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JABEZ BOWEN 1739-1815

Grand Master 1794-1798


From History of Freemasonry in Rhode Island, 1895, Page 272:

Jabez Bowen, LLD., Lieutenant-Governor of Rhode Island,, who succeeded Christopher Champlin in the office of Grand Master, was born in Providence, June 2, 1739. He received his preparatory education in his native town, entered Yale College when he was but fifteen years of age, and graduated from that institution in the class of 1757. He returned to Providence, where he continued to reside through his long and useful life, and soon was numbered among the foremost citizens of the place. In 1773 he was elected a member of the Town Council, and was kept in this office by successive elections for a number of years. In 1777 he was chosen a Representative in the General Assembly. In 1778 he was elected Deputy Governor, which office he filled most acceptably many years. He was also a Judge of the Superior, or Supreme Court. During the Revolution, he was devoted to the cause of liberty, and was placed on important committees by his fellow citizens. He was for many years an active and influential member of the commission having charge of matters connected with the carrying on of the war. In 1786 he was appointed by the Legislature one of the Commissioners to represent Rhode Island in the Convention of States, proposed to be held at Annapolis. He was a member of the famous Convention that adopted the Constitution of the United States, May 29th, 1790, by a vote.of thirty-four to thirty-two. During the administration of Washington, he was Commissioner of Loans for Rhode Island.

In religious and educational matters Mr. Bowen was zealous and active. He was President of the Bible Society of Rhode Island, and in his more mature years he became a consistent and devout member of the First Congregational Church. He was one of a committee of ten, to take charge of the Public Schools, this being the first School Committee appointed by the town, under an act of the General Assembly. In 1785 he was elected Chancellor of Rhode Island College, now Brown University, in place of Governor Hopkins, deceased. This high office he filled most acceptably and usefully until his death, a period of thirty years. In all these various relations he performed an amount of work for the public good, such as is seldom performed by a single individual.

He was an ardent and efficient member of the Masonic Fraternity. He became a Mason, in St. John's Lodge, Providence, some months before he had attained his majority, and was elected to office soon after becoming a member. Freemasonry declined in Providence during the years just preceding the breaking out of the War of the Revolution, and there was an interruption in Lodge activities of nine years.

On the 15th of July, 1778, Bro. Bowen received a commission from John Rowe, Grand Master of Massachusetts, to act as Master. In December of the following year he was regularly elected to this office, which he continued to hold until 1791, a period of thirteen years. Under his auspices the institution revived. In the language of another, " the genius of Masonry returned, unappalled by the din of arms, and by the brazen throat of war. Through his influence the Lodge was no longer subjected to the caprice of a landlord and the inconveniences of a public inn." By permission of the State authorities, the meetings were from this time held in the Council Chamber.

The subject of this sketch communicated a new impetus to Freemasonry in Providence. As Worshipful Master of St. John's Lodge in that town, which office he held from 1778 to 1790, he exercised a most important influence. When the Grand Lodge was formed, 1791, under an agreement by which the first Grand Master was to be chosen by the Lodge in Newport, and the Deputy Grand Master by the Lodge in Providence, Jabez Bowen was unanimously elected to fill the second office. At the annual meeting in 1794, he was elected Grand Master, in which office he continued to serve six years, until 1799. He died in Providence, May 7, 1815, and was buried with Masonic honors.

It is pleasant to recall the history of this man as identified with civil and Masonic interests. He was a scholar of repute, as is shown by his having conferred upon him the honorary degree of LLD. both by Brown University and Dartmouth College. He was a public spirited citizen, exercising a large and wholesome influence in the community because of his integrity, capacity and interest in the things of related life. By reason of these same traits he contributed to the reviving of the Masonic institution in Providence and the advancement of its interests throughout the State.

Rhode Island People