James Loren Bowen, son of Orrin Monroe Bowen and his wife Harriet Sigourney Joy, was born at Marlboro, Vermont, April 2, 1842. His mother having died when he was three years of age, he spent his time until he was sixteen with his grandfather at Readsboro, Vermont. He then joined his father in North Adams, Massachusetts, and learned his father's trade of fuller in the woolen mills. His schooling was limited to two years in the public schools. He enlisted in Company E, 37th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, July 25, 1862, and was wounded at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. He was given a furlough July 20, 1863, and on October 3 of that year was married to Sabra Jane Cada, by whom he had eight children. Unable to resume military duty, and having to depend on crutches for two years, he was discharged for disability on April 21, 1864. He began writing in 1864 and his first novel for Beadle appeared as No. 18, American Tales, March 7, 1865. His last novel for the same firm was No. 81, Starts American Novels, published December 26, 1871.
In 1870 he purchased an interest in the North Adams local paper, the Hoosac Valley News, and also for a short time edited a semimonthly called the Temperance Album. He remained in North Adams until 1872, then removed to Springfield. In the meantime he began to lecture on temperance in 1870 and became widely known in that field. In 1887 he began acting as attorney for pension claims, and from 1890 to 1893 was Grand Chief Templar of Massachusetts (of the Good Templars). In Springfield he became proofreader on the Springfield Republican and remained with that paper until 1890. For eight years he was associated with Clark W. Bryan & Co. on the editorial staff of some of their monthly publications, such as Good Housekeeping, etc. In 1903 he was appointed Sealer of Weights and Measures of Massachusetts, and at the time of his death he had served for several years as Soldiers' Relief Commissioner, He died in Springfield, Massachusetts, September 23, 1919, at the age of 77.
Besides his novels, he was the author of a "History of the 37th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers," published at Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1884, and a "History of Massachusetts in the War, 1861-1865," published in Springfield in 1888.
REFERENCES: History of Massachusetts in War, with portrait; Encyclopedia of Biography, Massachusetts, published by the American Historical Society in 1916; Anon., Biographical Review. The Leading Citizens of Hampton County, Massachusetts, Boston, 1895, 366—68; Letters from his grandson, Alfred M. Bowen, Jr., May, 1941.
Dime Novels. Nos. 97, 101, 106, 117, 123, 130, 136, 166,
184, 195, 351, 380, 396, 403, 442, 459, 486, 564
American Library (London). Nos. 61, 72, 80, 81
American Tales. Nos. 18, 20, 26, 32, 37, 39, 42, 43
Stair's American Novels. Nos. 55, 81, 141, 144, 151, 155, 157, 159, 202
Boys' Books of Romance and Adventure. No. 19
Pocket Novels. Nos. 15, 103, 166, 177, 182, 270
Half-Dime Library. Nos. 107, 110
Boy's Library (quarto). No. 75
Boy's Library (octavo). Nos. 111, 191, 208, 213, 227, 260
Pocket Library. Nos. 97, 190, 480, 484
SPECIMEN OF JAMES L. BOWEN'S STYLE
"The Mohegan Maiden; or, The Stranger of the Settlement. A Story of King Phillip's War." Dime Novels No. 117, pp. 14, 58-64, 77.
Ere long the young man heard sounds far below him which indicated the presence of the savage horde looking for his body. The howl of rage and anguish which accompanied their search, revealed the moment when the mangled bodies of their comrades were stumbled upon in the darkness. Their voices were heard up and down the gorge as they signaled one another. Now was the time for escape, if, indeed, escape from that perilous position were possible. The scout's idea was to try and recover the crest of the chasm, and, in the darkness, to elude pursuit. But no movement was possible so long as his wrist remained clasped by the thongs, and yet, to remove the thongs was no easy task in that constrained and most painful position. Drawing the body up to where his locked arms were held by the friendly pine, Archibald proceeded to gnaw at the leather string, and, in a few minutes, had so far succeeded as to feel his wrists parting. At the same moment he heard the sound of voices above and near him, and he clung more closely to the little tree which was now his ark of safety. Three or four savages, failing to find his body below, had again come to the brink of the precipice for observation. Seeing nothing in the deep darkness they shouted to those below, and hurled down stones to indicate the spot where the body must have fallen; but to no purpose, apparently, for soon all was silent below.
Would the Indians leave the vicinity before dawn, to give him a further chance of his life? was now Archibald's most anxious mental inquiry. If not, his case was hopeless indeed. For another half-hour he waited, his hands now wholly free, but painfully swollen and lacerated by rough usage. With much effort and care he dropped down the body of the tree to strike the bank from which it grew. He found it to be a tall, slender pine, whose roots were many feet below the crest of the chasm. It must, therefore, spring from a shelf of rock. If so, was there not some hope of escape by it? He resolved to explore the chances for dropping down, with safety, to the gully below. Once there, he knew it would be easy, with his knowledge of the locality, to elude his hunters.
