Sunday, July 1, 2012

History of William Cowan

From this website and this website:

The following information about the Cowan family came from notes made by Alice Jane Peacock Cowan Lewis, daughter of Sarah Grayson and William Cowan written in 1946 while she was recovering from a fractured thigh. This information is undocumented and is strictly from the memoirs of an elderly lady as she recalled what she had heard in her childhood.

The Cowans first came to Pennsylvania. They landed in Philadelphia in about 1634 from a southern port in England with Lord Baltimore. Cholera broke out, and only 3 brothers of the Cowans survived--Sam, William, and George, ages about 12, 15, and 17 years. These three boys struck out through the wilderness of Pennsylvania with an axe as their only weapon. They were attacked by a bear, which they killed and used for food. Finally they reached the Ohio River where they cut poles and made a crude raft on which they floated down the river to the junction with the Tennessee. A storm overtook them and broke up the raft. William and Sam saved themselves, but George was lost, and they never saw him again. Many years later it was rumored that George Cowan reached Oregon. William and Sam made their way into Tennessee and bound themselves out to a tanner. It is not known who these brothers married, but William, Samuel, and George continued to be popular Cowan names.

The following information was sent in 1986 from Joseph H. Cowan, 255 Lake Merced Hill, San Francisco, CA 94132. He had received it from Minerva (No last name given, but I believe it is Minerva Shacklett), who was the daughter of John Seaborn Cowan, son of Benjamin Franklin Cowan, son of William Cowan; he had received the information in 1977. I believe that Minerva Shacklett owned the Cowan family Bible records of Benjamin Franklin Cowan and his wife, Minerva Hicks.

WILLIAM COWAN was born January 1801 in Knox Co, Tennessee and died January 25, 1865 in Whitwell, Tennessee. He married CYNTHIA MORGAN December 08, 1822 in Tennessee. (SEE HEADSTONE FOR PROOF OF DATES)

Notes for W

William Cowan was born about 1800 in Tennessee, according to census records. On December 8, 1822, he married Cynthia Morgan and they had 11 children: Seabird, Samuel C., Sarah, Reuben, William, Esther, Mary, Caroline, Benjamin Franklin or “Doc”, Francis M., and Joseph. Most of their children were born in Marion County, Tennessee.

We can get an idea of the way William lived from the following information on William Cowan. This is from a letter written by Minerva Shacklett’s Aunt Grace, who was a daughter of Benjamin Franklin Cowan. Benjamin Cowan was a son of William Cowan.

Minerva had heard from her father that 2 orphan Cowan boys came to Tennessee from North Carolina, but nothing more. She included a copy of a letter written by her Aunt Grace, daughter of Benjamin Franklin Cowan. Grace thought that William Cowan's name was William Seth Cowan; but it could have been William Stephen. The following information is from her letter:

"William Cowan had a large farm and owned a big flour mill on the Sequatchie River;he also owned a big saw mill and handled lots of timber. Grace often heard her grandmother tell of hauling logs out with teams of 4 oxen and floating them down the river to Bridgeport, Alabama, just across the state line in Jackson county. He owned land from Victoria to the Sequatchie county line from the tops of mountains clear across the valley. He grew the first cotton in Marion county and was a lover of fine horses. He owned a stable full and raised many fine horses. Grace could recall the nice barn that was still in good condition when she was about 12. He was considered a wealthy man; they had a nice colonial home 4 miles above Whitwell(TN); the place is still known as the 'old Cowan place'. She remembered that her brother, John Seaborn Cowan, Minerva's father, saying that he would love to own half of the place." She goes on to say that John was a good, honest man, and when he died, he didn't owe a penny to any one. Her uncle, Joe, was a livery stable man all his life; he lived in Texas and Kansas, but he died in Tennessee. Her uncle, Sam, (this was probably her grand uncle, brother of William), lived at Victoria, was a farmer, and never left the home place all his life. Aunt Sally Pryor and Aunt Pop Taylor were the only girls she remembered. It is not known who these girls were; whether they were sisters of William Cowan or not; these are not names of his daughters.

