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James M. Cowan

COWAN, MCKELVEY, PLUMLEY, FOSTER, SMITH, NORTON, SCHLEICHER

Posted By: Julie (Cowan) Sergeant (email)
Date: 7/2/2002 at 20:50:37

Below is an excerpt from "Ben Reed's History of Kossuth County" (Iowa). This was sent to my uncle years ago, from a relative in Iowa. She had the original volume (of which there were two) containing this passage. The volume was not dated, and she guessed it was written ca. 1907. The James M. Cowan is my great-grandfather. The middle name is Messick. I hope I'm not infringing on a copyright here:

James M. Cowan

James M. Cowan is a building contractor and owner of numerous city properties here. He was born in Elkhart, Indiana, December 13, 1847, and is a pioneer of Algona, where he settled in 1869. He is of Scotch lineage in both the paternal and maternal lines. The grandfather, Joseph S. Cowan, was born in Virginia or Ohio and was an active public man and an inventor of note, one of his achievements along the latter line being the head of the modern spinning wheel. He was a manufacturer and wheelwright and had a notable military career, serving the United States in its war with England in 1812, and being also a captain in the militia, where he fought in the Indian uprisings in northern Indiana, assisting in the execution of many of them. Mr. Cowan's father and mother were J.W. and Catherine Eliza (McKelvey) Cowan. The father was born in Springfield, Clark county, Ohio, having been an early settler in what was then the west. He remained there until about 1884, when he removed to Brooklyn, New York, where he died and was buried in 1903. He was a progressive farmer and a stock buyer or drover in his earlier life but passed his later years in retirement. The mother was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and her father, James McKinley McKelvey, during his residence in Pittsbury was a furniture manufacturer. On settling in Indiana later in life he became an affluent and progressive farmer, a politician of note and a leader among men generally. His political affiliation was with the democratic party, where he was a conspicuous figure in its councils and work. His wife, the mother of the subject of this review, passed away in 1903, in Brooklyn, and is buried by the side of her life companion in Riverview cemetery. She was the mother of six children: Martha E., who died in 1874; James M.; Anna Eliza, the wife of J.H. Johnson, of Farmington, New Mexico; Joseph, who died in 1892; Eva, who is the wife of I.N. Failor, superintendent of schools of Brooklyn, New York; and P.C., a resident of Spokane, Washington.

James M. Cowan was educated in the Indiana common schools and finished his education at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Coming to Algona in 1869, he became associated with S.I. Plumley in the manufacture of brick and in the building business. He and his partner built the courthouse at Emmetsburg, Iowa, and the first brick house in that place. They also executed the basement contract for the courthouse in Algona and completed the building of that structure. This partnership was continued eleven years but after the first two years they dropped the brick manufacturing business, giving their entire time to building and contracting. When the partnership was dissolved J.M. Cowan continued the firm's business, an avocation which he pursued twenty-three years. He then engaged in the manufacture of cigars but after three years thus employed he, in partnership with his son Harold, again embarked in the contracting and building business and took up architectural work in connection therewith. He owns a quarter section of South Dakota land and has extensive interests in Algona city property.

Mr. Cowan was married in Algona to Miss Rachel R. Foster, a native of Pannsylvania. She died in Algona in 1908 and was laid to rest in Riverview Cemetery. She was the mother of four children: Maud M., the wife of M.E. Schleicher, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who is at the head of the Twin City Realty Company; Harold R., an contractor and builder at Algona, who married Alice Smith, by whom he had three children, Harold J., Victor H. and Margaret Emma, the two last named passing away at the ages of eight and thirteen months respectively; Florence J., who is the wife of Marcus S. Norton, a hardware merchant of Virginia, Minnesota, and has one son, James Albert; and Woodson M., who is a cartoonist at Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Cowan has two grandsons living, Harold J., the son of Harold R. Cowan, and James Albert Norton, the son of Marcus S. Norton.

Politically, Mr. Cowan is of the democratic faith and takes considerable interest in the affairs of his party and city. He was for ten years constable of Algona, a position which he filled with that efficiency which has characterized his business career. While acting in that capacity he necessarily paid a great deal of attention to collections and in discharging the duties thus enjoined upon him he drove all over northern Iowa. Mr. Cowan in his church relations, is a member of the Congregational denomimation. He has been active in his church relationship and was a member of its building committee when the present parsonage was built. His fraternal relations have been restricted to membership in the United Workmen, an association which he does not now continue. Mr. Cowan's lengthy public, business and social carer in Algona has made him one of its best known and most highly respected citizens. He possesses in a rare degree those traits and qualities which have eminently fitted him for the conspicuous and valuable services he has rendered. His name stands in all circles as a synonym for right dealiing and efficiency.


 

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