JOHN LOUDON GOW. James Gow, the father of John Loudon Gow, was born in Ayrshire, Scotland. In 1772, in company with a sister, he came to America landing in Boston, where he remained until 1793. The same year he married a lady of Puritan birth, Miss Lucy Gilman, of Gilmanton, N. H. They then left Boston, and removed to Hallowell, Me., where they passed the rest of their days. They were parents of six children, John Loudon, the subject of this sketch, being the eldest.
John L. Gow was born at Hallowell, September 23, 1797. He received his education at the Academy of that town. When quite young he left Maine to avoid the rigors of the severe climate, seeking a home farther south. He taught school and studied law in Fredericksburg, Va., where he was admitted to the bar. He then removed to Washington, D. C., and became assistant editor of the National Journal, a Whig paper owned by Peter Force. He was connected with this paper for several years. In 1824 he became a resident of Washington, Penn., where he began the practice of law. Soon after he held a professorship in Washington College, lecturing on International Law. He held this position for five years. He became interested in the common-school system, and was desirous of introducing New England ideas. As a professor in the college and as county superintendent, he earned a high place in the affectionate remembrance of the friends of classical and popular education. For many years he was a trustee of Washington College and the Female Seminary. In 1854 he was chosen the first county superintendent of schools, and served for two terms. In this work of education he was materially assisted by his son Alexander M., who was the principal of the Washington schools. At a meeting of educators held in Washington, September 23, 1850, A. M. Gow offered a resolution to establish an institute by which the teachers might be brought together for their improvement, and at a meeting of the association in 1855 he recommended establishing a normal school of four weeks' continuance; but it was not until three years later that this well-timed suggestion was acted upon. In 1831 Mr. Gow was appointed visitor and examiner to West Point by President Jackson, and again in 1849 by President Taylor. Mr. Gow's first partnership was with Mr. King who came with him from Washington, D. C. His next associate was Thomas McGiffin, and his third and last was with Alexander Murdoch, his brother-in-law. In all he enjoyed for forty years an extensive and lucrative practice, in the management of which he displayed great ability, rare zeal and fidelity in the interest of his client, and incorruptible integrity. As a writer he had few superiors. He delivered many public addresses outside of his professional work, both political and literary, was a forcible speaker, argumentative and logical in his reasoning and chaste in his style. He had many law students in his office. One of his students said of him after his death: "I spent two years in his office; he was to me a guide, philosopher and friend. During that time I learned to love him as a man, and admire him as a scholar, as a lawyer and as what we love to call an old-school Christian gentleman." Quoting from the resolutions of the bar, one of his friends said of him: "All lawyers do not feel the same interest in their younger brethren that Mr. Gow did; for myself, I can say that I never went to him for advice or assistance that he did not give it, not grudgingly nor patronizingly, but as freely and cheerfully as if I had been his own son." Another brother lawyer said: "When Mr. Gow came to town he was twenty-seven years of age and I was a boy of sixteen, but it was one of the good traits of our deceased friend's character that he loved the society of boys, and possessed the faculty of endearing himself to them. Thus it was amidst these hours of friendship and professional intercourse I acquired my knowledge of our deceased brother." He was a courteous gentleman, and a true friend. He was an honorable opponent, and a skillful advocate. But it was in the sacredness of the home where he was best known and most loved, that his character shone forth in its most delightful traits.
On June 12, 1827, Mr. Gow married Mary M., daughter of Alexander Murdoch. To them were born twelve children: Alexander M. (deceased) was a banker in Fontanelle, Iowa; Lucy Abigail married James B. Charlton, of Canonsburg; Elizabeth died in infancy; Ellen Murdoch married Rev. George B. Gow, of Glens Falls, N. Y.; James M. is an editor in Greenfield, Iowa; Mary M. resides in Washington, Penn.; Eliza died in childhood; John L. is an attorney in the State of Washington; Pamelia married M. C. Acheson, Esq., of Washington; George Loudon (deceased) was an attorney at law in Greenfield, Iowa; Annie M. married Rev. A. M. Darley, and resides in Pueblo, Colo.; Virginia M. is a resident of Glens Falls. Mr. Gow was an invalid for some years before his death, which occurred August 17, 1866, when he was aged sixty-nine, and at his death appropriate resolutions were passed by the members of the bar. His remains repose in the Washington cemetery. He was a stanch Republican in his later days, and in all his life an uncompromising anti-slavery champion, never ceasing to fearlessly express his views on the subject. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church, in which faith the entire family were brought up. To add to the comforts and happiness of his home he was a genuine lover of music, and played the violin and sang well, in which his family sympathized and took part.
After his death the widowed mother, with her daughter, Mary, remained at the old homestead until 1881. Since then they have made their home with M. C. Acheson, a son-in-law of Mrs. Gow. The Gow homestead was built by Alexander Murdoch, Mrs. Gow's father, on the east corner of Pine alley and Main street. It remained in the family for seventy-one years, when it was torn down to give place to a business house. Mrs. Gow still survives at the advanced age of eighty-five. Her mental vigor remains unimpaired, a comfort to her children and friends.
Text taken from page 36 of:
Beers, J. H. and Co., Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: J. H. Beers & Co., 1893).
Transcribed March 1997 by Neil and Marilyn Morton of Oswego, IL as part of the Beers Project.
Published April 1997 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at http://www.chartiers.com/.
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