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Barnett Bradford Bowie MMC

Barnett Bowie aboard the submarine USS Holland.
Barnett Bowie aboard the submarine USS Holland.

There is a lot of conflicting evidence as to the early life of Barnett Bradford Bowie and what he was named. A number of sources have him listed as Barnett Newton Bowie or Barnett W Bowie but all with the same family data and date of death. His head stone though does state he is 'Barnett Bradford Bowie'. His date of birth is also in contention between 1877 and 1880. We will proceed with what we have and if later sources prove this wrong we will correct what we have.

Barnett Bradford Bowie was born in Culpeper, Virginia January 30, 1880, (his own Navy paperwork say he was born in 1877 as does his headstone), to parents Henry Clay Bowie, (1834 to 1889) and Louisa Burmah Grimsley Bowie, (1842 to 1897). Brothers and sisters at that time were; Aubrey Bowie 1869 –1920, Lena Bowie 1871–1898, Prentiss Bradford Bowie 1875 –1916, Sophia R. Bowie 1878 –1951. He had two other siblings born after him. Henry Clay Bowie 1882–1900 and Louisa Burmah Bowie 1885–1951.

We can not find any historical reference to him prior to 1901, but by that time he had been in the U.S. Navy long enough to be promoted to a Chief Machinist Mate as seen in the June 1901 photo of the first crew of the U.S. submarine Holland.

Barnett Bowie is in the lower right of this Holland photo.
Barnett Bowie is in the lower right of this Holland photo.

In the center of the picture (left) of the very first submarine crew is;
Lt. Harry H. Caldwell, Commanding Officer.
Starting at the lower left of the picture and going clockwise are;
William H. Reader, Chief Gunner's Mate and Chief of the Boat;
Augustus Gumpert,Gunner's Mate;
Harry Wahab, Gunner's Mate First Class;
O. Swanson, Gunner's Mate First Class;
Gunner, Owen Hill;
Walter A Hall, Electrician's Mate Second Class;
Arthur Callahan, Gunner's Mate Second Class;
Barnett Bowie, Chief Machinist's Mate.

In December 1904 he is listed as a 'Warrant Machinist' aboard the newly commissioned USS Denver (C-14), she was the lead ship of a new class of protected cruisers for the United States Navy. In 1906 the Denver landed 120 armed sailors in Cuba to protect US interests there. Bowie is listed as a Warrant Machinist the newspaper article.

In the 1910 U.S. Census he listed as Bradford B. Bowie, with his middle name moving to the first name place. He is noted as being married to an "Elizabeth J." and together they have two children; Bradford W. Bowie, age 7 and Robert B. Bowie, age 3. Also, on July 5, 1910 he has been serving aboard the USS Tonopah (BM-8), a submarine tender, and he has been ordered to the USS Buffalo (later AD-8).

At some point after the Buffalo, Bowie was assigned to the USS Hartford, Admiral Farragut's flag ship in the Civil War. From there he was ordered on October 15, 1912 to the USS Reina Mercedes, a old Spanish cruiser captured during the Spanish American War. She was refurbished and used by the U.S. Navy as a non-self-propelled receiving ship at Newport, Rhode Island, and subsequently as a detention vessel and barracks ship for the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, until 1957.

On August 21, 1913 he is detached from the Reina Mercedes and posted to the battleship USS Vermont (BB-20) where he ends up serving with his old shipmate from the Holland, Owen Hill, now a Lieutenant.

From the Vermont he next is assigned to the USS Prairie (AD-5) on May 6, 1915. He is still a Warrant Machinist. On November 25, 1916 he is ordered home to await orders.

By November 1, 1917 Bowie has been promoted to Ensign and ordered to shore duty. Where his orders took him has not been discovered at this time. By July of 1918 he has been promoted to the rank of Lieutenent Junior Grade, probably due to WW I pressures.

In the 1920 census we see that wife Elizabeth is missing. To what causes isn't explained and son, Bradford W, is noted to have died in 1918. Maybe this was the results of the Spanish Flu Epidemic that was taking lives all over the world. He is now married to wife "Lydia F". Son Robert is still at home and is 12 years old. Bowie is listed on the census documents as a "Senior Lieutenant". This is not an official Navy rank, so the census taker probably meant Lieutenant.

Bowie died January 28, 1921 while he was serving aboard the cruiser USS Tacoma (CL-20) while that vessel was in the Panama Canal Zone. He died within moments of experiencing a sudden heart attack. His body arrived back in Annapolis on March 6 and he was buried at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery at Annapolis, Maryland. He was either 41 or 44 years old, depending on what records are correct for the year of his birth.

His widow, Lydia, by 1928 is working to support herself by selling art and needleworks and notions out of the family home. By 1930 she has taken in several borders and still has the son Robert at home. He is 23 he is working as a clerk at Western Union. She lists herself as a proprietor of a Dining Room for occupation. They are making ends meet.

Robert married Bertha E. Rawlings on December 21, 1930. He later joined the Merchant Marine.

Robert died by drowning when his ship was torpedoed off Navitus, Cuba on June 2, 1941. Some records say he was in the Coast Guard because at that time civilian crews fell under Coast Guard control. He was originally buried in Cuba but was relocated in 1948 to the United States Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland. We can find no further record of Lydia after the headstone for Robert was placed.

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