Copyright © Janice Tracy, Cemeteries of Dancing Rabbit Creek.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Gowen/Gowin Family of Attala County

Yesterday, I received a very nice email from a Mississippi reader who is a volunteer for Find-A-Grave, telling me that he enjoyed my blog. He also told me that he has photographed all the graves found in the very old Ellington Cemetery near McAdams, Mississippi, and he wanted to direct me there. Since I had not yet visited this cemetery, I took his advice and checked out the listing of graves there.

First, I found that twenty-three of some of Attala County's oldest residents are buried in the Ellington Cemetery. Five of those buried were infants or very young children. Of the twenty-three persons, five were members of the Gowen/Gowin family, five were Ellington family members, and four were from the Crittenden family. Others persons buried in this cemetery are: Guyton (2), Jenkins (1), Hines (2), Dickens (1), Ellard (1), Bailey (1) and Boutwell.

One of the gravestones, a double one pictured here, shows the names Alexander Gowen, and his son, Richard. An engraved oval that separates the combined marker simply states "Father & Son." Although Alexander's date of birth is not shown, the headstone shows his death occurred on April 28, 1869. Richard's marker shows that he was born on May 24, 1952 and died shortly after his twenty-second birthday,on May 26, 1874.

As I searched further through the list of those buried in the Ellington Cemetery, I found a simple marker for "Mantha" Gowin, engraved "the wife of Alex." Mantha, or "Martha" as census records later indicated, was born February 3, 1817 and died on March 3, 1891, approximately seventeen years after her son's death.

There are twenty-three graves located in the Ellington Cemetery. Of those individuals, five were members of the Gowen/Gowin family, five were Ellington family members, and four were from the Crittenden family. Others persons buried in this cemetery are: Guyton (2), Jenkins (1), Hines (2), Dickens (1), Ellard (1), Bailey (1) and Boutwell.

The double headstone for Alexander Gowen and his son Richard fascinated me, primarily because it appeared to be one made for a man and his wife, not a man and his son. So I decided to research the Gowen/Gowin family that lived in Attala County during the 1800's. What I found was a very large family headed by Alexander ("Alex") and his wife "Martha."

According to the U. S. Census recorded in 1850, Alexander and Martha lived in rural Attala County, where he was a farmer. Alexander was not a wealthy man, even for those years, since the value of his property was shown on the census record to be only $500. His age was recorded as 36 years old, and his birthplace was shown as "North Carolina." Martha was shown to be 30 years old and born in Georgia. The Gowen household consisted of seven children named Edna, Sarah, Lott, Garrett, Isaac, Jesse, and Polly. Anotheer individual named William W. McCarter, whose relationship is not indicated, was also present in the household.

In 1860, two sons had been added to the Gowen family, and the spelling of the surname was now shown on the census taken in that year as "Gowin." Two sons, "Dickey" and "Alexander," were born in 1853 and in 1859.

There are two questions that have arisen from this look into the Gowen/Gowin family and its dead who are buried in the Ellington Cemetery. First, who was Richard Gowen? According to the U. S. Census taken in 1860, the Gowen son born in 1859 was named "Dickey." In all likelihood, "Dickey" was a nickname for Richard.

Second, why was Richard buried beside his father, in the place intended for Martha, his mother? It seems quite possible that Martha had erected a beautiful double marker for her husband's grave when he died, and at her death, she planned to be buried next to him. But tragedy struck, and her young son died when he was barely 22 years old, and he was likely the first of her children to be taken in death. In her grief, Martha buried her son next to his father in the place intended for her. Her own death and where she would be buried were likely not a concern at the time.

Richard's brother, Garrett, is buried in the Ellington Cemetery, as well, along with a Gowen/Gowin grandson, also named Alex. Although the last Gowen/Gowin family member was buried in this cemetery in 1904, I have found no record that anyone with that surname was living in Attala County by 1870. But the beautiful monuments to their lives as well as to their deaths, continue to be loving reminders of a family that lived there so long ago.


  1. JANICE,

    What a beautiful old grave marker. It is unusual to see such an ornate stone for father and son I agree. I think that the engraving on the marker stating "Father & Son" meant it was ordered originally for the two of them rather than being diverted to that use when a son died young. It is so interesting to speculate, however, about how events of more than 130 years ago may have been decided.

    I enjoyed reading your article about this Ellington/Gowen/Crittendon cemetery in Attala County, Mississippi.


  2. Aloha!

    I am the great great grandson of
    Alexander Gowan ,who lies under this monument . My great grandfather Garrett Gowan lies nearby .
    I am Robert Gowan and my father , Clarence Gowan , age 95 and still alive and well in Boonville Mo. is Garrett's grandson and Alexander's great grandson . Clarence is a proud WW2 vet and retired USAF Col.
    I am a coffee farmer in Kona Hawaii
    Dad and I are both very pleased to see our dear ancestors so finely mentioned here on this blog.
    Thank you!