Eller Chronicles Feb 92 p-7

The Eller Chronicles


ELLER CHRONICLES   Feb. 1992 Page 40

Outline of Life of Robert D. Cowan

I, Robert Duane Cowan, was born November 24, 1919 in Lincoln, Nebraska, the son of Ralph Ellis Cowan and Florence Athey Eller Cowan. I had two brothers, Richard Eller Cowan, born December 5. 1922, and Charles Russell Cowan, born July 13, 1924, both in Lincoln.

Dad was. the second of five children of John Whitman Cowan, a minister of the Congregational Church, and Hannah Adele Miller. He attended Doane College in Crete, Nebraska for two years, then graduated from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio after two years there. He was very athletic, lettering in football, basketball, baseball, and track at both schools. He also played golf for many years, and bowled throughout his lifetime. After graduation from college, he was for a time director of physical education in the Lincoln public schools; then he was an executive in the Boys Scouts of America, before going into the real estate and lumber and millwork business in Lincoln, and in 1929 into the concrete-block manufacturing business in Wichita, Kansas.

Mom was the third of five children of Jacob. H. Eller and Bertha Adelaid Athey Eller. Her father, the twelfth child of Harvey and Mary Caroline Vannoy Eller, was owner of the J. H. Eller general merchantile store in Clay Center, Nebraska. She grew up in Clay Center, and worked at times for her father in his store, and in the post office. With her savings, she was able to attend Doane College for one year. It was a major regret of her life that she had only the one year of college, but she always maintained an avid interest in sewing, reading, music, history, arr national and world events, volunteer work, etc.

I don't recall that my folks ever pressured us boys in any way, but it was always our implicitly understood intent, after graduating from Wichita High School North, to go on to college and obtain the best education that we could.

Dick attended Friends University in Wichita for two years, then Oberlin College for one year, after which--in spite of the siege of rheumatic fever that he suffered during his sophomore year--he managed after repeated attempts to be accepted into the army. He was shipped to France a month or two after D-Day of World War 11, and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for action on December 17, 1944 as a machine gunner during the Battle of the Bulge, near Krinkelt, Belgium. He was killed the following day by shrapnel while sleeping in a barn.

In his last year of high school, Charles was a winner in a state-wide competition for a Summerfield Scholarship to the University of Kansas, where he graduated in, I think, 1946. He then obtained an M. D. degree from Northwestern University Medical School in about 1950. For several years he served as an army doctor in Chinon and Paris, France, then operated a private practice in allergy in Garden Grove, California, where his life was cut short by an untimely death in 1964.

As for myself, I found school rather boring till the eighth or ninth grade and seldom exerted myself unduly in formal classes, but I had nevertheless a strong curiosity and desire to learn, and during junior and senior high taught myself a great deal about radio, astronomy, geography, geology, music, etc. by reading library books and listening to records at the city library. I read much fiction as well, but non-fiction has always been my primary interest.

ELLER CHRONICLES   Feb. 1992 Page 42

I attended Friends University in Wichita for three years, majoring in physics and mathematics, but also had strong interests in chemistry and foreign languages (German and French). It was in French class that I met Dorothy Martinson, who later became my wife. During my third year at Friends, I was awarded a three-year scholarship to the graduate school of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, which I attended from 1941 to 1946, obtaining a bachelor's degree from Friends in 1942, and a Ph. D. degree from Hopkins in 1946. 1 then did post-doctorate research in physics at the University of Chicago for two years, before returning to teach for three years as Professor of Physics at Friends.

From Friends, I moved to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (now Los Alamos National Laboratory) in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Except for temporary leaves of absence, I spent the rest of my scientific career there in the Theoretical Physics Division, until I retired in 1985. During the 45 years since leaving Hopkins, I have published 114 research papers in scientific journals, and a book titled “The Theory of Atomic Structure and Spectra.”

I have two sons and two daughters, all college trained and two with master's degrees, and am proud of all of them.

