Select Owen Miscellany

Here are some Owen stories and accounts over the years:

Sir John Owen the Royalist

One of the warmest supporters of the Royalist cause in Wales was Sir John Owen of Bodsilin (whose grandfather had been secretary to Walsingham).   By 1648, although the cause of his royal master seemed almost hopeless, he raised an army of infantry and cavalry and confronted the Parliamentary army at a place called Dalar Hir.  A fierce engagement took place.  At first fortune seemed to favour Sir John.  But the tide of battle soon turned, his troops fled, and he was dragged from his horse and made prisoner. 

Sir John was conveyed to Windsor Castle, where he was put on trial.  In his defense, he stated that:

"He was a plain gentleman of Wales who had been always taught to obey the King; that he had served him honestly during the war; and finding many honest men endeavoring to raise forces whereby he might get him out of prison, he did the like."

Eventually he was condemned to lose his head, for which, with humorous intrepidity, he bowed to the court and gave his humble thanks.

He was, however, disappointed of this honor.  After a few months' imprisonment, he was pardoned following the intercession of the Spanish and Dutch ambassadors.  He returned to Wales where he sought unsuccessfully to regain his estates.  He died in 1666.

Hugh Owen Played Both Sides

Hugh Owen of Orielton, who had represented Pembroke as an MP from 1625 and was created a baronet in 1641, proved himself something of an opportunist when the Civil War came.

At the outset he favored the Parliament and was taken prisoner by Sir Henry Vaughan when he had evacuated Haverfordwest after the Royalist defeat at Pill in 1644.  Later he was said to have resorted to the king at Oxford and to have abandoned Pembrokeshire for Anglesey.  In 1648 he was alleged to have countenanced the Royalist resistance of Poyer and Laugharne in Pembroke.

However, he made his peace with the victorious Parliament party and served as sheriff of Pembrokeshire under the Protectorate.

Owens in Llanidloes

The Owen name cropped up a lot in 19th century Llanidloes, Montgomeryshire.  Among these Owens were:

Abraham Owen

Abraham Owen was one of the leaders of the Chartist agitation in Llanidloes in the 1840's.  When the law cracked down, many of the leaders fled.  But Abraham Owen - along with Lewis Humphreys, John Ingram,and James Morris - were captured and brought to trial.  They were each sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia.

Evan Owen

Evan Owen was another Owen who fell foul of the law.  His crime was the theft of three geese in 1844 and he was also sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia.  He was sixty years old when sentenced and never returned.

James Owen

James Owen, born in 1808, served with the police force in Llanidloes for thirty five years.  He married twice and had either eleven or thirteen children (accounts vary) and numerous grandchildren.   One branch of this family set sail for South Africa in 1902.

John Vaughan Owen

Dr. John Vaughan Owen lived at Glascoed, Llanidloes.  His fifth son Cecil, a writer, continued to live there through much of the 20th century.

Owen Owen in Liverpool

Owen Owen, the draper and property developer, was born at Machynlleth in Montgomeryshire, the son of a tenant farmer.  He moved to Liverpool in 1868 where he set up his own drapery business, leasing premises on the London Road.  His business expanded so rapidly that, by 1873, he had over one hundred and twenty employees - most of whom were from Wales - and a quarter of an acre floor space.

Owen's was one of the first major retailers to introduce a weekly half day holiday for staff and by 1900 he had set up the Owen Owen Trust to help retired employees.  Owen's trademark was to offer a courteous service and good quality merchandise at low prices.  Following his marriage in 1891, he moved to London while continuing to supervise his Liverpool store, which, by the early 20th century, was to become one of the largest of its kind in northern England.

Throughout his life Owen was supportive of Welsh causes, particularly in the field of education and the arts, and was influential in both Liverpool and London Welsh societies.  He died of cancer at his London home in 1910.  His ashes were scattered on the family grave in Machynlleth.

Owen and Owens Surname Incidence

Both Owen and Owens exist as surnames.  The table below shows the current incidence of these names in the UK and elsewhere.  Owen predominates, except in Ireland and America. 

Numbers (000's)   
Owen + Owens
Owen %        
New Zealand

The Owens surname originated in Ireland from the Irish personal name Eoghan (which sounded like Owen in Gaelic).  Most Owens in Ireland could trace their ancestry to two clans: one, a Dukassian tribe as the same stock as the O'Neills of Thomond; the other, a Fermanagh family who were noted administators of ecclesiastical lands around Lough Erne.  Owens are now most numerous in Ulster. 

In America, Owens probably meant Irish origin, Owen Welsh origin - but not necessarily.  This was one 19th century version of Owen and Owens in the South:

"They always told me that without the "s" it meant Republican and if they spelt it with an "s" the folks were Democrats."


William Owen of Braintree, Massachusetts

The ship Hopewell, which cleared from the port of London for Barbados in 1634, contained among its 150 passengers a William Owen aged 23, a John Owen aged 20, and an Owen Williams aged 21.  The following April the ship Elizabeth, sailing from London to New England, carried among its 28 passengers, mostly women, Margaret Davies aged 32 and her three children of whom the youngest was the one year old Elizabeth.

It is probable that the William Owen of the Hopewell was the same as that appearing fifteen years later at Braintree (where he took the freeman's oath in 1651). The infant Elizabeth Davies on the Elizabeth is known to be the same as the one who married William Owen there.  Her mother Margaret became the wife of Charles Grice of Braintree who in his will described William as "his son" and included him as his beneficiary in recognition of "the filial care and love expressed to me in my aged condition."

The Owen Colony in New Brunswick

It had been started by Captain William Owen, a retired naval officer with a colorful history (he had lost an arm in India and an eye in England during an election riot).  Then in 1767 he received the grant of an outer island in Passamaquoddy Bay, New Brunswick.  Three years later he took possession of his island, naming it Campobello, and brought with him 38 indentured servants from Liverpool.  

Owen kept a journal during his two year residence on the island which has been preserved.  He left the island in 1771 and was never to return.  When he was killed in India in 1778, his nephew David Owen inherited the island.

The Owen family subsequently ran Campobello as something of a feudal estate for close on a century.  It is now something of a tourist attraction.  Owen House - built in 1835 - still stands, with much of the original furnitiure, quilts and fireplaces. 

The Owens of Bladen County

"Across the river to the south stood Owen Hill plantation, high upon a Cape Fear bluff, the home of men of substance, men whose lives were intertwined with the emergence of America.

A colonel Thomas Owen was much more: gentleman with wealth and land; provincial Congree delegate; and Bladen county legislator.

John his son was born at Owen Hill and, like his father, lived a life of service to the Cape Fear region and the state, becoming the governor in 1828.

A planter who owned slaves, John Owen was famed locally not only for his roles in politics, but also for Moreau, a captured Arab prince who chose to stay at Owen Hill when freed; and when he died. Moreau was buried with the family - a tale fantastic and true."

Thus were described the Owens of Bladen county, North Carolina in Francis T. Butler's The Cape Fear Saga: A History in Poetry of Bladen County's River Road.

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