Source: COMMEMORATIVE BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD of HARTFORD COUNTY,
Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, and of Many of the Early
Settled Families.); Illustrated.;
Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1901.
CLINTON W. COWLES is entitled to a foremost rank among the prominent and wealthy citizens of Hartford County, and he belongs to a family whose members have for the last half-century taken an active part in the affairs of this section of the State. He is a native of the town in which he makes his home, having been born July 9, 1841, near Buckland's Corners, in Manchester.
Stephen Cowles, grandfather of the gentleman whose name introduces these lines, was a native of Springfield, Vermont, and in about 1834 came with his family to Hartford County, Connecticut, locating at Hilliardville, where he began work in the woolen mills. The trip was made in the wintertime, with sled and ox-team. Stephen Cowles passed away in 1847, at the advanced age of 92 years; he was tall and spare of build. His family consisted of nine children, namely: Stephen, Austin, Eliza, Francis W., Paulina, Nancy, Martha, Mary and Walter.
Francis W. Cowles, father of our subject, was born July 4, 1805, in Springfield Vermont, and in early manhood came to Hartford County, where he became one of the most influential man of his day. He was a self-made man, having few opportunities in his younger life, as when a mere boy he began work in the Hilliard woolen mills, and when 16 years of age he went to Buckland's Corners, where at that time there was a hotel and stage stables located on the old stage Road between Boston and Hartford. Here he was employed until he reached his majority, when he purchased the old tavern, and conducted it successfully until 1846, when he removed to the farm now owned and occupied by his son Walter W. in Manchester town. He carried on general farming and stock raising, breeding Jersey cattle, and for the first few years had a grocery business in connection at Buckland's Corners. Mr. Cowles became intimately identified with the history and advancement of Hartford County, and his personal worth and popularity may be estimated from the fact that up to the time of his death he and Dr. C. W. Jacques and Ralph Cheney were the only Democrats who had represented the town of Manchester in the Legislature since it was set off from the town of East Hartford. The following article, written by his intimate friend and boyhood companion, Judge James Campbell, at the time of his death, best describes a character in which were combined those qualities of head and heart which go to make the able businessman, the faithful official, the true friend and loving parent:
One after another the old landmarks of Manchester had been removed until we come to the last with two or three exceptions; and when we come the remaining few we involuntarily exclaim, "Our Father, where are they?" Mr. Cowles moved into Manchester with father when a mere child and the town was his home until his death. Manchester then belonged to East Hartford and was known only by the "five-mile tract". From an early day he took an active interest in public affairs, more especially all matters pertaining to his own town. He had an ardent, sanguine temperament, and therefore whenever he did was done earnestly and zealously. He had ever to retentive memory and was a close observer of passing events, so that up to his last sickness he probably could give a better history of Manchester in any other man living therein. He always was a Democrat, of the old Jackson school, in whom there was no guile, and was in earlier years what may truthfully be denominated a partisan politician. But notwithstanding all this he had the confidence of his townsman to such an extent as to be often elected to important offices in the town. He became a leading man in political matters, in both town in county. He served his town in the capacity of selectman several years, administering its affairs economically and wisely. He was made justice of the peace for years in succession, and this much can be truthfully said of our departed townsman and neighbor, no public trust committed to his hands suffered loss. Once he was put in nomination for sheriff of his county and would have been elected had it not been for the treachery of professed friends. It is true, but this truth need not be smothered, that sometimes his political zeal got so far the upper hand of his judgment that he allowed his tongue to send a poison arrow into the quivering flesh of some good Whig or Republican, and this might be his tried friend and neighbor. But such an offense on reflection was sure to bring regret, and no man was more ready to withdraw that arrow with a tender hand and mollify the wound with the oil of repentence than was the subject of this brief memoir. Mr. Cowles had not the heart or the ability to carry in his bosom for any length time a grudge against any man. My departed neighbor had nothing visionary about him. With peculiarly sharp perceptive faculties, his whole mind as restless as the ocean and a body seemingly indifferent to rest or sleep, all presided over by sound practical judgment and good common sense, he necessarily attracted to him those in search of adviser, and his counsel was often sought by those in trouble, and was uniformly and cheerfully given, and when followed there was seldom cause for regret. Mr. Cowles was known more extensively in neighboring towns and any other unpretending man in Manchester. It was no unusual thing for him to be called into neighboring towns to aid in settling neighborhood difficulties or other important matters. He was a thorough, sagacious businessman, and at his death had accumulated quite a fortune, and was surrounded not only by the comforts and conveniences, but also many of the luxuries of the thriving well-to-do New England farmer. He was a kind husband and a sympathizing, indulgent father. He was a domestic man. The writer of this has often heard him say that the real happiness that had fallen to his lot had been found in his own home with a family around him and that all the rest was but a mere shadow. Mr. Cowles enjoyed in his reclining years what many other fond parents have failed of, which was the unswerving devotion and constant loving attention of his children. His wants by them were anticipated and were cheerfully as well as bountifully supplied. There were times when Mr. Cowles paid serious attention to the subject of religion, but he never became a member of any church. He was, however, a constant attendant upon the divine service on the Sabbath and contributed for its support liberally at the North Manchester Second Congregational Church for many years.
