John Merrill Cowan was born 12 Oct. 1862 in Redwood City, California to John Cowan and Margaret Lynott Cowan. He had 13 siblings, all of whom were raised near Coos Bay, Oregon. John Merrill Cowan was married to Mary Emily Mosher at Smith River, Douglas Co, Oregon, on 19 October 1887. Mary was the daughter of Lafayette and Winifred Lane Mosher. Lafayette was an Oregon pioneer, lawyer and Judge. Mary's mother Winifred Lane, was the daughter of General Joseph Lane, the First Territorial Governor of Oregon, and Polly Pierre Hart Lane.
John first worked in the lumber industry. In 1893, he entered the Lighthouse Service at Heceta Head, Oregon during the construction of the lighthouse. After the completion, he became the Assistant Keeper of the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Daughter, Beatrice, was born there on 22 Sep. 1893.
He was transferred in 1894, to the Coquille Lighthouse at Bandon, Oregon. Three of their eight children were born to John and Mary at the Coquille Lighthouse Keeper's Quarters. They were: Theron born 3rd August 1895, Vincent born 8th April 1897 and Alvah was born 2nd June 1899. John was promoted, 16 May 1900, to Head Keeper of the Cape Flattery Lighthouse on Tatoosh Island, near Neah Bay, Washington. He served there until 12 October 1932, when he retired at the age of seventy, having served 39 years in the Lighthouse Service.
Other children born to John and Mary Cowan were: Forrest born 7 September 1888 in Douglas Co., Oregon; Shirley born 16 May 1890 in Douglas Co., Oregon; Kenneth born 28 Feb 1892 in Douglas Co., Oregon and Winifred was born 20 April 1904 in Port Angeles, Clallam Co., Washington.
You will find on this page, links to Newspaper articles of John Merrill Cowan, which will give you more detail on family life in the Lighthouse Service. Links to photos of the lighthouses where he served, are also included.
In an interview with my grandfather, Alvah G. Cowan, I was able to record stories of family life in the remote locations of the lighthouses. One story concerns the desire of Mary Emily Mosher Cowan to have a Christmas Tree. The area around the lighthouse was barren except for bushes which grew over the cliffs. John M. Cowan created a Christmas Tree for his wife by nailing boards together and drilling holes in the horizontal boards where he wedged the limbs gathered from the bushes along the cliffs.
As you can see in the photograph below, this served very well. Christmas presents were hung on the tree unwrapped, and served as lovely decorations along with those that the children made by hand.
This Lighthouse Ring site
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