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David McCowan, Trinidad

It is strongly believed that David McCowan (B 1775) and his brother James had been emancipated from the virtual slavery of coalmining in Scotland in 1799.

David sailed from Port Glasgow for Trinidad on December 6 1800. After working as a mason, he became a very busy importer of Scottish goods. He had perhaps taken advantage of the interuption in trade with the American republic during the war of 1812 to launch his own trading business with Britain. Financial difficulties evidently caused him to return to the building trade that he knew so well. He was eventually considered an architect.  It appears that his brother, James, in Scotland was on the hook for some of David's debts. The following letters of David McCowan are a sample of those that have survived. 

Niclous Hunter, Old Cumnock, Ayr Shair

Port Spain, Trinidad
Feb. 3d, 1808

Dear Mother

I once again take the opportunity of a ship for Glasgow of writting you a few lines. I should have done so befor now but have been waiting for an answer to the last letters that I wrot to my Brother James and yourself which was dated 20 of July 1807 in which I sent you an order to receive 10 pounds 10 sh. for yourself and the remainder to be disposed of as I directed James in his letter. I have been very uneasey in not hearing from home for so long a time as the last letter that I had was dated the 7 of Febr 1807 and I directed James particularly to write by the packet which sails regler twise every Month. I told you in my last letter that I intended to get Married. I am now happy to tell you that I was Married on the 8th Day of Oct. last and live a verry happy life. My Wife is a woman very near my own age and every way worthy to be my wife if I had been better than I was. She joins with me in our hopes that you and all our brothers and sisters ar and have been in a state of good health. I have been in verry good myself for a long time back. Tread (trade) still continues to be but indiffrint hear and has all apearance of being worse as we expect nothing hear but an American War and that is the place that the most of our provisions comes from. I expect that I will have some letters from you before you receive this as there is some Glasgow ships expected every day but do not forget to write to me as soon as you receive this also.

Your Daughter's and my best wishes to you and request that you will give our compliments to all our brothers and sisters and all friends and relations whatever. Mr. Hugh Blair desirs to be remembered to you. He is in health.

This is all at presant Dear Mother
From your affectionat son and Daughter till Death.
David & Sarah McCowan


Mr. James McCowan
Stockbridge Coalworks Parish of Lesmehago, Lanark Shair. N.B.

Dear Brother,

I received yours and my Mother's the 7th of March by the hands of Mr. John Wilson and I likewise received per Capt. Bond of the Barque Mary from Pt. (Port) Glasgow the Bible that you sent by him but no other thing as I suppose they had not come down before he sailed. I am happy to hear you are all well as I and my Wife is at present. I wrote to my Mother once since I was married which was on the 8 of Oct. last that I was married.

Since I wrote to my Mother one of the Most Dreadfull callamitys ...

...  Answer me by the first packet after you receive this.

My and My Wife's compliments to you and our Mother and all Brothers and Sisters adeu.

David MCowan
Trinidad, Port Spain
Apr. 4th 1808


Mr. James McCowan
by Lesmehagow

Trinidad July 1 1820

Dear Brother

I received yours of the l8th Sept & 10th of April since writting to you. I am very sorry to see you have been so badly in your Health and so Opressed with Creditors. Your Request of 150 should be complied with if it was in my power but beleve me you are mifsinformed of my ability. Had I been fortunat enough to have had nothing to do with Mr. McArthur & Mr. Hart after paying my first transaction with them it would have been 500 in my pocket for they sent out persels after persels and I was foolish enough to Resarve them & tak my money that I wrought hard for & send to them & sell ther goods on Credit untill I was involved myself somehow or other in Debts that I Cannot account for. I do assure you at this Moment I owe Mrs Simson a ballance of 40 that I do not know how to pay befor Jan and untill I have a settlement with J. McArthur & Co and Jacob Hart I really do not know how I stand with them. If it was in my power at this moment I would send you not only the 150 to get clear of your Creditors but 150 more to take you to America for I think Britain is going fast to ruin. Mrs. Walkers Bill give yourself no uneasines about. I will never look for it unless I am more in distress than you now than if it was not convenient to you to pay it. Wm Baird I have not paid yet nor heard from him sence you wrote for him. I will pay him as soon as I can with convenience. If he has been of any service to you I am gratefull to him for it. I was sorry to see your account of Roberts sickness but I had a letter about it befor I got yours. Your proposall of taking him to the saltwater I could have no other objection to than the expence on you. I am glad to hear our Mother is still continueing in her ordinary health. Little Mitchell I should like to do somthing for. If he could go to Scool for two years I would gladly pay all his expences as soon as I get clear of my Embarass which I hope will be soon. Our brother in law Purdie I have such an unacountable disinclination to & the wholl of that familie ever since our fathers Barn was burnt that cannot think of it at this day without abhorance and My Mother must pardon me for not writting to him as it is against my inclination. I am glad he is so attentive to our Mother. With respect to Smiths 1st bill it was sent me by J. Hart with an instruction that your Creditors wished to get hold of it. I am sorry to see you have lost your good friend Whiteford. I hop you will not think that it is want of inclination that I do not assist you at this time as if you knew my situation for some time it is not much Better than your own

We ar all well in health thank God. James is at school & coming on verry well in his reading. If it was possible I would bring him home in 2 years after this if we be all spared to that time. Mrs. McCowan & Myself Desire to remember us to our Brother and all friends. I am verry sorry to hear John has been so unfortunat in his familie. This Countray is getting worse and worse every day nothing but Opression & Distress on all Hands. I hop this New Parlement will grant the inhabatants of Trinidad the Benefit of British Laws for bad as they are they are ten times prefarable to the arbitrary Spanish. The Judge hear is both Judge & Jurry. He dos just as he pleases. If any person owes you money you may sue & get the Money paid into Court & then they Report it if you was .....for it. You cannot get it for two or three years if at all.

I Remain Dear Brother your affectionat Brother

D. MCowan

The Scarboro Heights Record V12 #3
The McCowans' Who's Who Vol. 9