Biography of J. S. Cowdrey

J. S. Cowdrey
J. S. Cowdrey

Among the representative business men of Yellville, Arkansas, none hold a more prominent place than J. S. Cowdrey, whose high reputation and material prosperity came as the reward of unusual natural abilities, industriously applied. The establishment which he now owns has a good share of patronage and support, and his trade is increasing in a very flattering manner. He was born in this county July 15, 1846, a son of Dr. J. M. and Agnes (McCubbin) Cowdrey, who were among the early pioneers of this section of the country.

Dr. James M. Cowdrey, the father, was born in South Carolina in 1795, and there the early years of his life were spent, but about 1825 he emigrated to Arkansas, and after a short residence in Izard and Washington Counties, came to Marion County, and here died in 1866, aged seventy-one years. He studied medicine in some of the old colleges of the East, and was a graduate, being the first one to build up a practice in northern Arkansas. He followed a general practice, became eminent, and his name was almost a household word. He was surgeon of the Fourteenth Regiment of Arkansas Infantry, C. S. A., and passed through much experience during the war-experience so trying to the constitution that it undoubtedly shortened his days. He first located at Batesville on coming to Arkansas, but later settled in Fayetteville, where he made his home until 1836, when he came to Yellville, which was then known as Shawneetown. He became the owner of a fine farm, was a strong and leading man in the Democratic party, and was a member of Yellville Lodge No. I17, of the A. F. & A. M. He was for many years connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church, was a man of unblemished reputation, and was an excellent friend and citizen. He was finely educated, was an easy and fluent conversationalist, and in disposition was liberal to a fault, giving freely to all worthy public enterprises. His wife died in 1857, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, having become the mother of ten children: Harriet, who died in Texas after her marriage to Joseph Bawcome; James W., who died in Yellville in 1893; Elizabeth is the wife of J. R. Dowd of this county; Henry W. is a farmer of Marion County, and was a soldier in the Fourteenth Arkansas Infantry during the war; Mary A. is the widow of CoL. J. A. Wilson and is living in Harrison, Arkansas; Caroline, who is the wife of R. P. Wilson of Rally Hill, Arkansas; Emma, wife of A. M. Sloane of Boone County, Arkansas; and Nellie, who is the wife of A.W. Wickersham of Yellville.

John S. Cowdrey, the subject of this sketch, attended the common schools until he attained his seventeenth year, when he enlisted in Company C, First Arkansas Cavalry, C. S. A., and during the three years that he was in the service he took part in the engagements of Mark’s Mill, Jenkins’ Ferry, Poison Springs and numerous others, besides many skirmishes. He surrendered at Little Rock in 1865, and for one year thereafter was engaged in tilling the soil. He then began attending school in Yellville, and in 1868 went to Springfield and took a position in the general mercantile store of Kraft & Co., and when the same company opened a store at Pierce City, a year later, Mr. Cowdrey was put in charge of it, but at the end of six months the firm failed and he came to Arkansas and worked in the store of Berry & Ellenburg at Yellville for about one year. In 1871 he became associated in business with Mr. Berry, but disposed of his interest in 1879. In 1885 he and G. W. McDowell purchased the business of Layton & McBee, and a year later Mr. Layton purchased Mr. McDowell’s interest. Since 1890 Mr. Cowdrey has been the sole proprietor and now carries one of the largest stocks of dry goods in Northwest Arkansas. He also carries an excellent stock of wagons, farming implements and hardware, a general line of supplies, and does a wholesale and retail business amounting to from $40,000 to $50,000 annually. His place of business is located on the southeast corner of the public square, where three clerks are employed, and his branch establishment, known as the Rail Road Store, furnishes employment to two clerks. He has a valuable farm of 400 acres a mile and a half west of Yellville, twenty acres of which is an apple orchard, and is the finest in Marion County. His farm is being successfully conducted, and considerable attention is given to stockraising, but the most of his time is devoted to his mercantile pursuits. He has ever been the soul of honesty in his business transactions, and is well and favorably known all over the northern part of the State. He is plain and simple in his habits and tastes, and is fond of his home and family. His perfect honesty and sincerity, his untiring energy and industry, his goodness of heart and boundless charity of spirit, his fine common sense and cultivated intelligence, and his natural force and ability to accomplish results are prominent traits of his character that endear him to the people of north Arkansas, and give him prominence in the commercial world.

He is a member of Yellville Lodge No. I17, A. F. A. M., and he and his wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Mrs. Cowdrey’s maiden name was Helen Berry, daughter of Maj. J. H. Berry, of Yellville. She was born at Yellville on March 7, 1857, and lived at this place with her parents until December 25, 1872, when she was married to Mr. Cowdrey. Since their marriage they have lived happily together, making Yellville their home. As a wife, Mrs. Cowdrey is a true one in every sense of the word, as a mother she is loving, patient, tender and ready at all times to give wholesome advise. As a Christian and member of the church, her influence is always on the side of religion and right. The union of Mr. and Mrs. Cowdrey has been blessed with seven children: Annie, Ernest, Daisy, Roscoe, Mabel, Helen and Lillian.


A Reminiscent History of the Ozark Region: comprising a condensed general history, a brief descriptive history of each county, and numerous biographical sketches of prominent citizens of such counties. Chicago: Goodspeed Brothers Publishers. 1894.

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