Old Chester Cowan Tapestry




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Source:Fleming, 1971 The Cowans of County Down
Data:Cowan Land Warrants Old Chester PA
Data. Cowan's in the 1790 PA, US Census
Notebook:Cowans in Old Chester Tax Assessments, Table


Cowans of County Down
The British Origins of the Pequea Valley Cowans
Severing the Chester County, PA Cowans from the Lancaster County, PA Cowans


Like other Scot-Irish families, the Cowan's probably immigrated to Pennsylvania through the ports of Philadelphia or Chester, though some may have come up the Chesapeake Bay to settle in Cecil County. Need data on Cecil County Cowan's Initially, the Cowan's would have settled in the modern counties along the Delaware River, particularly in what is now Chester County. As new lands became available for settlement, many of them, or their grown children, joined by recent arrivals began to settle in the to the west, first in Lancaster, then crossing the Susquehanna about 1730 to settle in Cumberland County, and by the Revolution into the western most portions of Pennsylvania and beyond.

The number of Cowan Heads of Household listed for Pennsylvania Counties in the 1790 census.
County Abbreviations:
Cumb - Cumberland
Dauph - Dauphin
Fay - Fayette
Frank - Franklin
Mont - Montgomery
Wash - Washington

The distribution of Cowans in the 1790 PA census reflects their dispersion from the Philadelphia area on the east, westward into the Cumberland Valley, and on into western PA by the time of the Revolution.

Patriarchal lines

We have several lines of Cowans settling in Pennsylvania from about 1720 to 1785. These families can be grouped into a number of Patriarchal lines, based on similar YDNA Signatures, as shown in the table below. In some cases we do not know how various persons in a given line relate to each other. In addition there are a number of Cowan settlers in the Old Chester area, that can not be associated with any of these YDNA lineage, either because we have no YDNA data for descendants, or because we have only a single YDNA test. The following figure shows the rough distribution of Cowan lineages in early Pennyslvania.

Image:Cowan Affinity Groups in Pennsylvania.jpg

YDNA subgroupEarliest recordsDiscussionDispersion
Pequea Creek Cowans1721The earliest formal records for a "Cowan" in Old Chester County are tax records that place person:Henry Cowan (7) in the area by 1721, with person:David Cowan (15) and Person:William Cowan (28) showing up shortly thereafter. All of these individuals settled in Salisbury township of what is now Lancaster County. These individuals line settled in the Pequa Creek area, and are correspondingly described as the "Pequea Creek Cowans". They are distinguishable from other Cowans in the general area, such as the Octoraro Creek Cowans by their support for the St. John's Episcopal Church. We have no information about the descendants of Henry Cowan, and so discussing their possible dispersion is difficult. (But see: From Terry CowanThe children of David Cowan, on the otherhand either remained in the Pequea Creek area, moved to Rowan County NC, or to Kentucky, though we have some indiactions that at least some descendants appeared in the Pittsburgh area.
Seven Brother Cowansmid 1720'sSource:Fleming, 1971:311 identifies a group of Cowans who he believed were related to the groups here identified as the Pequea Creek Cowans and the Octoraro Creek Cowans, and who settled about the same time in Pennsylvania. This group included the following persons: Andrew, David, James, John, Matthew, Samuel, and William. Fleming believed these Cowans were connected to the Wigton Walker line, headed in America by person:John Walker (81). This line emigrated to America (per Source:White, 1902, settling in the Nottingham Lots area of Old Chester County about 1726. Indeed, it is because of this supposed connection to the Wigton Walkers (who came from Newry, County Down, Ireland) that Fleming concluded that each of his Pennsylvania Cowan Groups came from County Down. That in turn led to the title of his work "Cowans of County Down". The reality is that Fleming was able to provide little in the way of documentation for the presence of the Seven Brothers in Pennsylvania, and almost all of his records for them come from Cowans in Old Augusta, The Carolina Cradle, and Southwest Virginia. A discussion of his views on this is given at Analysis:Cowans of County Down.Fleming believes these Cowans spread to Old Augusta, Southwest Virginia, and the Carolina Cradle, but there is only limited evidence for their presence in Old Chester to begin with. Where the "Seven Brothers" came from, and even if there were indeed Seven Brothers, remains to be seen.
Cowans of Teagues Delightlate 1600's, Maryland A John Coen/Cowing/Cowen is reputed to have been born abut 1690 in Maryland. His Place of birth is usually given as "Baltimore MD", but at least one researcher gives it as Cecil County Maryland on "Teggs Delight". Given that John married a Catharine Teague, this seems particularly plausible. While not, apparently, the earliest immigrant in this line, he is the earliest known person in the group, and is presumed to be the YDNA patriarch for the line. YDNA analysis of the haplotypes of persons tracing their decent to John Coen are a close match to the haplotypes of The Seven Brothers. It seems likely that the two groups have a common patriarch in the relatively recent past. These two subgroups may have arisen from a Patriarch who immigrated to America in the 17th century, or may represent two independent immigration of persons sharing a common ancestor shortly before immigration.

Octoraro Creek Cowans1734This group may have come in at the same time as the Pequea Creek Cowans, but are not documented as being in the area until somewhat later. The earliest of these Cowans are Person:Hugh Cowan (4), Person:Robert Cowan (17) . Hugh secured land in the upper Octoraro by 1734. The first record we have for Robert is when he secured land in Fallowfield Township in 1746. Source:Fleming, 1971 concluded that Hugh and Robert were related, but not father and son. The evidence for a family connection lies in the fact that Robert is said to have married a daughter of Thomas Hope, while one one of Hugh's son's married another daughter. The implication is that Robert is perhaps a nephew of Hugh. Sons of Hugh: Joseph and Mathias, settled on the Youghiogheny River near Scott Haven in what was then Bedford County, but later became Westmoreland. David initially settled in Cumberland County, but returned to Chester County where he died. His sons are believed to have moved to Kentucky after his death.

Sons of Robert: Adam remained in Chester County; Thomas settled initially in Cumberland County, returned briefly to Chester, then moved to Allegheny County shortly before his death; James moved to Allegheny County.

Roaring Springs Cowans1786Edward Cowen settled at Roaring Springs, Morrison Cove, in Bedford County PA, about 1786. Family records indicate that he, with his brother William immigrated to America about 1785, through Philadelphia, and more or less immediately moved west to settled in Bedford County. Williams history is unknown after arrival in Pennsylvania.
Cowan's Gap Cowans1785In 1785 Person:Hugh Cowan (5) and person:Samuel Cowan (17) secured land warrants in Bedford County. Samuel's land was at what is now known as "Cowan's Gap", a few miles north of McConnellsburg, in modern Fulton County. Hugh's land was nearby, but on the west side of what was then called "Cove Mountain", on a branch of Licking Creek in "the Great Cove". No more than five miles separated their properties. Given their proximity, and the fact that they secured their warrants on exactly the same day, it is highly likely that they were closely related, and perhaps brothers. Samuel is commonly identified as "John Samuel Cowan", but this seems to be an attempt to reconcile an 1899 story by BL Mauerer, in a local history magazine, with public records. All contemporary records identify him as simply "Samuel". Various Cowans appear in this same area at later dates. They are clearly descended from Hugh and Samuel, but the exact family relationships are poorly documented.