James Cowan (South Australian politician)

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James Cowan
James Cowan MHA.jpg
Born (1848-04-21)21 April 1848[1]
County Tyrone, Ireland (now Northern Ireland)
Died 21 July 1890(1890-07-21) (aged 42)
Dry Creek, South Australia
Residence North Adelaide, Two Wells, Norwood, Burnside
Nationality British
Alma mater North Adelaide Grammar School
Occupation Farmer, flour miller, investor
Spouse(s) Sarah Ann Warren
Children Henry Albert Cowan (1875–1964), William James Trafford Cowan (1877–1956), Horace Stanhope Cowan (1879–1945), Frank Gladstone Cowan (1881–1966), Leslie Thompson Cowan (1883–1968), Darcy Rivers Warren Cowan (1885–1958), George Dalrymple Cowan (1887–1963), Gladys Rosalind Lewis O.B.E. (1890–1954)
Relatives Thomas Cowan (brother)
John Cowan (nephew)
John Lancelot Cowan (great nephew)
James Cowan (great grandson)[2]
Essington Lewis (son-in-law)
Member for Yatala
In office
23 Apr 1890 – 21 Jul 1890
Serving with William Gilbert
Preceded by Josiah Bagster
Succeeded by Richard Butler
Constituency Yatala
Member of the South Australian House of Assembly

James Cowan (21 April 1848 – 21 July 1890), flour miller and investor, had been a member of the South Australian House of Assembly for the Yatala for only 2 months when he was killed in an accident at a railway crossing. Cowan was an early investor in Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd. The property associated with Erindale, Cowan's residence at Burnside, was sub-divided after his death into a new suburb which was also named Erindale.

Early life[edit]

Cowan who was born in County Tyrone, Ireland (now Northern Ireland), was the third son of John Cowan, a ploughman and shepherd, and his wife Margaret, née Lammey. Cowan, his parents and four other siblings immigrated to South Australia (SA), arriving in Adelaide on 3 August 1852.[3] The family initially settled in North Adelaide where Cowan attended the North Adelaide Grammar School. When he reached the age of 14, he left to assist with his father’s businesses in Two Wells (39 km north of Adelaide).[4]

Business career[edit]

After starting his working life as a farmer, grazier and machinist in the mid-1860s, Cowan began a career as a flour miller. He later purchased the Two Wells mill and later expanded his operations to include mills at Gladstone, Quorn, Mallala and Allendale and wharfs at Port Pirie and Port Augusta. He later merged all of these assets with those of others to form the South Australian Milling Company in which he was a major shareholder. The economic depression that affected South Australia in the early 1880s forced Cowan to assign his estate. About 1885, his fortunes improved when he became one of the early investors in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd via the agency of his wife’s brothers-in-law, W.R. Wilson and S. Wilson. He was able to resume investing with a focus on agriculture and mining. At the time of his death, his portfolio included J. Hill & Company (coaching), the Australian Refining and Smelting Company, the Hamley Copper Mining Company, the Moonta and Wallaroo Copper Mining Company, the Bridgeport Coal Company, the General Electric Supply Company of Australia, Ballarat Tramway Company as well as a number of farms and other property holdings.[4]

Political career[edit]

Cowan had considered requests to stand for election to parliament at the two previous general elections. When the 1890 election was announced, Cowan nominated for the Electorate District of Yatala whose previous members included his eldest brother, Thomas. On 23 April 1890, he and William Gilbert were elected to the two vacancies for Yatala. Just after 5.00 pm on 21 July 1890, Cowan and his fellow passenger, Mark Bullimore, the local branch manager of the General Electric Supply Company of Australia, were both killed when a train collided with his horse-drawn buggy at the intersection of Grand Junction Road and the main railway line running north from Adelaide in the suburb of Dry Creek. His funeral at Payneham on 23 July 1890 was attended by a large number of mourners including his extended family, friends and business associates, and members from both houses of the South Australian Parliament. The vacancy in Yatala caused by Cowan's death was filled by Richard Butler who had unsuccessfully stood earlier in 1890.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11]

Personal life[edit]

Cowan married Sarah Ann Warren, the eldest daughter of Henry Warren & Annie Topham at Two Wells, SA on 27 November 1873. They had eight children including Darcy Rivers Warren Cowan, who is notable as a medical practitioner, and Gladys Rosalind Lewis, OBE who is notable both for her marriage to Essington Lewis and her community service. After his death, Cowan’s widow and eight children remained at the property in the Adelaide suburb of Burnside that he had purchased in 1889 and had renamed Erindale. In 1912, the property was sold and sub-divided into a new suburb which was named Erindale.[1][12][13][14][15][16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "James Cowan, 1848-1890". FamilySearch Community Trees. Retrieved 16 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Cowan, J., (1995), Two Men Dreaming; A memoir, a journey, Brandl & Schlesinger, Rose Bay NSW, pages 69-71.
  3. ^ 'The ship Epaminanados', The Ships List at [1], retrieved 26/08/2012.
  4. ^ a b "Mr. Cowan's career". The Advertiser. 22 July 1890. pp. 5–6. Retrieved 25 September 2010. 
  5. ^ ’The General Elections’, Burra Record, Friday 25 April 1890, page 3, [2], retrieved 12/10/2010.
  6. ^ ’Terrible railway accident, A public man killed, Death of Mr J. Cowan, M.P., and Mr. M. Bullimore’, The Advertiser (Adelaide), Tuesday, 22/07/1890, [3], retrieved 18/09/2012
  7. ^ 'The late Mr. Bullimore', The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Tuesday 22 July 1890, page 6, [4], retrieved 20/09/2012.
  8. ^ 'The funeral of Mr James Cowan; A large crowd at the grave', The Advertiser Thursday 24 July 1890, page 5, [5], retrieved 18/09/2012.
  9. ^ 'Election for Yatala', South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 - 1900), Tuesday 5 August 1890, page 6, [6], retrieved 26/08/2012.
  10. ^ 'Election for Yatala', South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA), Thursday 14 August 1890, page 7, [7], retrieved 26/08/2012.
  11. ^ Parliament of South Australia. Statistical Record of the Legislature 1836 - 2007; Compiled in the Offices of the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Clerk of the Legislative Council (PDF). p. 61. 
  12. ^ ’Married’, The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Monday 8 December 1873, page 2, [8], retrieved 25/09/2012.
  13. ^ Woodruff, Philip, 'Cowan, Sir Darcy Rivers Warren (1885–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, [9], accessed 16 September 2012.
  14. ^ 'Death of Mrs Essington Lewis', The Advertiser, Wednesday 7 July 1954, page 2, [10], retrieved 25/09/2012.
  15. ^ "LEWIS, Gladys". Honours, Symbols and Territories Branch Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  16. ^ Blainey, Geoffrey, 'Lewis, Essington (1881–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, [11], accessed 16 September 2012.
  17. ^ Warburton; Elizabeth, (1981), The Paddocks Beneath: a history of Burnside from the beginning, The Corporation of the City of Burnside, South Australia, pages 16 and 17. (ISBN 0959387609)

Further reading[edit]

  • Coxon, H., Playford, J. and Reid, R.; (1985), Biographical Register of the South Australian Parliament 1857 -1957, Wakefield Press, Netley, page 50. (ISBN 0 9492682 4 0)

External links[edit]

  • ‘Mr James Cowan’ at Former Member of Parliament Details, [12], retrieved 30/08/2012.