Original: Extract of portion of letter from Andrew Finis Cowan to Miss Columbia Cowan June 7, 1906 Intermeidate: The original was (c2007) in possession of James E. Freeman, Camas, WA. A scanned image of the letter was submitted with Margie Cowan's "First Families of Tennessee" application based on John [Alexander] Cowan and William Cowan, and is available for inspection at the McLung Museum/Library, Knoxville TN. Originally placed on FamilyPedia by Q 14:49, 2 August 2010 (EDT)
In regard to the "romance part" my grandmother Cowan's (nee Walker) sister was carried of [sic] by the Indians to some of the Northern tribes, when she was quite small. I do not know whether it was Canada or not. She remained there until grown when she married the Chief's son. After the Indians settled on their reservations she came back to visit her folks. She had an Indian family and her son became Chief of the tribe. That is all of the connections that I ever knew of being carried off by Indians.
We know from Mrs. Scott's testimony, that Ann Walker Cowan returned from captivity by 1780, and that she was an adult with children at the time of capture. The reference to remaining in captivity "until grown", and during that time marrying an "Indian Chief" would seem to be an example of how information is lost and changed as it is passed down down through oral tradition. Both Andrew Finis Cowan and Thomas Carter, for example, were well removed from the events they reported on. Mrs. Scott, on the otherhand, was an eyewitness event, albeit one describing events she witnessed when a young girl. The loss of information in each of these related documents seems to be directly proportional to the "distance" the authors were from the event when they put their information down in writing. While Mrs. Scott's testimony is closest to the event, and probably provides us our best view of this matter, there's something to be gained from each of the sources of testimony. You just have to be careful about what you accept as true with each source. None can be taken wholly at face value.
Andrew Finis Cowan's testimony is relatively short and compact. Looking at it in more detail has some merit because we can focus on a few relatively important points he makes. Andrew was the grandson of William Cowan who married Jane Walker. When he says:
my grandmother Cowan's (nee Walker) sister was carried of [sic] by the Indians to some of the Northern tribes
we know that he is pointing to ward the capture of Ann Walker Cowan, Jane's sister, c1777 in Castles Woods, VA. From Mrs. Scott's testimony we know that Ann was a married woman at the time of her capture, though her husband Samuel had been killed by Indians the year before.
She remained there until grown when she married the Chief's son. After the Indians settled on their reservations she came back to visit her folks. She had an Indian family and her son became Chief of the tribe. That is all of the connections that I ever knew of being carried off by Indians.
While we know little of Ann's fate, we do know tht she returned to her family in 1784:
This Mrs. Cowan had just gotten back from this captivity as I passed the Crab Orchard [Lincoln Co., KY] coming out [to Kentucky]. Captain [John] Snoddy, and William and Joe Moore’s wives were sisters of her. They [the Moores and Snoddys] had moved there from Clinch and were forted there.
This sounds like she joined her family relations in Kentucky, but perhaps she went on from their to join her son John, and sister Jane in Castle's Woods, before they moved on to Blount County. There's no hint here of marrying an Native American, or having another family. We can add that had Ann in fact been a young girl when captured, the story that Andrew Finis Cowan paints would not have been all that unlikely. In fact, young children who survived their ordeal, were often taken into the tribe, married, and become productive members of the Native American community. However, despite what he says, we know that Ann was a full grown adult at the time of capture, and had at least two children. Though a widow, it does not seem likely that she would have integrated herself into the Native American community. More likely she was among those who were repatriated by the British following the Revolution.
From where comes the idea that she married a Native American and raised a family among them? Most likely this comes from a mixture of other family stories about other kinsmen of Andrew Finis Cowan: Margaret Handly, and William Walker. According to the story told in Johnson's History of Kentucky (1906):
Margaret Handley [Pauley]...was with child [when]...the Pauley's set out for Kentucky from Handley's Fort near Union, VA...They...were attacked by Native Americans about five miles upstream from the point where it enters the New River...Margaret's [husband and] child [were] killed, and she herself made prisoner...The Indians took them north to the Indian towns on the Miami, where she gave birth to the child she was carrying....She was "adopted by Chief White Bark" [and] eventually...released and returned to her people at Union, Va., around 1785.
Not quite the same thing as marrying into the tribe, and having her son become chief, but similar in some respects. The relation to Andrew Finis Cowan's story become more clear when you take into account yet another family story, that of Ann Walker Cowan's nephew, William Cowan. Again from Mrs. Scott's testimony:
Miss Walker, then the widow Ann Cowan was taken going to it from Moore’s. Her and her sister’s [sic, brother's] son, William Walker were taken - her sister married a Walker.
Mrs. Scott did not know William's fate, but his story is given extensively elsewhere: