Thomas Deye Owings
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Thomas Deye Owings of Maryland, Kentucky, and Texas

Frontier Iron-Smelterer and Military Hero

By W. T. Block, 192 Hill Terrace, Nederland, TX. 77627

(click for larger image)

Col. Thomas Deye Owings, hero, War of 1812. Recruited 2 regiments for Texas Independence, 75 of whom were murdered during the Goliad Massacre. (Photo courtesy of The Kentucky Explorer magazine)

Thomas Deye Owings was the scion of several prominent colonial Baltimore families, namely, Cockey, Deye, Owings, and Colegate. He was a colonel and hero of the War of 1812. He was Kentucky’s original industrialist and iron master, also holding several political offices. He was also commissioned by Stephen F. Austin in Jan. 1836 to raise 2 regiments of Kentuckians to fight for Texas Independence from Mexico, sacrificing as a result the life of one of his sons during the Goliad Massacre. Nevertheless, Owings lived the last 16 years of his life in total obscurity and anonymity at Brenham, Texas, and died there in 1853.

Thomas Deye Owings was born at “John and Thomas Forest,” Cockeysville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, on March 7, 1776. He was the first son born to the John Cockey Owings and wife, Colegate Deye Colegate Owings.1 His older sister, Cassandra Van Pradelles, was lost at sea CA. 1813/1814, and according to her legend, was a victim of Lafitte pirates. T. D. Owings was born into the colonial middle to upper class society, who inhabited a series of 2-story mansions, such as Sherwood or Bellefield; owned many slaves, and generally relied on tobacco culture for export to England. Although not heretofore mentioned, the Owings children are believed to have been educated by private tutors.2

Other than tobacco farms, Cockeysville was also surrounded by several deposits of iron ore, probably hematite of about 50% purity, as well as of marble and limestone , which eventually accounted for many small quarries. By 1774 the North Hampton iron furnace was already producing pig iron, later supplying cannon balls and canister shot used by the Continental Army. Thomas’ father, many of his uncles, and his future brother-in-law, the French Lieutenant Benedict Van Pradelles, were all veterans of the American Revolution, some of them present at the Battle of Yorktown. Hence, it was probably the fortunes of the North Hampton iron furnace, which created Capt. John C. Owings’ interest in iron-smelting in Kentucky.3

It is unknown how John Cockey Owings became so interested in territorial Kentucky property, which at one time was part of Virginia, but Christopher Greenup, later one of J. C. Owing’s partners and governor of Kentucky, is one possibility. Another possibility was Jacob Meyers, who in 1782 acquired a 10,000-acre tract of Kentucky land, which patent was signed by Virginia Gov. Patrick Henry, and Meyers began building the Slate Creek iron mill (later the Bourbon iron furnace) in 1787. During the late 1780s, John Cockey Owings began making significant land purchases in present-day Bourbon and Bath counties, Kentucky, which eventually included the Meyers tract, and may have reached a total of 70,000 acres. The writer believes that John C. Owings engaged his future son-in-law, Benedict Van Pradelles, to oversee his property in Kentucky, and David Owings reported to the writer that in 1790 Van Pradelles advertised in the Lexington Gazette for recovery of a lost pocketbook, which contained papers written in French. In 1790 Van Pradelles married Owings’ oldest daughter Cassandra and left immediately for France.4

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Ruins of the Slate, also called the Bourbon Iron Furnace, at Owingsville, KY, the 1st iron smelter west of the Allegheny Mountains, fired in 1791. (Click for larger image.) State historical marker for Bourbon Iron Furnace, Owingsville, Kentucky. (Click for larger image.)

The Bourbon iron furnace went online (blast) in 1790, and in May 1791, was purchased by John Cockey Owings and Company, a joint stock company, which included Owings, Greenup, Walter Beall and Willis Green. In 1794 additional partners were added, to include George Thompson, John Breckenridge, and George Nicholas. In 1795 John Cockey Owings emerged as sole owner.

In 1795 J. C. Owings sent his 19-year-old son, Thomas Deye Owings, to Kentucky to oversee his lands, and to manage the Bourbon iron furnace and grist mill. Terry Mason, a descendent of T. D. Owing’s youngest daughter, Ann Eliza Owings Mason, acknowledges that T. D. Owings had a first marriage to ?? (given name unknown) Jackson, who died CA. 1801 and who in 1800, gave birth to a son, Thomas Jackson Owings, who died in 1830. “Owings and Allied Families,” by A. D. an E. S. Owings, refer to Jackson Owings’ birth as a “natural son,” presumably meaning illegitimate. However, despite his age, T. D. Owings was married before he left Baltimore in 1795.

