James Walter Gowans, superintendent of the city schools of Winfield, is one of a trio of brothers all of whom are graduates of the University of Kansas and all capable school men in this state. Mr. Gowans is not only an educator but a thoroughly constructive administrator in educational affairs, and the public schools of Winfield have benefited much from his superintendence.
Though a resident of Kansas nearly all his life, James Walter Gowans was born at Centerview, Missouri, September 21, 1877. He is of Scotch ancestry in the paternal line. His paternal grandparents, Walter and Elizabeth (Donnan) Gowans, were both born near Glasgow, Scotland. Walter Gowans was born in 1800, came to this country at the age of twenty-one, and spent his active career as a farmer in Ohio, Illinois, and finally at Centerview, Missouri, where he died in 1887. At one time he was a member of the state militia. His wife died in Ohio.
Samuel W. Gowans, father of Professor Gowans, was born in 1846 in Ohio, twenty miles from Columbus, in Union County. He subsequently accompanied the family to Illinois and from there to Centerview, Missouri, where he married. He likewise had followed farming throughout his active career. Coming to Kansas in 1882, he lived for nine years in Butler County and helped develop some of the newer lands of that section. In 1891 he moved to a farm at Lawrence, Kansas, in order to give his children better educational opportunities, and continued farming there until the fall of 1916, when he retired and removed to Ottawa, where he now resided. He is a republican. For many years he had been an elder in the United Presbyterian Church. Samuel W. Gowans married Mary Stitt, who was born near Washington Court House, Ohio, in 1846. James W. is the oldest of their three sons. Ralph E. graduated A. B. from the University of Kansas in 1905 and is now principal of the high school at Ottawa. Harry W. had the degrees bachelor of science and master of arts from the University of Kansas, and is now principal of the high school at Iola, Kansas.
James W. Gowans began attending school soon after his parents removed to Butler County, and from the country schools of that county he entered the city schools at Lawrence, graduating from the Lawrence High School in 1896. He then took up his career as an educator and for three years taught in Douglas County. In 1899 he entered the University of Kansas, and was graduated A. B. in 1903. For three summers Professor Gowans had attended Columbia University, taking courses leading up to the master of arts degree.
The first four years after leaving university, from 1903 to 1907, he spent as principal of schools in Gardner. He had been a resident of Winfield since 1907 and was connected with the schools as principal of the high school until 1913, when he was chosen superintendent of the entire city school system. He now had the active supervision of school interests, including six school buildings, a staff of fifty-six teachers and an enrollment of about 2,000 scholars. In 1915, due largely to the excellency of the school system, Winfield received the Stubbs prize of $1.000 offered by Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe Stubbs through the child welfare department of the University of Kansas. The effort was to determine which city of the second class in the state offered the best advantages of bringing up the children. A committee of three appointed by Prof. William McKever, head of the child welfare department of the University of Kansas, made the decision. The committee was Miss Linna Baessette, secretary of the labor commission; D. A. Ellsworth, secretary of the Kansas State Teachers’ Association, and Prof. Flovd Lee, of the Hayes Normal School.
Mr. Gowans is a republican in his political affiliations. He is an active member of the Cowley County, the Southern Kansas and the Kansas State Teachers’ Associations, and the Kansas Schoolmasters’ Club. He also works with the Commercial Club at Winfield and is an elder in the Presbyterian Church. While educators as a rule are not men of property, Mr. Gowan is something of an exception to the rule and had a good farm of 320 acres in Western Kansas and owned a residence at 902 East Tenth Street, in Winfield. He was married in 1914 at Lawrence to Miss Eleanor Gilmore, daughter of W. J. and Emma (McHenry) Gilmore. Her mother is still living at Lawrence. Her father, now deceased, was a Kansas pioneer, coming to the territory in 1857 and spending a long and active career as a farmer.