Life has been good to me. An interest in learning and a studious attitude in high school led to small scholarships to Friends and the major one to Hopkins. A doctor's degree in physics led to an interesting and well-paying job at Los Alamos. This in turn provided extensive opportunities to travel to scientific meetings throughout the U. S. and abroad, and the money to continue traveling after retirement. I had a one year Fulbright Lectureship in Lima, Peru, four- or five-month sabbaticals at Purdue University in Indiana, the Culham Laboratory in England, and the Zeeman Laboratory in Amsterdam, and four extended visits to Sweden, including the 1982 award of an honorary Ph. D. degree from Lund University in Lund, Sweden. All told, I have made 12 trips to Europe (including two to the USSR), one to China, three to Mexico, four to Hawaii, and one to the South Pacific, as well as the South American trip"-all but the second USSR trip, the Mexico ones, and two of the ones to Hawaii on professional business, made possible either directly or indirectly by my employment at LANL.

My principal hobby over the years has been mountain climbing (mainly of a non-technical nature). I have climbed 96 of the 105 Colorado peaks over 13800 feet in elevation, including all 54 of those over 14000 feet; also the three highest peaks in Mexico (the third, fifth, and seventh highest in North America). This strenuous physical activity, and outdoor interests in general, have kept me young physically and mentally, and probably contributed to the professional success that I have had. Remarried at age 70 to the former Wilma Law after the death of my first wife in 1987, I now at age 71 am still climbing and hiking, and looking forward to further travels and collaborations with my many scientific colleagues and friends the world around.

[Eds. As a result of Raymond Eller's story (Eller Chronicles Vol. V, No. 3, pp. 162-166), we learned of Robert and Charles Cowan, brothers of medal-of-honor-recipient Richard Eller Cowan. While helping Buddy Lovette gather information for an expanded story on Richard Eller Cowan (to be published in a later issue), we made contact with Dr. Robert Cowan, Richard's brother-. We already knew of Robert's exceptional educational and professional accomplishments so we prevailed on him to write a sketch on his family and career. We hope his life of high achievement and professional accomplishments will inspire young Eller descendants everywhere. It has been my observations that all Ellers I ever knew were quite intelligent and capable but too many lacked the ambition to further their education. Such was not the case with Robert Cowan.]

ELLER CHRONICLES   Feb. 1992 Page 43


North Carolina was the twelfth state admitted to the Union on November 21, 1789.

The region was first explored by the French and Spanish, but it was the English who first colonized it in 1585. In 1650 it began to be populated by Virginians moving south in search of good farm land.

Population growth was relatively steady, although below national average, and often with heavy losses through migration to other states. This was particularly pronounced in early 1800's when there were major movements westward to Tennessee and beyond.

Geographically North Carolina consists of the Coastal Plain, gently sloping Piedmont, and the mountains.

Presently there is a town "Vannoy" in Wilkes County northwest of North Wilkesboro. The family name of Vannoy appears early in the genealogy of the Eller book.

John Eller (page 69 in new Eller book) was born in 1767/9 of parents Peter Eller and Elizabeth Dick Eller.. He died in Wilkes County, N.C. in 1823. He married Susannah Kerns, and according to her gravestone, she died on April 10, 1853 at age 87. John was buried in Cemetery of Robert Cleveland on an adjoining farm - the New Hope Church and Cemetery did not exist. On June 26, 1830 John and Susannah's oldest son Simeon and his wife were founder members of the New Hope Baptist Church, located northwest of North Wilkesboro on a bench of land adjoining the foot of Rendevous Mountain. Undoubtedly the cemetery was developed soon afterward. Simeon died during his fifty-fourth year and was the first of Susannah's family laid to rest in the New Hope Cemetery. Contemporary residents claimed John was never removed from the Cleveland Cemetery to New Hope to lie beside his wife Susannah. However, other records claim he was removed to New Hope Cemetery but no gravestone was ever erected.

Simeon married Fanny McNeil on April 16., 1617 and they produced a large family (page 180 in New Book). Simeon died in 1850 and lies in New Hope Cemetery. His tombstone bore the following inscription:
"To the memory of Simeon Eller who was born on the 8th day of September, 1794 and who departed this life on the l9th day of June, 1850. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.”

There is a new granite stone there now.

