First Generation, Ascending; John Edward Owen
1 John Edward Owen was born on 16 March 1833 in Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, South Wales and christened on 2 June 1833 at Zoar Independent Chapel. He married Mary Thomas on 15 February 1853 aboard the ship Jersey while at sea on the Atlantic Ocean en route to New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. John died on 3 November 1895 in Malad, Oneida County, Idaho, United States.
Mary Thomas was born 6 May 1834 in Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, South Wales. She died 14 March 1887 in Malad, Oneida County, Idaho, United States.
John’s parents were Edward Owen and Sarah Roberts were both from Montgomeryshire, Wales and were married on 13 August 1825 in Vaynor, Breconshire, Wales (Powell and Hemmings, Ancestry). Sarah died 8 September 1850 in Merthyr Tydfil (England and Wales Deaths 1837-2007 Findmypast) and Edward died at the Forden House of Industry in Montgomeryshire on 16 June 1868.
Mary’s parents were Richard Thomas, born in 1808, and Margaret Jones, born 12 August 1806. They were married in 1827 in Glamorgan, Wales (Glamorgan Parish Registers). According to family lore, Richard died 3 April 1851 from a stone mining accident and Margaret Jones died in 1874 in Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, Wales (FamilySearch).
The Owens of Malad, Idaho owe their lineage to the Welsh Mormons hailing from Glamorgan, South Wales. Edward Owen and Sarah Roberts, both born in Montgomeryshire, Wales, were married on the 13th of August in 1825 in Vaynor, Breconshire, Wales (Ancestry.com). By 1827, the Owens moved to Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, South Wales, where the coal fields provided employment for Edward and his family. In 1851, Edward was listed as a miner and lived on Trevor Street in Merthyr. (source). Merthyr Tydfil, although arguably the industry capital of South Wales during the time, was still a squalid slum for most families living there. Many families shared homes, and living conditions were filthy and impoverished. Someone described Merthyr Tydfil as the following:
A town like Merthyr Tydfil was a byword for squalor, dirt and poor housing, but during the good times you could earn a good living there. It was common for people to share living space. The idea of having your own individual bedroom would have been odd. It was taken for granted that you would sleep alongside other people … Living ‘cheek by jowl’ was the norm, but it was obviously exaggerated in Merthyr (http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-17291650).
By 1851, Edward Owen, a miner, was a widower and single father of five, with four still listed as living in the household (findmypast.com). Their days were filled with hard physical labor, and Jane, Edward’s oldest daughter at the age of 27, likely tended to the care of the household, meals, and caring for Mary, her sister who was only 12 at the time. The young men in the family were listed as stone miners. John Edward Owen, the second youngest in the family, was 18 at the time, and while he quarried by the sweat of his brow day after day, he surely must have come across a message of hope that piqued his interest, and would eventually cause him to take a chance that would change the course of his life for himself and his posterity for hundreds of years beyond his own lifetime.
According to church records, John Owen was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on February 21, 1849 (Familysearch). He was listed as a passenger on the ship Jersey, which disembarked from Liverpool in February 1853. There were six couples wed on the Atlantic seaboard on February 15th, and John Owen and Mary Thomas were among them. They said their vows while sailing across the ocean, where 500 saints lived and worshipped together over the course of six weeks (Thomas; Mormon Migration).
The departure down the Mersey River was bittersweet. Many saints sang the words of a hymn, “Yes, my native land I love thee” as Great Britain shrank in the distance. In a journal recording the voyage aboard Jersey, English passenger Frederick Percy described the journey:
We were quickly towed down the Mersey, past the Rock Lighthouse and the Fort at the mouth, and the wind being fair, the sails were soon unfurled and filled, and we stood out to sea. Thoughts crowded my brain; of course I thought of old England. It is impossible to leave the land of one’s birth without regret, or to leave one’s kindred and friends, even for a few months, without a sigh. I wondered whether I should ever see them again, or if my ears would ever again be greeted with gentle words of affection in fond tones from their loving lips! I thought of perils on sea–tempest, fire, and disease; the dangers in strange cities, and risks among treacherous Indians; but again reflected and comforted myself with the assurance that it was childish and useless to fear, and that men died not by accident, that none fell without God’s notice! I felt it was a worthy enterprise, and that the greater the difficulties the greater would be the honor if they were surmounted. (Piercy 22-34, 106-10).
Six weeks later, on March 21, 1853, the ship Jersey landed in the port of New Orleans, sailing through the fair weather and deep blue waters of the Caribbean, passing Cuba, and ultimately approaching upon the muddy mouth of the Mississippi River, which would soon be traveled by the Saints heading northward to gather before their trek West to Utah Territory. The scenery was no doubt a thrill for the passengers of Jersey, as they saw a tropical terrain, waters, and land that was very new and different from their home in the British Isles.
The rugged diversity of the United States was a sight to behold for the British immigrants. Upon arrival at New Orleans, there were French and English speakers, as well as curious onlookers of questionable character. Frederick Piercy noted that some tried to get below deck, saying they were a friend of someone on board, while giving made up Irish names. The guardsmen knew they were lying because there was not a single Irish person on the voyage. Their reply was that they never heard of a ship without a “Pat Murphy” on board (Piercy p 30). While some in New Orleans were ill-intentioned, others were friendly and engaging with the traveling saints.
Upon traveling by steamboat on the Mississippi River, Piercy said of African-Americans: “I cannot refrain here, from paying tribute to the mirthfulness of negroes. Their hearty laughter makes the old Mississippi ring again.” (p 38).
Once in Keokuk, Iowa, John and Mary, along with the other Saints, worked in packing houses, packing dry goods and building handcarts for their journey to Utah Territory (Thomas). They departed Keokuk on date 1853 and were listed in the Joseph Young company (Mormon Migration).
The journey was an arduous one. Many times, they encountered Native American tribes, with whom they divided up their food and supplies in order to avoid violence. They traveled with ox teams, crossed the Platte River, and walked the majority of the time. After eight months of travel by ship, steamboat, handcart and foot, John and Mary Owen arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on 10 October 1853 (Thomas).
LIFE IN WEBER VALLEY
Upon arrival in Utah Territory, John’s first work was gathering stones to build a wall for protection against attacks from Native Americans. After that, he was employed by Chauncey West, and he dug drainage ditches around an Ogden farm. His wife, Mary, had conceived a child while on the journey, and on the 20th of April in 1854, she went into labor. She began to walk to her husband John, who was working in Ogden, but was unable to cross the Weber River, which was overflowing and too high for her to cross. Oral tradition describes her experience as follows:
While she sat on the banks looking East and wondering how to get across before night; a man on horseback from the desert came along and offered to help her over. Having never ridden a horse she asked the man in the best English she knew, “How I can go; not can ride horse back?” In his wondering mind and seeing her condition and how to best get the lady across the stream, he decided to get her behind him and she was to ride sideways (Thomas).
On 21 April 1854, while in the care of strangers in North Ogden, Mary gave birth to her first child, a boy, whom she named Richard (Early Mormon Missionaries). In April 1866, the Owen family moved to Malad, Oneida County, Idaho where they lived “in the frame house by the Whalen (or Llewellyn Thomas) house and then moved to Bannock Street where Edward J. Evans, Thomas W. Thomas and T. Bush had homes” (Peterson). Thomas W. Thomas, his neighbor on Bannock Street, would eventually become his father-in-law, when on 11 April 1878 he married Thomas’s daughter, Susan Ann Thomas at the Endowment House (LDS Church Records).
Children of John and Mary Owens:
- Richard Thomas Owens born 21 April 1854 in North Ogden, Weber, Utah, United States
Ii. Sarah Owens Thomas, born 16 November 1855 in North Ogden, Weber, Utah, United States
Iii. John Thomas Owens, born 21 July 1860 in North Ogden, Weber, Utah, United States
Iv. Edward Thomas Owens, born 14 April 1863 in North Ogden, Weber, Utah, United States
- Mary Blanche Owens, born 14 November 1865 in North Ogden, Weber, Utah, United States
Vi. Catherine Elizabeth Owens, born 27 December 1868 in Malad, Oneida, Idaho, United States
Vii. Charlotte Jane Owens, born 12 October 1871 in Malad, Oneida, Idaho, United States