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I found no biographical file for pilot Bowhan during my reviews of the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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YOUR PURCHASE OF THESE BOOKS SUPPORTS THE WEB SITES THAT BRING TO YOU THE HISTORY BEHIND OLD AIRFIELD REGISTERS

Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.

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http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link.

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Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register, 1925-1936 is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.

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Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Available as a free download at the link.

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Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race is available at the link. What was it like to fly from Oakland to Honolulu in a single-engine plane during August 1927? Was the 25,000 dollar prize worth it? Did the resulting fame balance the risk? For the first time ever, this book presents the pilot and navigator's stories written by them within days of their record-setting adventure. Pilot Art Goebel and navigator William V. Davis, Jr. take us with them on the Woolaroc, their orange and blue Travel Air monoplane (NX869) as they enter the hazardous world of Golden Age trans-oceanic air racing.

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Clover Field: The First Century of Aviation in the Golden State. With the 100th anniversary in 2017 of the use of Clover Field as a place to land aircraft in Santa Monica, this book celebrates that use by exploring some of the people and aircraft that made the airport great.

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Forden, Lesley. 1972. The Ford Air Tours 1925-1931: A Complete Narrative and Pictorial History of the Seven National Air Tour Competitions
for the Edsel B. Ford Reliability Trophy
. THE NOTTINGHAM PRESS. Available for sale here.

Aircraft Year Book. Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce of America, Inc. New York, NY. Events and happenings for the previous year are reported in each annual volume.

Shiel, Walt, G.W. Bayer, F. Hamilton, K. Shields. 1995. Cessna Warbirds. Slipdown Mountain Publications. ISBN 1879825252.

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"Meeker Loses Girl in Ogden". THE MONTANA STANDARD, December 25, 1928 (right column, top) describes pilot Bowhan's role in what reads like an exciting, lover's cross-country airplane chase.

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Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register
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FRANCIS DAWSON "CHIEF" BOWHAN

Francis D. "Chief" Bowhan, Date Unknown
Francis D. "Chief" Bowhan, Date Unknown

Francis "Chief" Bowhan was born the oldest of eight children (three brothers and four sisters). At left, in this wonderful portrait with tattered edges, he gazes at us from ninety years ago dressed in classic Golden Age aviator clothing, including helmet, goggles, silk scarf with polka dots, and a well-conditioned A-1 leather jacket. We can understand why pilot eyes are a force of nature. To understand his nickname, see below.

Bowhan competed in the 1925 National Air Tour for the Edsel B. Ford Reliability Trophy (Forden reference, left sidebar). He flew a Travel Air B-6, equipped with a Curtiss OX-5 engine of 90HP. He was accompanied during the race by his wife, Charlotte, and one other passenger identified as Thomas Day.

The rules that year precluded "places" of the type 1st, 2nd, etc. Rather, according to the Aircraft Yearbook for 1926, "A perfect score shall be earned when each leg of course shall have been flown in a time not to exceed 50 per cent more than the scheduled time, providing at least 70 per cent of the legs are flown in a time not to exceed 30 per cent above the scheduled time." Bowhan placed among eleven aircraft that earned perfect scores. He, as well as the other ten pilots, won $350 for their efforts.

After the Tour, the Bowhans flew to New York for another aviation event. While there, Mrs. Bowhan was interviewed by a journalist who wrote an article for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 8, 1925, below. As you read the article, you'll understand why it wouldn't be published today.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 8, 1925 (Source: newspapers.com)
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 8, 1925 (Source: newspapers.com) Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 8, 1925 (Source: newspapers.com)

A saving grace is the first-hand account by Charlotte of the Tour itinerary and associated activities that year. The following article from the Nebraska State Journal, August 1, 1926 shows Bowhan and his wife allegedly participating in the 1926 Air Tour. However chapter two of Forden's book (q.v.) does not tabulate them among the list of competitors.

Nebraska State Journal, August 1, 1926 (Source: newspapers.com)
Nebraska State Journal, August 1, 1926 (Source: newspapers.com)

 

Selma Times Journal (AL), September 6, 1928(Source: newspapers.com)
Selma Times Journal (AL), September 6, 1928(Source: newspapers.com)

 

A picture of Bowhan and his wife can be seen on page 14 of Chapter 1 in the Forden book cited above. Forden states about Bowhan that he, "...had an income from Oklahoma oil wells. He was active in barnstorming and racing; owned several airplanes; flew for 'Air Express Corporation', an enterprise that operated Lockheed Vegas and Orions in express-only, coast-to coast service and made remarkable records for the time.