Fanny McNeil Eller married as her second husband, Colonel Isaac Brown, but they had no family. Fanny lies buried in New Hope Cemetery beside her first husband Simeon. Her gravestone bears the following inscription:
"To the memory of Fanny Brown, first consort of Simeon Eller we then of Colonel Isaac Brown., born December 11, 1798 and she died October 4, 1856. Aged 57 years 9 months and 23 days."

ELLER CHRONICLES   Feb. 1992 Page 44

In 1990 Lynn Eller checked by letter and I checked in person with Clinton Eller, grounds keeper of New Hope Cemetery and also treasurer of their memorial fund used to keep up grounds, but he wasn't able to' provide an answer as to when Simeon's tombstone was replaced or whether John E., Simeon's father, lies in the cemetery.

The church and cemetery are located along a winding road about two miles northwest of Purlears Post office and 6 miles northwest of North Wilkesboro, near Rendevoue Mountain. The cemetery is well kept and lays below the modern red brick church with white painted trim. I checked by divining rod principle and found all graves in adjoining rows were occupied where no gravestones exist.

David Eller (Page 75 in new book) brother of Simeon and two years younger was apparently first of the Eller family to enter Iowa territory. He first moved to Wayne County, Indiana, in 1828 with his first wife,, Tabitha Judd, and their four small children, Then in 1838 they moved to Jefferson County., Iowa,, where two more children were born. Tabitha died March 27, 1847, He married his second wife, a widow, Mary A. Lyons, on February 27, 1848, They had one child, a daughter, Alice, who in 1868 married Marion Tracy, son of Rev. R. N. Tracey of Marysville, Wapello County,

The David Eller homestead, which was located on what was later known as the "Old Marion Tracey Farm” two and one-half miles southeast of Brookville, consisted of 200 acres - part prairie and part timber - sloping southeastward to Cedar Creek. He brought young fruit trees with him from Indiana and developed a producing orchard.

A thousand years ago several groups of Indian prehistoric mound builders dwelt on Iowa's fertile soils. The first European explorers were Marquette and Joliet, who gave France its claim to the area in 1673. At this time, a number of Indian tribes roamed the Iowa prairies. The Iowa or Ioway of Souix stock were in central part of DesMoines River Valley; the Omaha, Oto, and Missouri tribes in western and southwestern lands; the Sauk (Sac) and Fox, two distinct tribes of Algonquin stock lived in southern and eastern sections of the Iowa country.

The Iowa territory was part of the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. During early part of 19th Century., heavy fighting between Indians and early white settlers resulted in lands being taken from the Indians after the Blackhawk war in 1832. The first cession of land in 1832 was a strip along the Mississippi River, opened to settlement in 1833. other lands ceded by the Indiana in 1836 and 1837 were promptly occupied by white settlers, and by 1851 all land of Iowa, was relinquished by its former Indian occupants who were forced to move into Kansas.

Iowa was organized as a territory in 1838, and entered the Union on December 28, 1846, becoming the 29th state. The first capitol cityt was Iowa City. DesMoines became the capitol in 1857 and at that time the present state's boundaries were drawn. The land of which Wapello and Jefferson Counties are a part was obtained from the Sac and Fox Indians by treaty in 1842. In 1843 the lands opened to homesteaders who laid claim for settlement. Wapello County organized in 1844. Village which became county seat was first called Louisville, but was changed to Ottumwa (Indian origin) in 1845 and incorporated in 1851.

ELLER CHRONICLES   Feb. 1992 Page 45

Competine (Indian origin) Township in Wapallo County was organized in 1844.

Undoubtedly Jefferson County, with Fairfield as County sear was organized close to the same time.

The earliest settlers came from the Eastern and Southern States. They were joined, starting in 1840, by Europeans with farming backgrounds - notably Irish, Scots, Germens.. Scandinavians,, Hollanders,, and Bohemians.

Harvey Eller and his wife Mary Caroline Eller with seven small children emigrated to Iowa by covered wagon in 1852. This is well documented in James Will Hook's books.

