Born at "Maiden Springs" near Tazewell, Virginia, Bowen attended Abingdon Academy and later engaged in agricultural pursuits. He was appointed a brigadier general in the Virginia Militia by Governor Henry A. Wise in 1856 and served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1863 to 1865. Bowen was magistrate of Tazewell County, Virginia for several years prior to the Civil War and was presiding judge of the county court a portion of that time. He was elected a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives in 1872, serving from 1873 to 1875 and afterwards resumed engagements in agricultural pursuits. Bowen died at his estate called "Maiden Springs" in Tazewell County, Virginia on August 29, 1879 and was interned in the family cemetery on the estate.