"Owens" Ancestors

Ancestors of Esther Lou Owens  (1882-1956)


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The Owens surname is a Welsh surname (from Wales on the British Isles)  which was frequently spelled "Owain" or "Owein".

Most Welsh surnames were patronymic. They indicated the person as a son or descendant of somebody.  "Ap" is the Welsh equivalent of the English word "son".  So, if a person was named "John ap Owen",  he was "John, the son of Owen".  In English we used the possessive form (with an "s") to indicate this; "John Owens" also originally meant   "John, the son of Owen".  Spelling variations led to changes to include: Owen, Owens, MacOwen, Owenson, Owenby, Ownby, and others. 

Sometimes you will find the same persons listed in records as either "Owens" or "Owen".  Our immediate ancestor (Esther Lou Owens) and her parents used the "Owens" spelling, so I am doing the same.

I am going to start this Owens ancestry with Jesse Owens (Owen) (born about 1774 in Buncombe County, North Carolina and died on November 16, 1840 in St. Claire County, Alabama).  

Ancestry.Com's "World Family Tree" has listed 41 additional generations before Jesse's generation.  This takes us back to Wales with the first ancestor being  a person named "Dumn" born about 216 AD.  I don't know how someone got us that far back and can  in anyway document it, but it is interesting, to say the least. If you want to check this total lineage out, you can go to the link I am inserting at this point: 


This is the starting point on "World Family Tree" with Jesse Owen(s).

Jesse Owens

Jesse was born about 1774/1775 in Buncombe County, North Carolina.  "World Family Tree" lists his father as Mosby Owens.  There is still much research to be done on Jesse Owens' ancestry and I am not adding anything here before Jesse.  About 1800 he married Sarah (Patterson?)  and had several children.  The next link in our lineage was his son John, born about 1805.  Jesse died November 16, 1840 in St. Clair County, Alabama. 

Like many landowners of his day, he had at least one slave.  In his will he mentions not only his wife, Sarah and three youngest sons, but also a slave boy.  "I further wish my negro boy Bartley to go to the use of my beloved wife Sarah Owens and my son Jason so long as either of them shall live". 

John Owens

 John was born about 1804.  Various sources have him being born in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Alabama.  He married Cassie Whisenant on May 29, 1822.  He had at least two sons, Lewis (Luke) Owens (our ancestor), and Andrew Jackson (Jack) Owens, who were born to them in Alabama.  John died before 1840 and was buried in St. Clair County, Alabama.

Lewis (Luke) Owens

There are quite a few more details on Luke Owens since his great grandson, Herman Owens, wrote a brief family history on him.  Herman tells of their early days after arriving in Gadsden, Alabama, his marriage to Katherine Brothers (about 1847), about the "Double Log" house they lived in, his working during the Civil War at the livery stable,  his donation of land for the "Owens Cemetery", and his consistent church activity.  

 The following are a couple of paragraphs from Herman Owens' brief family history of "The Family of Luke Owens".  Go to this link to read more of the story.

"The parents of Luke and Jack moved to what is now known as Gadsden, Alabama, and the two sons came with them. The settled on a farm a few miles west of the present site of the Republic Steel mills, across Big Wills Creek. Luke and Jack were single, perhaps only teenagers at that time. The place was known later as the “McCartney Place”.

"For some reason Luke became interested in the community on what is now known as South 11th Street, near the present site of the Jessie Dean Smith School. He decided to clear some land near Big Wills Creek, and cultivated it. The story is interesting. He had a small mule, and little feed for the mule. He would plow the mule a few rounds, then hoe while his mule ate weeds and cane tops. The land is known to some of us as the “Black Land”, and it was very fertile, and yield was good. From that time he worked hard, clearing and cultivating land in that area. From that time he spent his entire life in that community."  

Luke and Katherine had ten children, the first of which Thomas James Owens, became the next link in our "Owens"ancestry.

Thomas J. Owens

Thomas Owens was born on September 30, 1848 in Alabama.  He married Jane Smith and was to have  eight children before his early death on January 14, 1882.  The last of these eight, Esther Lou Owens (my grandmother),  was born one month later, on February 13, 1882.  Herman Owens also included a section devoted to this, his grandfather.

"Thomas Owens , my grandfather, was born in 1848, and died in 1881. My father, Andrew, was only fourteen years old when his father died. I have heard of his devotions to God by my father. He was a hard working man, and died at the age of 33. He, like his father, loved the Church, and was a devoted Christian. The story of his faith in God is interesting. When he purchased eighty acres of land, he had payments to make until he paid it out. His failing health made him realize that he could not live long, so he prayed that he might live until the place was paid for. He made the last payment in the fall, and died in the spring afterward. His last words to his children was good advice. He asked them to live right, and trust in the Lord, then in a few moments his last breath was gone. My father would tell us this story with a sad heart, as long as he lived. He, age 14, and his mother and the other children worked hard in those days."

"My grandfather was married to Jane Smith [About 1866] when he was only eighteen years old. She was twenty-five. She told of their wedding night, which was pitiful indeed. He was timid, and excitement would usually cause what we might call “nervous indigestion”. And so on that night he had an attack. It was serious, and it seemed that he would not live through it. His new wife was up with him most of the night. Their early life tested their faith, but he came through all right. In his few years of life he was a hard worker, but he was conservative, and saved what he made."

Esther Lou Owens

Esther Lou Owens was born on February 13, 1882 in Gadsden, Etowah County, Alabama.  She was the only one in my Owens lineage that I knew personally. We lived next door to her while I was growing up in Rome, Georgia.  By the time I knew her she was an invalid and spent most of her time on the back porch in her rocking chair, reading her Bible.  The last few years of her life she spent mostly lying in bed.   According to some of my older cousins, she was quite feisty in her younger years.  A few days after the death of her mother Jane in 1904, she was at the house of her oldest brother LAJ Owens and decided to leave his house with her brother in law, Samuel Ross.  Apparently, even though she was already married with children, her brother played the overprotective role, and she rebelled.  An article in the Gadsden newspaper on October 14, 1904 describes it as follows: 

"Captain of Police Will Thornton broke up a fight at the Owens farm, Thursday morning, shortly after the funeral of Mrs. Jane Owens, a highly respected member of the Community.  Mr. Samuel Ross was escorted out of town by Captain Thornton, following a dispute between himself and farmowner, LAJ Owens.  The fight began as Mrs. James Ross, former Miss Esther Lou Owens, and her children tried to leave with Mr. Ross, her brother-in-law.  Mrs. Ross is staying at the home of her sister, Mrs. Zimri Smith."

This Samuel Ross was Samuel Jennings Ross, brother to James McClellan Ross (the husband of Esther Lou Owens, the youngest of Jane Owens' children].  It has been said that LAJ Owens, her older brother was very protective of her, even after she married.

She died on October 1, 1956 in Rome, Georgia and was buried alongside her husband, James McClelland Ross,  in the Johnson Cemetery at Head River, Georgia on Lookout Mountain.