Four brothers, W. H. “Bill” Cowden, George Cowden, John M. Cowden and Buck Cowden came to the area in the mid 1880s and settled with their wives and children near what became the town of Jal. The men drove their combined cattle while the women drove wagons. Water sources were found by digging wells. Their ranch was called the Mule Shoe Ranch and had its headquarters at what became the Jal town site.
Their father was William Hamby Cowden (1826-1903). According to federal census records, in 1850, he was twenty-five years old, living in Alabama. By 1860, he was thirty-five years old, living in Palo Pinto, Texas. That same year, he married Caroline Martha Liddon (1832-1879). During the Civil War, he served in Company A of the Frontier Battalion under Captain William C. Clayton. Though it was considered part of the Confederate Army, it essentially served as a local militia, protecting settlers primarily from the native tribes. To the best of our knowledge, it never left the state of Texas. Cowden enlisted in September 1865 for an initial period of six months and during the time of his service, he rose to the rank of sergeant.
William Hamby Cowden and Caroline Martha Liddon Cowden had a number of children, including Bill, George, John and Buck Cowden. Caroline, known as Carrie, passed away in Palo Pinto in 1879 at the age of 47. The following year, William Hamby Cowden married her sister, Catherine Cobb “Kittie” Liddon Moore who had recently become a widow after the death of her first husband, Robert Young Moore, back in Tennessee in 1876. Kittie and Robert had been married a number of years and had several children including Hattie Lucille Moore, who would become the wife of Ambrose Quincy Cooper of Jal, and Lillie Parham Moore, who would become the wife of John Motherwell Cowden. Though it is not as complicated as it might sound, when Kittie Liddon Moore married William Hamby Cowden, Lillie’s mother became her mother in law. William Hamby Cowden and Kittie do not seem to have lived in New Mexico, but eventually resided in Midland, where they were living when they both passed away.
Bill, George, John and Buck all were married and lived in the Jal area at least for a while before moving away, but their property was conveyed to Walter C. Cochran and others and eventually became the core of the town of Jal. Hattie Lucille Moore Cooper mentioned in a newspaper article that Walter C. Cochran became her brother in law. Mr. Cochran married yet another sister of Lillie and Hattie Lucille named Nannie Dodson Moore.