Albert Gibson Cowan (1884-1963) & Myrtle Bertie Hinson (1879-1971)

updated January 2019

Albert Gibson Cowan & Myrtle Bertie Hinson are my great grandparents, the parents of my grandfather Wallace Paul Cowan.

Bertie was born August 13, 1879 in Whitener, Arkansas. Her parents were Isaac Newton Hinson and Louisa Cumi Harp. You can read about them here. When Bertie was born, she joined older brothers and two sisters, and three more brothers and two more sisters followed. Bertie, age 9 months, was found on the 1880 US Census, living in Prairie, Madison County, Arkansas. She lived with her parents and four siblings. In 1884, her brother Zimri died, and in 1887, her brother Polk died. Bertie was found on the 1900 US Census in Springdale, Washington County, Arkansas. She was 20 years old lived with her parents and four siblings.

Albert was born March 27, 1884 in Benton County, Arkansas. His parents were Thomas B. Cowan and Martha Josephine Johnston. You can read about them here. When Albert was born, he joined two brothers, and a sister followed. Albert, age 16 and working as a day laborer, was found on the 1900 US Census living in Springdale, Washington County, Arkansas with his parents and his sister.

Bertie and Albert married on March 16, 1902 in Washington County, Arkansas. Albert was only 17 years old, and Bertie was 22. My grandfather Wallace Paul Cowan was born January 25, 1903. The marriage ended in 1904 but I haven’t found divorce records. (Albert’s parents divorced sometime between 1904 and 1907. His mother married two more times.) You can read about my experience figuring out what happened to Albert Gibson Cowan here.

Bertie, age 31, was found on the 1910 US Census living with her son Paul, age 7, in Springdale. They lived with her parents Newton and Cumi, her sister Cleopie, her brother Lin and his wife Annie. She was working at home as a dressmaker. She was listed as married.

Albert, age 26, was found on the 1910 US Census living in Lawton Ward 3, Comanche County, Oklahoma. He was a boarder, working as a telephone lineman.

My grandfather never mentioned that his mother remarried, but in the Arkansas Marriage Index I found Bertie Cowan marrying Henry T. Troutt on April 7, 1912. Bertie was 32 and Henry was 52. I can’t find a divorce record for this marriage either, but it apparently didn’t last long.

On September 3, 1912, Albert married Izora Beatrice Shirley in Custer County, Oklahoma.  Albert was 28 years old going into this marriage, and Izora was 20. They had a son in 1915 and a daughter in 1918.

In 1918, Bertie’s mother Cumi died, and in 1920, her sister Vernia died.

On the 1920 US Census, Bertie, age 41, and Paul, age 16, lived with Bertie’s father Newton in Springdale. Bertie was marked as divorced and not working. Paul was a delivery boy for a grocery store.

Albert was found on the 1920 US Census living in Kiowa, Roger Mills, Oklahoma. He was 36 and worked as a manager at a telephone company. That year, his mother Martha died.

In 1925, Bertie’s father Newton died.

Albert and Izora had daughters born in 1921, 1923. By 1923, they had moved from Oklahoma to Chilhowee, Johnson County, Missouri.

The 1930 US Census found Bertie, age 51, working as a saleslady at a variety store. Paul was 27 with no occupation listed. They were enumerated in the census on May 19, 1930 and Paul married Ellen Cecelia Barber in Platte County, Missouri later that same year. He spent time in Kansas City during 1929 and 1930, working various jobs, and living in what he referred to as Ma Terry’s Boarding House at 2512 Prospect.

Albert lived in Chilhowee, Johnson County, Missouri on the 1930 US Census. He was 46 and worked as a lineman at a telephone company. Sometime over the previous decade, their daughter Ada had died. Albert’s father Thomas died in 1930.

In 1938, Albert’s brother Thomas died. Albert and his family moved to California.

Bertie was found on the 1940 US Census at age 60, living alone, with no occupation listed. In 1945, her brother Thomas died; in 1946 her sister Cleopie died;  in 1949 her brother Dan died; in 1952 her brother Lin died; in 1959 her sister Ada died; and in 1970 her last living sibling, sister Belle, died.

Albert was found on the 1940 US Census at age 56, was a “trouble shooter”, and lived in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California with his wife and three children. In 1943, Albert’s wife died. In 1960, his last living sibling, sister Charlotte, died.

Albert returned to Missouri sometime after his wife’s death. He died on December 17, 1963 at age 79. He was a patient at the Missouri State Hospital in Nevada, Missouri at the time of his death. His Find a Grave memorial is here.

Bertie spent her last years in a nursing home in Springdale. I know from letters she wrote to Paul that Albert Cowan’s relatives visited and cared for her throughout her life. Tom Cowan served as a pallbearer at her funeral, but I don’t know where it fits into the family tree. Cora Cowan (married to brother-in-law John Henry Cowan) sent her dresses while she was living in the nursing home, and Mildred Cowan Stiles visited and wrote to Paul that she wasn’t happy with the conditions. I don’t think Paul visited much if at all, and I know that my great grandmother never met me. I was 3 when she died.

Bertie died September 1, 1971 in Springdale at age 92. She is buried in Bluff Cemetery. I have a letter from Paul’s cousin Theda Baggett imploring him to purchase a headstone for her grave, but I don’t think he did. Her Find A Grave memorial is here.

The child of Albert Gibson Cowan & Myrtle Bertie Hinson:

Wallace Paul Cowan – My grandfather Paul was born January 25, 1903 in Springdale, Arkansas. He married Ellen Cecelia Barber in 1930 and they had 2 children. He died February 2, 1988 at age 85 and Ellen died February 2, 1990 at age 81. His Find A Grave memorial is here. I’ve done other posts about Paul, including filling stations he worked at, photos he took from the water tower in Springdale, and Marshall Auto Store where he worked.

The children of Albert Gibson Cowan & Izora Beatrice Shirley:

Albert Gibson Cowan, Jr. –  He was born June 16, 1915 in Oklahoma. He married Grace Irene Redfield on September 7, 1940 in Los Angeles, California. They had a son. Albert died October 24, 2002 in California at age 87.

Ada M. Cowan – She was born about 1918 in Oklahoma. The only record I have of her is the 1920 US Census.

Sonora Joe Cowan – She was born about 1921 in Oklahoma. She married Addison L. Chrisman on April 27, 1946 in Los Angeles, California. They had two children. Sonora died November 15, 1973 in Issaquah, King County, Washington at age 52.

Marjorie B. Cowan – She was born July 5, 1923 in Missouri. She never married and had no children. She died October 15, 1997 in San Bernadino, California at age 74.  Her Find a Grave memorial is here.

Albert Gibson Cowan (1884-1963)

updated February 2019

I grew up, from age 5, living with my grandfather Wallace Paul Cowan (1903-1988). He went by the name Paul, and was a quiet man. He didn’t share a lot, but it was clear he was bitter about his father. Until I found Paul’s photos and letters after my Mom’s death and started researching, all I knew was that Paul’s dad abandoned him and his mother, which meant that Paul had to go to work at a very young age to help support the family.

I found a piece of paper written in my grandfather’s hand:

Pauls Father

And I found one photo of Albert Gibson Cowan:

My beautiful picture

Front Left is Albert Gibson Cowan

and written on the back:

BackofAlbertGibsonCowanPhoto

Here’s a close-up of Albert next to a photo of my grandfather as a young boy:

From letters between my grandfather and his mother (Myrtle Bertie Hinson, 1879-1971) I thought I’d found valuable information:

Bertie to Paul Letter October 28 1964SHORTENED

Dated October 28, 1964:
Now Paul we have real Beautiful weather. Now all I no about AG, he died at Neoshea MO at Hospital with cancer of stomac he was at Springfield Springfield Hospital for month so his girl and …

It seems my grandfather asked for more information because the topic is addressed again:

Dated March 23, 1965:
Now about your Dad being dead he had a cancer of stomach. he was at the Neosho MO Hospital is all I no for Willie Pond told me and as for no I sent you his girl and husband name after I heard it so that I no.

I found this in with Paul’s letters, and I think this is Bertie’s writing, so perhaps this is what she’s referring to:

Albert's supposed daughter

Bertie was 85 when she wrote these letters. The person she was getting information from, Willie Reed Pond (1891-1987) was Albert’s cousin, daughter of Martha Anna Cowan.

I wanted to know what happened to Albert after he left the family. I pieced together quite a bit of the family tree using Paul’s photos with names and dates recorded on them, and other written records he left. Those were very helpful when combined with census information and other records I found online at ancestry.com or familysearch.org.

The first census Albert would have been recorded on isn’t available – most of the 1890 census was destroyed by fire. He is found in the 1900 census living in Springdale, Arkansas with his parents Thomas and Mary Cowan, and his sister Mary M. His age is recorded as 18, but he was actually 16. (I know that he had an older brother, too, who was already out of the house.)

The next record I have of Albert is his marriage to Bertie. They were married on March 16, 1902 in Washington County, Arkansas, and the license says they were both 21. Actually Bertie was 22, and Albert was was 17.

BertieAlbertCowanMarriage

My grandfather was born January 25, 1903, and I believe Albert left before he was a year old. I haven’t found record of a divorce.

By the 1910 census, Bertie and Paul were living with her parents and a sister and brother in Springdale (and Bertie marked as married) and Albert was boarding in a house in Comanche County, Oklahoma working as a telephone lineman.

In 1912 he married Izora Beatrice Shirley (1892-1943) in Custer, Oklahoma, and he is recorded as being 28, which agrees with the 1884 birth year.

AlbertIzoraMarriage

His World War I draft card shows him living in Roger Mills, Oklahoma and married to Izora. He is of medium height and medium build with blue eyes and dark hair. He works as a lineman for the telephone company.

