Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


JOHN MAXWELL COWAN. There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the spectacle of a life ,that has reached its late autumn with a harvest of good and useful deeds. It is like the forest in October days when the leaves have borrowed the richest colors of the light and glow in the mellowed sheen of the Indian summer, reflecting in their closing days all the radiance of their carthly existence. The man who has lived a clean, useful and self-denying life and has brought -into potential exercise the best energies of his mind that he might make the world brighter and better for his being a part of it, while laboring for his individual advancement, cannot fail to enjoy a serenity of soul that reveals itself in his manner and conversation. When such a life is preserved in its strength and integrity so that even in age its influence continues unabated, it challenges the added admiration of those whose good fortune it is to be brought in contact with it. Such a life has been that of, John Maxwell Cowan, who has played no inconspicuous part in the affairs of Springfield and Greene county since he cast his lot in our midst over a quarter of a century ago, and now in the ninety third year of a life that has been noted for its sterling honesty, industry and devotion to family, church and his country, he can look backward with no compunction of conscience for misdeeds and forward to the mystic Beyond with no fear. Such a life merits a record of its deeds, that the debt due it may be acknowledged and that it may serve as a stimulus to others to endeavor to emulate it. But his record is too familiar to the people of the locality of which this history treats to require any fulsome encomium here, his life-work speaking for itself in stronger terms than the biographer could employ in polished periods. There is no doubt but that his long life has been due to his conservative habits, wholesome living and pure thinking. He is hospitable and charitable, his many acts of kindness springing from his altruistic nature rather than from a desire to win the praise of his fellow men.

Mr. Cowan springs from a sterling old family on both sides of the house, which may be traced back to the old Colonial days in American history. He was born December 6, 1821. He enjoys two distinctions worthy of note, one is that he was the first white child born at Indianapolis, Indiana, he is the oldest living graduate of Wabash College, one of the oldest and .most important schools of the Hoosier state. He is the only child of John and Anna (Maxwell) Cowan, and he is of pure Scotch ancestry and inherits the sturdy qualities of his forefathers who were all frontiersmen of Virginia in Colonial and Revolutionary times, who helped blaze the trails into Kentucky and Tennessee. John Cowan was born in Rockbridge county, Virginia in 1768, and at an early age went to Tennessee, locating at Knoxville, where many of his family still live. From there he went to Charlestown, Indiana, and joined the army under Gen. William Henry Harrison, in the service during the entire campaign against the Indians in 1811, taking part in the famous battle of Tippecanoe, November 9, 1811. He was a mounted ranger during the war of 1812. He was a son of Samuel Ann (Walker) Cowan, both natives of Virginia. Samuel Cowan was killed by the Indians while working in the harvest field, and his wife was taken prisoner the same day and held a captive many years, was finally ransomed and returned to her home in Virginia. John Cowan married first, Margaret Weir, in Virginia, 1769, and his second wife was Anna Maxwell, who was born in Albemarle county, Virginia, in 1781. They were married in Jefferson county, Indiana, December 30, 1819,and she died in Indiana, in and he died in 1854, and he died in 1832 in Indiana. Anna Maxwell was a daughter of Bezaleel and Margaret (Anderson) Maxwell, the former born in Albemarle Virginia, in 1751, the latter born in Virginia in 1755; they were in 1775; his death occurred in 1824, and she died in 1834. Bezaleel Maxwell was a son of John and Fannie (Garner) Maxwell, and Margaret Anderson was a daughter of John and Ann (Irwin) Anderson, the former born in Virginia in 1723 and died in Kentucky in 1796. Ann Irwin was a daughter of Mathew and Elizabeth Irwin; the father died in Augusta county, in 1762. John Maxwell, who was a son of Bezaleel and Rebecca (Boyd) Maxwell, became a captain in the Revolutionary war, and both he and his son fought at the great Indian battle of Point Pleasant. John Anderson, mentioned above, was also a soldier in the war for independence and these three men all fought in the battle of King's Mountain and other engagements.

