Origin of the surname
Bowen is a Welsh name. The "B" prefix in Welsh surnames is similar in function to the Scottish "Mc" and "Mac" and the Irish "O'" - it is short for "son of". So, Bowen literally means "son of Owen".

Martin Bowen
Nothing is known about Martin Bowen except that he has a shoemaker in Bathurst (NSW) in 1853 when he and his wife, Elizabeth Sage, gave birth to a son, John Henry, on 23 June.

Family Portrait Bowen family circa 1892Bowen family portrait circa 1892
Back row: John Henry Bowen, Ellen Ruby Bowen
Middle row: Elizabeth Alice Bowen, Alice Clarkson Bowen (nee Poulton) nursing John Martin, Ivy May Josephine Bowen, James Daniel Bowen
Front row: Albert John Bowen

John Henry Bowen, 1853 - 1902
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.

Research interests

Family Group Sheet

Descendants Chart

Ellen Ruby Bowen, 1882 - 1912
Portrait Ellen Ruby MurphyEllen Ruby Bowen, circa 1910

Ellen Ruby Bowen was born on 16 September 1882 at Timbrebongie, near Narromine in central NSW. She was the third child and eldest daughter to John Henry Bowen and Alice Clarkson Poulton. One of her older brothers, Thomas Martin Bowen, died two years before she was born.

Not much is known of her childhood except that she was part of a large family - twelve children in all. Her father moved around a lot with his work as a hawker, but it is not clear whether the family moved with him or whether he returned home from time to time.

She was married in Bourke, at the age of 22, to a local jockey, George Charles Reed Murphy. Family lore holds that  he rode every winner at the local race meeting on their wedding day!

Ellen and George's wedding portrait, Bourke, 1904

They had three children:
    John Henry George Murphy (1909 - c1985)
    Ena Ruby Murphy (6 Sep 1908 - 16 Oct 1995)
    Leila Murphy (1 Jun 1911 - c1991)

Tragically, Ellen contracted typhoid in 1912 and died at just 29 years of age. She is buried in Bourke cemetery. Her three young children were given over by their father into the care of their maternal grandmother, Alice Clarkson Bowen (nee Poulton).

 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.


Family Group Sheet

Descendants Chart

Research interests

Copyright Jim Fleming 2002.
This page created on 30 June 2002.
Last edited on 14 Jun 2004.
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