[ Return to Index ] [ Read Prev Msg ] [ Read Next Msg ]



Posted By: Richard K. Thompson (email)
Date: 6/4/2010 at 14:47:16

The Fairfield Ledger
July 19, 1882
Item found in people section of this issue:

""Does anybody know this man who is mentioned in the Des Moines Register's state news column? "John W. COWDEN was arrested in Boone a few days ago for examination as to his sanity. He spent most of his time street preaching, singing, praying and reading from the testament. Says he is from O'Brien county, formerly a resident of Jefferson county, and accuses himself of lying and adultery, and consequently is doing pennance by this mission.""

*Transcriber note: The below item is the followup in the next issue. It is a verbatim transcription of the full text, with only the surnames capitalized for emphasis per submission guidelines:

Fairfield Ledger
July 26, 1882


Last week THE LEDGER asked who was John W. COWDEN, a man who had been arrested for insanity at Boone, and claimed Jefferson county as his home at one time. We know now, and pronounce him a crank and a hard case, if all things told of him are true.

COWDEN has experienced a good many of the ups and downs of life, principally the downs, and has a somewhat romantic history. He first made his appearance in this county in the spring or summer of 1878. One sultry day he stopped at the house of Mrs. Margaret STEELE, in Polk township, three miles northwest of Abingdon, and begged his dinner. He was a foot passenger on the public highway, in common parlance, a tramp.

Mrs. STEELE was a widow (sic. her husband Ira C. STEELE had died in January 1878) about forty years of age, and there was no man about the farm. To fill the vacant place she hired COWDEN for the summer, and he settled down to farm work quite comfortably. With his plowing and harvesting he made a favorable impression on the widow and did sufficient courting to make a proposition of marriage. Mrs. STEELE smiled on his suit, and on November 14, 1878, in the store of J.E. ROTH & Co., this city, the pair were made one flesh by Rev. J.P. CHENWORTH.

Their married life was not all smooth sailing, and at one time COWDEN procured a rope and made a start for Skunk river, where he proposed to decorate an iron bridge with his carcass, but was captured by some of his neighbors and taken home.

In 1880 the COWDENS removed to O'Brien county, where Mrs. C. still lives (sic. one of her adult sons and his family lived in O'Brien county; the COWDEN's settled in an adjoining farmstead).

While the lord and master showed some of his crankiness, was charged with ravishing a neighbor woman and fled the county to escape the minions of the law or the vengence of his fellow citizens. Since his sudden exit nothing has been heard of him until his appearance on the streets of Boone, singing and praying and doing penance for his sins - and he has enough of them if his life before he came here was any thing like it has been since.

*Transcribed for genealogy purposes. I really hope that I am not related to the COWDEN subject of this biography submission.

Transcriber note: On Thursday, May 27, 2010 a living descendant of Ira and Margaret STEELE visited Fairfield, Iowa to research his STEELE family. During the course of that research this living descendant and this contributor learned of John W. COWDEN and the marriage to Margaret STEELE. A reference was later found in the genealogy files at the Fairfield Public Library of the July 26, 1882 Fairfield Ledger story regarding the courtship and marriage, leaving out a few details. The texts transcribed above provide full text transcriptions of the content.

The November 14, 1878 marriage record provides only that John W. COWDEN was about 26 years old at that time. A 1880 census for O'Brien county provides that he hailed from Indiana. No other information about his life, death, and burial is known to this contributor at this time. Any clarifications would be appreciated.


Jefferson Biographies maintained by Joey Stark.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen

[ Return to Index ] [ Read Prev Msg ] [ Read Next Msg ]