Friday, June 23, 2006

William Cowan settled in Delaware County, New York about 1825

Excerpt from Long Papers, posted on the Delaware County, NY - Genealogy and History Site

The poster says, "This book once belonged to my Grandfather Cecil Sanford, so I would like to dedicate this book not just in his memory but the memory of all my Grandfathers mentioned within this book. ... With regards, Tamara Sanford, December 12, 2002." It is not made clear whom the writer was, nor exactly when the papers were written - perhaps around 1925.


THIS WEEK I VISITED another farm where the family line has been continuous, and the land is still occupied by one of the direct descendants. There are four such families tip that branch of the valley: the Thomsons, the Cowans, the Archibalds, and the Millers. My visit was to the Cowan farm now owned by Andrew Cowan (presently owned by Harold Mead).

The homestead lies adjacent to, or is cut by, three roads and is one of the two farms which looks particularly smooth and well adapted to its purpose and it has been well farmed. With abundant water, it is naturally adapted to dairying, and the records of the testing association for the past year (1924) show that the business has been well followed.

The original lease or deed was from General Hermance, which particularly interested me as I had come across the name in the records and have been wishing to know what lands he might have held in this section. So far I have found that he probably owned the farms now possessed by Harry O'Connor, Thomas Ingles, and Andrew Cowan. The O'Connor farm was sold to Archibald Elliott in 1837 by Sally Hermance of Rhinebeck, who doubtless was the widow of General Hermance and probably one of the Livingston line.

The Cowan farm was settled by William Cowan about a century ago. We figured out the date from the children of Thomas Cowan, Thomas having taken the farm a few years afterward from his father. There were ten children, the youngest being the only one left, and he gave me the facts to figure with. The oldest one was Hannah Cowan, born in 1830 or 31, and as there must have been at least five or six years before Thomas Cowan could have married and settled on the place after it was cleared by his father, the first trees must have been cut as early as 1825.

Thomas Cowan came across from Scotland after his father, if I remember correctly. The ship in which he came drifted from its course, and he was compelled to winter in Prince Edward's Island just north of Nova Scotia. The following summer he came on to New York State and found employment at Catskill in a tannery, until his father transferred to him the farm he had started to clear.

The value of the incomers from the little island across the sea to our great country is well illustrated by this line. Strong, energetic, intelligent, whether in this immediate valley or in Weaver Hollow or the "Turnpike," they have "made good." I have "sponged" many a meal at their tables ending for the time just the other night when I sat at the board while I got material for my story. I shall not be sorry to try it again, especially if they have some more of the dried beef of the old-fashioned style, the kind I used to whittle off with my jackknife as it hung by the stove of course, when the housewife was not looking.

The older one of the family the last of the next older generation told me about how they used to "dip" candles. He said his mother used to fasten several pieces of wicking to a long stick, each long enough for a candle. Then she would melt up the tallow in the boiler as that was the only thing deep enough. The wicks would be well greased by hand so they would hang straight down, and then the whole line of them would be let down into the melted material and drawn out again. Then she would hand the stick with the candle beginnings to him to take into the cellar to cool for another layer while, I suppose, she dipped another string of them. Thus after several dippings enough grease would accumulate to make a good sized candle.

I remember hearing years ago that sometimes they had water in the boiler beneath the melted tallow, and asked him why, as I could never understand it, unless in some way the water helped to harden the tallow. "Why," said he, "that was because they had not enough tallow to fill the boiler, which would take an enormous quantity." And then I saw it plain enough and wondered why I had not guessed it before.

After supper I slipped up to the top of the ridge where the Roxbury road runs across to see if I could set my surveying compass on the old Desbrosses line and get its bearings. And coming down again I was charmed with the view which seemed like looking through an open door at the valley below and the mountains far beyond. It is quite unique and worth seeing.

And then after a look at the dairy and a good-bye, I jumped into the Ford and started for home, but was not able to forbear running out to where the two roads come together to see if I could get a better "squint" at the old line surveyed in 1776. And it seemed there in the hill quiet that I almost slipped back into the old days and was with the surveyors who ran the line 148 years ago this summer. I listened, but heard no sound, not even the tinkle of a cow bell to break the silence. And then there came suddenly a loud barking sharp and insistent. What could it be? Wolves? No, it was just "Neely" Sanford's milking machine and said to me plainly, "You are needed at home where there is a similar barking," and I "turned on the juice" and hustled.

There are many other interesting stories and mentions of some of the families the Cowans intermarried with on this page; well worth the time.


At 6:56 PM, Blogger T. Sanford, Genealogist said...

This is actually a book I transcribed and it is called 'The Long Papers'. They were most likely written in the 5 or so years preceding Lincoln R. Long's death in 1927. They first appeared as 'sketches' in the local newspaper circa 1925. Later to be compiled into this book.

Kindest regards, Tamara Sanford

Genealogist & Family Historian


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