John Cowan (1763-1837)

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Commonly known as Major John Cowan, he married Agnes Martin on August 2, 1788 in what was then known as Greene County, NC, but was probably in the area later known as Blount County, TN. About 1806 he moved with other family members to the area of Franklin County, TN. He served with the Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Gunmen, a militia unit, from 28 September 1814 to 27 March 1815 during the Creek Indian War. The regimental history identifies him as a Captain under Major William Russell. Governor John Sevier, mentions "Major John Cowan" in an 1804 letter (see Hill, Sarah H., March 2005); this may indicate a different John Cowan from the one who married Agnes Martin. He is buried in Goshen Cemetery, near Cowan, TN, in Franklin County.

This major John Cowan is not to be confused with the Major John Cowan (?-c1779), who is commonly identified as having been killed on the Clinch River in an Indian raid between 1778 and 1780. (See Indian Captivity Stories.

This John Cowan is also not to be confused with John Alexander Cowan (1775-1821) who married Rosannah Gillespy/Gillespie in Blount Co., TN on August 27, 1797 and who died October 12, 1821 in Dallas Co., AL. (Too many undocumented internet family trees have the two John Cowans confused and intermingled.)

For a list of articles concerning someone named "John Cowan" see John Cowan Disambiguation).


DOB: 1763 Based on gravestone
DOD: 22nd April 1837 Based on gravestone, will was filed 3 May 1837
POD: Cowan, Franklin Co, TN based location of grave
Burial: Goshen Cemetery, Cowan, Franklin Co TN
Spouse 1: Agness Martin (1763-1827) vita based on gravestone
DOM: Aug 2 1788 Recorded in the Green County, Tennessee, Marriages, Roll 94, Page 38
POM: Greene Co NC Recorded in the Green County, Tennessee, Marriages, Roll 94, Page 38
Spouse 2: Elizabeth M. identified in sale of dower Rights
DOM: after 1827
Father: Robert Cowan (1732-1784) dates unverified, alternatives abound
Mother: Susannah Woods (1736-?) dates unverified, alternatives abound


Major John Cowan (1763-1837) is usually identified as the son of Robert Cowan (1732-178?) and Susannah Woods (1736-?).

Child ListEdit

Children of Agness Martin (1763-1827) by John Cowan (1763-1837) Edit This List
James Perkins Cowan 1 Dec 1792 Blount, Tn
Susan Or Susanna Cowan Abt 1793
Polly Cowan 1793
Nancy Cowan 22 May 1794
Thomas F. Cowan Abt 1805
William Mitchel Cowan 2 Jan 1803 Franklin County, Tennessee 1 Sep 1850, Franklin County, Tennessee Mary E. "Polly" Brooks 22 Nov 1830 Franklin County, Tennessee
Melinda Cowan Abt 1807 Franklin Co., Tn


Knoxville 9th August 1804

Gentlemen Having received notice from the GeorgianCommissioners proposing a meeting at James Vans on the 15th Instant, you will readily discover the necessity of repairing to that place with the utmost dispatch Permit me to recommend in the first place an agreement to be made with the GeorgianCommissioners Consigning to each State an equal part of the road most conveinant for each party to open and clear out -- If this point should be settled and agreed upon, very probably your place of meeting will be considered near the Middle Ground -- Secondly -- you will proceed to explore and Mark out the nearest, best, and most conveinant routs for waggon roads, leading from the two stations agreed upon between the United Statesand Cherokees, (towit) "From Southwest point and Tellico Blockhouse, " to such part of the way and place as may be agreed upon by the Commissioners:

Page: [2]

The two roads leading from the aforesaid points, to intersect each other conformably to the articles of agreement between the united Statesand the Indians. You will also agree and conclude upon a certain and Suitable place to prefix a twin pike to be erected. As the two roads to be laid off from Tellicoand Southwest pointwill require some time, I therefore recommend the road leading from Tellico, to be the first marked out, provided you can not have them both laid off at or near the same time -- I have observed that probably your place of meeting would be about the Middle Ground, but you will please to Notice, that for a great part of the Way leading from Tennessee river there is two roads to be cut on our side, which considerably Stretch and lengthen the distance, and it aught to be so arranged that Tennesseeshould not have more miles to cut, than Georgia, who have resolved to pay an equal Moiety of the expense. Those indifinate points it is expected will be agreed upon and adjusted,

Page: [3]

in a manner consistant with such reciprocity, Fairnes and equibility as ought ever to subsist and Govern between Sister States, taking into View mutual and beneficial advantages -- For your further Guide and instructions, you will attend strictly to the Articles of agreement between the United Statesand the Cherokees, and the law passed by our [illegible]] legislature on the Subject -- Should it so happen that You could not agree with the GeorginCommissioners what particular part of the road on our side, we are to cut and open out, your own discretion in that case will then Govern your conduct agreably to the agreement and law, above quoted -- I have no doubt you will perceive the propriety of making every exertion to have the roads laid off and marked out as soon as possible, and report immeadiately thereon, the manner in which the same has been conducted, the distance in Miles you suppose there may be on our part to cut, what kind of Country the same will pass through, and whether the same will require any Causwaying, ditching, or bridging -- and if any, how much

