Person:David Cowan (1)

David Cowan
b.before 1739
Facts and Events
Name David Cowan
Gender Male
Birth[1] before 1739
Marriage to Jane Unknown
Death[2] after 4 Feb 1811 Sevier, Tennessee, United States


Smoky Mountain Cowan Tapestry
Cowan Tapestry
Cowan Links

The Tapestry
Families Old Chester Old Augusta Germanna
New River SWVP Cumberland Carolina Cradle
The Smokies


Will of David Cowan (1)
Alt Will of David Cowan


John Cowan (65)
Andrew Cowan (6)
Andrew Cowan (18)
David Gass (2)
Cowans Augusta
Cowans SWVA
Albemarle Roster 1758
Chalkley's Chronicles
John Cowan Albemarle
David Cowan Connection
Eleanor Cowan land sale
Wife of David Cowan (1)
Wife of John Cowan (65)
Transcript:Land Grants of Sevier County



David Cowan (1) is believed to be the son of a John Cowan and wife Eleanor, who settled before 1745 in the Meachums River Watershed in what is now Albemarle County VA. [3] They came to the area in association with the extended family of Person:Michael Woods (1) many of whom settled in this same area beginning about 1733. Other members of John's family settled on Beverley's Manor in Augusta County.

We know that David himself was probably born before 1739, as land records show him to be an adult in 1759 [4] Those same records show that the name of his wife was "Jane", though we do not know her last name. [5]

Michael Woods (1) appears to have been the head of a large inter-related kinship network living in Albermarle, Augusta, and Amherst counties of Virginia. His death in 1761 is followed by the out movement of a number of individual families related by marriage to Michael. For the most part these families moved to the Carolinas. Some settled along the Savannah River, living either on the northern shore in North Carolina, or on the southside of the River in South Carolina. Others settled further north in northeastern North Carolina. Shortly before the Revolution some members of these families moved back north into Southwestern Virginia, while others moved into what is now east Tennessee. We know that David (1) remained in Albemarle as late as 1763 when his brother Andrew (in Augusta County) (see Andrew Cowan (18)) wrote him to say that he was "going to Carolina". David may have left the area at this time as well, as we have no documentation for him in Albemarle after 1763. He may have gone to the Carolinas with his brother and other kinsmen, but we have nothing to confirm that.

Castles Woods

Our next record for David comes in 1769 when he acquired land in the Castle's Woods area of southwest Virginia. Other kinsmen settled nearby, including brother Andrew, and a William and Samuel Cowan[6] Other kinsmen who settled here include David Gass who had previously been living in Albemarle County near Michael Woods (1), and is commonly identified as a brotherinlaw of the Cowans, person:John Walker (81) whose daughters married Andrew, William, and Samuel Cowan, and a William Houston believed to be the nephew of Ann Houston, wife of JOhn Walker (81), show settled at Houston's Fort adjacent to John Walker son of John (81).

David settled in the eastern portion of Castles Woods, his land lying immediately uphill of the modern community of Place:Castlewood, Virginia. Other kinsmen, including Andrew, William and Samuel Cowan, as well as inlaws including John Walker III, David Gass, Patrick Porter, and John Snoddy, settled nearby.

Location of David Cowan and kinsmen in the Castles Woods vicinity, c1774
Location of David Cowan and kinsmen in the Castles Woods vicinity, c1774
Key:Red Circles
1. Cowans Fort
(David Cowan)
2. Moore's Fort
(John Snoddy)
3. Houston's Fort
(William Houston)
4. The Block House
5. Blackmore's Fort
Key:Blue Circles
6. John Walker III
7. Patrick Porter
8. John Walker IV
9. Wm and Samuel Cowan
10. David Gass

In 1770 Castles Woods was the farthest west community on the Virginia Frontier. By 1774 its population had increased significantly, not just in Castle's Woods, but along the entire western frontier. In the Spring of 1774 conflict with the Native American's (Lord Dunmore's War) erupted along the frontier, from western Pennsylvania, south into western Virginia, into the Carolina's, and what is now east Tennessee. Lord Dunmore's War. Locally, the settlers constructed a series of fortifications throughout the area. Among these was a Cowan's Fort on the property of David Cowan in Castle's Woods. While Indian attacks within the Castle's Woods community were frequent, but during Dunmore's War, and up until the early 1790's, we know of no direct attacks on Cowan's Fort. From eyewitness accounts we know that it was a relatively small structure that could house only a few families. It probably lacked a stockade, most likely taking the form of a single fortified cabin of the type known as a Fort House.
Kilgore's Fort House is the only original surviving, largely unmodified, example of fort architecture in Southwest Virginia.  Most likely, Cowan's Fort looked very much like this.
Kilgore's Fort House is the only original surviving, largely unmodified, example of fort architecture in Southwest Virginia. Most likely, Cowan's Fort looked very much like this.

