Cecil Township Historical Society
Celebrating the Old, Welcoming the New
Home       People       Places       Things       Other Stuff
Robert A. Cowden Sr. Connected to Joseph Cowden, But Which One?
Cecil Township resident Robert August "Bob" Cowden Sr., a native of Hickory, descends in direct paternal line to the first Cowdens who settled the area.  The Cowdens of Western Pennslyvania and Eastern Ohio, who can trace their heritage to one of nine siblings, have included numerous doctors, ministers, businessmen, farmers and teachers (many of whom were women).  Cecil Township was home to a prominent individual named Joseph Cowden, but genealogical records indicate there were two noteworthy Joseph Cowdens in the area, and Bob Cowden is related to both.  He is the great-great nephew of one, the great-great-great-great nephew of the other.

Two Prominent Joseph Cowdens, One Tangle of Confusion

Authors Boyd Crumrine and *Reverend James Marcus Welch, an actual Cowden descendant, wrote about the Cowdens more than a century ago, but their books provide conflicting information, particularly where Joseph Cowden is concerned.

The Joseph Cowden (1765-1849) to whom Crumrine referred in his writings, was among those Cowden siblings who settled the area (a virtual frontier at the time) as youths/children with their mother, the widowed Mary Reynolds Cowden.  This particular Joseph Cowden married Mary May, the daughter of Alexander May and, according to Welch, relocated to Mahoning County, Ohio, between 1795 and 1800, with his brothers, William and Reynolds.  However, Crumrine stated that Joseph Cowden "came to the township in 1848, and purchased Oram farm," and was the grandson of Mrs. Ewing, of Allegheny County, "who was killed by the Indians in one of their raids."  Obviously, Crumrine and Welch disagree here, one stating that Joseph Cowden moved away fifty years before the other states that he settled in Cecil Township.  Additionally, Mary May's mother could have very well been an Ewing and an Indian raid seems more plausible during those frontier days, but it is most likely that Crumrine might inadvertently mistakened the two Joseph Cowdens as the same individual.

Further supporting the theory that Crumrine had confused Joseph Cowden (1765-1849) with a great nephew bearing the same name is the fact that the younger Joseph Cowden (1825-1908), the brother of Robert A. Cowden Sr.'s great-grandfather, Mark Kelso Cowden (see pedigree below), was the grandson of Elizabeth Ewing.  Also, the Joseph Cowden farm illustrated by J. A. Caldwell (see illustration to the upper right) was published in 1876, twenty-seven years after the death of the elder Joseph Cowden.  Welch stated that the younger Joseph Cowden, the husband of Margaret McCarrell, was
"….a farmer worth $100,000, and an elder in the United Presybterian church at Venice, Pa."  It is much more likely that the Joseph Cowden who lived into the early twentieth century might have amassed such a fortune (undoubtedly the equivalent of millions of dollars today).  If $100,000 was an astronomical sum of money over a hundred years ago, it would have been even harder to come by generations earlier amid a frontier setting.  The farm illustrated by Caldwell in all likelihood belonged to the wealthy Joseph Cowden rather than the one who had married Mary May and relocated to Ohio an estimated three quarters of a century earlier.

At any rate, Robert Cowden Sr. is connected to both Joseph Cowdens, but he does not descend from either one.  Presumably, Joseph Cowden, the brother to his great-grandfather, would have owned the farm illustrated by Caldwell.  If that is the case, Cowden Sr. and his wife, Elizabeth Ciaffoni Cowden --whose father, Paul Ciaffoni, once labored in a local coal mine -- own a portion of this property today.  Regardless, Joseph Cowden (1765-1849) was a brother to Bob Cowden's great-great-great grandfather, and Joseph Cowden (1825-1908) was a brother to his great grandfather.

A pedigree of Cowden geneaology, compiled from Reverend James Marcus Welch's exhaustive book, Ancestry and Kin of the Cowden and Welch Families (Indiana, Pennsylvania, 1904), is not for the faint of heart due to its length, but interested parties can click here to further research the Cowdens of Western Pennsylvania.
Image originally appeared in Caldwell's Illustrated Combination Centennial Atlas of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Condit, Ohio:  J. A. Caldwell,  1876.)
Robert August Cowden (B. November 1, 1937, Hickory, Mount Pleasant Township, Washington Co., PA. Married Elizabeth Ciaffoni on December 6, 1973.) Andrew Thompson Cowden (B. February 4, 1901. D. December 23, 1964, Buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Mount Pleasant United Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Hickory, Mount Pleasant Twp, Washington Co., PA) William B. Cowden (B. November 19, 1861, D. 1950, Buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery) Mark Kelso Cowden (B. September 22, 1823 or 1827, D. 1912, Buried at Venice Presbyterian Church Cemetery, McDonald, Washington Co., PA) Brother to Joseph Cowden (1825-1908), Bob Cowden's great-great uncle John Cowden III (B. February 25, 1789, D. Febaruary 1, 1855) John Cowden II
(B. 1758, Paxtang, PA, D. June 15, 1827 at Hornhead Farm in Washington Co., PA) Brother to Joseph Cowden (1765-1849), Bob Cowden's great-great-great-great uncle
John Cowden
Mary Reynolds Cowden
Mary Kelso Cowden (B. December 13, 1796, D. March 3, 1883, Buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery) Mark Kelso (Born December 13, 1796, Died March 3, 1883, Buried at Mount Plesant Cemetery)  
Elizabeth Ewing Kelso (Born 1777, Died 1819, Buried at Robinson Run Cemetery, McDonald, Pennsylvania)  
Jane Thompson Cowden (B. September 24, 1834, D. May 24,1913 in Houston, Washington Co., PA, Buried at Venice Presbyterian Church Cemetery) Andrew Thompson (B. 1792, D. January 23, 1860, Buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery)    
Elizabeth Thompson (B. 1794, D. March 1, 1871, Buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery)    
Susan R. Phillips Cowden (B. 1871, D. 1945, Buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery)        
Bertha Mae Schafer Cowden (B. 1905, Died 1977 or 1978, Buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery) August William \"Gus\" Schafer (B. January 1, 1878 in Munich, Germany, Came to USA at age of three, D. September 20, 1974, Hickory, PA, Buried at Mount Prospect Cemetery, Hickory, Mount Pleasant Twp., Washington Co., PA) Christian Schafer (B. 1844, D. 1910, Buried at Mount Prospect Cemetery)      
Melzena Seabright Schafer (B. 1847, D. 1926, Buried at Mount Prospect Cemetery)      
Della Louise Creps Schafer (B. June 9, 1884; D. in May 5, 1943, Buried at Mount Prospect Cemetery)        
Pedigree generated by PedigreeQuery.com