Harvey and family reached his Uncle David's home via the Keokuk and DesMoines wagon trail. They stayed with David for three winter months 1852-3 until they could arrange for a lease on nearby property. It was here that Israel Curtis and Martha Clementine were born,

Israel Curtis Eller was grandfather of Eloise Morris Sperati.

Martha Clementine Dickins was Duane Dickey's and my grandmother. Our mothers were sisters. There was also a brother Scott Dickins.

In 1856 the family moved to the Agnes Davis farm near Dalonega. This is up stream and south of Cedar Creek, One could easily make a round trip by horseback from Uncle David's farm in a day.

In late 1856 they moved to an 80 acre farm southwest of Martinsburg (incorporated November 11, 1854) in Wapollo County along county line. It was here that four more children were born - John, Thomas, Jacob, and Edson - before they sold the farm in late 1864 to Elisha Godfrey and bought from James Grant Hook the 160 acres of unimproved land that became their permanent home in Wapello County. It was located 1˝ miles west of Marysville (Competine) and today includes the town of Farson. Dorothy Vaughn, Bethel Stolte, Gerald Eller, and Lynn Eller are descendents of Thomas Eller.

They had to give immediate possession to Godfrey so the Ellers rented the nearby Goldsby place while improving the new land for occupancy. They moved in the log house in December, 1865. It was here the last two children were born - Maggie in 1866 and Otis in 1880.

Virginia married James Hook in the log house on November 21, 1867. After the wedding feast they left by horseback for their home which was 3 or 4 miles away southeast of Waughs Point which became Hedrick in 1883. one of their children was the James Will Hook to whom.-we are indebted for the genealogy books.

Now let us regress and discuss Marysville and surrounding area.

ELLER CHRONICLES   Feb. 1992 Page 46

In 1853 Enoch Silvers had a plot of ground surveyed and laid out in lots for a town called Marysville in Competine Township - named after his wife Mary. There was another Marysville in southeast Iowa. The two towns presented mail difficulties so the Competine Township Marysville was changed to Competine. Competine is close to Wapello County, and Jefferson County line. Brookeville is east a short distance in Jefferson County. A post office was started in Competine village area ,in 1851. Subsequently Edmund Lee Eller and his nephew, Edward Eldon Eller, served as postmasters. They were son and grandson of John Cleveland Eller., John Cleveland and his brother William came to Iowa in 1853 to be near brother Harvey and family and also their Uncle David, John Cleveland lived in this vicinity until 1873 when he moved to a farm near Trumbull, Nebraska. William had moved on to Nebraska since he did not settle in Iowa.

Dr. Byron and Ted Eller are descendents of John Cleveland.

A. William Eller is a descendent of William, brother of John Cleveland.

On April 26, 1866, twenty-nine charter members met at Competine School to form a. Baptist Church. Harvey Eller, Mary Caroline Vannoy, his wife, and their children, William, Cleveland, Virginia (Jennie), and Nancy were part of that group. The congregation's first name was Forrest Home but changed the next year to First Baptist Church of Competine. Rev. R. M. Tracey was called as their first minister.

Also in 1867, under sponsorship of the First Baptist Church, the Competine Cemetery was established by purchasing an acre of ground north of Competine with right of access to the Fairfield-Oskaloosa road. In 1896 more land was needed so 3.536 acres were purchased which brought the cemetery to the main road. There are many Ellers and their relatives interned there. The surface is a gently rolling terrain, sloping north and eastward toward nearby Competine Creek. In April,, 1914, the Church Trustees turned the cemetery over to the Township Supervisors for maintenance and operation.

Harvey Eller lies buried beside his wife Mary in Plot 23 in Competine Cemetery, It was purchased in their son John's name to bury him after his drowning. The plot contains seven grave sites used as follows:

In August 1903 the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul. opened a new rail route from Clinton, Iowa to Ottumwa. It came through 3/4 of a mile north of Competine, where a trestle 36 feet high carries the tracks over Competine Creek. The terrain around the creek was too rough to establish a station there - much to the disappointment of Competine residents. A new station was established on the former Harvey Eller Farm, then owned by Hessle H. Dickins, my uncle. The station was called Farson and it became a thriving community, eventually bringing an end to Compotine as an economic center. The Competine Post Office was moved to Farson in 1903.