US World War I Draft Registration Cards AlbertGibsonCOWAN

In 1920 Albert and Izora lived in Roger Mills, Oklahoma and had 2 children. Albert was listed as a manager in the telephone industry. By 1930 they had moved to Chilhowee, Missouri and had 3 children. Albert was listed as a lineman in the telephone industry and Izora was a dressmaker at home. He probably didn’t know that his son Paul had moved to Kansas City, Missouri, just 70 miles away.

In the most recent census available to us, 1940, Albert and Izora and their 3 children were living in Los Angeles, California. Izora’s brother also lived in the house. Albert’s occupation was troubleshooter for telephone company and he worked 12 hours the previous week and only 4 weeks in 1939. Izora was a Forewoman and worked 40 hours the previous week and 43 weeks of 1939. The Great Depression was just about over.

His 1942 World War II draft card solved a mystery for me.

US World War II Draft Registration CardsAlbertGibsonCOWAN

I had a lovely photo that was marked in my Grandfather’s handwriting as “Aunt May Cowan & daughter” but I couldn’t figure out who Aunt May was. His father had one sister, noted as Mary M in the 1900 census.

On the draft card, it asks him for “Name and address of person who will always know your address.” He answered “Mrs. R. J. Cambron (sister) Route 2 McAlester.” He also notes that his place of residence is 4492 W 16th Street in Los Angeles California, but that his mailing address was Route 2 North McAlester. I researched Mrs. R. J. Cambron in McAlester and found a marriage license for Mr. Ruby James Cambron and Miss May Cowan from May 1912. She was 26. “Mary M,” Albert’s sister from the 1900 census, would have been 26. Tracking her through 1940 on the census, she went by May but her tombstone says Charlotte May.

Izora died in Los Angeles in 1943. It appears that their children stayed in the area. It’s hard to track people without the census but I know that Albert Gibson Cowan Jr died in 2002 in California, Sonora died in 1973 in Washington, and Marjorie died in 1997 in California.

Despite the age inconsistencies, I think I have the right man. However, the information from the letters between Bertie and Paul don’t mesh with what I found regarding Albert’s death. Plus, he didn’t have a daughter who became Mrs. Clifford Johnson in Sparta, Missouri. In fact, I find that Clifford Johnson’s wife was Mable Alice Dobbs.

Missouri  puts death certificates online and I found a death certificate for Albert G. Cowan:

Albert Cowan Death Certificate

This shows that he died December 17, 1963 at the Missouri State Hospital in Nevada, Missouri, which was sometimes referred to as the Lunatic Asylum. He had been there for a year and half, and the cause of death was coronary occlusion. His occupation was listed as “retired telephone man” and his usual residence was in Springfield, Missouri. His parents are unknown, and his wife was Izora Beatrice Shirley (Dec.) He was buried in Ozark Cemetary, and Funeral Director was Adams-Monger.

I requested records from Adams Funeral Home in Ozark. I received a form filled out containing information for death certificate and obituary, which doesn’t indicate who provided the information. Listed are his 3 children, all in California. It’s noted that the funeral was a Masonic service. There’s also a letter from his niece, Virginia Saunders, in Oklahoma, who wants to put a stone on the grave. Virginia Cambron Saunders (1921-2006) is the baby in the picture above with her mother, Aunt May.

An obituary can be found at the Christian County Missouri Genealogy website:
“Cowan, Albert G. 27 Mar 1884 – 10 Dec 1963  CCR 19 Dec 1963
Albert G. Cowan, 80, of Ozark, died at 10:40 a.m. Tuesday in the state hospital at Nevada. He had lived in Ozark since 1937 and was a retired lineman. Survivors are two daughters, Mrs. Sonora Christman, Orange Calif., and Miss Margie Cowan, of Norco, Calif.; a son, Albert Cowan, Jr., North Hollywood, Calif.; and four grandchildren. Funeral services were at the Adams-Monger Chapel here at 2 p.m. today (Thursday), with Masonic rites at the graveside in Ozark Cemetery.”

There’s some misinformation there. He hadn’t lived in Ozark since 1937. He was in California on the 1940 census, on his 1942 World War II Draft Card, and his wife died there in 1943. Sonora Christman was actually Sonora Chrisman. Finally, his date of death was reported incorrectly.

I have theories about the discrepancies between what Bertie said in the letters to Paul and the records I have found. The birth and death years my grandfather wrote for his father don’t match with what I found. The birth year of 1881 is from the marriage certificate, which Paul had. I don’t know where the 1965 death year came from – the letters mentioning his death were written in 1964. Regarding the cause and place of death, I wonder if relatives shared a false story since he was in a mental hospital. The note regarding his daughter really threw me, but I have a theory that Mrs. Clifford Johnson was a caregiver for Albert. Maybe someone referred to her as “Albert’s girl” and Bertie thought they meant his daughter. Just a theory.

If you have any information about Albert Gibson Cowan, I’d love to talk to you.

September 2015: Check out the update here.