Source: Biographical Memoirs of Wabash County (1901), 242-244
Calvin Cowgill was born in Clinton county, Ohio, January 7, 1819, a son of Amos and Edith (Mendenhall) Cowgill, and remained at home on the farm until eighteen years of age, when he came to Randolph county, Ind., with his parents. His early education was obtained in the old-fashioned subscription school, and subsequently attended a seminary. He had early decided within himself to become a lawyer, though his parents strongly objected, they being staid Quakers and opposed to what they believed a business which tended to create trouble and strife among neighbors or in a community of which they formed a part. The society charged Calvin with deviating from its plainness in dress as well as address. He never affiliated with the church or society. On leaving home he entered the office of Moorman Way, of Winchester, Ind., where he studied law. He was admitted to the bar in the winter of 1842-43, in the circuit court before Judge Kilgore at Winchester. Also was admitted before Judge Blackford of the supreme court, at Indianapolis, but had little practice, and had to depend for a time for the support of his little family at the occupation of farming. The old lawyers had all the practice, and he did not see a reasonable opening for the practice of his profession until years later. In 1851 he was elected to the legislature and the year following removed to Wabash. In 1852 he began the practice of his profession and in 1854 entered into a partnership with John U. Pettit, which continued for nine years. He then associated himself with Judge Henry S. Kelley, later with his son, and still later with Maj. M.H. Kidd, under the firm name of Cowgill, Kidd & Cowgill, and later H.B. Shiveley was added to the firm. In politics Mr. Cowgill was formerly a Whig, and on the organization of the Republican party joined its ranks and has since been a stalwart supporter of the party. In August 1851, he was elected to the legislature, serving through the two succeeding years, during which he helped to make some very radical changes in the state laws, so as to conform to the provisions of the new constitution. In 1855 he was elected treasurer of Wabash county and acceptably served in that position four years, at the same time practicing his profession.
When the war came on he enlisted in Company A., Seventy-fifth Indiana Infantry, and was appointed quartermaster, but at the earnest solicitation of Governor Morton he returned home to act as provost marshal, in which capacity he served until after the cessation of hostilities, being one of the last men mustered out. He was again elected to the General Assembly in 1865, and was presidential elector for the eleventh district of Indiana in 1872. In 1878 he was elected and served in the Forty-sixth Congress, entering upon his duties during the special session by President Hayes and continuing through the two regular sessions. He was appointed by the government to pay the Indians the last installment of the purchase money for the Miami reservation, amounting to about a quarter of a million dollars.
Mr. Cowgill was no specialist. Gifted with a broad and comprehensive mind, he quickly saw the wants of the community, the necessities demanded by the progress of the day, and easily formulated plans to meet all the requirements of new conditions. He was one of the incorporators of the First National Bank and a prominent member of its directory for some years. He early became connected with the Grand Rapids, Wabash & Indiana Railroad and organized the company which built it. He was its president for years, and later its general solicitor. Through his untiring energy he was successful in collecting the subscriptions and subsidies for the construction and equipment of the road, and disbursed the same so wisely that the revenues of the road were productive of the most good. Much of the $600,000 in subsidies voted by townships and counties was only secured through litigation, but he was so successful in the conduct of affairs that every suit was won and every subsidy voted was saved to the company. Years before Caleb B. Smith had attempted to build a road over practically the same route, but met with complete failure. Mr. Cowgill's line opened new territory to the business markets, which grew rapidly in value under the development made possible by the construction and operation of the road, and to an extent surprising even to its projectors. Mr. Cowgill's connection with the road ceased shortly after it passed into the control of the Big Four, when he sold his stock; but his son, Cary Cowgill, a brilliant and capable young man, succeeded to the position and has given to the road all those qualities so necessary to its success. His biography will be found elsewhere in this volume.
In October of the same year Mr. Cowgill became interested in the Wabash Natural Gas Company, which was organized by citizens of Indianapolis, but later purchased by the citizens of Wabash, and during his entire connection with it has served as its president. He has always taken an active and commendable interest in everything calculated to improve or upbuild the town, county or state; was one of the first to advocated free gravel roads, and was one of the first movers to establishing public schools. He is a representative of that class of American citizens, progressive and enterprising, who promote the public welfare while advancing individual prosperity.
September 13, 1841, Mr. Cowgill was married to Miss Mary Flanagan, of Randolph county, Ind. Five of the six children born to them are living, namely: Cary E., a prominent lawyer of Wabash, who is now, and for several years has been, solicitor for the Michigan division of the Big Four Railroad, married Nancy Stuart, and they have one son, surnamed Stuart; Carrie, wife of Harvey H. Woods, who has two children, Fred and Edith; Emma, the wife of Dr. William T. Mendenhall, who died at Wabash in 1882, is now the wife of Gen. Robert P. Kennedy, ex-Congressman and ex-Lieutenant-Governor of Ohio; Kate, married Hon. Harvey B. Shively, judge of the Twenty-eighth Circuit and commander of the Grand Army of the Republic of Indiana in 1895; Harry, died at the age of fourteen months; Thomas C., late of the United States railway mail service, was connected with the gas company of Wabash, and in 1901 moved on his farm, which he is now operating near the city of Wabash. ...