"Charlotte Bowhan flew with her husband in the 1925 tour. She was an attractive lady, called 'Indian Princess' by the tour flyers. And Bowhan’s named is engraved on the trophy not as Francis, but as “Chief,” a more familiar name, and reminder that this likeable man who competed with the best flyers of his day was indeed, an Osage Indian."

The Wichita Beacon of Wednesday January 25, 1928 cites, "The fifth Cessna cantilever monoplane was given final tests yesterday by Francis Bowhan and will be delivered to W. L. Stribling this week. Another monoplane of a larger design will be tested the latter part of this week. It carries three passengers and pilot and will be delivered to E. A. Link, of New York." Interestingly, Edwin Link was the inventor of the Link Trainer, an instrument flight training device used by most pilots during WWII to learn "blind" flying.

In the Shiel reference in the left sidebar, it states on page 14 that in September 1928, Bowhan won the Class A New York to Los Angeles Transcontinental Air Derby. In fact, Bowhan did not start that race, because of a conflict with officials. However, there is an image of Bowhan on that page, which shows him dressed in his helmet and leather jacket similar to above. The race was won by fellow Register pilot Earl Rowland (see details here). The article at right from the Selma Times Journal (AL), September 6, 1928 corroborated the withdrawal of Bowhan from the race.

Bowhan landed and signed the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register once on Tuesday, July 25, 1933 at 10:25 AM. He carried two passengers, Mrs. Henry King and a Capt. Barkley, in Waco UIC NC13424. Based at Los Angeles, CA, they were eastbound from Burbank, CA to "North Carolina". There was no purpose given in the Register for their trip. "T1392" was noted next to pilot's name; assumed to be Bowhan's transport pilot number. Please follow the link to the airplane to see an image of it, plus Mrs. King's husband.

Bowhan was born April 30, 1901. He has a particularly good record at ancestry.com. Not only is he covered by U.S. Census records, but also by Osage Indian Census Rolls, which were kept independently by the Osage Reservation agency (samples pictured below). Bowhan was coded as "1/16" or "3/16" Osage on various agency forms, depending on which one you read.

His first U.S. Census in 1910 recorded him at age nine living with his parents at 60 Main Street, Strike Axe Township, Pawhuska, OK. Pawhuska is a city in northern Oklahoma on the Osage Indian Reservation known for its Native American culture. His father, Mart Bowhan (age 29; 1879-1965), was coded as a "Harness Maker." His mother was Ida (29; 1881-1941). He lived with three siblings, Sewell (6; 1903-1959), Erin (3; 1906-1976) and Mildred (1; 1909-1999). also living with them was Maggie Carden (33), a servant.

In 1920, the Census placed him at 18 living with his family in Carey, OK southeast of Oklahoma City. His father's occupation was coded as "Farmer." His siblings had grown to six, and they still had a servant, Francy Lontine (19) living with them. Bowhan was not coded as employed.

He married Charlotte Blair (1904-1992) in Kay, OK on June 17, 1921. He was 21; she 19 (she was born September 9, 1904, so the math on her age at the time of their marriage is a little off). Their application, license and certificate of marriage are shown below, all dated as above. Curiously, information at ancestry.com for both Francis and Charlotte showed they were married a second time on November 3, 1934. I found no explanation for this.

Francis Bowhan & Charlotte Blair Marriage Documents, June 17, 1921 (Source: ancestry.com)
Francis Bowhan & Charlotte Blair Marriage Documents, June 17, 1921 (Source: ancestry.com)

They had a daughter, clearly identified as Evelyne, recorded as born in 1922. She is listed on at least two Osage Indian Rolls, 1927 and 1937, below. Indian Roll and other information is conflicting regarding her name and dates of birth as well. Adding to the confusion, their daughter's name on the 1930 U.S. Census was coded as "Frankie L.," very dissimilar to "Evelyne." And a birth date I found in the Social Security Index for Frances Louise Bowhan was January 18, 1919. Findagrave.com shows a photo of her grave marker with the dates 1923-1998. If anyone can clarify these name and date discrepancies, please let me KNOW.

