Analysis. Issues with the Cowan's Gap Cowans

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Documentation

Sources

SourcesDocumentsRelated
Source:Maurer, 1899
Source:Cowan, 1928
Source:Orr and Cowan, 1970
Source:Fleming, 1971:377









Data:Cowan Land Warrants Old Chester PA
Cowan Tax Records|Cowan Tax Records
Data. Cowan's in the 1790 PA, US Census
Document. Excerpt from Orr, January, 1970
Document. Burning of the Old Cowan House
Document. Romance of Cowan's Gap
Document. The Real Story of Cowan's Gap
James Cowan Land Transfer
Notes for Cowans of Cowans Gap
Letter Miller to Cowan 1865



YDNA. Cowan Surname
Mary Unknown
Person:Samuel Cowan (17)
person:Hugh Cowan (7)
Person:Robert Cowan (17)
person:Edward (1)
person:Archibald Cowan (2)
Cowan's Gap Cowans
Octoraro Creek Cowans
YDNA
Wife of Samuel Cowan
The Cowan Homestead
Lower Path Valley Prebyterian Cemetery


Introduction

Cowan's Gap in Fulton County, Pennsylvania is named for an early settler in the area, Samuel Cowan. Samuel secured a 104 acre parcel at Cowan's Gap through a 1785 land warrant. The property was surveyed and patented a few years later. Nearby a Hugh Cowan took out a warrant on the same day that Samuel took out his own warrant. It seems highly likely that the two men were brothers, or at least close kin. Hugh dissappears from the tax records after 1791, and is not present in the 1800 census. He is presumed to be either dead, or to have left the immediate area. [1] On the otherhand, tax and census records show that Samuel continued to occupy this property up until about 1829 (See Data. Cowan Tax Records for Air and Dublin Townships, Bedford County, PA). An 1848 land transfer [2] shows that Samuel's property had passed into the hands of his son James. In 1848 James transferred this property to the sons (William, Hugh, and David) of his fathers unnamed brother, in exchange for past and future assistance. In 1850 Samuel is absent from the census record, but the three brothers are present on the property. At that time the head of household is listed as 72 year old Mary Cowan. Ten years later Mary and Hugh are missing, and William is listed as HOH, with David and 102 year old Margaret Cowan also shown as present.

The presence of 72 year old Mary Cowan (born 1778) in 1850, and 102 year old Margaret Cowan (born 1758) in 1860 introduces considerable confusion in to the family picture. While we don't know the identity of the father of William, David, and Hugh (per James Cowan's land transfer to them), we at least know that they were the nephews of Samuel Cowan. We have no such certainty about Mary and Margaret. Mary seems to be too young to be the wife of a man who acquired the property at Cowan's Gap in 1784, and certainly too young to be the "old woman" of Maurer's "Romance of Cowan's Gap". Margaret, on the otherhand, is appropriately aged to be Samuel's wife, but if Samuel's wife, why wasn't she present in the 1850 census? The most common interpretation is that Mary and Margaret are the same person (perhaps "Mary Margaret Cowan"), and (tacitly) assume that the 1850 census age for this person is in error. This seems to receive acceptance because it conforms with the age (102) of "the old woman" in Maurer's 1899 article. Why "Mary" takes precedance over "Margaret" is not yet clear. In anycase, while this interpretation is commonly accepted (perhaps unthinkingly) it is likely that neither Mary nor Margaret were the wife of Samuel, the settler of Cowan's Gap. Rather, one or the other is most likely the wife of Samuel's unnamed brother, and mother of William, David, and Hugh.

Confusion

Given the number of steps in the transmission chain, and the considerable age of some of the parties involved (not the least of which is the original interviewee who was 102 at the time she related the above story), there would seem to be ample room for error to have crept into this story. Some elements can be verified, others can not. For example census records show that there was a "Margaret Cowan, age 102" present in this area in the 1860, just two years after "Mrs Cowan. age 102" gave her testimony. Even here, though, confusion abides; while we can confirm the age of Mrs. Cowan, we can't confirm her given name---Margaret Cowan may have been age 102, but none of our primary sources ever identify "Mrs. Cowan" as Margaret.

Story elements that are problematic include the following:

  • The name of the woman interviewed She is not identified by name in the Chambersburg Chronicle (1878), or in Source:Maurer, 1899. At best in these documents she is simply referred to as "the old woman". Source:Orr and Cowan, 1970, refer to her alternatively as "Mrs. John Cowan" or "Mrs. Samuel Cowan".[3]. Source:Cowan, 1928, based on personal family information, identifies her as "Mary Mueller Cowan".
  • The name of the original settler of Cowan's Gap. The Chambersburg Chronicle article identifies him as "Edgar Cowan". Maurer, 1899 identifies him as John Cowan. Cowan 1928 identifies him as James Robert Cowan. Orr and Cowan 1970 can't make up their minds between John and Samuel Cowan. Fleming identifies him as Samuel Cowan. Many genealogist spliting the difference between John and Samuel, identify him as "John Samuel Cowan".
  • The Relationships of the person in the household at Cowan's Gap to Samuel Cowan." There is an assumption implicit in many of these stories that "the old woman" was the wife of the original settler of the property "Samuel Cowan". Likewise, there is an assumption that the other men of the household (in particular Hugh, William, and David Cowan), all of whom are identified as living there in 1850 and/or 1860 census) are his sons. I suspect that neither of these assumptions is correct; and the second assumption can be shown to be exactly wrong, as will be discussed below.

