• Nelson Bowdish

    Artist, inventor and boat builder from Skaneateles, NY

    Nelson S. Bowdish was born in the Town of New LIsbon Otsego County N.Y. December 19 1831 and when a young man moved to Richfield Springs.  He served in the Civil War, acting as Adjutant of the Third Regient of the Volunteer Light Artillery, State of New York, ranking as Captain of Infantry from which service he was transferrred. While residing at Richfield Springs he became past master of Richfield Springs Lodge and High Priest of Richfield Springs Chapter, R.A.M.


    Mr. Bowdish came to Skaneateles in 1876 and with the exception of some years spent in Clayton, NY and Cornwall on the Hudson, NY had made the village his home. He was in early life a builder of church organs and later engaged as a photographer but his life work was as a landscape artist.  Many of his pictures are owned in Skaneateles, while others are owned in various parts of the state. He possessed the spirit of a true artist and was a great lover of nature.  He was a warm admirer of Skaneateles Lake and of the charming scenery of the locality and of other parts of his native state.


    He and his family started Bowdish and Company in the 1880’s a manufacturing company of small boats, canoes, small sailboats and steam launches. They invented and held patents for their steam engine improvements. This company later became the Bowdish Manufacturing Co. and then changed to become the Skaneateles Boat and Canoe Company in 1893 which was started by two Bowdish employees George Smith and James Ruth.


    Both Edward Romaine and his father Nelson S. Bowdish painted and were active artists.  Nelson remained in Skaneateles and painted landscapes and Edward Romaine moved to Yonkers and remained a professional artist for his lifetime. Their pictures are found in many Skaneateles homes and their style, different from John D. Barrow’s, can be recognized by many who collect and appreciate local landscapes.   For more information on the boats and the Bowdish family stop by The Creamery – The Skaneateles Historical Association in Skaneateles.

    Thanks to Barbara Bendall Spain and Karen Richards Anklin for their information on the Bowdish family and boat building in Skaneateles.