The Owens in direct and collateral line have an ancestry going back to the early colonial epoch of America, and their identification with St. Joseph begins in the early forties, when the Missouri River from its source almost to its mouth traversed a vast wilderness, and when St. Joseph was a mere village on its banks, and at that time an outpost of the frontier of civilization. Since the pioneer days, later members of the Owen family have filled distinguished places in the arts and sciences and in business life and their attainments are such that several of the name are distinguished in national American biography.
James A. Owen, founder of the family in St. Joseph, was born in Henry County, Kentucky, May 20, 1822, and died in St. Joseph May 13, 1890. His parents were Nelson Reed and Nancy (Baber) Owen. James A. Owen came to St. Joseph in 1844, and that city was his home until his death nearly fifty years later. A lawyer by profession, he established his office in the frontier city of the forties and fifties, and also took a prominent part in public affairs. He served as assessor of the city, from 1853 to 1854 and from 1857 to 1859, and in later years was at one time candidate of the Greenback party for the office of lieutenant governor of Missouri.
James A. Owen married Agnes Jeannette Cargill on August 3, 1848. To their marriage were born seven children, three sons and four daughters, of whom two sons died in infancy. The living children are: Mary A.; Luella; Florence A., the wife of William B. Orr, formerly of Pittsburgh, and now of St. Louis; Herbert A.; Juliette A.
The early ancestors of the Owen family in the direct male line goes back to Baron Lewis Owen, who died in 1555. He was descended from one of the fifteen barons of the Kingdom of Wales. The first of the family to come to America was Robert Owen, great-grandson of Baron Lewis. He came on the ship Vaiue from Liverpool, arriving in September, 1684, and settling in Delaware. A few years later he returned to Wales with his family, and in 1695, the Rev. Robert Owen, who was born in 1672 was sent out by the society for the propagation of the gospel in foreign lands, to the province of Maryland and settled in Calvert county of that province. Rev. Robert Owen had five sons, and among these was John, great-grandfather of the late James A. Owen.
Lawrence Owen, a son of John, and grandfather of James A., moved to Kentucky in 1787, and founded the family name and fortunes in that then western country. Lawrence Owen married Mary Cullom, and by her had a large family, including Nelson Owen, father of the St. Joseph pioneer. Mary Cullomís brother was the grandfather of Senator Cullom of Illinois. A permanent distinction of the family in Kentucky is Owen county, which was named in honor of Lawrence Owen.
Agnes Jeannette Cargill, who became the wife of James A. Owen, was likewise of an old and prominent American family. Her father James Cargill was a descendant from the Cargillís of Perthshire, Scotland, and a direct ancestor was David Cargill, a nephew of Rev. Donald Cargill, who was a Presbyterian who suffered martyrdom for his religion, being executed by order of the Duke of York, afterwards King James II. David Cargill, Jr., a son of David Cargill, Sr., with his family left Scotland, and after spending a brief time in Ireland, came to America in 1718, settling in what is now Londonderry, New Hampshire. David Cargill, Jr., went later to Maine as a surveyor. He became the father of Col. James Cargill, on officer in the Revolutionary war, and Colonel James was the father of David Cargill, and the grandfather of James Cargill, and great-grandfather of Agnes Jeannette Cargill. The David Cargill family, moved from Maine to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1812, and in 1829 James Cargill moved to Virginia, locating at Wheeling, on the Ohio River, in what is now West Virginia. At Wheeling, Agnes Jeannette Cargill was born August 22, 1830. Her death occurred at St. Joseph, December 16, 1911.
James Cargill, her father came to St. Joseph in 1843, bringing all his family, and the distinction which will always connect him with the pioneer history of the city is that he erected the first grist mill at St. Joseph, on the banks of the Missouri River. That old mill, after its wheels had turned for a number of years, and had furnished food supplies to settlers over a large territory, was torn down about 1845, and rebuilt on a site that is now the corner of Eighth and Felix Streets in St. Joseph, on ground now occupied by the Hirsch Brothers Dry Goods Company. James Cargill remained as the proprietor of that mill until his death on October 27, 1858. James Cargill was also a leader in establishing and promoting early religious influences in St. Joseph, and brought to this city the first Episcopal missionary, and later had the first Episcopal minister to come and organize the first Episcopal church. The first person confirmed in St. Joseph by Episcopal Bishop Hawks was Agnes Jeannette Cargill.