ELLER CHRONICLES   Feb. 1992 Page 47

In October, 1891, the Baptist Church of Comnetine burned to the ground. A now building was dedicated December 11, 1893. In 1908 the congregation decided the church should be in the town of Farson, so they moved it there in 1909 and rededicated it the First Baptist Church of Farson.

There was a Christian Church built in Compotine after 1908 on the Baptist Church foundation, There was a nice wooded grove on the grounds and it was used. for a home coming every summer for many years. In fact, there was an Eller-Vannoy Reunion held August 31, 1912 with over 100 in attendance, The building eventually became idle and was sold in 1943 and the lumber used to build a home on the Hedrick-Agency road.

In 1905, nine charter members organized the St. Paul Methodist Church in Farson. of the nine,, five are related to me. G. W. Dickins, Mrs. G. W. Dickins (Martha C. Eller), Vinnie Ulrey Dickins, their daughter-in-law, their daughters, Rella Dickins Dickey (Duane's mother), and Katherine Dickins, my mother. They contracted with C. B. Baldwin to build the church and it was completed in the Fall of 1905.

C. B. Baldwin (my father) and Katherim Dickins (my mother) were married December 27, 1905, probably in the new. church.

A parsonage was built in 1909 through the efforts of the Ladies' Aid society.

The church stood until 1955, when it was sold and torn down. The parsonage was still there and occupied in 1988.

Harvey and Mary Eller's (page 244 new book) 14th child, Maggie, was born March 2, 1866. She married Edward Delos Davis on September 4, 1884 and eventually settled on a farm north of Competine. They raised seven sons and a daughter. This family was very influential in educational, farm, and Baptist Church activities.

Aley Eller, (pages 82 and 373 hew book) daughter of Absolom Eller who was a brother of Harvey Eller, married Wesley Vannoy and they emigrated to Iowa in 1891 and stayed with their Uncle Harvey until they could find a residence of their own in Competine. Many of their descendents lived their lives in this area.

I remember a Jess Vannoy who operated the only threshing rig in the area. In the evenings, my brother Ralph and I would run the steam engine fly wheel until the steam pressure was exhausted, when the machinery was threshing all grain on our father's farm.

Julie Vannoy married George W. Davis, a brother of Edward Delos Davis previously mentioned,

Franky Matilda Vannoy married Samuel Woodruff, whom I remember.

Many of Harvey Eller's descendents write in a circle letter that takes approximately 1˝ to 2 years to circulate around the U.S.A. Likewise the E. Delos and Maggie Davis family has a similar letter circulating Among their descendents; a grandson, Warren Davis, writes in the Eller circle letter.

ELLER CHRONICLES   Feb. 1992 Page 48

America Eller (page 187 now book) married William R. Whittington in March, 1859. A son, Gaither, emigrated to Wapello, Iowa in 1887. He ,became a teacher in the public schools (page 409 in new book). one of his pupils was my mother, whose handwriting was the most beautiful I have ever seen. Gaither taught writing with a metronome, Gaither married Ella Phelps. He gave up teaching and farmed south of Farson for the rest of his life. They had two children - Ruth and Melvin, Ruth never married. I wrote to one of Melvin's daughters last year regarding the genealogy of Melvin's family, She responded but did not supply any information regarding her grandparents or aunt.

I pray these Eller Conferences will arouse the interest in our younger people so that they will carry on the identification and genealogy information and keep a record for posterity of our family who has contributed to important facets of our free country.

C. Myrrel Baldwin
20 Windihill
Greensburg, Pa. 15601

Phone: 412-837-4556

  James Hook and Virginia Eller by James William Hook, 1925

George Michael Eller Vol. 1 by James William Hook, 1957

Encyclopedia Britannica

"Hedrick Iowa Centennial" book by Ruth Sterling, published in 1982

"Wappello County History" book by Ruth Sterling, published in 1986

Return to TOP of Page
Return to Table of Contents
Previous Page, Letter Form Dr. Rose Eller
Next Page, Ellers in Civil War
BACK to Table of Contents of CHRONICLE ISSUES