Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ilderton Wesley Bowman (1857-1924)

From the composite portrait of the 1895 South Carolina Constitutional Convention.

   The following passages examine the life and career of a man named Ilderton...Ilderton Wesley Bowman to be precise, and very likely the only person named "Ilderton" ever to be elected to public office in the United States! This strangely named South Carolina native served as a delegate to his state's Constitutional Convention in 1895 whilst also being an incumbent South Carolina state representative. He would later achieve further prominence as a judge for the First Judicial Circuit Court of South Carolina, remaining on the bench until his death in 1924.
   The son of Dr. Orrin Nelson and Isabella (Limehouse) Bowman of Orangeburg County, South Carolina, Ilderton W. Bowman was born in that county on September 20, 1857. He would attend the Mt. Zion Institute in Winnsboro, South Carolina and in 1879 graduated from the Wofford College in Spartanburg. In November 1883 he married to Mary Ellen Crum (1861-1934), later having a total of eight children, who are listed as follows in order of birth: John Wesley (1884-1952), Orrin Nelson (1888-1932), Alma Rebecca (1888-1979), Minnie (1891-1954), Mary Ellen (1893-1974), Hammond Crum (1895-1974), Ruth (1898-1907), Reddick A. (1900-1987) and Elizabeth Hayne (1904-1971).  Of these children, Hammond Crum would follow in his father's stead, becoming an attorney, and also served as a state representative for Charleston County beginning in 1929.
   In the early 1880s, Bowman began the study of law under local lawmaker Samuel Dibble and was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1882. He established a practice in Orangeburg and over the next decade built up a clientele that included not only local banks also the Orangeburg Building and Loan Association. In November 1893 Bowman was elected to represent Orangeburg in the South Carolina House of Representatives and took his seat at the start of the 1894-96 term. During this session he was selected as a delegate to the state Constitutional Convention, and while at the convention served on the committees on Judiciary and Engrossed Bills and Ordinances. As a delegate, Bowman would author a provision to the state constitution that prohibited divorces in South Carolina and saw it successfully passed by his fellow delegates. This divorce law would remain on the books for over sixty years until being reversed by the state in 1949.
   Following his service in the legislature/convention Bowman returned to practicing law, and in 1906 was elected as a city alderman for Orangeburg, serving in that capacity from 1907-09. Active in several fraternal organizations in his native city, Bowman was a longstanding member (and past master) of the Shibboleth Lodge # 28 of Free and Accepted Masons, as well as the Woodmen of the World. In the early 1910s, Bowman was elected as Judge of the First Circuit Court of South Carolina and would hold his seat until his death on August 24, 1924, shortly before his 67th birthday. Bowman was survived by his wife Mary Ellen, who, following her death in 1931, was interred alongside her husband at Orangeburg's Sunnyside Cemetery.
  As far as history is concerned, Orangeburg, South Carolina hasn't forgotten the contributions of Ilderton W. Bowman, as his home (pictured in the accompanying link) was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 as part of the Amelia Street Historic District.

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