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James William David Bowerman (1821 - 1898) and Elizabeth Sarah Dyer (alias Davis) (1822 -1872)

By Kerry Bowerman OAM

TFHS Inc. Member No. 5663

This family story has been prepared in response to the invitation by the Tasmanian Family History Society Inc to share my research on James Bowerman, my great, great grandfather. In keeping with family traditions of this era, the first-born son was given the same Christian name, in this case "James" for four generations, and for ease of reading, initials have been used for the main subject of this article (i.e. JWDB) and for subsequent generations.

JWDB was the first son of James Bowerman (JB Snr) and Mary Perrin who were married at St Mary's Church, Witney, Oxfordshire, UK on 21st December 1811. JB Snr was described as a Farmer of Curbridge, a village about two miles from Witney. From research conducted at the Oxfordshire History Centre in June 2014, JB Snr was possibly baptised at St Mary's Church, Witney on 29th November 1782, being described as the son of Robert and Elizabeth Bowerman. If this is correct, Robert would have been my great, great, great, great, grandfather.

Little is known of JWDB's early life other than he had six siblings, brothers Robert, George and William and sisters Jane, Eliza and Helen. He was described as a Farm labourer when at 24 years of age he appeared before the Oxford Assize on 12th July 1845, charged with assault at Witney on 14th March 1845 and stealing 2s.6d. from the person of John Pratley. This was classified as robbery with violence with a penalty of 15 years transportation. On a previous occasion JWDB had been imprisoned for using a gun for killing deer, with the purpose no doubt to assist with provisions for the large family.

JWDB was one of 199 convicts transported on the "Mayda" on 27th August 1845, arriving at Norfolk Island on 8th January 1846. He departed Norfolk Island on the "Pestongee Bomangee" on 26th April 1847 arriving in Van Diemen's Land on 19th May 1847. His farming background was recognised at an early stage when in January 1849 he was in the service of Robert Young of Hamilton and progressively employed with James Lane of Arthur's Seat, Hamilton; G Nichols of Ouse and in the roll of electors for the House of Assembly in 1856 - District of Cumberland, JWDB is described as the tenant of a farm house at Ouse owned by a Mrs Pogson. The 1858 Valuation roll lists JWDB and a Thomas King as tenants of a house and 90 acres of land also owned by Mrs Pogson.

JWDB was granted a Ticket of Leave on 25th April 1854, a Conditional Pardon on 13th March 1855 and permission to marry Elizabeth Dyer, also a convict and a single mother who had arrived in Van Diemen's Land on the "Emma Eugenia" with her three years old daughter Louisa Elizabeth on 7th March 1851.

Elizabeth Sarah Dyer was born on 7th March 1822 in the town of Hereford, Herefordshire, UK. In her twenties she worked as a Needlewoman, could read and write and her religion was Church of England. At the age of 24 in 1846 she became pregnant and Louisa was born in April 1847. On 9 th April 1849 Elizabeth's fortunes changed forever when she was tried at the Central Criminal Court for uttering counterfeit coin and was sentenced to one year's imprisonment. Worse was to follow when on 19 th August 1850 Elizabeth received a sentence of seven years, again for uttering offences. She was held at the Millbank Prison in London until transportation on 25th October 1850. There was a total of 170 convict women along with 20 children on board the "Emma Eugenia".

At the time of transportation, Elizabeth took the alias name of Sarah Davis. Her daughter, Louisa was admitted to the Queen's Orphan School at New Town on 1st July 1851 along with six other children who were on the "Emma Eugenia". Elizabeth (alias Sarah) served her time as a convict at a number of different locations, the first being with E R Richardson of "Cottage Green", Battery Point after only seven days from her arrival in Van Diemen's Land. She then spent some nine months at the Cascade Female Factory before travelling to Ouse on 27th March 1852 to work for W Jackson at Ouse River.

It was in this location that Elizabeth (alias Sarah) met JWDB and they were married on 27th July 1852 in St John the Baptist Church, Ouse. Elizabeth's married name was registered as Sarah Bowerman. After spending 15 months at the Queen's Orphanage School, daughter Louisa was reunited with her mother on 7th December 1852.

JWDB and Sarah went on to have five children of their own: James Bowman Bowerman (JBB) born in 1852; George (1857); William (1859); Emma Eugenia (or Ellen) born in 1862 and named after the convict ship and lastly Joseph (1863).

It is assumed that JWDB and Sarah spent their remaining years in the Hamilton/Ouse region with JWDB continuing to work in a rural environment, particularly at Hamilton Plains. Sarah died on 7th April 1872 at the age of 50 years with her death diagnosed as heart disease. She is buried at St Peter's Anglican Church, Hamilton.

