In The Foothills Of
dates from the mid-19th century and developed mostly as a railroad
It was the site where several branch lines met the main Nashville to Chattanooga trunk.
As it was the last stop before the uphill climb onto the nearby Cumberland Plateau, booster engines to assist trains in making the steep ascent were based here.
The town's economy declined with the importance of the railroad after United States Highway41A was built in the '40s. The old passenger depot was restored as a museum and is a focal point of the downtown area. In recent years, the economy has resurged as Cowan has developed into a bedroom community for the University of the South, located in nearby Sewanee, Tennessee