Rowe, Samuel (1835-1888) (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 49
Rowe, Samuel (1835-1888)

by Charles Alexander Harris
1904 Errata appended.

ROWE, Sir SAMUEL (1835–1888), colonial governor, born at Macclesfield, Cheshire, on 23 March 1835, was youngest son of George Hambly Rowe, a Wesleyan minister, by Lydia, daughter of John Ramshall of London. He was educated at private schools, and subsequently studied medicine, partly under Joseph Denton of Leicester. He qualified in 1856. He obtained an appointment on the army medical staff in 1862, and was sent to Lagos. Very soon after his arrival there (July 1862) he was appointed a judicial assessor in the chief magistrate's court, and a slave commissioner; the latter post proved one of much difficulty. He afterwards acted as colonial surgeon. Rowe showed peculiar gifts for dealing with the West African native, and was employed as commandant of the eastern districts and special commissioner to make a treaty with Epé in the Jebu country. In July 1864 he went home on leave, and graduated at Aberdeen in 1865 in medicine and surgery. In 1866 he returned to West Africa, and went to Cape Coast Castle; in 1867 he again acted as colonial surgeon at Lagos and superintendent of the houssas. In 1869 he combined civil with medical duties at Lagos, acting as magistrate and clerk of the council. 4 July 1870 he was promoted staff surgeon in the army, and after another stay in England he was ordered to the Gold Coast in January 1872; he became surgeon-major, 1 March 1873.

Rowe had a large share in withstanding the earlier attack of the Ashantis in 1873, and was twice in action near Elmina, for which he received a medal and clasp. When war was actually declared, he was appointed to the expeditionary force under Captain (afterwards Sir John Hawley) Glover [q. v.], and was invaluable in dealing with the natives, especially in enlisting the Yoruba tribe. For these services he was made C.M.G. in 1874. He was appointed in 1875 colonial surgeon of the Gold Coast colony, and retired from the army on 4 Dec. 1876 with the honorary rank of brigade-surgeon. At this time he administered in succession the governments of the Gambia and Sierra Leone; in the latter capacity he successfully conducted two expeditions against the natives in the Sherbro' country, and on 12 June 1877 was appointed governor of the West Africa settlements. On 20 April 1880 he was promoted K.C.M.G., and on 28 Jan. 1881 became governor of the Gold Coast and Lagos. At this time there was fear of another war with the Ashantis, and it was averted almost entirely by Rowe's tact. On 30 Dec. 1884 Rowe again became governor of the West Africa settlements on the special petition of the traders and others. In 1886 he was made an LL.D. of Aberdeen. The following year the advances of the French caused him much anxiety in his government, and his strong constitution began to fail. On 28 Aug. 1888 he died at Madeira, on his way home for change of air.

He married Susannah, daughter of William Gatliff of Hawsker Hall, Whitby, Yorkshire, and widow of Louis de Seilan. He left a son, who died young. Rowe was rough but kindly, and unconventional in his habits of life. The natives called him ‘Old Red Breeches.’ He was an accomplished musician and a good linguist, speaking French, Portuguese, and Italian.

[Official records and private information.]

C. A. H.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.240
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
347 ii 23f.e. Rowe, Sir Samuel: for Hawker read Hawsker