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EPHRAIM BOWEN, JR. 1753-1843

Grand Master 1809-1810


From History of Freemasonry in Rhode Island, 1895, Page 277:

Col. Ephraim Bowen, Jr., whose membership in St. John's Lodge, Providence, extended over a long term of years, during which he was active and influential in promoting its interests, was born in Providence, August 29, 1753. He was a zealous Mason and a true patriot. When he was but nineteen years of age he took part in the capture and destruction of the " Gas-pee," an armed British schooner, which had been stationed in Narragansett Bay to look out for smugglers. The British Commander and other officers had been unnecessarily severe in the exercise of their authority, and the people of Providence and vicinity were accordingly very much incensed.

On June 10, 1772, a packet-boat left Newport for Providence, without notifying Commander Dudingston of the Gaspee, and he pursued the packet more than twenty miles, and then ran hard aground on Namquit Point, some seven miles below Providence. When the news came to that town that the hated vessel was aground near by, and that she probably could not get off until high tide the following morning, there was an outburst of feeling in favor of her destruction. The subject of this sketch, in a statement published over his name when he was eighty-six years old, gave a graphic account of the seizure and burning of the Gaspee. The following is a part of the interesting narrative: "About the time of the shutting up of the shops, soon after sunset, a man passed along the main street beating a drum, and informing the people that the Gaspee was aground on Namquit Point and would not float off until 3 o'clock the next morning, and inviting those persons who felt a disposition to go and destroy that troublesome vessel to repair in the evening to Mr. James Sabin's house." The narrator goes on to state that about 9 o'clock he took his father's gun and his powder horn and bullets and went to Mr. Sabin's ; he found the southeast room full of people ; all remained until about 10 o'clock, some casting bullets in the kitchen and others making arrangements for departure. They embarked from Fenner's wharf; a sea captain acted as steersman of each boat; a line was formed, Capt. Abraham Whipple being on the right, and Capt. John B. Hopkins on the right of the left division. Col. Bowen, in the statement referred to, describes the attack and the wounding of Lieut. Dudingston in command of the vessel. The crew were put on shore, and the schooner was set on fire and utterly destroyed. The boats went back to Providence in broad daylight. The British government pronounced the destruction of the Gaspee an act of high treason, and offered a reward of a thousand pounds to anybody who would give information against the offenders ; but no information was obtainable. The destruction of the " Gas-pee " stimulated patriotic feeling throughout the colonies, and the act was generally justified. It has become historic as marking the firing of the first authorized shot which ushered in the War of the Revolution.

The expedition was undertaken by a band of sturdy patriots, several of whom were members of St. John's Lodge, Providence, while others in the party afterwards joined the Lodge. In the last named class John Mawney, a participant, who, as surgeon, dressed the wounds of the commander of the vessel, and Ephraim Bowen, Jr., the youngest of the party, find place. Bowen outlived all his companions in that notable affair.

Col. Bowen entered the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island soon after its formation. He was a representative of St. John's Lodge in Providence, to the Grand Body, almost from the date of the establishment of the last named organization. In 1799 he was elected Junior Grand Warden, holding that office two years, when he was advanced to the position of Senior Grand Warden. In 1802, on the election of Moses Seixas for Grand Master, Col. Bowen was chosen Deputy Grand Master. He held this important place seven years. He succeeded to the Grand Mastership, on the retirement of Moses Seixas, in 1809, and was continued in that highest office two years.

Col. Bowen was spared to a great age, his death taking place when he was about ninety years old. He was a public spirited citizen, possessed of a large and generous nature, and ready to give and do in matters of associated welfare. He took great interest in the Masonic Institution and never grew weary in his efforts to promote its usefulness. He held a well deserved place of leadership and honor among the Craftsmen of Rhode Island in the closing years of the eighteenth century and the early part of the present century.

Rhode Island People