We do not know the parents of William Cowan or of his wife, Cynthia Morgan Cowan. The first reference to a Cowan in Marion County, TN is in the County Deed Book A (pg. 4, dated 1785) in which 20,000 acres of land is awarded to a Stokely Donaldson. One of the witnesses was a William Cowan. This is some 15 years before our William was born. Could this William be his father or grandfather?

The first census in which our William Cowan appears is in the 1830 Marion County, TN census. He and his wife, Cynthia, are shown as age 20-23 with 2 sons under 5, one son 5-10 and one daughter under 5. He is also shown on an 1836 tax list with his brother Samuel Cowan. Marion County is known as a “burned county”, meaning that many of the records including deed and marriage records burned when the courthouses caught fire. Deed Book C, page 127, shows the sale of 20 acres in Marion County to William Cowan from John Coward on a line from Isaac Hicks' 100 acre survey. Coward had purchased this land from Col. William Mitchell, deceased. In Deed Book C, page 128, there is a land sale on 20 October 1829 from John Coward of Anderson County, Tennessee, to William Cowan of Marion County for $75 a tract of land 65 acres more or less. Witnesses were James Richmond, Henry J. Yarnet, Abram Hosler; these deeds were not registered until 18 October 1833

The 1840 Marion County census shows William, Cynthia and 4 sons and 3 daughters. On March 5, 1847, William Cowan purchased 120 acres of land for $400. 

On 2 July, 1843, it was ordered by the county court that William Cowan be appointed overseer of that part of the public road of which A. E. Griffith was formerly the overseer. In 1844 William Cowan of the 3rd District was summoned to serve as a grand juror. In 1845 James Carlock, Trustee of Marion County, appeared in open court and entered into a bond with D. Rankin and William Cowan securities for the faithful payment of the school funds for the present year.

The 1850 Census of Marion County lists William and Syntha, as her name was often spelled, and lists the names of their five children. The entire family listed Tennessee as their birthplaces.

By 1860, William lists his occupation as a farmer with value of his real estate as $3000; personal property at $1000. The agricultural census of Towney’s Creek shows the following information: 70 acres improved land, 60 acres unimproved, with a cash value of $1500 for the farm and $20 value of implements and machinery; 2 horses, 2 milk cows, 2 other cattle, 7 sheep, 30 swine, with total value of livestock at $300. In the year preceding 1 June, 1860, the farm produced 22 bushels of wheat, 350 bushels of Indian corn, 10 lbs. wool, 3 bushels peas and beans, 11 bushels Irish potatoes, $4 orchard products, 50 lb. butter, 60 gallons molasses, 2 lbs. beeswax, 60 lb. honey; $30 of homemade goods manufactured and the value of slaughtered animals was set at $60.

Since William Cowan died in 1865, in Whitwell, TN, he was not in the 1870 census, but his widow, Cynthia, is shown with her youngest son, Joseph, living at home with her.

 On the 1880 Census Cynthia is shown with son Benjamin and his family. Her birthplace is given as Ohio; this is an error, I believe. On every other census Tennessee was given as her birthplace. Also her parents' birthplaces were not shown.

William Cowan and his wife, Cynthia, are buried at Red Hill Cemetery at Whitwell. His tombstone was broken in the 1980's, and Euline Harris of Whitwell was planning to have it repaired. I have not been back to the cemetery since, so I do not know if this has been done. Cynthia lived on for some 25 years after her husband died. According to the information from Grace, Cynthia Cowan died after falling and hitting her head on a bed post

William Cowan and Cynthia are buried at Red Hill Cemetery in Whitwell, TN. William’s granddaughter, Sarah Cowan, and her husband G.W. Pickett continued to live on at the W. Cowan farm, according to the notes of Paul Cowan, Sr. Today there is a Cowan-Pickett Road in Whitwell, TN, but there are no longer any descendants carrying the Cowan name in the town. 

