similar institution in Owensboro, Kentucky. Next he accepted a call to the pastorate of the church in Evansville, as the successor of Rev. J. G. White. This was in July, 1865. As a pastor he had few superiors in the entire church.

In his association with his people there was a peculiar tenderness and magnetism that bound them to him, while his excellent judgment and his profound knowledge of human nature rendered him especially efficient in this department of the ministerial office. In the pulpit he was clear, forcible and practical, and though his voice was not strong, yet, when aroused, he was a man of remarkable power. In 1869 he received the degree of D.D. from Waynesburgh College, Pennsylvania. His work as a pastor closed in 1870, when he assumed the Presidency of Lincoln University in Illinois. For the duties of this office he seemed thoroughly furnished, and in this closing period of his life he made for himself a noble record.

But the end was drawing nigh. Nearly all of his life he had been doing double work. But he could endure it no longer. Aside from undertaking more than the legitimate duties of a college president in connection with this institution, he preached constantly either in Lincoln or in the vicinity. He died of overwork. His last days were spent with his sister, Mrs. Oldham, in Kosciusko county, Mississippi, where in triumph and happiness he breathed his last, April 13th, 1873. He was one of earth's purest and best men.

[Source: Darby, Rev. W. J. and Rev. J. E. Jenkins. Cumberland Presbyterianism in Southern Indiana: Being a History of Indiana Presbytery and an Account of the Proceedings of its Fiftieth Anniversary Held at Princeton, Indiana, April 13-18, 1876, Together with Various Addresses and Communications, and a Sermon on the Doctrines of the Church. Published by the Presbytery, 1876, pp. 62-63.]

The Reverend James C. Bowdon, D.D., pastor of the church in Evansville, Indiana, ascended to the presidency upon the resignation of Dr. Freeman, but his time at Lincoln was cut to a single year due to an unfortunate illness. Dr. Bowdon, a native of Mississippi, returned there and died in 1873. During his year at Lincoln Dr. Bowdon did a great deal to loosen the strict rules in effect. He deviated from Freeman's insistence on strict scholarship, and emphasized cultural and social enjoyments. His baccalaureate address of 1872 has gone down as one of the grandest ever delivered, and his gentle, amiable manner, and his great powers of speaking, gave the college a new impetus among church members. During the year Lincoln University became a center for culture in the community.

Photograph above is on page 25 with this information:
Dr. James C. Bowdon, second president of Lincoln University. He made the college a cultural center in the community.

[Source: Lindstrom, Andrew and Olive Carruthers. Lincoln: The Namesake College: A Centennial History of Lincoln College, Lincoln, Illinois, 1865-1965. Lincoln, Illinois: September, 1965, pp. 24-25]

Family Information

? Bowdon
wife: ? ?

Children of ? Bowdon and ? ? Bowdon:

1. James C. Bowdon
Cumberland Presbyterian Minister
born: 4 May 1819 - Mississippi
died: 13 April 1873 - Kosciusko County, Mississippi
married: 24 December 1847 - Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee
wife: Ann A. Green
[daughter of Judge Nathan Green and Mary Field]

Children of James C. Bowdon and ? Green Bowdon:

1.1. Mary Bowdon
born: July 1849 - Tennessee
died: after 1905
married: 23 October 1873 - Lincoln, Logan County, Illinois
husband: Alfred Morgan Bird

Children of Alfred Morgan Bird and Mary Bowdon Bird:

2. ? Bowdon
husband: ? Oldham

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Updated May 14, 2007