Andrew Carson Cowles

Date of Birth

Jan. 12, 1833

Date of Death

Jan. 5, 1881

Letters Authored


Letters Received


Andrew Carson Cowles was born 190 years ago.
142 years ago, Andrew Carson Cowles passed away at the age of 47.

Letters Received in Collection


Andrew Carson Cowles was a congressman and senator serving in the state legislature of North Carolina during the 1860s. In 1870, he married Margaret Caroline Reynolds, known to most as Maggie. Maggie Reynolds is the author of a separate series of letters in the Archive. Records indicate that Andrew and his family owned many slaves; in fact, in the letter written in 1855 when Andrew was but 22 years old, he writes to his brother-in-law, Billy, that he now owns “Ike” and that the family has so many slaves that his father has procured an additional farm so that they may raise enough ham and corn to support the Negroes. Andrew’s father was Josiah Cowles and his mother was Nancy Caroline Carson Duval. Nancy was Josiah’s second wife and Josiah entered this second marriage with four children from his first wife, Deborah Sanford. He and Nancy would have at least seven additional children, thus Andrew had at least ten siblings. Based upon the content of the letters, it would not seem that the two families were particularly close. Nonetheless, the Cowles Letters provide an extraordinary window into the life of a southern slave holding family during the period of Reconstruction.

Calvin Josiah Cowles was a son of Deborah Sanford and Josiah Cowles so he and Andrew were half brothers, but from the content of the letters,it seems rather apparent that they were political adversaries. Calvin Cowles was the president of North Carolina’s Constitutional Convention in 1868 and sympathetic to Radical Reconstruction, a Republican driven movement demanding more federal authority and stricter laws. The new Constitution not only abolished slavery, but guaranteed all men, black or white, the right to vote, and in the process eliminated any impediments to voting such as property or religious requirements. The Conservatives, the party to which Andrew and Bell (See "The Bell Letter" below) subscribed, launched a campaign to repeal the Constitution. This cause was finally quashed in 1871, and most of Andrew and Bell’s political comments were in response to the successes of this Radical Reconstruction movement.

Andrew Carson Cowles was born 12 January 1833 in Hamptonville. He was the son of Josiah Cowles (b. 3 April 1791, d. 11 November 1873) and Nancy Caroline Carson Duvall (b. 19 May 1802, d. 3 July 1863). Josiah and Nancy were married 25 July 1828 after Josiah’s first wife Deborah Sanford died 9 January 1827. In many of the letters, Andrew refers to Maggie, which was a nickname for his wife, Margaret Caroline Reynolds. Margaret Caroline Reynolds was the daughter of Reuben Reynolds (b. about 1813) and Laura C. Sanford (b. 2 August 1827). Andrew and Margaret had three children: Carrie Bell Cowles (b. 5 May 1871), Reuben Cowles (b. 31 March 1873), Hugh Cowles (b. 17 January 1875). Unfortunately, Andrew Cowles died 5 January 1881, at the age of 48, leaving Maggie with three children under the age of 10.

Andrew often referred to Uncle Hugh in his letters. Hugh Reynolds was actually Maggie's uncle, as Hugh Reynolds and Reuben Reynolds were brothers.