Cowles, John Guiteau Welch was born in Oberlin, Ohio, March 14, 1836. The son of Rev. Henry and Alice Welch Cowles, he was educated in public and preparatory schools of Oberlin and entered Oberlin College, where he studied for the ministry. He received his AB from Oberlin College in 1856, his AM from the Oberlin Theological Seminary in 1859, and an honorary LL.D. from the College in 1898.
J. G. W. Cowles preached in the Congregational Church of Bellevue from 1859 until 1861 when he joined the Union army. He was elected Chaplain of 55th O. V. I., but in the fall of 1862 he resigned as Chaplain. In 1865 he became the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Mansfield. Cowles spent six years with the churchs congregation in Saginaw, Michigan until poor health forced him to give up the ministry and settle in Cleveland, where he found work for three years as an editorial writer for the family paper The Cleveland Leader.
Cowles took up interest in the real estate market and had a prominent part in the large real estate deals of the city. He became manager of the real estate interests of John D. Rockefeller and Charles F. Brush. Cowles oversaw the transfer of J. D. ROCKEFELLER's gift of land and money to the City of Cleveland in 1897 for the creation of Liberty Boulevard, now Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive. The announcement of Rockefeller's gift had been made during the city's centennial celebration, where Cowles surprised the proceedings to make the announcement.
J. G. W. Cowles went on to serve as President of Cleveland Trust (now Ameritrust) in 1895 and participated in the creation of Euclid Heights. Cowles also served on the Oberlin College Board of Trustees from 1874 until 1914. In 1902, upon the death of President John Henry Barrows, he became acting President of the College. Cowles served the interests of the business community as president of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce in 1896 and his participation in the transfer of what would become Rockefeller park lead him to the presidency of the Park Board Commission in 1900. Cowles was also a member of the Ohio Commandery of the Loyal Legion, Army and Navy Post, G. A. R. and a staunch Republican. Cowles had moved up to the chairmanship of the bank in 1903 and died in San Diego in 1914.
He was the first President of Cleveland Trust Co. (now Ameritrust), from 1895 to 1903; pres. Cleveland Chamber of Commerce (1896); pres. Park Board Commission (1900); member Ohio Commandery of the Loyal Legion, Army and Navy Post, G. A. R.; Republican; member and deacon of Plymouth Congregational Church until its recent abandonment.
In 1859 he married Lois M. Church, of Vertmontville, Michigan, who gave birth to two daughters and two sons. A second marriage, to Miss Beatrice Walker, of Brantford, Connecticut resulted in one daughter, Jeanette, born in 1905.
The Book of Clevelanders: A Biographical Dictionary of Living Men of the City of Cleveland (Cleveland: The Burrows Bros. Company, 1914): 64.
William C. Barrow, The Euclid Heights Allotment (Cornell Univ., MA Thesis, 1996)
Joseph P. Smith, ed., History of the Republican Party (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1898)