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Thomas Jefferson Bowles family papers

Identifier: MSS-097

Scope and Contents

This collection includes notebooks, scrapbooks and other material related to the life, work, social activity, and political activity of Thomas Jefferson Bowles during his time in Muncie, Indiana ranging from 1886 to 1924. The notebooks and scrapbooks in this collection contain notes and speech manuscripts documenting his involvement in the Indiana Rationalists Association, interest in the National Liberal Party, and thoughts and remarks on a wide variety of other subjects including breathing, heredity, alcohol, diseases, religion, politics, history, and funerals. In addition, this collection contains material related to Thomas Jefferson Bowles and his family that was created after his death. That material, dating from 1930-1984, includes a funeral address for Homer Bowles, a scrapbook created by Homer E. Bowles containing obituaries of prominent local citizens, researcher correspondence, and an article on the history of the freethought movement in Indiana.


  • Creation: 1836-1984

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries, Muncie, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Archives and Special Collections.

Biographical Note

Dr. Thomas Jefferson Bowles was born in Milroy, Indiana, July 24, 1836, the son of James and Sarah Ann (Smith) Bowles, both natives of Cynthiana, Kentucky. The parents moved from Kentucky to Rush County in 1830 and Bowles' father engaged in farming and the raising of stock.

Dr. Bowles finished the common schools at Milroy and then studied under the tutelage of Dr. A. R. Benton, a noted educator. At Fairfield Academy in Fayette County for three years, qualifying him to teach school. He taught in the Rush County schools for several years, but desiring to practice medicine, he began an internship with Doctor A.C. Dillon for two years. At the age of nineteen, he entered the Medical College of Ohio. After graduating with honors in 1860, he practiced medicine for a few years, and then pursued further training at Rush Medical College in Chicago and at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. He relocated first at Windsor, then at Blountsville, at that time considered part of Randolph County. Dr. Bowles moved to Muncie in 1874 and became well known locally as a surgeon. Dr. Bowles also served as a pension surgeon under Governor Harrison for four years.

Together with Drs. G.W.H. Kemper and J. Dillon, Dr. Bowles wrote the constitution and by-laws organizing the first county medical society in Delaware County. Known as an agnostic and evolutionist, Dr. Bowles also formed Literary & Scientific Association of Muncie, the Literary Fireside, Home Circle and Ethical Society. He was much in demand as a speaker and supported many local philanthropic causes.

Dr. Bowles married Saphora Spangler of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1860. The couple raised seven children; one, Herman, graduated from the Medical College of Ohio and eventually entered practice with his father. Mrs. Spangler gave hearty support to her husband's free-thinking causes, especially in the study of the mythologies, theologies and philosophies of ancient times.

Dr. Bowles died April 19, 1924 at the age of 87. At the time of his death, he was known as the oldest practicing physician in the state.


1 Cubic Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged by format.

Custodial History

The material in this collection was received by Archives and Special Collections as gifts from Helen Bowles Strickler and Thomas J. Bowles in multiple donations in 1987 and 1989.


No further additions are expected.

Related Archival Materials

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries, Muncie IN:

POVA.019: Thomas Jefferson Bowles oversize materials, 1836-1984

PSC.124: Thomas Jefferson Bowles photographs, 1874-1930

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 1994/03/24 J. Richards. Revised 2004 by J. Mullins. Revised and EAD finding aid created 2012/05/30 by Stephen Jones.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Stoeckel Archives of Local History Repository

Alexander M. Bracken Library
2000 W. University Avenue
Muncie Indiana 47306 USA