Samuel and Nathaniel Cowan settled in Knoxville TN, before 1793. They were among the towns earliest settlers, and established a store on what is now Gay Street, the heart of Knoxville's merchant district. There are numerous records for them in the area, showing their role as merchants. James Cowan also settled here, and is thought by researchers to be the brother of the better known Samuel and Nathaniel.
Based on YDNA results there are several lines of descent with comparable YDNA signatures. The designation "Knoxville Merchants Cowan Group", is arbitrary, and does not mean that others belonging to this group are descended from Samuel, Nathaniel or James, or that those lines even passed through Knoxville. Most of these lines seem to point to a South Carolina locale, but one of the earliest lines shown (at YDNA._Cowan_Groups) points to an origin in New Jersey. One possibility is that the common ancestor of this group settled initially in New Jersey sometime before the Revolution. Children of that ancestor them migrated south into South Carolina. James, Samuel, and Nathaniel might have migrated to Knoxville, either from New Jersey, or from South Carolina. >More work on the relationships between members of this YDNA group is needed to establish their group history.
Court records exist to show that Samuel and Nathaniel Cowan had numerous business dealings in Blount County. There are specific records showing that they had dealings with various Cowan's from that area. This is sometimes taken to imply a family connection between the Blount County Cowans and Samuel and Nathaniel Cowan. YDNA for descendants of the Blount County Cowans shows that they are in the YDNA. Seven Brothers Cowan Group, and do not show a common Cowan Ancestor with the Knoxville Cowans, so this line of reasoning can be ruled out.