Friday, May 27, 2016

Dr. Edward Cowan

Dr. Cowan, front row, second from right, holding a cane
For Memorial Day, we are celebrating the life of Dr. Edward H. Cowan, who was the oldest surviving veteran of the Civil War from Montgomery County, at his death in 1942.  He was born in Frankfort on Dec. 21, 1846 to John and Harriet Janney Cowan.

John Cowan was reported to be the first male child born in the Indianapolis settlement in 1821, and attended Wabash College, graduating in 1842.  Edward also attended Wabash College, and in 1864, was one of a group of young scholars who left the school to join the Union forces. Edward was a member of the 135th Indiana Infantry, Co. H. Incidentally, this was also the unit my great, great grandfather, James W. Thompson of Ladoga, served with, so they must have been friends.  These young men spent time on the "Cracker Line," which opened up the area through Tennessee for the later famous, "March to the Sea," led by Sherman.

A young Dr. Edward Cowan
Edward Cowan mustered out in 1865 and returned to Wabash College, finishing in 1867.  He later studied medicine and became  a physician serving the people of Crawfordsville in 1878.  He was the first city health officer, and served on the city school board.   He married Lucy Ayors in 1877.   Her great-aunt was married to Major Ambrose Whitlock, who ran the land office in Crawfordsville for many years.

Dr. Cowan was well-known for his work with the Grand Army of the Republic, a national reunion group for Civil War soldiers, for over 50 years. In our "images" database, there are several more photos of Dr. Cowan attending different GAR events. He was admired and loved by all who knew him for his wit and humor, his breadth of knowledge, his friendliness to all, and his personal philosophy that kept him so young.  Dr. Cowan lived to be 95 years old.

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