I have been searching for information about the ancestors and descendants of John "Samuel" Cowan and his wife Mary Mueller who are the couple for whom Cowan's Gap Lake and Cowan's Gap State Park are named. They came from New England, I believe. Mary's father was said to have been a wealthy Boston merchant in 1776. I found two historical references for them which I will include below. Any info greatly appreciated.http://us.f520.mail.yahoo.com/ym/ShowLetter?MsgId=3433_22859...
The history of Cowans Gap State Park is of war, forbidden love and hard work.
The French and Indian War began in 1754 as the French and British fought for the Ohio River Valley, which included western Pennsylvania. Key to the control of the area was the Forks of the Ohio (Pittsburgh), which was held by the French. In 1755, British Major General Edward Braddock carved a new road from Cumberland Maryland towards the Forks.
To carry additional supplies to Braddockâ€™s army, Colonel James Burd began a road from Shippensburg that was planned to reach Braddockâ€™s forces at Turkey Foot (Confluence, Pa.). Burdâ€™s Road climbed Tuscarora Mountain by passing through an unnamed gap that eventually became named Cowans Gap. Braddockâ€™s army was defeated and Burdâ€™s Road was never completed past Berlin, Somerset County.
In 1758, the British again sent a campaign towards the Forks of the Ohio. General John Forbes, along with his aide Colonel George Washington and second in command Lieutenant Colonel Henry Bouquet, carved a new road (Forbes Road) that followed Burdâ€™s Road through Bedford county then headed due west to the Forks of the Ohio. General Forbes drove the French out of Pennsylvania.
In 1763, Colonel Henry Bouquet again used Forbes Road to break the siege of Fort Pitt during Pontiacâ€™s War.
In 1775, Loyalist John Samuel Cowan met Patriot Mary Mueller in Boston. Although from opposite political parties, the couple eloped several years later and headed for Kentucky. The family story relates that while crossing the Conococheague Creek near Fort Loudon, their wagon broke down. John traded their horses and wagon to a Tuscarora Indian chief for the land that now is known as Cowans Gap.
John secured peace pipe and tomahawk rights from the Indians, marking a big chestnut tree with three slashes, a sign of peace to the Indians. In 1785, John secured a warrant for the land from the Proprietors of Pennsylvania.
John and Mary built their house along Forbes Road, near what is now the junction of Stumpy Lane and Aughwick Road.
Most of Cowans Gap State Park is in Allens Valley, named for neighbors of the Cowans.
Nearby, Mount Pleasant iron furnace operated from 1783 to 1835. Richmond iron furnace operated from 1865 to 1885. The furnacesâ€™ demand for charcoal led to the clear-cutting of portions of the forests in the gap and the valley every 20 to 25 years. Beginning in 1893, Harrison Kalbach, of Lebanon, Pa., began purchasing land and timbering rights amounting to 4,800 acres around Cowans Gap. Kalbach and Company constructed a railroad of wooden rails from Richmond Furnace up the mountain and into the gap to move the lumber to market. Todayâ€™s Richmond Furnace Road follows the old railroad right-of-way. Kalbach and his partner Charles Spangler, of McConnellsburg, operated a portable sawmill in the valley cutting mainly pine and oak. The final cut ended in 1907, leaving a landscape of over cut forests and erosion from non-conservation minded forestry practices.
In 1933, to relieve the rampant unemployment of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The young men in the CCC received food, clothes and a small paycheck.
The CCC boys built roads, trails and recreational facilities, fought fires, planted trees and did many other conservation activities.
Richmond Furnace Camp S-54 was built next to the new forestry station here at Cowans Gap. The camp was locally called Camp Fox for an enrollee killed in an accident while stationed at the camp.
The first enrollees to the camp lived in tents while they built a camp for themselves. From 1933 to 1941, the CCC built 30 miles of road, four bridges, 32 miles of fire trails and 11 miles of telephone lines. In Cowans Gap State Park, the CCC built the cabins, picnic shelters and spent three years building the dam. The Cowans Gap Rustic Cabins are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Improvements have continued at Cowans Gap, with additions like the campground and modern restrooms. In 2002, Cowans Gap State Park closed to visitors for a year-long renovation to upgrade many facilities.
Cowans Gap was named after Major Samuel Cowans. Major Cowans was a British officer during the Revolutionary War. He fell in love with the daughter of a Boston merchant, but being a British officer he was rejected by his love's father. After the war, he returned to Boston and the two eloped to Chambersburg. After a few years, they decided to move to the bluegrass Region of Kentucky. Their wagon broke down en route and they traded their wagon to an American Indian chief for the tract of land that later became known as Cowans Gap.
The first park facilities were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps and opened in 1937. The CCC built the lake, picnic shelters, cabins and roads.