Tuesday, May 25, 2004


The up-to-date copy of this post will be maintained at http://genweblog.blogspot.com/2006/07/four-cowan-families-by-jennie-f-cowan.html

from a copy of a typescript with notes, sent to me by Dr. Mathison. -v

(Note across the top in JFCs writing: To keep up interest in the Cowans)


By Jennie F. Cowan [written after 1985, JFmathison]

In the early 1800's there lived in Selkirkshire, Scotland, four Cowan brothers, sons of a James Cowan, according to the family of [ii] Andrew, who was born in 1767. The other brothers were; [I] William, born in 1752, [iii] Thomas in 1771 and [iv] Walter in 1778. A couple of these dates have been calculated from newspaper articles at the time of their deaths. [i, ii remained in USA; iii died in Scotland, iv came to Canada)

The people in Scotland had been hearing more and more about America, a land on the other side of the Atlantic needing settlers. There the common man could own land, cut down the trees on it, construct buildings, till the soil, sow seed and reap fruits of his handiwork. In
Scotland most of the land was still in the hands of the Lords.

[ii] Andrew and his family of Whitefield were the first of these Cowans to settle in Delaware County, N.Y. State. They settled near Fall Clove.

No descendants of [ii] Andrew have ever moved to Ontario. Mrs Adam Scott, one of Walter's grandchildren could remember when cousins, with the surname "Biggar", were over visiting. Andrew's second daughter, Janet, married Walter Biggar of Bovina, N.Y.

James Cowan of Clochmhor corresponded with another daughter, Mrs Margaret Neish of Erin, N.Y. When his youngest son, A. B. Cowan was spending a holiday in California, he saw a great deal of Adam Cowan and his daughter, Dr. Isabel Cowan of Rodney, Iowa. They were descendants of

[Wm, like Andrew never moved to ONTARIO, but his son, James of the Plains, came to Dumfries near Galt in 1829]
i) William was the next one to settle in Deleware County. A very high hill separated the two Cowan farms. A grandson of William could remember his grandfather walking over the mountain once a year to visit his brother. After his death, there was no contact with that family until Mrs Murray Mayes (Bertha Cowan), a descendant of William, made it.

William had come over to Deleware county in 1821. He was a widower, coming over with a daughter and her family. His oldest son had already gone to Australia. In 1829 his second son, James [later ? Cowan Lake], and his family settled in Dumfries, Upper Canada. They took up land on the Plains at the western edge of the village of Galt. Later his farm was usually described as being on the Cedar Creek Rd. Mr. R.K. Cowan, one of his grandsons told he had heard of American relatives, who had visited that farm. One had taken the children to see the circus which had just come to Galt. None of them were allowed to enter for their cousin had only American currency. Later they realized how fortunate they were for many of the attenders contracted the fatal Asiatic cholera. W. D. Cowan, off the West River Road told me in the early 1920's, after my sister married Thomas D. Cowan, that these Cowan families were related but they didn't know how.

Some of the descendants of William, through his son, James are Charlton Cowan, Southwood Dr., Mrs. A. E. Dedman, New Dundee, Jessie, Ethel and Stewart Cowan, Drumbo, Wm. NcCulloch, Toronto. Some in this family went to the prairies. One descendant is Mrs Jean Taylor, Wawota, Saskatchewan. Mrs Murray Mayes (Bertha Cowan)[Fleischmanns,] N.Y. 1230 knows more of William's descendants in Deleware County N.Y.

iii) Walter came over to Dumfries in 1829 on the same boat as his nephew, James [James of the Plains]. He settled on land at the southern edge of the village on the West River Road. His oldest son, James Scott Cowan [later of Altrieve Lake] had come to Galt before his father, and had arranged for his father to purchase this land if he wished it. James Scott Cowan was the first Cowan into this part of Upper Canada, working for the Hon. Wm. Dickson. He later bought land for himself on what became known as the Roseville Rd. He had found a small lake on this land which reminded him of the Altrieve Lake on the farm of James Hogg, the Ettrich (sic) Shepherd writer and poet. James Hogg helped to advertise the Hon. Wm. Dickson's land in Scotland.

Walter became a strong member of the orginal St. Andrew's Church in connection with the Church of Scotland. At one time, he had been in the Manor Church, near Cademuir, Presbytery of Peebles, Scotland. When Bertha Mayes visited that old church she was given circulars telling its age, etc. It was founded in 1186 and its bell had been "summoning the folk of the lovely valley to worship God" from 1478 on. It was the church in which Walter's son, William had been baptized.

In 1889, one night when the wreckers would soon be demolishing the Old St. Andrew's Church, Galt, William Cowan [half brother of James Scott Cowan], son of Walter, along with some friends removed the bell from the belfry and hid it. It can still summon folk to worship God, for it was bought by Knox's Presbyterian Church in 1893 and hangs in its belfry.

