Unlike the Trousdales, the Cowan/Cowen's did not live in-town. Ned Cowen (great X4 grandfather) was a longhunter, unique to the Tennessee area. This group of men, based in Virginia and North Carolina, went on long hunts into Indian territory, Tennessee and Kentucky, earning a living in the lucrative fur trade. Eventually Ned settled in Tennessee and he and his son, Mathew (great X3 grandfather) built a log cabin on the family farmstead. Ned was reportedly killed by Indians in 1796.
Cowen descendants lived on this land for over 200 years until the 1970's when it was sold to someone outside the family named Fahey. The Faheys found that the Cowen family never tore any building down, nor went to the dump. So they found the original one-room log cabin that was later used as a kitchen and as slave quarters. There a second log cabin, barn and large two-story colonial house. It had been remodeled some, but they found all the original material on the property. So the Faheys started to work restoring the farmstead and 29 years later the house was listed on the National Register of Historic places.
We also found information at the library on the Cowan cemetery including a list of those buried there. The list included Mathew Cowen's son, William Wade Cowen, and his wife Lousia Hogan Cowen. There was a rough description of the location of the cemetery.
Armed with the article on the Cowen Farmstead complete with picture and the library information on the Cowan Cemetery, we headed out to Buffalo Valley. (population 3,515; 98.3% white; 81.1 sq. miles; average 43 people per square mile) The folks at the Chamber told us to start there because they had a post office -- somewhere to ask.
Buffalo Valley is one of those "no services" exits and we found ourselves in the country wondering whether to turn right or left. We choose left and went under the freeway where the road curved off into the country, but right there surrealistically was a small modern Post Office complete with a drive-up mail box. Across the street two old abandoned buildings leaned at odd angles. One had a sign out front, "The Olde Store." The other building had no sign, but I guessed it was probably the olde post office. There were a couple of old inhabited houses around and a man cleaning out the parking lot with a leaf blower.
So we went into the post office and were greeted by the Buffalo Valley Postmaster. We told her we were looking for the olde Cowan Farmstead. She was not familiar with the name and we concluded that unlike Montana, old places were not known by the original owner's name here. So we tried the name Fahey. She knew them and thought they lived in the Rock Springs community, up the road, take a left.
We went back outside and fasinated by the olde buildings, I started taking pictures. Jim struck up a conversation with the man in the parking lot. Turns out he is the husband of the Postmaster. He told us that the name Buffalo Valley came to be because there was a salt lick just up the "hallar" from here and the Buffalo would gather there. We showed him the pictures of the house we were looking for and took it in to discuss with his wife since her family had lived here for generations. Came back and told us to go up the road and turn right at the "dragway" sign and go up into the "hollar." He thought it was up there.
So we were off to the hollow. I really never understood what a hollow was until we saw one. Looks to me like it is a valley without a real valley floor. Farms and houses are built on the hillsides along the valley. We followed the road, and found a number of houses old and new and some fantastic barns and scenery, and even the dragway (Central Tennessee Dragway), but no house matching the picture. We did, however, get a good feel for the land and area.
The way we figured, the Cowan Cemetery was up the road from where we were, so we decided to switch gears and try and find that. A number of small cemeteries were listed on our county map, but without names. With a little backtracking and turning the map around, we finally took a side road up a hill that ended in a drive way and there on our left was a square chain link fence with a large sign that said "COWAN CEMETERY."
As we got out of the car, 5 labs of all colors lumbered out to greet us. After giving us a good sniff and marking our car, they left us alone and we went into the cemetery which had both Cowan's and Cowen's (the name somehow got changed along the line.)
The older grave stones were so weathered that we couldn't read them. Jim had the bright idea of making a stone rubbing with paper and pencil. That worked great and the names of his great, great grandfather and grandmother appeared like magic.
Happy about our find, we got back on the Florida trail heading south, back on I-40, cutting across to I-24 to bypass Nashville. On I-24 we once again encountered the Trucks and a number of drivers that Jim calls Nashville Nascar Drivers because they follow so close.
We headed into the hills through really pretty country.The trees are taller than Kansas bushes here, although not up to Northwest standards, and thick. Billboards are placed high on poles in order to be seen over the trees. Since you cannot see the poles, it looks like they are hanging in air -- it's odd looking.
We went through whiskey country (Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchberg) and passed the exit for Cowan Tennessee. We bypassed Chattanooga and restrained the urge to exit to see the "Chattanooga Choo Choo." On the other side of the hills, we entered Georgia, stopping at Kennesaw, just north of Atlanta.