Of the children of the late James A. Owen and wife, the oldest is Mary Alicia Owen, whose career as an author and scholar has gained her national and international distinction. She was educated at private schools and in Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. New York. In 1888, her inclinations and studies having been directed largely along the lines of folk-lore literature and belief, she made important discoveries in voodoo magic, which she announced in folk-lore society. In 1892, she was admitted to tribal membership with the Musquakie Indians, co-inprising the Sacs and Fox tribes. She joined the secret societies of these Indians and has written many articles descriptive and interpretative of their beliefs and customs. In 1898 Miss Owen turned her attention to the study of gypsy life. In addition to many papers read before the societies of which she is a member, she is the author of the following better known works: "Ole Rabbit's Plantation Stories," "Voodoo Tales," "The Daughter of Alouette and an Ozark Gypsy," "Folklore of the Musquakie Indians," "Oracles and Witches," "The Sacred Council Hills." Miss Owen is a member of the following societies: President of the Missouri Folk-Lore Society, Councilor and life member of the American Folk-lore Society, Honorary Member of the English Folk-lore Society, she and Professor Starr of the University of Chicago being the only honorary members, member of St. Louis Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and a life member of the American Association, member of the Wednesday Club of St. Louis, Missouri,, and a life member of Mississippi Valley Historical Society, member of the Historical Society of St. Louis, Missouri, and a member of the State Historical Society of Columbia, Missouri.
Luella A. Owen has membership in the following bodies: Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, member of the American Geographical Society, of the National Geographical Society, and the International Geographical Congress. Luella Owen prepared and read at the Geneva meeting in 1908, of the International Geographical Congress, a paper on "The Missouri River, Its Importance for Transportation Purposes to the United States and Foreign Countries," this paper later being embodied in the congressional records. At the Rome meeting of 1913, of the International Geographical Congress, she read a paper prepared by herself on geography and geology of Yellowstone Park; besides these contributions, Miss Owen is the author of the work, "Cave Regions of the Ozarks and Black Hills."
Florence E. Owen married William B. Orr, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Since her husband's death she has been president of the Federation of Women's Clubs, and is active in the Daughters of the American Revolution. She is the author of many papers on the subjects of the day, read before the Runcie Club, the Daughters of the Revolution, and other women's clubs. Mrs. Orr has two sons, Owen Cargill Orr, now a buyer for the General Roofing Company of St. Louis; and Robert Breckinridge Orr, who is associated with Parker-Gordon & Company, wholesale cigar dealers in St. Louis; and who married Jessamine Wallace, the daughter of Dr. C. H. Wallace of St. Joseph. Herbert A. Owen was born in St. Joseph in 1857, received his education in the grammar and high schools of the city, also spending one year in the United States Military Academy, at West Point. Hon. David Rea, member of congress from the Fourth Missouri District, gave him his appointment to the military academy and only an accidental injury caused him to leave the academy and give up his ambition for a military career.
Previous to entering West Point he was connected with the St. Joseph's Cadets, and on his return resumed newspaper work, later resigning to take a place with the Merchant's Bank of St. Joseph, during the latter part of 1879. His relations with that institution continued until 1882, when he engaged in the real estate business for himself. He was also admitted to the bar of Buchanan county, and subsequently took up abstracting, operating as the St. Joseph Abstract Company, of which he is president. In addition to his work in real estate, law and abstract, Mr. Owen is also manager of the Owen estate. In 1882 Herbert A. Owen married Harriette C. Kearney, a daughter of Charles Kearney of St. Joseph, and a granddaughter of General Stephen Kearney, and a niece of General Phil Kearney. This distinguished family in the west and in national military annals is too well known for further introduction. Charles Kearney, father of Mrs. Owen, was one of the early settlers of St. Joseph, locating there in 1855, and was one of the first steamboat agents in the city. He kept a store and a warehouse on the river front for a number of years. Herbert A. Owen and wife became the parents of four children, three sons and one daughter, as follows: James A., Jr., who is now salesman for the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, and with headquarters at Seattle, Washington; Herbert A., Jr., a lawyer in Seattle; Stephen, who was at one time connected with the state attorney general's office in Jefferson City, and is now practicing law in St. Joseph; Annie J., the wife of W. H. Cocke of St. Louis.
Juliette A. Owen, the youngest of the family, was educated at Vassar College in New York, and her pursuits and avocations have also been largely along scientific and literary lines. She belongs to the following scientific and literary organizations: Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, life associate of the American Ornithological Union, life member of the American Museum of New York, of the New York Academy of Science, patron of the Missouri Audubon Society, member of the Washington Academy of Science, of the Washington Biological Society, and of the Missouri Humane Society, fellow of the American Geographical Association. Miss Owen has written papers of great value and indicating broad research on the subject of ornithology and also general biological subjects, and has translated much German poetry into charming and graceful English verse. Her home is at 306 North Ninth Street in St. Joseph.
Source: A History of Northwest Missouri, Volume 2; edited by Walter
Williams; Publ. 1918; Donated and Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.