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Memorable Manitobans: James Cowan (1831-1910)

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James Cowan
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Physician, MLA (1875-1878), MLA (1878-1879), MLA (1879-1883).

Born at Tyrone, Ireland on 20 August 1831, son of Joseph Cowan, he came to Canada in 1850 and after one winter in Montreal, he moved to Ontario where he taught school for six years. During this time he studied medicine and graduated with a medical degree from Victoria University, Toronto, in 1861. He practised in Harrison, Ontario for eleven years. Arriving in Manitoba in 1871, he located at Portage la Prairie where he practised for two years. He subsequently set up the first sawmill in the district, at Assiniboine. In 1894 he retired from his medical practice and was replaced by his son Samuel. In 1868, he married Janet Broadfoot (1839-1921) of Harrison, Ontario. They had four children: Samuel Broadfoot Cowan, Harry James Cowan, Thomas Hind Cowan (father of James Cowan), and Mary Josephine Cowan (wife of John O’Brien). He was elected to the Manitoba Legislature in the 1874, 1878, and 1879 provincial general elections. He died at Portage la Prairie on 2 September 1910 and was buried in the Hillside Cemetery.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Cowan Trail Monument (RM of Mountain)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Cowan Trail Monument (Municipality of Minitonas-Bowsman)


A History of Manitoba: Its Resources and People by Prof. George Bryce, Toronto: The Canadian History Company, 1906.

“Dr. James Cowan dies at Portage,” Manitoba Free Press, 2 September 1910, page 1.

“Many paid last tribute,” Manitoba Free Press, 5 September 1910, page 2.

The Story of Manitoba by F. H. Schofield, Winnipeg: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.

Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 20 April 2019

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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