The writer was intimately acquainted with the subject of this notice for more than 40 years. He had faults and he had no desire to extenuate them . He had virtues and he had no desire to eulogize them. This much he can say of a truth, that no man within the circle of his acquaintance ever so freely subjected himself to the judgment of superficial observers as did Francis W. Cowles. He made little or no effort to conceal his faults. He was faithful and confiding to his friends and forgiving to his enemies. Only a few hours before the fatal shock that deprived him of consciousness, anticipating its near approach, yet in full possession of all his mental faculties, he called his family around him and with fortitude and calmness unusual at such an hour, even to the most heroic faith gave particular directions about his funeral, requesting to be buried by his Masonic brethren. Neighbor Cowles is gone. He will be greatly missed in the town of Manchester and deeply mourned by his many friends.
Francis W. Cowles was married, Nov. 12, 1834, to Miss Harriet Wing, daughter of Sylvanus Wing, and they had a family of five children, namely: Albert F., who is a farmer of Manchester town; Harriet, who died in 1858; Clinton W.; Walter W., a prominent citizen of Manchester; and Martha J., deceased wife of Dwight A. Moulton, of California, who is at present assistant state treasurer of that state. Mr. Cowles' death occurred in Manchester March 10, 1880, when he was 74 years of age.
Clinton W. Cowles passed the first few years of his life at Buckland's Corners, when five years of age removing with his parents to the farm in Manchester town where he grew to manhood, the place now occupied by his brother Walter W. Cowles. He received his education in the public schools, first attending district school No. 7,where among his early teachers were Harriet, Jane and John Williams. Continuing on the farm with his father until the breaking out of the Civil War, he in 1861 went out as sutler's clerk, serving as such from Nov. 1, 1861, until March, 1862, in Virginia and Marylland ; he was in the engagement at Antietam. He was then appointed headquarter sutler of General Condin's brigade, holding that position until his return, in 1864, to Manchester, where he opened a mercantile business at Buckland's Corners on his own account. In 1868 Mr. Cowles sold out this establishment and started the first delivery stable at Manchester, the following spring purchasing what was known as the "Weaver Hotel" and since as the "Cowles Hotel," which he conducted in partnership with his brother Walter W. until 1881 and subquently alone until 1887. From that time to the present he has rented the hotel and livery, devoting his attention entirely to his real-estate interests in the town, which are extensive, and his farms. He owns two tracts in Manchester of hundred acres each, his home place in the town consisting of 50 acres, a 50 place near South Manchester and a 75 acre farm at Manchester Green. For a number of years Mr. Cowles has also been engaged in settling estates, and he carries on an insurance and broker's business in connection therewith. Like his father, he enjoys the confidence and esteem of his townsman to an unusual degree, and his opinion is frequently sought at home and elsewhere in matters of difficulty, his ability as an arbitrator being unquestioned. Like his father in politics also, he is a strong Democrat, and while not a politician in the ordinary sense of the term he has held various offices, giving eminent satisfaction in every incumbency. He represented his district in the Legislature in 1839 and again 1887. In 1879 he was elected selectman of Manchester, re-elected in 1880 and continued in office until 1883, and holds the office at the present writing. Fraternally he holds membership with Manchester Lodge, No. 73, F. & A. M.
On March 4, 1869, Mr. Cowles was united in marriage with Miss Nellie A. Annis, who was born in the town of Manchester, daughter of Charles Annis, and they have had children as follows:, France W., who died at 4 years of age; Hattie W., now wife of Charles W. Holeman, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a collector for Mr. Hicks; Edith F., wife of Charles J. Strickland, of Manchester; and Walter W., who lives at home.