James Cowie, deceased, mining engineer, and pioneer salt manufacturer of Kansas, was a representative of that class of substantial builders of this great commonwealth who did his full share in establishing and maintaining the material interests of the State. He was born February 22, 1840, at Camsland, Lenarkshire, Scotland, the son of George Cowie, a coal mine manager, and his wife, Jennie Campbell Cowie. Reared in Scotland, the land of hills and heather, Mr. Cowie entered a mine at the tender age of nine, attending school at night that he might gain an education. With the passing years his Scotch thrift, perseverance and diligence enabled him to work up and become manager of mines, having charge of twenty-one shafts at Kilsyth. In 1883 Mr. Cowie left his native land for America to seek a wider field for his professional work. One of the first pieces of engineering he undertook in this country was the sinking of the first coal shaft at Streator, Ill., for Congressman Plumb. Following this he entered the employ of the H. C. Frick Coal and Coke Company at Mt. Pleasant, Pa., in 1885. During his connection with this firm he sunk four shafts and put them in operation. Five years later he became associated with the Connellsville Coke and Iron Company at Leisenring, Pa., but after sinking three shafts became interested with S. E. Baker and P. S. Crowell, of Springfield, Ohio, and J. M. Phelps, of Dayton, Ohio, in organizing the Royal Salt Company, of which Mr. Cowie was made manager. The company secured 2,000 acres of land at Kanopolis, Kan., where a vein of salt 200 feet thick was opened 800 feet below the surface, the first salt shaft to be sunk in the State. Over $100,000 was spent on the plant; twenty-two tenement houses were erected for the employes. When Mr. Cowie came to Kanopolis the town had only about fifty inhabitants, while he employed over a hundred men. The project was remarkably successful, due to the excellent management of Mr. Cowie, and became a paying proposition from the first. He remained with the firm until 1906, when he became associated with Paul Lanius, John McNeal and a Mr. Hummell, of Denver, in the organization of the Crystal Salt Company, which secured a 700-acre tract of land at Kanopolis, over the same vein that the Royal Salt Company's tract covers. Here a $100,000 plant was erected and put into operation, of which Mr. Cowie was manager until his death, June 5, 1911. Mr. Cowie owned a large interest in the plant, which has eight tenement houses near it for the use of the employes, who number about one hundred. Due to the large salt industry Kanopolis has the largest freight tonnage of any station on the Union Pacific railroad between Kansas City and Denver, as the output of the two plants is about 2,000 cars a year. A town of 600 population has grown up at Kanopolis, due to the salt plants and the business they brought. Mr. Cowie is regarded as the real builder of the town, as he assisted with time and money and project for civic improvements. He was a Republican in politics and served as mayor of the town two terms. His religious affiliations were with the Presbyterian church, in which he was an active worker and trustee.
Mr. Cowie married Elizabeth Barrowman, of Boness Linlithgowshire, Scotland, who survives him. To this union were born the following children: George Cowie, the manager of the Standard Salt Company, Little River, Kan.; James Cowie, Jr., president of the Exchange State Bank and manager of the Royal Salt Company, of Kanopolis, Kan.; Daniel Cowie, manager of the Detroit Salt Works, Detroit, Mich.; Jeanette, the wife of Samuel H. Hogsett, a real estate dealer of Kansas City, Mo.; and Elizabeth, the wife of George P. Kelley, a coal and salt operator, of Kansas City, Mo. Mr. Cowie was one of the canny Scotchmen whose natural ability, business training and ancestral traits made him a mining engineer of the first class, a good citizen and markedly successful business man, although he was modest and unassuming in manner and appearance, leaving others to learn his worth and merits from others than himself.Pages 98-99 from a supplemental volume of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed October 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM196. It is a single volume 3.
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