Down the slender body of the tree he glided, until, at length, he stood upon solid ground. A few moments examination proved his guess correct—the pine grew from a shelf on the face of the almost perpendicular wall, springing out of the wall at a point where a growth of bushes indicated the existence of a foothold for soil. A stone loosened in his efforts at exploration, went crashing down, sending up echoes from the gulf underneath, to warn him that the base of the cliff was yet far beneath him. It did more, for a shout followed from below which was answered by a responsive shout from above:—the Narragansetts were still there; and as the faintest streaks of dawn now began to shimmer in the air overhead, the hunted man realized that it was full time for him to find a spot of retreat in the face of the wall, which the prying eyes of the savages could not penetrate.
Continuing the search carefully along the thin shelf, he found it to narrow and end abruptly, but a few feet along the wall, arrested by a huge buttress of rock. Several indentations, however, were found along the path, which offered ample shelter from observation, and safety from a rifle-ball or arrow, and, choosing the most ample of these, near the rocky buttress, the wearied man leaned against the damp wall and was soon fast asleep.
He could have slept but an hour, for, startled by the thud of a heavy stone almost at his feet, he unclosed his eyes to find the sun just rising over the hills and flooding the precipice with light. What had loosened that stone? Evidently it came from above, and some person must have sent it down. Was he discovered? He feared so: yet, having a good place of defense, determined to preserve it. A slight noise from overhead now arrested his attention. Stones continued to fall, and he distinctly heard the sound of voices. The temptation to look out and peer up was irresistible. Extending his head from cover, he had scarcely exposed it ere a shot was fired from below, the ball striking the rock at his side. It was a narrow escape.
But he had seen enough to repay the risk. A young savage was suspended in the air, not ten feet above, endeavoring to reach the ledge by a rope of thongs. Archibald's resolve was instantly made to grapple the foe, and hurl him from the shelf. Crouching down close in his little cave, he was somewhat surprised to perceive a fissure in the wall at his back, which darkness hitherto had hidden. It was large enough to admit his body, but should he use it? If penned up there the Indian would have easy work in dispatching him, so he crouched still lower; and the swaying body of the Narragansett now half appeared before the hidden chamber. The scout now perceived that the savage held on to the rope by his hands, which, therefore, could not be disengaged until the Indian's feet touched the shelf. In his girdle stuck his knife and tomahawk. It was evident, at a glance, that the young brave was lacking in the caution of experience, or he never would have made that descent, with his weapons in his belt, and his hands fully employed in sustaining his own weight. A pang of pity smote the young white's bosom. To kill one so young seemed inhuman, indeed. To refrain from killing him might be to doubly peril his own life.
He had no time for mental debate. The young brave's feet neared the shelf. Rising from his crouching attitude, as the Indian's neck came into view, Archibald seized the throat in his vice-like grasp, and drew the writhing body into the little chamber. So rapid and still was the movement, that those above and below never suspected what had happened. The thong swung loosely over the shelf, as if the brave had reached his goal in safety.
His safety was in the repose of death; for, ere the white man's grasp was released, life was extinct.
"Ah, me, this is too horrible—to kill one so young; yet it must be, where my own safety is in the balance," Archibald said to himself, as he proceeded to relieve the body of the beautiful new knife and tomahawk—evidently never yet stained with a white man's blood. "What must be the Narragansett's thirst for slaughter when such young braves as this are permitted to take the war-path!" thought the scout. Taking the body, Archibald proposed to crowd it in the fissure, when, to his astonishment, he found it to lead to an inner chamber, quite in the depths of the hill. He was bearing the body in, when the further falling of loosened stones, on the shelf without, gave warning of further danger. Now armed with a keen knife, he had no fears of any hand-to-hand encounter, and turned back through the fissure to behold a powerful savage already standing before it, having slid down from above with the agility of a cat. The Narragansett had caught sight of his antagonist first, and, with a wild war-whoop, bounded into the narrow entrance of the cavern. Archibald could not fall back before the sudden onslaught, pressed closely by the savage, whose stalwart form so filled the passage as to darken the chamber. This gave the white the momentary advantage of taking a proper position for defense; and as the Indian emerged in the room, he found the white man ready for him. Standing between his antagonist and the light, the Narragansett was taken at a great disadvantage; but, beholding at his feet the dead body of the young brave, the warrior gave another fierce whoop, and bounded upon Archibald like a thunderbolt. With a swing of his arm the white man dashed aside the blow at his heart, and the knife flew from the Indian's grasp quite across the room, as the two men closed in a death-gripe. The Narragansett thought to crush the pale-face by the sheer force of tremendous strength, but he found a man in his embrace whose power was quite equal to his own, and by an expert movement of the foot the young scout tripped the giant, pressed him backward and fell upon him with the whole weight of his body. Ere the savage had struck the rough stone floor, however, the bright steel of that untarnished blade, drawn from the young Indian's belt, was crimsoned to the hilt in the blood of the big warrior.