Dunmore's War ended with the Battle of Point Pleasant in October of 1774. Indian attacks on the settlements ceased for a time, though theyweould resume in 1776, and continue through the revolution, with the last raid occurring in 1794. During the brief lull in hostilities in 1775 many of the settlers headed west with Daniel Boone to Kentucky. As far as we know David's immediate family was untouched by attacks during Dunmore's War, and later raids on the settlement, though a number of his kinsmen suffered greatly during the period of Indian hostilities. Kinsman Samuel Cowan, for example, was killed about 1776 while warning the settlers of Houston's Fort of an impending Indian attack. His wife, Ann Walker and nephew William Walker were captured (probably the next year), and taken north into captivity. Ann would later return to her remaining family who by this time had moved on to Kentucky. William was a child of about eleven years at the time of capture, and adapted to captivity, eventually marrying into the Wyandotte tribe, where he rose to a leadership role. Ann's brother Samuel, was killed at the same time as Ann and William were captured. Some members of David's extended family headed to Kentucky with Boone, only to be forced into retreating back to Castle's Woods by Indian attacks in the "Dark and Bloody Ground" of Kentucky.

The end of the Revolution brought major changes in opportunities for many of the western settlers. Of particular importance was the policy of giving land to veterans of the Revolutionary War, by Virginia and North Carolina. Many of the settlers of Castle's Woods took this opportunity to move either west into Kentucky, or southwest into northeast Tennessee. David Cowan was among the latter, moving to what is now Sevier County in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, about 1786. Not surprisingly, numerous kinsmen settled nearby, particularly in adjacent Blount County.

Boyds Creek

Location of the land of David Cowan (Green), Andrew Cowan (Yellow), and William Snoddy (blue) on Boyd's Creek, Sevier County, TN, based on mappings at Sevier County Library
Location of the land of David Cowan (Green), Andrew Cowan (Yellow), and William Snoddy (blue) on Boyd's Creek, Sevier County, TN, based on mappings at Sevier County Library
Land of :1.David Cowan:2.  John Walker IV and :3. William Cowan,In Sevier and Blount Counties, TN about 1786
Land of
:1.David Cowan
:2. John Walker IV and
:3. William Cowan,
In Sevier and Blount Counties, TN about 1786

Child List

David Cowan wrote his will in Sevier County TN, 4 Feb 1811, identifying the following:



  1. Analysis article for identity of David's parents as John Cowan=Eleanor
  2. Castles Woods article
  3. Add information about David in Sevier County.
  1. DOBS in the unsourced literature range anywhere between 1721 and 1753; A DOB of before 1739 seems most likely, given the fact that he was known to be an adult based on land sales in 1759. This is also consistent with a 1761 DOB for his eldest child Eleanor.
  2. will dated 4 Feb 1811
  3. See: Analysis. The Wife of John Cowan (65).
  4. Transcript. David Cowan and wife Jane to John Cowan, Albemarle, 1759
  5. Jane is commonly identified as "Jane Wright", based on an 1808 Augusta County court records in which David Cowan of Jefferson County, is identified as the husband of James Wrights sister. This, however, seems to refer to a different David Cowan; the same court record of 1808 gives his age as 55, implying a DOB of 1753; he is clearly too young to be the David Cowan who sold land in 1759 with his wife Jane. Also, the same court record identifies him as "of Jefferson County". This might be taken as a confusion in the record itself, since in 1808 David (1) of Sevier County, TN, lived close to Jefferson County TN; however, the fact that record does not specify the state, implies that the Kentucky court record refers to Jefferson County Kentucky. Land records show a David Cowan acquiring land in the area that eventually became Jefferson County, KY, shortly after the Revolution. Need documentation for this last point.</li>
  6. Andrew, David, Samuel, and William Cowan are commonly thought to be brothers. It seems highly likely that they were related, but while we have evidence that Andrew was in fact the brother of David, we have no direct evidence that shows the relationship between all four Cowan's who settled in this area.</li></ol>