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Anderson-Cowles family celebrates centennial reunion

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For members of the Anderson-Cowles family, family is everything.

And that was especially evident on Sunday, when 150 family members hailing from 15 states came together at the family homestead on Tom Anderson Road for their 100th family reunion.

Yes, for 100 years, members of the Anderson-Cowles family have set aside the second Sunday in June to celebrate their rich history and what they have become.  

Sharon North Whitaker said that the reunions started in 1919, “when the boys came home from the war,” quoting memorable relative Jennie Anderson Gant.

Whitaker, who is a descendant of Mary Thomas Anderson and Carrick Heiskell North, said, “One of the family’s own (Edgar Brown Anderson II) did not return and is buried in Le Mans, France. This Reunion was started by his brother and sister to remember him and to keep this family close.”

Edgar Brown Anderson II, the oldest son of Edgar Brown and Mary “Mollie” Chapman Anderson, was a soldier during World War I and died from the flu while awaiting a transport home. His brother Calvin and sister Sarah decided to get their extended family together on the second Sunday in June of 1919, to celebrate life.  

Sarah Quick Irick went on to tell the story of when Sarah Anderson lost her mother,  Mollie. Sarah was only about 11, but family members arranged for her to continue her education in Franklin by staying with family members in Franklin during the week and returning her home for the weekends.

“The family pulled together in thick and thin,” Irick said.

These reunions are “about family, knowing where you came from and there are others you can turn to,” said Fred McLaughlan. “This is Thanksgiving in June.”

This year, the descendants of Thomas Page and Mary Frances Cowles Anderson met on the homestead where the family settled soon after the Revolutionary War. The plank house still stands and a family cemetery remains intact. 

The land was originally part of a bounty land grant awarded for service during the Revolutionary War and presented to James Anderson when he married Janet Elizabeth Mebane in 1794. It was passed to their son William C. Anderson and, years later, to his son, Thomas Page Anderson in 1848. 

Thomas Page and Mary Frances had 13 children. They raised 11 to adulthood. Three of the 11 died before they married, seven went on to marry and have children and one, Francis Macon “Frank” Anderson, stayed in the house and continued to farm the land until he was married — at the age of 73.

Thomas and Mary died in 1884, within 10 months of each other, leaving behind three young children, Frank, then 11, Chapman, 9, and Mary Thomas, 5. The older siblings pulled together and raised the younger ones. Mary Thomas lived with her married twin sisters, whose own children were older than her, and the boys with other brothers. Mary Thomas became known as “Little Auntie” a title that remains, even though she has been dead since 1971.

Once they came of age, the three youngest siblings moved back into the homestead until they married. Frank sold the house and land to T.J. Moran, around 1945, just before he moved to Franklin and married his longtime friend Annie Cavert. 

Moran raised his son, Joe, in the same home Thomas Page and Mary Frances raised their children and they became close friends with the Anderson-Cowles family. 

“This family has been a blessing to me all my life,” Moran said. “We’re not kin, but we’re like kin.”

Joe Moran now owns the land and, with Robert Stewart, he planted grape vines several years ago for a future vineyard. Moran continues to maintain the homestead and the character of the place.

During the reunion, family remembered Mary Cannon Quick, the family matriarch who died on May 8 at the age of 93, and celebrated a recently discovered new family member: Colleen Cowles Hartzler of Tobyhannah, Pennsylvania. 

“This is a grand gathering of historic Williamson County,” said Rick Warwick, a county historian. “Without them, Williamson County would be a desert.”

Family names are known throughout the county and family members played an important part in developing the county. Names such as Anderson, Buchanan, Cannon, Chapman, Clark, Jefferson, Kinnard, North, Puryear, Rucker and more are found in local history books and some with those names continue to be leaders in the county.

“Descendants of the Andersons and Cowles families have served their country and community in various ways,” Sharon North Whitaker said. 

“Both men and women have served in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korean War and Vietnam. One served in the Tennessee legislature in the 1940s. Others have held county positions, including judges, mayor, sheriff and postmaster. More have owned local businesses, been farmers, doctors, lawyers, teachers and ministers.”

Recently, while clearing acreage for grape vines, Moran uncovered a pile of wrought iron fencing that Frank purchased in 1936. The fence once surrounded the James Harrison House (built in 1880) at Fifth Avenue and West Main until it was demolished in 1936. 

Moran asked the family if it could be put around the Anderson family cemetery near the rows of grape vines. They agreed. Moran and Fred Mclaughlin (a descendant of Walter Anderson) worked together. Moran promised that the fence would be erected by the 100th reunion. He kept his word.

On the day of the reunion, an old 48-star military flag was draped behind the gravestones of Edgar Brown Anderson Sr. (1864-1933) and Edgar senior’s wife, Mollie Chapman Anderson (1864-1913), in honor of Pvt. Edgar Brown Anderson II.

Near those graves are the graves of Thomas Page (1813-1884) and Mary Frances Cowles Anderson (1832-1884).

 

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