JWDB remarried on 26th September 1881 to Mary Anne Bacon, a widow, in St Peter's Catholic Church, Hamilton. JWDB died at Hamilton on 12 th January 1898, aged 77 years, and is buried with Sarah. Children, Louisa, Ellen and George are also buried in the same location. It is not known what became of JWDB's second wife, Mary.

A poem written by Doris Bowerman in 1976 encapsulates the life of JWDB. Doris (nee Marsh) was the wife of Roy Rupert James Bowerman of Plenty in the Derwent Valley. He was a grandson of JWDB.

It's fifteen years in chains my boy, to Norfolk Isle you'll go,

You know you must not rob the mails nor treat old England so.

So off to Norfolk Isle he went, his heart was full of dread,

He tilled the land from dawn till dusk and tired he went to bed.

Times were good on Norfolk Isle till Mother Nature said:

"I'm going to change the pattern round and you may all be dead".

Poor Collins was in great despair, his protests loud and long:

"We cannot have an overflow" - but they sent eight hundred strong.

The convicts came in shiploads, one of them named James

Who had to serve out fifteen years bound down in iron chains.

After serving ten long years a pardon he was given,

So, James was free to get some work and earn an honest living.

He headed westward to the Clyde, worked for a man named Lane,

With pick and shovel and bullock dray he helped to clear the Plain.

Some old stone walls they still remain, maybe he built them too,

The sands of time have dimmed the past and hidden his work from view.

Sarah was his wife, she helped him reach his goal,

They sleep now in the church-yard, may the good Lord rest their souls.

James Bowerman
James Bowerman


My research now embraces ten generations of our line of the Bowerman Family Tree. It now includes a varied list of occupations but with two distinguishing factors. Firstly, there has been a continuing strong association with the land and rural related activities, and, secondly the Bowerman name has been perpetuated with the predominance of male births through the various generations.

James Bowman Bowerman (JBB), my great grandfather, and his wife, Mary Ann Eliza (nee Eyles) had thirteen children, seven boys and six girls. JBB and Mary were married at Hamilton on 25th July 1877. JBB died on 1 st April 1924 and Mary moved interstate following her second marriage to Frederick George Keen.

The first-born son of JBB and Mary was James William Bowerman (JWB), my grandfather. He was born on 19th July 1881 and married Amy Selena (Lena) McMaster. JWB and Lena had seven sons, including my father, Louis Donald Bowerman (LDB). JWB leased "Allanvale" at Gretna where the sons were born and in turn owned the rural properties of "Sunny Hills" and "The Rainbow" at Gretna and "Hartfield" and "Clarke's Run" at Bothwell. Despite three of the sons being bachelors, the Bowerman name still remains strong in the Derwent Valley and beyond.

A further branch of the Bowerman family with its roots at Gretna was that of Denzil and Dulcie (nee Burn) Bowerman. Their family consisted of no less than eight sons, all of whom at some stage being involved in farming and/or rural related occupations.

To complete this intriguing and somewhat emotional story and legacy of JWDB and Sarah, Louis and my mother, Marie Ethel (nee Tomkinson) married on 12th August 1939 at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Glenorchy. The marriage produced two sons, myself and younger brother, Anthony Louis Bowerman. Louis was employed as a farmhand for 40 years on the iconic rural property “Norton Mandeville” at Gretna. My whole working life of 43 years was in banking with Trust Bank and its predecessor institutions – The Hobart Savings Bank, The Savings Bank of Tasmania and SBT Bank, prior to the formation of Trust Bank in September 1991. 

Wendy Gaye (nee Dann) and I married on 3rd July 1964, also at St Paul’s, Glenorchy. We were blessed with three sons – David employed in Information Technology in Hobart; Martin in Banking and living in Sydney and Michael, a Sales Manager in the Fishing Industry living in Melbourne. They in turn have provided us with eight grandchildren (three males and five females) plus two great-grand sons.  

The Bowerman Family Crest appears on a shield of Ermine fur, a small white weasel which was a heraldic symbol of dignity. At the top is a goat's head, indicating a family who wins through politics rather than war. The shield has three yellow boar's heads meaning hospitality and generosity. The colour red in the head piece indicates that the family is of the warrior class.

The name "Bowerman" is said to be Anglo-Saxon and originally given to the person who was the Bowerman, the servant who attended the inner room in the castle called the bower. However, the way the name "Bowerman" was spelled and pronounced may indicate a different origin. Some of the variations that stem from the name Bowerman are Bowreman, Boarman, Bourman, Boardman, and Boreman.

Kerry Bowerman OAM


Related family names:

Perrin Bowerman Dyer Davis

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