A Statement on the
History of Oden Bowie as a Slaveholder
ODEN BOWIE WAS BORN Nov. 10, 1826 at his family’s Prince George’s County plantation, Fairview,
in present-day Bowie, Maryland.
Built in the 1780s, at the time, Fairview
was home Oden’s parents, Col. William Duckett Bowie (1803 - 1873) and his wife
Mary Eliza Oden (d.1849). William D.
Bowie and Mary Eliza Bowie were married in 1825 at Bellefield, another Bowie family plantation in Prince George’s County. Along with being a productive planter, Oden’s
father, William D. Bowie, served in the House of Delegates in the 1830s and
1840s. And, along with other relatives,
including eldest son, Oden, built Baltimore and Potomac Railroad.
A few years after Oden’s mother
died (1849), his father William D. Bowie remarried – to his
half-sister-in-law. William then removed
to Croom in southeastern Prince George’s County
at his other plantation “Bellefield,” conveying ownership of Fairview to his son, Oden. There, Oden Bowie began to establish himself
as a planter in his own right. In 1851,
Oden Bowie married Alice Carter, granddaughter of George Calvert of
The Bowies of Bellefield and Fairview were among the
counties (indeed the state’s) largest slaveholders. Growing tobacco, Oden’s father, William D.
Bowie (sometimes known as “Colonel” because an affiliation with militia)
increased his holdings from 42 enslaved persons held in 1830 to 93 by
1860. Thus, Oden Bowie had always known
slavery and came to be a large holder of enslaved persons once he assumed
control of Fairview. His 47 enslaved blacks placed him in the top
40 slaveholders for Prince George’s
County in 1850 (out of a total slaveholding population of 879). During the next decade he more than doubled
his slaveholdings, with 103 counted by 1860.
He went on to serve as Governor of Maryland (1869-1872). He died at 1894, and was buried at Fairview. Reportedly, at least two former slaves are
also buried at Fairview.
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY LEVY COURT, 1830-1850, (Assessment
Record) C1163, MSA
U.S. Census Records for Prince George’s County,
Effie Gwynn Bowie. Across the Years In Prince George’s County. Richmond:
Garrett and Massie, 1947.
By David Terry, Research Administrator in the History