In other family matters, the Eglin Journal (KS), September 18, 1924 documented his parents' 25th wedding anniversary celebration. It was a grand affair at their home, the Tierra Alta Ranch in Bowring, OK. Bowhan and his brother Sewell attended and presented their parents with an 81-piece sterling silver set. From the article, "Dinner was served at six o'clock in the brilliantly illuminated dining room, the two long tables were sparkling with the new shining silverware received for the occassion."

A 1927 Osage Indian Census Roll recorded him, probably (?) still on the Reservation, with his daughter, below.

Osage Agency Census, July 31, 1927 (Source: ancestry.com)
Osage Agency Census, July 31, 1927 (Source: ancestry.com)

The 1930 U.S. Census, however, listed the family living at 2706 Fort Street, Omaha, NB. The house at that address today does not appear to be a 1930s-vintage home. Nevertheless, their daughter, identified as "Frankie L.," now age 7, was with them. Bowhan's occupation was coded as "Aviation Manager" at an "Aviation Field."

A similar Indian Census roll for January 1, 1937 is below. I found no record that Charlotte was Osage, so that would explain why she was not listed in either roll.

Osage Agency Census,January 1, 1937 (Source: ancestry.com)
Osage Agency Census,January 1, 1937 (Source: ancestry.com)

The 1937 Roll, above, provides information that Bowhan and Evelyne were domiciled at Glendale, CA. He was assigned "3/16" Osage in the "Degree of Blood" column. A California voter registration list for 1938 identifed Bowhan as a registered Republican living at 1134 E. Lexington Drive, Los Angeles, CA. That location today appears to be an apartment building. And the 1940 Census stated they were domiciled at Glendale, CA, which corroborates the Lexington Drive address.

After the Census in 1940, they relocated to Prairie Township, Arkansas. His occupation was "Airline Pilot." I could not identify the airline he worked for. They owned their home valued at $4,000. Interestingly, his education level was recorded in the 1940 Census as "H2," meaning he had completed two years of high school.

About a year after the Census, the Victoria (TX) Advocate, February 24, 1941 published the following article. Bowhan was a charter member of the training field under construction at Cuero, TX.

Victoria (TX) Advocate, February 24, 1941 (Source: newspapers.com)

I found evidence, above, that he traveled to England early in WWII and ferried aircraft from there to forward airfields. I found no immigration documents to corroborate this travel, however, perhaps due to wartime records security.

As most men were, Bowhan was registered for the draft during WWII. Below is his registration card, dated February 16, 1942, about two years after the events in the article above. At the time, he lived in Texas and worked for the Brayton Flying Service, Cuero, TX. Cuero Field at the time was located north of Cuero and was a multi-directional, sod runway area.. It was abandoned long ago and today is the location of a state prison. The uncontrolled Cuero Municipal Airport today is located southeast of town. It is a single NW-SE paved runway with a agricultural service center on the property.

F.D. Bowhan, WWII Draft Registration, February 16, 1942 (Source: ancestry.com)
F.D. Bowhan, WWII Draft Registration, February 16, 1942 (Source: ancestry.com)

Further to the airfield and Brayton, the following quotation came from the Texas State Historical Association. Note mention of fellow Register pilot Shepler Fitzgerald [sic]. Aside, in reviewing FitzGerald's page (q.v.), I had difficulty resolving his role as a major in command of Cuero with his other assignments during WWII.

 
CUERO FIELD. During World War II Cuero Field, located at Cuero Municipal Airport, two miles west of Cuero in DeWitt County, was a United States Army Air Forces training field. It was approved by the government as a primary training facility in January 1941 and established on February 6, 1941. Brayton Flying Service, headed by Clyde E. Brayton, was located at the airport and was awarded the government contract to manage the training operations. All instructors and mechanics were civilian, though the army rigidly supervised the training. The nine-week course included classes in meteorology, navigation, aircraft identification, and aircraft engines. Training included five hours on the Link simulation trainer and sixty-five hours' actual flying time. The capacity was 290 cadets. Thousands of pilots who graduated from Cuero Field went on to serve in World War II. The Brayton Flying Service School payroll brought about $145,000 a month into Cuero's economy. The commanding officers of Cuero Field, until the date of its deactivation on August 31, 1944, were Capt. James H. Price and majors Shepler W. Fitzgerald and Timothy F. O'Keefe. After the school closed, the government retained one hangar to repair and service army planes, and Brayton, an aviation pioneer, moved to Houston to become president of Red Arrow Freight Lines.

