My connection to the Cowen family is through my mother,

Betty Augusta Winter (nee Cowen)



John Cowen, born Ireland 1772 (cotton weaver) married Susan Bradford also born in Ireland about 1782. They resettled in Carlisle, Cumberland after leaving Ireland around 1807 where their first child Sarah was born, their son John was born in 1810. John jnr (also a cotton weaver) married Janet (Jessie) McKnight in Gretna Green, Scotland abt.1830. Their children were Robert, William, Margaret, John, Thomas, James, twins Elizabeth and Joseph.

On the 8th July 1857 (aged 85) John Cowen snr. Dies in Carlisle of old age, three years later on  the 10th February 1860 (aged 50) John Cowen jnr. Dies of heart disease. His first son Robert dies in 1862 aged 26 years. At this period of time Janet has six children, her daughter Margaret had married John Martin in 1860 and has two children twins William and John. Widow Susan still lives with the family in Carlisle but died on 12th January 1871 of heart disease (aged 89 years).

1863 sees the whole family emigrating to Australia. Janet (53) sons William (27), John (20), Thomas (17), James (16), twins Elizabeth and Joseph (11), daughter Margaret Martin (25) her husband John Martin (26) and their sons William and John (3). On the 27th September 1863 they arrive in Morton Bay aboard the MV “Sunda” and settle in West End, South Brisbane.

Sadly Janet passes away on 15th March 1864 from Dropsy, five and half months of arriving in Australia. She is buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery, South Brisbane. Little is known of their lives after the passing of Janet, most of her family were adults except for the twins Elizabeth and Joseph. We can only assume that their sister Margaret became their career.

On the 26th November 1883 the marriage took place at St. Mary’s Church of England, Ballina of Thomas Cowen and Annie Augusta Williams (nee Stokes/Cabel). Thomas had been running the farm at North Creek (near Ballina) for Annie since her husband George Williams who died in 1881.

After marrying Thomas Annie sold the farm at North Creek and bought another in Billinudgel. Initially a small cottage was built and it was here that Thomas died in 1903. A new home was built around 1911 and was named “Emoh”. The family consisted of five children from Annie’s marriage to George Williams, they were Herbert, Sadie, Etta, Violet and  Ada and Annie’s three sons to Thomas Cowen, William, Arthur and Joseph.  Annie continued to live at Emoh until her death in 1926, just after her 80th birthday. The family home still stands today and remains in the family of Annie’s great grandson Ken Rayward.



William and his brother Arthur both enlisted in the AIF. Arthur on 26th April 1916, he was 30 years old and William later joined on the 27th October 1916, he was 32. Arthur arrived in England on the 2nd November 1916 aboard HMAT Clan McGillivray and was dispatched to France on the 4th February 1917 to join the 47th Battalion. William left Sydney on the HMAT.A64 “Demosthenes” on 23rd December 1916 and docked in Plymouth where he spent three months training before being sent to Belgium. He  also joined the 47th Battalion. He was reported missing in action on the 13th October 1917, it was later confirmed he was “Killed in Action” on the 12th October 1917 at the Battle of Passchendaele. William was initially buried “in the field” very close to the village of Passchendaele but was later exhumed and buried in the British Section at Butts Cemetery, Polygon Wood, Zonnebere, Belgium. He was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals. Arthur had been badly wounded on two occasions and was sent back to England for hospital treatment. At the time of William’s death he was serving with the 12th Battalion in Belgium. On the 21st October 1917 he was transferred back to the 47th Battalion, six days after Williams death. Knowing or not knowing of his brothers fate, Arthur continued his service in Belgium. His injuries became so severe he was evacuated back to Australia on14th October 1918 from hospital in England. He was also awarded the British War and Victory Medals.

Another Cowen was also at war. William Edward Cowen, son of Joseph Cowen and Louise Bender, born at Chatsworth, Clarence River in 1882. William was a cousin to William and Arthur. He joined the AIF 5th September 1915 and left Sydney 7th January 1916 serving with the 41st Battalion in France. On the 11th May 1918 he commenced an 18th month prison sentence (with hard labor) for Going AWOL and resisting arrest. He later returned to Australia after serving in several prisons in England and honorably discharged on the 23rd November 1919. He died at St.Peters, Sydney in 1950.

Leave a Reply