He was lost, now he's found. According to his death record, he wasn't born in 1854, but in 1849. When one is searching for someone and has tried everything one can think of, one should remember that birth and death records are not created using information obtained directly from the individual in question, but from individuals who may not always be completely sure of the facts. A parent is a pretty good source and generally reliable. Mothers more so than fathers, I think. For death information a spouse is pretty reliable. A child giving information on a parent, maybe not so much.
In 1880 John Bowman told the census taker he was 27 years old, making him born either in 1853 or 1854. He was married and had no children yet. In 1900 he gave his birth month as April and his age as 57. In 1910 he said he was 56. (It is the same John Bowman: the spouse and children are exactly the same.) In 1920 he was 66. In 1930, 9 years before his death, he said he was 78. I believe he was born sometime between 1852 and 1854. His only surviving child, Hessie, would have been the one giving the information. I couldn't tell you the year my mother was born without looking, though I do remember my father's birth year.
I'm convinced it's the correct John Bowman. He died in West Bloomfield, Oakland County, Michigan, where he'd been living and farming since 1910. I haven't been able to find a headstone for him or his wife or for Hessie, but I'm sure he died in 1939.
I sound calm, don't I? I'm anything but. This is what keeps me hooked on genealogy; the sweet success of finding something that I searched so hard to find. I'm going to consider it an early birthday gift, this finding the date of death for John Bowman. And you can't see me, but I'm dancing in my chair.