Person:Joseph Cowan (5)

Joseph Skiles Cowan
b.Nov. 12, 1777
d.Jan. 18, 1846 Williamson, TN
Facts and Events
Name[1] Joseph Skiles Cowan
Gender Male
Birth[1] Nov. 12, 1777
Marriage 30 Aug 1804 to Jane Graham (add)
Death[1] Jan. 18, 1846 Williamson, TN



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Document. Family Bible Record of Joseph Skiles Cowan
Document. Will of Joseph Skiles Cowan, dated 1845


YDNA results for persons traceing their descent to Joseph Skiles Cowan are consistent with him being a member of the Pequea Creek Cowans. Some identify his father as John, son of David (15), but this seems unlikely as that John Cowan is believed to have moved to Kentucky, whereas Joseph Skiles Cowan is said to have been born in Rowan County NC.


From Terry Cowan Personal Communication to WMWILLIS, 30 August 2012) Joseph Skiles Cowan...was son of a John Cowan who died intestate in Rowan County, NC in 1789 with minor children.

The better known John Cowan “the gunsmith” (brother of our William) also died in 1789 in Rowan County.

Both Johns were in Rowan County very early on, and some references to the lesser-known John have been ascribed to John the gunsmith. In early Rowan County deed and tax records, the former is usually designated as John Cowan, Sr., and the latter as John Cowan (gunsmith) or sometimes simply (g.s.) Portions of the 1787 tax schedule for Rowan County survive. There is a John Cowan, Sr. listed, age 64. The ages of the wife, sons and daughters, male slaves and female slaves are all listed—but with no names. Everyone (myself included) always assumed that this was John the gunsmith, as he was in fact a “Sr.” This is where the 1723 date for John Cowan’s birth came from. I have now changed my view on this and now believe that this was the other John Cowan [Father of John Skiles Cowan---WMW].

The ages for the known sons of that John—Alexander, Isaac and Joseph Skiles—fits well with the ages of the sons listed for this John in the 1787 tax return. The family configuration does not fit that of John Cowan the gunsmith, who had a blended family (he still had children at home from his second marriage, his child by his 3rd wife, and 5 step-children by her earlier marriage.) That configuration fits the other John Cowan on the 1787 return.

Unfortunately, I have just seen a typed transcript and it shows an age of “42” for this John, which cannot possible be right (and his wife was 55.) I think it should be “62.”

Then there was a 3rd John Cowan on the roll, listed as John Cowan, Jr. This 30-year old man was NOT the son of the man listed as John Cowan, “Sr.,” but the son of the other John Cowan (the gunsmith.)

What was going here? Here is how I read it: there were 2 cousins in a relatively small district, each about the same age and each named John Cowan. County officials took to designating the elder as “Sr.” and the younger as “the gunsmith,” or nothing at all. The fact that the one who was not designated as “Sr.,” had a son who as a real “Jr.,” complicates things further.

Now, back to JSC and his parentage. His father, John Cowan “Sr.” had large landholdings in the region and was a substantial citizen. He was born ca. 1723, and thus was a contemporary to the other John, our William, their brothers and cousins. He couldn’t be the son of one of the 3 brothers, yet clearly he is in the clan. For lack of anywhere else to “park” him, I place this John Cowan as a prospective son of the shadowy Henry Cowan, since he could not be a son of John, William or David. So, to include the Joseph Skiles Cowan participants, a dashed line needs to come down from Henry, through probable son John. Speaking of Henry, 2 things: first, he was a contemporary of the 3 brothers, with references in 1721-1726, 1729, 1733, 1752-1760. The weight of evidence supports him being a brother or cousin to the 3 brothers, rather than an uncle (Also, the father of David was Andrew.) In addition to this John (b. 1723) that I peg as a probable son of Henry, there were 3 others that also fit into that same category—in the family, but definitely not sons of the 3 brothers. They were George (and adult in 1738,) Stephen (children born in the 1740s) and Henry, Jr. (married 1761.) These 4—George, Stephen, John and Henry, Jr.—could not be sons of the better-known 3 brothers. So far, I have found no reference to any Cowan that could be another brother or cousin other than Henry. So, this remains speculative, but not entirely made-up!

From Family Bible

Joseph Skiles Cowan and jane Graham..
Joseph (nov.12,1777.-jan.18, 1846)
Jane (oct 11,1784 -apr.5, 1866)


Elizebeth Cowan Meacham,
Rosanna Cowan Meacham,
John Cowan,
Eleanor (Nellie) Cowan Baxter,
Susanna Cowan Burns,
Mary ann (polly) Cowan meacham,
Richard Graham Cowan,
Joseph Skiles Cowan (?jr)
Jane Cowan Robinson.
Sarah Cowan Hill (Sally),
David A. Cowan.
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Document. Family Bible Record of Joseph Skiles Cowan gives his middle name as "Skiles"