As far as I can tell, due to his age Bowhan served in neither WWI or WWII. But he did serve in Texas as one of the first cadre of flight istructors to train budding pilots for the Army Air Corps durinig WWII. And he served in Europe as a civilian ferry pilot.

Bowhan flew West too early from Kansas City, MO on April 23, 1944. He carried Transport pilot certificate T1392. His death certificate is below, from the Missouri Digital Heritage Web site. I blurred his Social Security number.

F.D. Bowhan, Death Certificate, April 23, 1944 (Source: Link)

 

"Chief" Bowhan, Grave Marker, April 23, 1944 (Source: findagrave.com)
"Chief" Bowhan, Grave Marker, April 23, 1944 (Source: findagrave.com)

 

His grave marker is at right. There is at least one other Osage who signed the Register, General Clarence Tinker.

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Below, additional information from Francis Bowhan's grand daughter-in-law. Compare this information with that above.

From "Who's Who Among Oklahoma Indians", 1927:
" F.D. Bowhan, Osage: Born at Elgin, Kansas, April 30, 1901.  Son of M.T. Bowhan and Ida M. (Trumbly) Bowhan, Osage.  Educated at the Public Schools, Pawhuska, Oklahoma; Wentworth Military Academy, Lexington, Missouri, and Business College, Hutchinson, Kansas. Married Charlotte Blair of Sedan, Kansas, June 17, 1921. Member A.F.
& A.M. [Ancient Free & Accepted Masons].  White Hair Lodge, Pawhuska, Oklahoma.  Engaged in farming and stock raising until 1922.  Began study of aviation 1922, Wichita, Kansas.  Member Wichita Flying Club, Wichita, Kansas.  Commissioned Second Lieutenant U.S.A. Air Service, June 19, 1924.  Was Pilot in the Edsel B. Ford Reliability Tour, 1925. Received medal for perfect score on this tour, piloting No. 2, Biplane.  Won Cup, May 9th, 1926, at Wichita, Kansas, for stunt flying, landing with dead stick. Catholic. Democrat. Home: Bowring, Oklahoma."

Bowhan's grand daughter-in-law goes on to say, "His sister, a family genealogist, had written the following about him which I've summarized in part, but most of it is her words, much of which she says was copied from newspaper articles.  Unfortunately, she did not state which newspapers, so I have no source information.  It also confirms the relationship between Mr. Henry King who is shown in the picture of the airplane that he flew when he landed at your
airport and signed the register." From Bowhan's sister's records:

"Before his advent into aviation around 1920, he was just about as good with the family's old Apperson Jack Rabbit automobile and the old J.I. Case in which he preferred making his own roads 'among the stumps and cornfields' rather than using the usual road.  His interest in flying took him from Osage County and the country life to Wichita, Kansas where he learned to fly under the instructions of Walter Beech, who worked for Laird Swallow Aricraft Factory and later started the Beech Aircraft Company.  Francis purchased his own plane and mastered the art of flying, possibly being Osage County's first licensed aviator [but, see Clarence Tinker] and one of the first owners of an airplane there.  With only two hours of solo chalked up in his log, he was taking up passengers from an Osage County cow pasture."

His sister says that he related that if he overshot the field and circled back, "....the passengers would thank him, thinking that he was giving them a longer ride.  His passengers never knew after they were in the air whether he would put them into a tail spin or some other stunt.  Some of the early aviation exploits of Bowhan are recalled by Pawhuskans as the time he landed on 'Murray Lane' later known as Oklahoma highway 99 and the challenge he accepted that he could not fly under the arch on west Main Street bridge.  He was prevented from attempting this dare after much persuasion from friends.  In 1923 pursuing two bank robbers in the Osage Hills was a new spectacle, as when he heard about the robbery took his plane up in search of them, spotting them near the Kansas line, and giving them quite a scare when he dipped down toward them.  No one could predict just what he might try, whether it be knocking bottles from the edge of a hangar with the tip of his right wing, or some other antic that might enter his mind.