Page: [4]

In the mean time you will please forward at suitable opportunities information how you are progressing --

I am Gentlemen very respectfully your Mo Obt Servt (signed)

John Sevier

Colo Joseph McMin Colo Samuel Wear, and Maj John Cowan Commissioners & c

Copy Instructions to Commissioners 9 Augt 1804 To be recorded

"SALE OF ELIZABETH M. COWAN'S DOWER RIGHTS: Wm. M. Cowan bought the dower rights of Elizabeth M. Cowan, widow of John Cowan, for $220.00 on 15 May 1837. Witnessed by John Handley & Robt. Cowan. (Deed Bk P, P 401) [Presumably a Franklin Co TN land transaction. John Handley is presumably the son of Samuel Handley (1751-1840) who married Nancy Cowan, daughter of Major John Cowan and Agness Martin.

Abstracted from a Copy of the Will of John Cowan found in Will Book 1808-1876, Page 164
dated 14 day of May, 1836., by Charlotte H. Henson.
State of Tennessee Franklin County:

I John Cowan of same County and State aforesaid being of sound mind and memory do make and publish this my last Will and Testament in manner and form as follows to wit 1st I give and bequeath to my beloved Wife, Elizabeth M. a negro slave Celia and her youngest child, Sam and also one sorrel mare and three of her own choice out of my stock of cattle and three beds and furniture and three bed steads and one Bureau and it is also my Will that my wife Elizabeth remain on my farm and have possession of the same room in my dwelling house that she is now in possession of. And also one brown mare called Pal. and also two fields of clear land lying North East of my house the privilege of clearing Eight or Ten Acres to thrive and also she to have the privilege of [twisler] next joining said field for fire wood and to keep up the fences round said fields and she is to have an equal interest in and to the orchard now growing and to have one half all the stock of hogs that may be on hand and also my sheep that may be on hand. It is my Will that my beloved Wife Elizabeth should remain in possession of my house and Land alloted her during her Natural life herself but should she wish to fix herself otherways she may dispose of said real interest during her Natural life with the Exception of the share of the [mantion] House alloted her The item above mentioned she is to have an unlimited right to dispose of with the exception of the interest she will have in my real Estate that interest at her death is turned to my son William M. I do also give and bequeath to my stepson Thomas D. Berry a good horse Saddle and Bridle and a Cow and Calf. I do also give and bequeath to my Step daughter Amanda Berry one cow and calf. I do also give and bequeath to Daughter Melinda one bed and furniture. I do also give and bequeath to my son Thomas F. one bed and furniture. I do also give and bequeath to my son William if the whole [any] real Estate that I now own seized and of to be at his disposal at my death with the exception of the part allotted to my beloved Wife Elizabeth during her Natural life then to be my son William's for himself and his kin forever and also one secretary and clock and any household and kitchen furniture that may be on hand to have and equal divided of and as to my stock of hogs my Will is that my son William is to have the other half not allotted and also one half of the cattle that may be on hand and also what horses may be on hand and all the farming utensils that may be on hand. And Lastly as to my residue of personal property - I may be seized and possessed of at my death my will is that it be equally divided between my Wife and my son William M. and I hereby order ordain and appoint my son in law John Handly my sole Executor of this my last Will and Testament In Witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my Seal this 14th day of May 1836 signed sealed and declared by the above named John Cowan to be his last Will and Testament in the presence of us who have hereunto subscribed our names as Witnesses in the presence of the Testator. James P. Cowan [sg] John Cowan [Seal} Abner Adams [sg]

State of Tennessee } County Court for Tenn 1837 Franklin County } This day the Last Will and Testament of John Cowan Deceased was produced in open court by John Handly the Executor therein named. Whereupon came James P. Cowan and Abner Adams the subscribing witnesses thereto who being duly sworn deposed and say that they were acquainted with the Testator and that he was of sound and disposing mind and memory at the time of making and signing the same and that they assigned it as witnesses at his request Whereupon it is ordered by the Court to be recorded. Witness my hand at office the 3rd day of May 1837

                                               W. W. Brazelton, Clerk 

Recorded in my office the 3rd day of May AD/ 1837 Page 180 {Seal} W/ W/ Brazelton Clerk of Franklin

                                               County Court 

Family HistoryEdit


References and LinksEdit

brief history of the Creek War. This article on the Creek War deals primarily with the "Tennessee Volunteer Mounted Gunmen'" and makes specific mention of Captain John Cowan, and Major William Russell.

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