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James Alvis Cowan. A successful lawyer at Moore, James A. Cowan has been primarily identified with the growth and development of that town during the past fifteen years as a business man, and has had a prominent relation with some of the important first things both there and in other parts of the state.
He is a Kentuckian by birth, but most of his early youth and manhood was spent in Missouri before he came to Oklahoma. He was born in Christian County, Kentucky, April 4, 1866. He comes of a family which emigrated out of Scotland to Virginia during colonial times, and his grandfather, William Cowan, was born in Virginia in 1793. From Virginia he moved into Kentucky and died in Christian County of that state in 1880. While a resident of Kentucky Grandfather Cowan acquired a tract of Government land in Ray County, Missouri, close to where his son, the father of James A. Cowan, subsequently established his home. William Cowan was a farmer and stock man.
James Henderson Cowan, father of the Moore attorney, was born in Virginia in 1837 and died in Ray County, Missouri, in 1887. He was only a child when he accompanied his parents to Kentucky, and when a young man in 1857 went to Ray County, Missouri, and looked after his father’s landed interests in that county for a number of years. While in Missouri he married Martha Shumate, who was born in Indiana in 1845 and is still living in Ray County. After a few years James H. Cowan took his wife back to Kentucky, but in 1871 returned to Ray County, where he lived until his death. He was a farmer and stock man, also a carpenter and builder. During the war he served with a Kentucky regiment as a volunteer, was an active democrat, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and belonged to the Masonic fraternity. He and his wife were the parents of five children: Marion A., in the real estate business at St. Joseph, Missouri; James A.; Elizabeth Minnie Bird, wife of Charles Ramsey, a carpenter and builder at Richmond, Missouri; William A., who lives on the old homestead farm in Ray County; and Lydia, wife of Perry Kelly, a farmer and stock man in Ray County, Missouri.
James Alvis Cowan was five years of age when his parents returned to Ray County, where he grew up on a farm and acquired his education in the country schools and high school at Richmond, the county seat. For many years he was a capable educator in that section of Missouri, teaching for twelve years altogether in the public schools of Missouri. It was as an educator that he was first known on coming to Oklahoma in 1895, and for two years was principal of a school in Oklahoma County and for another two years in Cleveland County. While in Oklahoma County he put in the first public school library, and in Cleveland County he served as deputy county superintendent of schools.
Since moving to Moore in 1900 he has been chiefly interested in business affairs. In that year he opened a hardware and harness business, and conducted it until he sold out in 1904. In the latter year he built the two-story brick building at the corner of Broadway and Main Street, a structure that he still owns and in which his offices are situated. Also in 1904 he engaged in the farm loan business at Moore. Meanwhile he had begun the study of law, taking a correspondence course with a Chicago correspondence school of law, and in 1908 was admitted to the bar. During 1909 10 he continued his education by two years’ work in the Oklahoma State University in the law department, but has been in active general practice at Moore since 1908, specializing in real estate law. He has served as secretary of the State and County Bar Association and is a member of the Oklahoma State Bar Association.
In politics he is a democrat, and in 1908 was elected mayor of Moore. He belongs to the Baptist Church, and is very active in Masonry. He is affiliated with Myrtle Lodge No. 145, Capitol Hill, Oklahoma City, a lodge first organized at Moore and of which Mr. Cowan was one of the organizers and charter members and in which he is past master by service. He is also past high priest of Lion Chapter No. 24, Royal Arch Masons, at Norman. In the Valley of Guthrie, Consistory No. 1, he has attained eighteen degrees of Scottish Rite. He was one of the appointive Grand Lodge officers, being grand pursuivant of the old Oklahoma Territory jurisdiction until that jurisdiction was combined with the territory jurisdiction in 1908. Mr. Cowan is also affiliated with Moore Camp, Woodmen of the World, with Moore Camp No. 6898, Master Workmen’s Association, and with the Woodman Circle. Since identifying himself with the community of Moore he has served on the school board.
April 4, 1912, at Oklahoma City, he married Miss Rachel Siler, daughter of the late John L. Siler, who was a farmer near Moore, and had homesteaded a place three miles west of Moore, but sold that and subsequently bought a farm seven miles southwest of the town. Mr. and Mrs. Cowan have one daughter, Edith, born February 2, 1913.