In 1894, Mr. Bowen volunteered to go to the Yukon to help Bishop Bompas with missionary work for the Anglican Church. Mr. Bowen knew little about the isolated far north of Canada but correctly assumed that a musical instrument would be a cheerful addition. Mr. Bowen required a huge chest of tools to help build the Church and rectory and other needs during his missionary endeavours. The expense added by the concertina had little impact on the freight charges. During the voyage Mr. Bowen taught himself to play the concertina. While learning to play the instrument, Mr. Bowen successfully managed to anger and annoy anyone in ear shot. Of course the concertina was much appreciated once it arrived in the Yukon.
The concertina was first brought to Forty Mile, then Dawson City and finally Whitehorse. The musically starved congregations thoroughly enjoyed its use during the many services. The concertina is a small accordion like instrument invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1844. As a result the concertina was considered a relatively new instrument when it was brought to the Yukon. Typically, concertinas have buttons on both ends and are distinguished from accordions by the direction their buttons travel when pushed. The three types of concertinas are English, Anglo, and the McCann Duet. Mr. Bowen's concertina was an Anglo concertina made by Lachenal and Co. the rival London based concertina company of the Wheatstone Company. Commonly known as a squeezebox this musical instrument provided music and accompaniment to the services at the Christ Church Parish.
Reverend R.J. Bowen came from England in 1895 and served first at Forty Mile, Yukon. Reverend Bowen and Susan Mellett were married by Bishop Bompas. Bowen was recalled from the Diocese of Alaska in 1897 to proceed to Dawson City where he built the first log church, St. Paul's. Unfortunately Reverend Bowen contracted typhoid malarial fever in 1899 and was forced to return to England to recover. He was recalled to the Yukon by Bishop Bompas, accepting the mission at Whitehorse, he arrived on August 1, 1900. He held his first services in a tent and lived in a 12 x 14 tent alongside.
In October, 1900, he supervised the construction of the church, the present Old Log Church Museum, and the foundation was laid for the rectory on January 4, 1901. This was completed and occupied in June, 1901. In May, 1903, Reverend Bowen was again forced to leave the Yukon due to severe illness. He worked in Nanaimo and Ladysmith, BC, before retiring to London, Ontario. Reverend Bowen died in 1952.
Old Log Church Museum, Whitehorse