Pictorial and Genealogical Record
of Greene County, Missouri

Together with Bibliographies of Prominent Men of Other Portions of the State, Both Living and Dead


DR. WILLIAM H. COWDEN. The gentleman whose name heads this sketch is successfully engaged in practicing a calling which is perhaps the most trying on brain and body of any in the field of science. He is one of the busiest of this busy class of men, and is well equipped and fully prepared to meet any professional demands that may be made upon him, and has met with flattering success from the start. He owes his nativity to Polk County, Mo., where he was born in 1850, his parents being Robert Blackburn and Martha J. (Headlee) Cowden, who were born in Maury County, Tenn., in 1825 and 1831 respectively, the family of the former coming to Polk County, Mo., about 1839 and that of the latter to Greene County, Mo., in 1836. Immediately after his marriage, Mr. Cowden settled on a farm in Polk County, on which he resided and successfully tilled the soil and followed stock raising until his death in July, 1892. He was in sympathy with the Union during the Civil War but took no active part in the struggle, and after the close of hostilities was registering officer for some years. He was always an active Democrat, a man of undoubted integrity, and was prominent in Masonic circles, being a member of Ozark Lodge, No. 297, at Fair Grove. He and his wife were Presbyterians, and his widow still survives him. The paternal grandfather, Robert Cowden, was born in Alabama about 1793, where his father, also Robert Cowden, who was a captain in the Revolutionary army, had settled after the close of the war. He came to Tennessee with his father, where he soon after married and began farming. About 1838 or 1839 he came by wagon to Polk County, Mo., and improved a good farm on Upshaw Prairie, on which he spent the remainder of his days, dying about 1863. He was a Democrat, of Irish descent and a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. His family consisted of the following children: James, who was a farmer, of Greene County, and died before the war; John A. is a retired farmer and merchant of Pleasant Hope, Mo.; William was a farmer and died at Pleasant Hope, leaving a family; Robert Blackburn; Newton, who is single and resides on the old home farm; Marshall, who is a retired farmer of Pleasant Hope and is now a miller; Samuel, who resides on a part of the old home farm, was in the Confederate army; Hannah (deceased) was the wife of Newton Fawcett; Elizabeth is the widow of Lundy Crocker; Jane is the wife of J. P. Fullerton, of Polk County, and Melissa is the wife of Rev. J. B. Landreth of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, residing in Polk County. The maternal grandfather of the subject of this sketch was Judge Elisha Headlee, one of the first settlers of Greene County, Mo., where he died about 1876. His grandfather, John Headlee, was a Revolutionary soldier, and his father, E. Headlee, was born in the State of Now Jersey in May, 1760, and was married there to Mary Fairchild, and soon after, in 1790, removed to North Carolina. Judge Headlee was the seventh of eleven children and was born in Burke County, N. C., in October, 1802, where he received a limited education. He went to Maury County, Tenn., with his parents in 1828, and there, in 1825, he married Rachel Steele, who was also a North Carolinian, born in 1803, and removed with her people to Tennessee in 1810. Mr. Headlee farmed in Tennessee after his marriage until 1836, then became one of the pioneer settlers of Greene County, Mo., and eventually one of it's most prominent citizens. He was a justice of peace for some years, and in 1846 was elected a member of the county court for four years, after which he received his appointment from the Governor and served two terms more. In 1858 he was appointed Public Administrator and served in that capacity until 1872. He was a Democrat all his life, and voted for Gen. Jackson in 1824 and for every Democratic presidential candidate until his death. He was a Union man during the war. In 1813 he became a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and after the war became a member of the southern branch. He and his wife spent a happy wedded life of over half a century and became the parents of nine children: Dr. Samuel H., a physician of St. James, Mo., who once represented Phelps County in the State Legislature; Mary Caroline, who died in childhood; Caleb C., who died in Louisiana in 1891, having been a farmer; Martha J. (Mrs. Cowden); Hannah A., widow of J. D. W. Kerr; David A., who died while serving in the Federal army; Emma A., wife of Robert Armor; Margaret M.; Rachel E. and Harriet I. To Robert B. and Martha J. Cowden, the following children were given: William H., the immediate subject of this sketch; Christopher C., who resides on the old home farm in Polk County; Mary Caroline, who died unmarried, and Albert S., a prominent lawyer of Springfield. The early education of Dr. William H. Cowden was received in the common country schools at Ebeneezer and at McGhee College in Macon County, Mo., and during this time a portion of the year was spent in teaching. He finished his education in Drury College, and in 1876 began the study of medicine with his uncle, Dr. Samuel H Headlee, of St. James, Mo., and in 1878 entered the Missouri Medical College of St. Louis, from which institution he graduated in 1880. After practicing for two years he left that place with the intention of locating in Texas but finally decided to remain at his home in Polk County for some time and until 1887 practiced his profession there. Since that time he has resided at Fair Grove where he has an exceptionally large and paying practice. Soon after making his last location here he purchased a drug store and has been connected with that business ever since, in connection with his practice. In 1890 hewas married to Miss M_____ daughter of J. M. and Fannie Butts, natives of Kentucky and Barry County, Mo., respectively, and are now residents of Fair Grove, where Mr. Butts is a prosperous druggist. Mrs. Cowden was born in Barry County, Mo., but ever since early childhood has been a resident of Fair Grove, where she was reared and educated. Dr. Cowden is prominent Mason, being a member of Ozark Lodge, No. 297, at Fair Grove; also of Vincil Chapter, No. 110, and St. John's Commandery, No. 20, both of Springfield.

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