Thomas J. Owen

From "A Twentieth Century History and Biography of North and West Texas"
Published 1906
Editor B.B. Paddock

THOMAS J. OWEN belongs to an honored and prominent pioneer family of Texas and made a creditable record in his business career and in his work for the improvement of this part of the state, his efforts contributing to the great work of transformation that has been carried steadily forward here. He was born in Wataga County, Alabama, November 16, 1833, but when only two years old was brought to Texas by his parents, Jesse and Carolina (Mitchell) Owen, the former a native of Prince Edward county, Virginia, and the latter of South Carolina. Their marriage, however, was celebrated in Alabama. The paternal grandparents were Jesse and Susan (Caldwell) Owen, likewise natives of the Old Dominion, while Robert Owen, the founder of the family in America, was a native of Wales and became an early resident of Virginia. Jesse Owen was a representative farmer in his home locality in Virginia and subsequent to his removal to Alabama he purchased large tracts of land and became an extensive planter. Prosperity attended his efforts and he acquired a large estate, which he left to his descendants. His political allegiance was given to the Democracy and he was a member of the Primitive Baptist church. He died about 1843 at the ripe old age of seventy-seven years and his wife died in 1844. Their children were: Thomas, who was a district judge in Alabama and died in Texas; Jack, who died in Arkansas; Jesse, father of our subject, Tabitha; Elizabeth; and Polly.

Jesse Owen was reared in Alabama and remained under the parental roof up to the time of his marriage when he began farming on his own account in that state. He managed his business affairs with success but in 1835 sought a home in Texas, settling in Nacogdoches county, where he bought land and improved a good farm. He took his slaves with him from Alabama and remained at his first location in Texas until 1851, when he removed to Lamar county, where he opened up a second farm, making it his home until his death in 1875. He was a strong Democrat and staunchly favored the secession movement. Although he lost heavily through the exigencies of war, as did the great majority of southern citizens, he afterward largely recuperated his losses and obtained a competency for old age. He carried on farming and cattle-raising in his later years and his able management and keen discernment brought him prosperity. He held membership in the Primitive Baptist church. His wife died in Lamar county in 1873. She was a daughter of Reiley and Nancy (Wells) Mitchell, natives of Ireland, who for many years resided in Alabama, where the father conducted a good plantation with the aid of his slaves. He served as a soldier in the Revolutionary war and was a patriotic American. In his family were six children: James and Wilson, who were farmers of Alabama, Mrs. Carolina Owen, Margaret, Martha and Nancy. Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Owen had two sons and a daughter; William C., who died while serving in the Confederate army, Susan, the wife of A. J. Hager; and Thomas J.

As before stated, Thomas J. Owen was but two years old when brought by his parents to Texas. He attended the subscription schools to a limited extent but his educational privileges were quite meager. He remained under the parental roof until his marriage in Lamar county in January, 1859, the lady of his choice being Miss Catherine House, who was born in Arkansas, in February, 1833, a daughter of Joseph House of Tennessee, one of the early settlers of Arkansas and a pioneer of Texas. He took up his abode in Lamar county, where he owned and operated a grist and saw mill, which was conducted by water power. He was also a large land owner and had extensive stock interests and was recognized throughout the community as a capable financier. All of his business interests were well managed and showed his keen discernment and sagacity. He died in 1859 at the age of sixty-two years and his wife survived him until 1860. She was a member of the Methodist church. They were the parents of three daughters and two sons: Mrs. Catherine Owen; Eliza, the wife of T. Pass; Marzee, the wife of J. Green; James, who served in the war; and Joseph, of Panhandle, Texas.

It was their eldest daughter who became the wife of Thomas J. Owen of this review, who at the time of his marriage began operating the old homestead farm on which he remained until after the outbreak of the Civil War. In the spring of 1861 he enlisted for service in the Confederate army as a member of Company C, Colonel Good's Battalion, which was assigned to the Trans-Mississippi Department and did duty to Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and the Indian Territory. A part of the time Mr. Owen was with General Price and other commanders and he received but two furloughs during his entire military service. He knew what it was to go hungry, to suffer from cold and exposure to the weather and yet he was a loyal and valorous soldier, never faltering in the performance of his duty. When General Lee surrendered, the regiment, which was then at Crockett, Texas, broke ranks and the men returned home.

Mr. Owen found most of his slaves yet upon his place. The following year he resumed farming, got a bunch of cattle together and continued the business until 1866, when he sold out and removed his stock to Cooke county. There he purchased land and opened up a farm, his stock running on the free range. In this business he continued until 1872, when he disposed of his farm and removed to Montague county, locating on the Mountain Creek, three miles north-east of Saint Jo. He there bought three or four surveys, opened up a farm and run his cattle on the free grass, continuing the business successfully until 1892, when having started cattle interests in western Texas he sold his farm lands but retained a small ranch which he yet owns. He now handles stock, mostly making a specialty of beef cattle. He has placed under cultivation over one hundred acres of land and raises feed for his stock. When he came here the cattle business was a success and farming was considered an experiment. His money was invested in stock. The loss of his slaves proved a heavy burden, but his stock-raising interests with the free grass helped him to recuperate from his losses and he gained a new start. In 1892 his sons, anxious for a larger and better range for the stock, removed to western Texas and Mr. Owen therefore abandoned the business here and established his sons in Panhandle, where they are now running cattle, while he largely confines his operations to beef cattle. It was in the same year that he retired from the farm and took up his abode at Saint Jo, where is now living quietly, advising his sons as to the management of the business, but leaving to them the more active duties.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Owen were born five children: George, on the cattle ranch in Panhandle, Cora, who became the wife of T. V. Jones and died leaving six children; Susan who died at the age of twenty-four years; and Jack and T. J. who are living in Panhandle. The wife and mother died at Saint Jo in January, 1903. Mr. Owen has witnessed the establishment of Saint Jo and the development of the surrounding district, watching its transformation into a prosperous farming county. In politics he is a Democrat and labors earnestly to secure good men for local office. His interest in community affairs is that of a public spirited citizen, whose efforts for the general welfare have been far reaching and beneficial.

Notes: This is the biography in its entirety. The inconsistencies I have found are:

"Wataga" county is actually "Autauga" county
Marzee, though listed as a female here is listed on the 1860 census as a male and is also listed in the 1860 census for males of Lamar county eligible to serve.
Most of what is said here prior to T.J. and Catherine's marriage has yet to be documented. I have found records of Joseph B. House in Lamar county, but none of Jesse. I have also found a J. Owen and J. Owen Jr. on the 1830 Autauga county census, but that's it.

This article prepared by Shana Walker  --

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