CENSUS: 1830; TN; Marion Co.; Roll 175; p. 53

Lott, Matthew H.10310001 / 1202001
Stone, William120001 / 012201
Pankey, Potts00111 / 000001
Weaver, James210001 / 110001
Jones, Robert11101 / 01001
Braden, Margarett-0- / 00000100001
Griffith, Thomas2003001 / 0210101
Barker, Mary001 / 00010001
Stephens, Mashack0101100001 / 0011000001
Salmonds, Jacob0001 / 000001
Littrell, William10110001 / 0120101
Hicks, Elijah00000100101 / 0000000101
Hicks, Elijah M.00001 / 20001
Cleckler, John000001 / 000001
Horsler, Abram110001 / 11101
Cowan, William21001 / 10001(Cynthia MORGAN)
McLain, Daniel1000001 / 011001
Hargiss, Solomon1201001 / 111101
McReynolds, Samuel01111001 / 0100101
Hudson, Elijah30011 / 10001
Burgess, William Jr.1111001 / 0021001(s/o William Burgess/Eleanor ---) (wf. Sarah ---)

TAX LIST: TN; Marion Co.; 1836 Tax List; online with a map showing districts at ; copied by Euline Harris from Microfilm
Note: Men living in this county who are age 50 or older are not given on this list, for in Tennessee, this is the tax cut-off age.

District 3
Joshua Ashburn, James Anderson, Ephraim Brannon , Aaron Branum, Larken Benyard, W Broumley, Larken Brumley, John Burnett, William Barker, Michael Burkhalter, John Budge, Benjamin Condra, Abraham Coffelt, Henry Coffelt , John Edward Cawood, William Cowan, David Griffith, Samuel Grayson, Matthew Griffith, Matthew Griffith Sr, Hardin Griffith, Patsy Grayson, Samuel Griffith, Henry Grayson, George Griffith, John Griffith, Jephu Griffith, Amos Griffith, John Holland, Stewart Hilliard, Joel Hilliard, Alexander Hall, Robert Hammet, Samuel Hackworth, Elijah Hudson, Solomon Hargis, Jephu Hugh, William Hodge, Isaac Hodge, Anderson Davis, John Hall, James Hawkins, Robert Hawkins, Lewis Hendrix, Tarelton Hendrix, Henry Hackworth, Austin Hackworth, Stephen Hicks, John Johnston, James Jackson, Churchwill Jackson, Benjamin Johnston, Charles Johnston, William R Jones, John Jones, James Kilmer, Jacob Kilmer, Thomas Knight, John Looney, John Lathram, Charles Merritt, Thompson Metcalf, Thomas Merriet, A McReynolds, Daniel McClain, Samuel McReynolds, William Morrison, Joseph Morrison, Barry Majors, James McKinney, James Martin, Stephen Marlow, George Marlow, George Moore, John Pryor, Edward Pickett, Seth Pryor, Jephu Poinor, George Poinor, P Pickett, Matthew Poinor?, Charles Privett, Jane A Price, John A Pickett, Green Pryor, John Rainbolt, Jephu Rogers, John Rogers, Malachion, Thomas Ridge, Robert Raines, John Ross, William Ridge, David Rankin, William Smith, Jephu Shirley, Thomas Smith, William Standefer, William Stone, Elinor Smith, David Strophire, John Tharpe, Catherine Tharpe, Edward Tatum, Mary Tatum, Howell Tatum, William Williams, William A Williams, Matthew Williams, and Henry Conaster.

CENSUS: 1840; TN; Marion Co.: Roll: 528; p. 271
Cowan, Samuel210001 / 021001
Griffith, David000000001 / 01211001
Cowan, William0112001 / 111001
Griffith, Samuel12211001 / 0100102
Lashbern, Joshua023101 / 200101

CENSUS: 1850; TN; Marion Co.; District 3; Roll: M432_889; Page: 380; Image: 330
hh 57/57 5 Sep 1850
Cowan, William49 TN Farmer $1000
Cowan, Syntha45 TN CP (Cynthia MORGAN)
Cowan, William 19 TN Farmer
Cowan, Easter16 TN
Cowan, Mary14 TN
Cowan, Franklin 8 TN
Cowan, Joseph 2 TN

CENSUS: 1860; TN; Marion Co.; District 3; Roll: M653_1263; Page: 233; Image: 470; Family History LIbrary Film: 805263
hh 112/111 7 Jun 1860 PO Cheekville
Cowen, William59 TN Farmer $2,000/$1,000
Cowen, Syntha52 TN (Cynthia MORGAN)
Cowen, Esther26 TN
Cowen, Mary F.23 TN
Cowen, Benjamin18 TN
Cowen, Joseph12 TN

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