Confusion

Given the number of steps in the transmission chain, and the considerable age of some of the parties involved (not the least of which is the original interviewee who was 102 at the time she related the above story), there would seem to be ample room for error to have crept into this story. Some elements can be verified, others can not. For example census records show that there was a "Margaret Cowan, age 102" present in this area in the 1860, just two years after "Mrs Cowan. age 102" gave her testimony. Even here, though, confusion abides; while we can confirm the age of Mrs. Cowan, we can't confirm her given name---Margaret Cowan may have been age 102, but none of our primary sources ever identify "Mrs. Cowan" as Margaret.

Story elements that are problematic include the following:

  • The name of the woman interviewed She is not identified by name in the Chambersburg Chronicle (1878), or in Source:Maurer, 1899. At best in these documents she is simply referred to as "the old woman". Source:Orr and Cowan, 1970, refer to her alternatively as "Mrs. John Cowan" or "Mrs. Samuel Cowan".[3]. Source:Cowan, 1928, based on personal family information, identifies her as "Mary Mueller Cowan".
  • The name of the original settler of Cowan's Gap. The Chambersburg Chronicle article identifies him as "Edgar Cowan". Maurer, 1899 identifies him as John Cowan. Cowan 1928 identifies him as James Robert Cowan. Orr and Cowan 1970 can't make up their minds between John and Samuel Cowan. Fleming identifies him as Samuel Cowan. Many genealogist spliting the difference between John and Samuel, identify him as "John Samuel Cowan".
  • The Relationships of the person in the household at Cowan's Gap to Samuel Cowan." There is an assumption implicit in many of these stories that "the old woman" was the wife of the original settler of the property "Samuel Cowan". Likewise, there is an assumption that the other men of the household (in particular Hugh, William, and David Cowan), all of whom are identified as living there in 1850 and/or 1860 census) are his sons. I suspect that neither of these assumptions is correct; and the second assumption can be shown to be exactly wrong, as will be discussed below.


Yellow Hexagon, Samuel Cowan's Land

Green Hexagon, Hugh Cowan's Land (very approximate (best guess)
Blue line, Licking Creek
Green line, LIttle Auguinet Creek
Light blue line, Conochogue Creek
Purple line, Conodoguinet Creek
Red dashed line, Forbes Road

Salmon Hexagon: Samuel Cowan (17) at Cowan's Gap (1785)
Orange Hexagon:Hugh Cowan (7) on a branch of Licking Creek (1785)
Purple Hexagon:John Cowan land on Licking Creek (1870's)
Pale Blue Hexagon:Edward Cowan land at Roaring Springs 1786

Notes

Origin of Cowans Gap

According to: wp:Cowans Gap State Park citing PA State Parks literature:

Cowans Gap is named for John and Mary Cowan, who settled there just after the American Revolution. The Cowans met in Boston in 1775. John Samuel Cowan was from a Loyalist family and Mary Mueller was from a Patriot family. Cowan reached the rank of Major in the British Army during the war, and returned to Boston at the conclusion of the war to ask for Mary's hand in marriage. The Mueller family forbade the marriage and John and Mary eloped. At first they settled in Chambersburg, where they lived for a few years before heading out for Kentucky. Their wagon was disabled while crossing Conococheague Creek near Fort Loudoun, so John Cowan traded his horses and broken wagon to a Tuscarora chief for the land that is now known at Cowans Gap. Cowan received a peace pipe and tomahawk rights, which entailed marking a large chestnut tree on his property with three slashes, as a sign of peace with the Tuscarora. John Cowan secured a deed for the land from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1785. The Cowans built their home along Forbes Road near the present day intersection of Aughick Road and Stumpy Lane.

The land warrant for this property was issued to "Samuel Cowan" about 1785. A Mary Cowan appears in the 1850 census as a HOH in what is believed to be the general area of Cowan's Gap; she could could be the "Mary" in this story, but from the age she gives her DOB would have been about 1779. Also in this household is an adult William Cowan. He appears in the 1860 census as HOH, with a Margaret Cowan age 102. The age of this margaret matches that stated by B.L. Mauerer in his 1899 article about the "Romance of Gowans Gap". Perhaps this is the same person as "Mary" in the 1850 census, but with a different given age. In any event no independent record for a John Cowan,m of the right age, has been found in this area.

Note/U>

From: Madeline Whitney John Cowan, b 1753 Dublin, Ireland, d unknown
m 1775 Mary Mueller b 1757 Germany 1757, d 1859 PA.

son: Samuel Cowan b 1792, Cowan's Gap, Franklin CO. Pa., d 1863 Franklin CO. PA.
buried Lower Path Presbyterian Cemetery, Metal Twp. Franklin CO. PA.
m 1828 Mary Jane Snyder.

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