John was born near Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky, the son of Col. Abraham Bowman and his wife Sarah Henry Bryan (widow of Col. David Bryan). John studied law under Henry Clay in Lexington and was licensed to practice law in 1809.
John was a Private in Captain David Todd's Company in the Kentucky Militia during the War of 1812.
By 1816, John was living in a cabin built by his Uncle Joseph Bowman on the Boyle/Mercer County line near Danville. John married Mary Mitchum, daughter of Dudley Mitchum & his wife Susannah Allen, on November 27, 1817.
They had four sons: Abraham Hite (1819-1877), Dudley Mitchum (1820-1901), John Bryan (1824-1891) and David Bryan Bowman (1826-1829). The family bible records includes an adopted daughter, Joanna M. Steele, born Dec 25, 1826. She was the daughter of Mary's sister.
In 1825, John inherited "Bellevue" from his cousin John Bowman who had died the previous year. After Mary's death, John continued to live there along with his son Dudley and family.
John was one of the early trustees of Bacon College in Harrodsburg.
John's will, written March 17, 1864 and proved April 7, 1873, named his three living sons (Mercer County Will Book 18, pages 140 & 141). Much of his property had been divided among his sons prior to the writing of the will.