John M. Cowan, of this sketch, grew to manhood in Montgomery county, Indiana, where his parents removed soon after his birth, locating near Crawfordsville, where he received his early education in the common schools later attending Wabash College there, from which institution he was graduated with the class of 1842 with the degree of Bachelor of Arts, the degree of Master of Arts being conferred on him later by that college. As before stated he has been the oldest living graduate from that school for many years, it having been seventy-two years, more than the Psalmist's allotted life for a man, since our subject received his degree there. Deciding upon a legal career he then entered the law department of the University of Indiana, from which he was also graduated in 1845. Immediately thereafter he began practicing law at Frankfort, Clinton county, Indiana, and became one of the leading lawyers in western Indiana, enjoying an extensive and lucrative practice. He was judge of the eighth judicial circuit in Indiana for a period of twelve years, the duties of which responsible position he discharged in a manner that reflected much credit upon himself and to the eminent satisfaction of all concerned, his long retention being sufficient criterion of his efficiency and popularity. His decisions were noted for their profound knowledge of the basic principles of jurisprudence and for an unbiased fairness to all parties concerned, and they seldom met reversal at the hands of higher tribunals. He held this office from 1858 until 1870. Retiring from the bench he resumed the practice of law, entering into partnership with 'I'homas M. Patterson, who eventually became a United States senator from the state of Colorado. Subsequently our subject formed a partnership with Hon. M. D. White and his second son, James P. E. Cowan. He carried on his practice with greater success and popularity than ever until 1881,when he retired from the profession owing very largely to his wife's failing health, and he and his wife removed to Springfield, Missouri, in search of a better climate. Col. W. D. Crothers, an old-time friend, having settled in the Ozarks, which country he pronounced decidedly healthful, was mental in bringing the Judge here. Soon thereafter, our subject purchased the old Murray farm, two miles south of Springfield, one of the finest and most desirable farms in Greene county, and he became one of largest agriculturists and stock men. In 1889, Judge Cowan built an attractive home on South Jefferson street, and he purchased The Springfield Republican, which his two sons, James and William, edited and managed successfully for some time. The judge was a pioneer in the development of Walnut street as a business center, which has rapidly gained on the other business centers during the past few years until it bids fair to soon surpass all competitors.

Judge Cowan was married at Stockwell, Indiana, November 13,1845, to Harriet Doubleday Janney, who was born July 29, 1826,and was a daughter of Abel and Margaret (Porter) Janney. She was a descendant of a Quaker family of that name in Virginia, and her maternal ancestors were from the Porter family of Lancaster county, Pennsylvania and the Judahs of Switzerland. Mrs. Cowan was a woman of strong intellect and many estimable characteristics. She was called to her eternal rest, June 28, 1905.

To Judge Cowan and wife the following children were born: Edward Howard Cowan, born December 21,1846, was graduated from Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts, later received the degree of Doctor of Medicine from Miami Medical College; he married November 13,1877, Lucy L. Ayars; they live at Crawfordsville, where he is a successful physicians and they have had two children, John Ayars Cowan, born August 11,1880, died September 27, 1891; Elizabeth L. Cowan, born June 21, 1884, is a teacher of domestic science in the high school at Crawfordsville, Indiana. James Porter Ellis Cowan, second son of the Judge, was born October 29, 1848; he received the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from Wabash College (was the first grandchild of that institution); he is a special pension examiner in Washington, D. C. He married, first, Louana Burnett, January 30, 1873, and to this union was born Harriet Janney Cowan, November 12,1873. She married Lewis T.Gilliand, November 13, 1900; they live in Portland, Oregon, and have one child, Maxwell Porter Gilliland born August 15, 1901. James P. E. Cowan's second marriage was on December 31, 1883, to Lalula R. Bennett, and to this union three children were born, Janet L. Cowan, born July 7, 1885; Mary Bennett Cowan, born July 20, 1888; Anna J. Cowan, born August 18, 1891; they all three live at Marietta, Ohio. Laura Anna Cowan, third child of Judge Cowan and wife, was born March 14, 1851, was educated at Glendale Female College in Ohio, lives in Springfield, Missouri, is a member of of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Daughters of the War of 1812; she married on February. 16, 1876, Allen Trimble Blaine, who was born November 13, 1846, and died April 26, 1880. He was a soldier in the Seventy-fourth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, later veteranized and was a member of the Twenty-second Indiana Volunteer Infantry; to Mr. and Mrs. Blaine was born Mary Maxwell Blaine, October 3, 1877; she was graduated from Drury College with the degree of Bachelor of Science in 1898, and Master of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 1900. She lives in New York City; was married February 14, 1906, to Rudyard S. Uzzell, who is an A. B. and a member of the Sigma Alpha-Epsilon fraternity from the University of Denver; to Mr. and Mrs. Rudyard Uzzell two children have been born, William Cowan Uzzell, born January 14, 1910; and Rudyard S. Uzzell, Jr., born June 26, 1912. John William Cowan, the youngest child of the Judge and wife, was born October 6, 1853, is unmarried and lives in Springfield, Missouri.

Judge Cowan was formerly a strong Whig and later just as strong a Republican. He has been a life-long Presbyterian. He is a member of the Society of Colonial Wars, and is a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. Although past his four score years he is hale and hearty and as active as many men at fifty. He is a grand character and is beloved by all who know him.

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