F. C. COWDEN, for many years chief dispatcher and train master of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway, was born at New Bedford, Lawrence county, Pennsylvania, in 1853. He has been trusted and honored with the supervision of many important details of the business.
Mr. Cowden went from Indiana, where he had been engaged in railroad work as operator, etc., to Atchison, Kansas, and later (July 2, 1881), to Labette county, Kansas, where he entered the service of the "Katy" road. It was then operated by the Missouri Pacific Railway Company. He was first assigned, for a short time, to Northern Kansas, on the Missouri Pacific Railway, then to Parsons, where he opened the dispatcher's office, the work up to that time having been done from Denison Texas. Some years previous, an office had been started at Parsons, but it had been abandoned, and Mr. Cowden was thus the starter of the present office. He was assisted at that time by Mr. Gay. The construction work was then completed south of Denison, and Mr. Cowden and Mr. Gay worked as "trick" dispatchers, needing no chief, and having none at that time.
Five years later, Mr. Cowden assumed the arduous duties of chief dispatcher, and also those of train-master over the Kansas City and Neosho Division, often remaining at the office the major part of the week, or all of it, having his meals brought to him. He left the service for four months, and then again accepted the chiefship, which he held until the fall of 1893, when he resigned, and has since worked the day trick, from 8 A. M. until 4 P. M. He is relieved by W. G. Koch, and Mr. Koch by E. M. Gates, whom Mr. Cowden relieves while fillling the position of chief and trainmaster. Mr. Cowden hired the brakemen and operators employed on that division.
During this time, to lessen the clerical work, Mr. Cowden studied out and invented a combination cabinet for the registration and recording of trainmen, which the "Katy" is now using. It is a register and train-board, combined, for use on railroads, street car lines, police headquarters, and also for libraries, etc. This device assisted subject so materially in his work, that he was advised by prominent officials of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Company, to patent his invention, which he did in 1890. The. register, a sample of which is in use at the fine depot of the "Katy," at Parsons, is very neat in appearance, and is of wood trimmed with aluminum. The names of the trainmen are all placed on cards in the handsome case, and are not moved while a man is in the employ of the road. By a system of neat checks, it is shown whether a .Man is out or in, or if off duty, who is in his place, the time of going out, etc., thus obviating the necessity of troubling the dispatchers with numerous questions. The board hangs in front of the dispatcher's office. Mr. Cowden received an order, and has shipped some of the registers for use on the Gulf Railway. It is a convenience indispensable to office use, and is almost certain to be immediately adopted on all railroads. Mr. Cowden will doubtless, manufacture at Parsons, as the demand increases.
Mr. Cowden is a son of Isaac P. and Amanda (Lazarus) Cowden. His father was a merchant, but had resided about eight years at Parsons previous to his death, which occurred in 1891. His mother still lives in Parsons. F. C. Cowden was the eldest of nine children: William, who is away at present, is single, and makes his home with his mother; J. D., who is an engineer on the "Katy" road, has been a resident of Parsons for the past eighteen years, and he and his family make their home with his mother on North Johnson avenue; Martin, who holds the position of night operator for the Western Union Telegraph Company, is single, and also makes his home with his mother; Caleb, deceased, was an operator on the "Katy" road. One of the daughters is Mrs. Dr. Albert Smith, of Parsons; the others are deceased.
Mr. Cowden has been twice married, his first wife having been Arvilla Diver, a native of Ohio. She died in 1883, leaving five children, viz.: Minnie, Albert D., Dora, Edwin W., and Bennie. Minnie married Mr. McDown, of Salt Lake City, Utah, who is employed, as a machinist on the Rio Grande Western Railway, - they have one child, Irene, five years old. Albert D. is an operator and stenographer at Salt Lake City. Dora is a stenographer of the same place. Edwin W. is operator and agent on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway, and is located at Urbana, Kansas. Bennie is a youth of seventeen years, who is assisting his brother at Urbana, and acting as extra agent and operator. Mr. Cowden contracted a second marriage alliance. This union was with Nellie French, a daughter of Z. D. French, of Lawrenceville, Illinois, her mother being deceased. One child, Eva, was born of this marriage, who died at the tender age of one year and five months.
In political affairs, Mr. Cowden has always been a Republican, but not a politician. Socially, he is a member of the Modern Woodmen of America, the A. 0. U. W., and formerly belonged to the I. 0. 0. F., and Select Friends. Mrs. Cowden is a member of the Select Friends, also. Mr. Cowden and his estimable wife are members of the Presbyterian church, which religious belief subject espoused. when but fourteen years of age.
Transcribed from History of Labette County, Kansas and its Representative Citizens, ed. & comp. by Hon. Nelson Case. Pub. by Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill. 1901
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