History

Vanished Forever and Forgotten: Bowen’s Island in San Antonio

By  | 

Searching for Bowen’s Island will lead you near the San Antonio River, but only a historical marker stands there today, and it is on very dry land. Originally a natural peninsula purchased by John Bowen on January 16, 1845, the five-acre plot of land was locked by the river on three sides. Bowen purchased it from Canary Island descendant Maria Josefa Rodriguez de Yturri for $300 (roughly $9,415 in 2018 money). The Bowen family eventually built a seven-room home on the island for their seven children, furthering developing the land into a farm of fruit trees, grapevines, and an herb garden, complete with waterwheel irrigation.

Waterwheel action

Facebook/Sally Andruzzi

Originally born as Ralph William Peacock in Philadelphia on September 18, 1801, John Bowen conducted wholesale commission business in Venezuela, then moved to Texas, serving as Postmaster of the Republic of Texas. In 1849, Peacock took on the name of his half-brother, John Bowen, who had no heirs and requested that Peacock carry on his name. The newly re-named John Bowen married his other brother’s widow, Mary Elizabeth Allen Peacock, on August 29, 1850. John then served as city treasurer from 1849 to 1854, then again from 1856–58. He also operated two stores: one for hides, wool, and pecans, the other as a general store on Main Plaza. John died on December 13, 1867, and was buried on Bowen’s Island.

Newspaper article
Facebook/Laura Kraus

In later years, the land changed hands numerous times. Then in 1928, James H. Smith and J. W. Young, purchased part of the property. They started the Smith-Young Tower, known today as the Tower Life Building. The 35-story building is still the tallest office building in the city. It was designed by Robert Ayres and his father, Atlee. In the same year, 1928, the City of San Antonio launched a project intended to drive floodwaters past the Horseshoe Bend of the river.

Page 1 of 2:12