"In 1925 he joined the Travel-Air Manufacturing Company as a test pilot and flew in the Ford Motor Company's first Reliability Contest Tour, piloting a Travel-Air ship.  He was among the ten who finished the flight and his name is engraved on the princely silver trophy he received which marked the flight.  In addition to cross countyr races, he was a stunt flyer at Air Shows.  From Travel-Air he went to Cessna Aircraft as test pilot for about 7 years.  Later chief pilot and general manager for Pioneer Aircraft.  Frank Grace, who had a tire factory, sold Cessnas, started the Pioneer Aircraft [Company] with just three planes in Omaha, Nebraska.  From Omaha, Francis went to Des Moines for a passenger airline.

"He was a pilot on the first air freight line from New York to Los Angeles.  A hitch with the Air Express Corporation, flying a ship from Los Angeles to Wichita, Kansas, with a couple of forced landings in the Rockies thrown in, finally landed him a position as a private pilot for Henry King, well known Fox Film Director [see NC13424].  As King's pilot, he flew such stars as Janet Gaynor, Lionel Barrymore, Paul Lukas, and Ken Maynard on cross country flights.  Joining the Burham Exploration company, he went to South America where for some time he was engaged in flying gold ore and chicle, a base for chewing gum, out of the jungle.

"In 1938 he decided to settle down and bought a farm in Arkansas. The fumes of burning gas and the roar of the prop were still vivid memories, however, and he was soon enroute to England aboard an English freighter, a ferry pilot for the British Army, engaged in ferrying planes from one English base to another.  For many years he had known Clyde E. Brayton and regarded him as one of the aviation industry's outstanding pioneers.  In 1941 when he heard that Brayton was operating the Cuero Field, Cuero, Texas, he went to that city and was among the first fourteen pilots to check in at the field and begin work as instructors.

Chalotte Blair Bowhan, Date Unknown (Source: ancestry.com)
Chalotte Blair Bowhan, Date Unknown (Source: ancestry.com)
Francis Dawson Bowhan, Date Unknown (Source: ancestry.com)
Francis Dawson Bowhan, Date Unknown (Source: ancestry.com)

 

"'Chief' getting his 'stripes' as a barnstormer, now has approximately 5,071 hours in the air.  He has spanned more than one country by air, had seen dog fights over London, had dodged German fighters in ferrying planes in England and had experienced practically every thrill known to knights of the air, was recognized as one of the most skilled pilots at the Brayton School and a man who knew what he was talking about when it came to planes.  When he started flying back in the 1920's the modern planes of that day boasted only a half dozen or more gadgets, whereas the modern warplane at this time - the pilot had some fifty instruments at his disposal."

Finally, a clipping from a St. Louis paper (no date; late 1920s?):

SWALLOW PILOT AND WIFE LOST IN THE DESERT --  "...Chief Hart [sic, i.e., Francis (?); Hart was his father] Bowhan, flying a Swallow airplane from the Wichita factory to Oakland, Cal., is somewhere in the mountains or deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, but all efforts to locate him from Wichita have failed.  Mrs. Bowhan is with him.  Mr. & Mrs. Bowhan left Wichita last Saturday to deliver a Swallow plane to Oakland...Three days passed, however, and the pilot had traveled only as far as Albuquerque, N.M.  He telegraphed J.M. Moellendick, President of the Swallow Airplane Company, from that city.  This was the last time he has been heard from.  In that message, Bowhan said they had encountered very bad weather and heavy fogs that forced them to nose along slowly...Mr. Moellendick replied by telegraphing money for further expenses and the advice to take no chances. Bowhan is flying a Swallow plane painted gold, an unusual and consequently noticeable color among flying machines.  The plane would be easily traced..."

There was no follow-up story. His grand daughter-in-law concludes, "'Chief' Bowhan passed away just before his 44th birthday, but packed a lot of living in that brief time doing what he loved most--flying!"

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UPLOADED: 03/10/08 REVISED: 03/31/08, 04/14/08, 03/04/20

 
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The image of pilot Bowhan, as well as anecdotes from Bowhan family history, are shared with us by his granddaughter-in-law.

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