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John Henry Bowen circa 1892
John Henry Bowen was born in Bathurst, NSW, on 23 June 1853, son of Martin Bowen and Elizabeth Sage. All that we know about his parents is that Martin was a shoemaker.By the time he was 25 years old, John was working at Coonamble, NSW, as a dam-maker. At around this time he met Alice Clarkson Poulton and they were married in the local Catholic church on 20 October 1878.
Their first child, Thomas Martin Bowen, was born on 25 July 1879 but died the following year. Albert John was born three days after Christmas that same year. By the time their third child (Ellen Ruby) was born at Timbrebongie (NSW) in 16 September 1882, John Henry Bowen had become a hawker. Presumably this occupation kept him away from home quite a bit and required his wife to become very self-reliant.
The family continued to expand. James Daniel was born on 4 December 1884 followed by Elizabeth Alice on 10 August 1887. By this time the family had moved to Bourke (NSW) where John Henry Bowen continued in the hawking business. Eventually he established a general store in Bourke, the family put down roots and never left the town.
Seven further children followed:
Ivy May Josephine Bowen (14 Nov 1889 - ); Auntie Ive
John Martin Bowen (25 Dec 1891 - )
Lillian May Bowen (22 May 1893 - ); Auntie Lil
Thomas William Bowen (29 Nov 1895)
Alice Mary Bowen (21 Mar 1897 - c1983); Auntie Min
Cornelius Patrick Joseph Bede Bowen (6 Feb 1899 - c1940); Uncle Con
William Bede Bowen (4 Nov 1900 - 27 Jul 1953);Uncle Bill
This made twelve children in all before John Henry Bowen died in 1902 at the age of 49.
His wife, Alice, at the age of 42 was left to raise twelve children ranging from one-year-old Alice to 22 year old Albert. There was no welfare and, with no husband, times were very hard. The eldest children, particularly Albert, had to grow up quickly and assume some of the responsibilities of the household. Ten years later, matters worsened when Alice's daughter, Ellen, died of typhoid leaving Alice with three young grandchildren to rear as well.
Read how this extended family lived in the years before, during and after World War I in Ena Ruby Murphy's account of her childhood in Ma Bowen's care