Bowers, John Henry (1817–1907)

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 18, 2020

John Henry Bowers (Bauers) was born near Colmar, Alsace, on November 6, 1817. He attended the University of Mühlhausen before 1835, when he went on a cruise to China and India and, observing how the English Army doctors treated cholera, became interested in medicine. Bowers landed in New York in January 1836, took a boat for Galveston, Texas, and was en route from Columbia to join the Texas army at the time of the battle of San Jacinto. In ministering to the wounded he attended and befriended the captive Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Anna. Bowers also attended Gen. Sam Houston and became his close friend. Houston gave him a painting of himself, which later burned in Bowers's home. Bowers joined the army and served in a military hospital at Houston in the late 1830s. He became a protégé of Dr. Ashbel Smith, with whom he studied medicine and who sent him to the University of Louisiana (later Tulane University), where he received a degree in medicine.

Bowers practiced at Houston and around Galveston and cared for Smith's patients in the latter's absence. He became part owner of the first drugstore in the Republic of Texas, which opened in Columbus in 1844. During a yellow fever epidemic in 1844 he used the vessels Dayton and Scioto Belle as hospitals. He joined the Texas troops for service in the Mexican War and in February 1849 opened his practice at Brownsville. He practiced there until 1851, when he moved to Columbus and married Anne Griffith. During a cholera epidemic in 1851 and 1852 he used medicines he had secured years before in India. He was among the first to diagnose a yellow fever epidemic in 1873.

He died on September 4, 1907, at Columbus and was buried there in the Odd Fellows Cemetery. His manuscript observations on epidemic disease in Texas and collections of his letters are in the Texas State Library and the Barker Texas History Center.

Colorado County Historical Commission, Colorado County Chronicles from the Beginning to 1923 (2 vols., Austin: Nortex, 1986). George Plunkett [Mrs. S. C.] Red, The Medicine Man in Texas (Houston, 1930).

  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Practitioners
Time Periods:
  • Texas Revolution

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Bowers, John Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 29, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 18, 2020

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: