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Below is a family biography included in History of Shawnee County, Kansas and Representative Citizens by James L. King, published by Richmond & Arnold, 1905.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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Elias Branson Cowgill, a veteran newspaper man of Kansas, and a member of the Kansas Farmer Publishing Company, of Topeka, has been prominent in all matters pertaining to the State’s agricultural interests for a great many years. Mr. Cowgill was born March 27, 1845, at Martin’s Ferry, Ohio, and is a son of Phineas and Sarah Ann (Branson) Cowgill.

The Cowgill family came to America with William Penn and settled near Philadelphia; a branch moved to Loudoun County, Virginia, and subsequently, during the infancy of our subject’s grandfather, to Belmont County, Ohio. The latter was an old and exemplary resident. He was an elder in the Society of Friends and presided at the head of the local meeting at St. Clairsville for over 30 years. The father of Mr. Cowgill was also born in Ohio, where he married and engaged in farming until 1852, when he moved to Iowa.

Elias B. Cowgill was mainly reared and entirely educated in the State of Iowa, where he completed his preliminary studies and then entered the State University of Iowa, where he was graduated in 1869. His beginning in newspaper work was as editor of the university paper, and his second effort was at Enterprise, Mississippi, where he also became interested in cotton raising. He was later made superintendent of the schools of Clarke County, Mississippi.

In 1871 Mr. Cowgill came to Kansas, locating at Great Bend, Barton County. He surveyed the Great Bend town-site in September, 1871. In December, 1875, he moved to Sterling, Kansas, where he established the Rice County Gazette, a paper which he continued to issue for the succeeding 16 years. It was mainly devoted to the interests of that part of the State and won a place in the front rank of the newspapers of the country. In 1884 he was appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture to investigate the sugar industry, and in the following year he was elected to the chair of physics and engineering in the Kansas State Agricultural College. These trusts he accepted although he still retained his ownership of the Gazette, which was placed under the management of A. L. McMillan. In 1887, however, Mr. Cowgill decided to return to Sterling, resigning his work at the college. He was again appointed by the Commissioner of Agriculture to look further into the sugar industry, and to ascertain the best kind of machinery to use and the best processes to follow. In 1889 Mr. Cowgill went into the erection of sugar machinery and became general Western representative of the Kilby Manufacturing Company, of Cleveland, Ohio. He built factories for the manufacture of sugar at Medicine, Lodge, Conway Springs and Ness City, and rebuilt the factory at Topeka, which had been burned in 1890. In 1891 he disposed of all his interests in this line and bought an interest in the Kansas Farmer Publishing Company. The Kansas Farmer was first printed in 1863 by Judge Adams, later by Ex-Governor George T. Anthony and still later by Maj. J. K. Hudson. A company was then formed which was succeeded by the present company. The publication has a circulation of 23,000, which extends all over Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Indian Territory. It supplies the needs of hundreds of households in the valleys and plains in these various States and occupies a place of prominence on many a cultured library table. Its issue is weekly and its aim is to be a strictly home and agricultural paper.

On September 20, 1869, Mr. Cowgill was married to Helen Prescott, who was a daughter of John S. and Mary (Harris) Prescott, the former of Massachusetts and the latter of Ohio, Iowa, Mississippi and Kansas. Mrs. Cowgill died at Great Bend, Kansas, in 1875, leaving one child, Sadie C., the wife of William J. Graves, of Neosho, Missouri, who is in the real estate business and is land agent for the Kansas City Southern Railroad Company. In May, 1877, Mr. Cowgill was married, second, to Rena Harriman, of Sterling, Kansas, who is a daughter of Dr. Leonard B. and Angeline (Kezer) Harriman. Dr. Harriman died at Sterling, but his widow, a native of Canada, is a resident of Guthrie, Oklahoma. Mr. and Mrs. Cowgill have these children: Ruth—the talented editor of the home departments of the Kansas Farmer, and Horace B., who are graduates of Washburn College; Ella L. and Harry L., who are students at Washburn College; Clyde P., who is attending the Topeka High School; and Clinton H., Paul K. and David M., who are still in the graded schools. The family belong to the Congregational Church, in which Mr. Cowgill has been a deacon for some time. He is president of the State Temperance Union, belongs to the Commercial Club, is a member of Oak Grange and of Topeka Lodge No. 17, A. F. & A. M.

His sympathies are with the Democratic party. Mr. Cowgill has a very pleasant home at No. 1325 Clay street. The Kansas Farmer headquarters are at No. 116 West Sixth street.

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This family biography is one of 206 biographies included in History of Shawnee County, Kansas and Representative Citizens by James L. King, published by Richmond & Arnold, 1905.  For the complete description, click here: Shawnee County, Kansas History, Genealogy, and Maps

View additional Shawnee County, Kansas family biographies here: Shawnee County, Kansas

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