Withdrawing from the savage's embrace, Archibald sprung to the entrance, expecting to confront other Indians, who, he felt certain, would follow their comrades down to the shelf. Nor was he mistaken; for he emerged from the inner room just in time to behold the body of an Indian shoot past through the air, as if, having lost his hold upon the rope, he had been precipitated into the chasm below. Down, like a rocket, the painted and feather-bedecked warrior dropped, and a wild howl from the base of the cliff told his fate. Looking upward, Archibald beheld the secret of the sudden descent in the remnant of the deerskin rope which dangled far above, while upon the shelf at his feet lay fully fifteen feet of the parted strand.
Thus relieved from the danger of further immediate visitation, the young man scrutinized the cavern. A pitiful and memorable sight met his eyes. Sitting upright against the wall was the big warrior, holding in his arms the body of the young brave, gazing intently into the glassy eyes, while a low moan, like the sighing of winds through the forest, broke from his lips. The full light of the sun through the rift lit up the faces of the dying and the dead, and Archibald readily discovered, in the touching group, father and son—so much alike did they look when the sign of Death lay upon their foreheads. The moan soon changed to a wail, so wild and so filled with the pathos of grief as to cause tears to stream from the eyes of the solitary spectator. Oh, how he yearned, then, to bind up that ghastly wound, and to restore father and son again to the lodge whose door they never more would darken.
That more than human wail died away, and then there arose the solemn death-chant—the warrior still clasping his boy; but it suddenly ceased; the singer's head fell forward on his breast; the warrior was no more; he was alone with the dead.
What should now be done? To emerge from his cave and expose his person was to incur great hazard from the now excited savages—three more of whose number had now perished in their hunt after the white. That they would endeavor to gain the retreat in such combined numbers as would overwhelm him, he clearly foresaw. Escape was imperative then, if he would be saved a most horrible death. But how to elude the lynx-eyed foe? was a question beyond his power to answer; and he could only hope that the Providence who had guided him thus far would still direct his steps to safety.
Fearing an assault from the plateau, he proceeded so to bar the narrow entrance with stones as to give him all the advantage in event of an attack. This done, he began to explore the chamber more fully, hoping to discover an opening, which would again bring him out on the face of the cliff, along which he might crawl, unobserved, to the gulf below, or to the crest above—a most dangerous and weary task, he knew, but one which must be attempted. His search revealed several blind passages, but so filled were they with the fallen and wet debris of the walls as to render passage seemingly impossible. Selecting one which appeared to strike in the right direction, he at once began to remove the lower stones—an operation greatly facilitated by the large, heavy knife which the warrior had wielded. In a few moments his eyes were gladdened by the sight of light some distance ahead, and after a half hour's diligent labor he found himself again commanding a full view of the gulf below. But it was apparent that the scene was changed; he had left the first entrance so far behind as to have passed the rocky buttress which had brought the plateau to such an abrupt termination; and he could now see the great rock jutting its smooth face far out from the perpendicular wall, as if to screen him from the sight of the basilisk eyes watching for him beyond. He took new courage, and began to examine the ground below him with reference to a descent to the old stream bed.
Twenty feet below a rock jutted out from the face of the cliff, offering a secure footing. From thence a line of bushes led away along the cliff, showing a second plateau or shelf to exist. To reach this rock, seemed impossible—the descent from his look-out was direct and unbroken, with not a chance for a foothold. Pondering sadly over the seemingly hopeless task, a smile all at once mantled his face, and he began quickly to crawl backward through his narrow rift. Gaining the cave, he did not pause, but scaling his barrier erected in the entry-way, he found himself once more on the plateau. There, upon its extreme verge, full in view of those above and below, lay the rope of thongs, which had hurried the descending savage to his doom. To rush toward it, secure it, and beat a retreat, was the accomplished Work of a moment; but not too quick were his movements for two shots, one from below and one from above, cut closely enough to his face to prove how ceaseless was the vigilance of the foe.
"Ha, ha! Narragansett," he audibly muttered, "it's there you are! And there may you stay for the next hour—then you may walk in and take possession of this camping-ground."
A thought occurred to him. Stripping off his hunting shirt, he so arranged it against the wall as to be just visible from above, indicating his continued presence there. This done, he retraced his way to his avenue of escape. The rope was made fast without delay, and with the rapidity of the knowing the value of moments, he slid down the slender but strong line. It reached to within six or eight feet of the rock, and to drop that distance was easy and safe enough, if his weight did not dislodge the rock from its bed. Down he bounded, however, and with safety, for the rock was firm. Instantly gliding to the cover of the bushes stretching away along the cliff, he found a second shelf, as he had surmised. This he followed, bearing him away, as it did, further from the scene of his terrible danger. Gradually a thicket of evergreens began to creep up the cliff, proving the declivity to be near its end; and, in a few moments more the young scout was safe in the rocky bed. This he crossed; and striking out into the forest and hills beyond, was soon loping off through the woods at a pace which, before high noon, had placed miles between himself and the fierce warriors who thirsted for his blood.
Familiar is the not-uncommon New England expression below: —
I do not choose to be thus buffeted after the service I have rendered them. And I do not choose to have one whom I have taken under my care thus summarily dealt with.