Some of Walter's descendants are Dr. J.W.G. Grant McEwen [commonly known as Grant McEwan b. Aug 12, 1902], Calgary, former Lt. Governor of Alberta, Mrs Milton Mann (Jennie Cowan) London, Mrs Norman Wainman, (Margaret Blake) Avenue Rd. Ian Landreth, Thomas Cowan (Landreth), Helen Scott Arthur, John McIntyre all of Cambridge.

Thomas the other brother never left Scotland. His arthritic legs forced him to even give up his work as a shepherd at Cramilt. He and his wife [Elizabeth Hastie, sister of James Hastie] retired in Moffat, where she gained experience in midwifery. Thomas was anxious his family would be prepared to leave for Dumfries after his death, so he corresponded with the relatives who had already settled there. Mrs Thomas Cowan, her sons, James and William and daughter Margaret as well as James' bride, Helen Laing, her mother and two sisters settled north of Galt, in 1834; Thomas had died in 1833. This farm was in Waterloo Township but touched the town line between Dumfries and Waterloo Townships. They named this farm, Clochmhor, after the high hill on Cramilt.

William [brother of James of Clochmhor] died in 1839 and Margaret married James Shaw, who lived nearer Hespeler. James Cowan was soon into municipal politics: he was a member of Parliament in the early 1860's. He lost his seat in 1866 for he had lost faith in Geo. Brown [Liberal], and was supporting John A. Macdonald [Tory]. In a couple of years, he was appointed a Dominion Arbitrator serving until 1892. He was born in 1803 and died 1900. Soon after he came to Galt, he supported Dr. John Bayne in founding the Free Presbyterian Church of Canada and Knox's Church, Galt. He gave many years of service as Clerk of the Kirk Session
of Knox's Church.

Some of Thomas' descendants are, James [F.] Cowan, West River Rd., Mrs Douglas Chalk,(Janet Cowan) Cambridge, James E. Cowan Cambridge (H), Marion Cowan, Toronto, Mrs Don Virgo, (Helen Cowan), Montreal, Mrs Wm. Little (Joan Cowan) Stratford, Dr. Laing Gray Cowan of near Washington D.C., R. D. Ferguson, Walkerton, and Mrs Ken Campbell, (Helen Ferguson), grandchildren of Helen Shaw Ferguson, Marion Shaw, John Shaw, Kitchener, James Shaw, Guelph, Mrs Gordon Klager (Margaret Shaw), William Shaw, Mississauga, Mrs Archie Lawrence, (Isabel Shaw) Burlington, and Marjorie Shaw, Ottawa. [James F. + Janet(?) g.ch. of James Hastie Cowan. James E + Marim + Helen ch. of Thomas Deans Cowan]

James Cowan of Clochmhor corresponded with his American cousins and kept some of the letters. These helped in finding the descendants of [i] William and [ii] Andrew in Delaware, County N.Y. The husband of a school friend of my mother's contacted Andrew Cowan of New Kingston for me. Andrew wrote saying he knew he had relatives in this part of Canada but they had lost track of them.

I copied out the letter we had from New Kingston N.Y. Andrew and his daughter Bertha went through his grandfather's correspondence. They found a page with a blot on it, with the first part of the letter to his cousin, James Cowan of Galt.

Andrew Cowan, his wife and daughter came to Galt to meet their Canadian long lost relatives.

(I am indebted to Dr. James Matheson for xeroxing some of the articles in the early Galt papers, written at the time of the deaths of the Cowan men).

Jennie Cowan

(Note in handwriting: When Dr. C. Cowan of Hamilton was Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, on meeting him I said something about marrying a Cowan. He said "You are a Cowan." JFC)


Please see Cowans in the Wellington County Historical Atlas: http://genweblog.blogspot.com/2006/07/cowans-in-wellington-county-historical.html for comparison.


1869-1917 Ontario Archives, microfilm MS 932
#011719-78 Walter Scott COWAN, 35, Canada, Puslinch, b, farmer, s/o Walter COWAN & Margaret McPHAIL, married Annie McPHERSON, 20, Canada, Puslinch, s, d/o Alex McPHERSON & Jane McPHERSON, witn; Donald STEWART, Daniel McNAUGHTON, both Puslinch, married 16 October 1878, Gore of Puslinch
1878 marriages from MS 932, Wellington: http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~maryc/welg78.htm


Digging in my garden it's come to me that living relatives can be like dandelions... popping up all over and everywhere. And most times you want to yank them around! Now dead relatives, that's another thing. They're like tulips and daffodils. These beauties come up from deep below bringing messages of love to all who see them. I like to think that they carry messages from my departed grandparents straight to me. - Donna Phillips, May 13, 2004, Genealogyblog.com: http://www.genealogyblog.com/index.php?p=1957&more=1&c=1

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