A letter of Thomas D. Owings to his father, dated Lexington, KY., Aug. 14, 1795, survives in the American Historical Manuscripts at Kent State University; as well as a letter from B. Van Pradelles from Kentucky in 1798. In 1795 T. D. Owings wrote that “we, believed to be Van Pradelles, were preparing to leave for Baltimore.” Parts of Owings letter read verbatim as follows:  “...I have such a desire to see my wife and family that I cannot contain myself any longer...” Hence, T. D. Owings confirmed that he had a wife and perhaps infant children living in Baltimore.

Thomas D. Owings also wrote of small tracts of 500 or so acres were for sale for “4,000” or “5,000 pounds.” The unit of currency seems indeed strange, coming in the sixth year of Washington’s presidency. About 1805 Frances Owings Taylor wrote of a house selling for “2,900 pounds of tobacco,” so perhaps tobacco rather than the British pound, had become the medium of exchange. T. D. Owings complained about pains and injuries to his health, as did Van Pradelles in 1798 about Owings’ health.5

One article reported that: “...The Slate Furnace, also known as the Bourbon Furnace, was built by Jacob Meyers. It was later bought and operated by a syndicate headed by John Cockey Owings, for whom Owingsville is named. This furnace was built just 16 years after the building of Boonesboro. A fort was constructed for the protection of workers (and manned by 17 Kentucky militiamen). At least one of the early iron workers was killed by hostile (Shawnee) Indians. Incidentally it was the iron furnace, which furnished cannon balls and canister shot used by Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans...”6

Another source noted that the Bourbon furnace was located on a 10,000 acre land grant from Gov. Patrick Henry to Jacob Meyers, but in 1791 became a joint stock company headed by John Cockey Owings. It was the first iron-smelting operation built west of Allegheny Mountains. The furnace first began to make 10-gallon pots for boiling out salt at the Salt Lick Springs, but the pioneer needs soon forced the owners to make cut nails, pots and other cooking utensils, horse shoes, axe blades, hoes, stoves, plow shares, pig iron and bar iron.7 

The blast machinery was energized by a water wheel turning in Slate Creek. The “ore mines,” composed of high grade hematite or magnetite ore about 50% pure, were located at Howard Hills and Black Horse Banks, about 2 miles from the furnace, and 3 tons of ore, pulled by oxen, were needed to produce 1 ton of pig iron. Products, which included cannon balls and canister shot, were hauled over the Iron Furnace Pike to Frankfurt on Kentucky River, from whence they were floated to Ohio River and to all points in the Midwest, as well as to New Orleans in time for the battle there in 1815.8

Actually, 3 original ledgers and one account book survive between 1796 and 1818 of the Bourbon furnace. One ledger is in chronological order from Jan. 15, 1796 until Nov. 30, 1797.  All four items are deposited in the archives of East Library at the University of Kentucky.9 Originally the location consisted only of the furnace and grist mill. In 1798 the Slate Forge was built on Slate Creek, 3 miles from the furnace. In 1811 a commissary was built at the furnace for the convenience of the iron workers, but in 1814 it was moved into Owingsville.10

In 1810 Thomas D. Owings became sole owner of the furnace; most sources say through inheritance, and that probably included the iron ore mines as well. And whatever else there is to say, it became obvious by 1812 that Owings was becoming quite wealthy.11 It seems strange, however, that none of this was reflected in the will of John Cockey Owings in Baltimore, written in Feb. 1810,  shortly before his death. The will stated that Owings had left only $1 to his oldest son, Thomas Deye Owings, and nothing at all to is oldest daughter, the widow Cassandra Deye Van Pradelles, who at the time was running a boarding house in New Orleans. Nearly all of his property was left to his younger children.12

Following his first wife’s death Ca. 1801, Thomas Deye Owings married Mary Nicholas in Lexington on March 17, 1804, the daughter of Col. George Nicholas of Kentucky and Mary Smith of Baltimore. Their progeny included (1) Thomas Cockey Deye, b. Dec. 10, 1804; (2) George Nicholas, b. Mar. 10, 1806, d. Nov. 1833 in Owingsville; (3) John Cockey, 1807-1808; Colegate Deye, died in infancy(4) Mary Nicholas, b. Sept. 23, 1812, d. 1865, m. Sylvanus Clarke Bascom; (7) Robert Smith, b. Jan. 27, 1817; massacred at Goliad, Texas, Mar. 27, 1836; (8) John Cockey 2, b. May 30, 1818, d. Jul 26, 1847 killed in Mexican War (9) Ann Eliza, b. June 14, 1822, m. April 6, 1847 to Major John Calvin Mason, d. Dec. 1864 at Brenham, Texas.13

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Exterior of the magnificent Owings House mansion, Owingsville, Kentucky, built 1811-1814 by Colonel Thomas Deye Owings, pioneer iron smelterer. (Click for larger image.) End view of the magnificent three-story Owings House mansion. (Click for larger image.)
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Interior view of one entrance of the 200-year-old Owings House mansion. (Click for larger image.) Mahogany, three-story spiral staircase in Owings House, which cost $10,000 in 1811.  It was built in sections in Baltimore, hauled in ox wagons over mountains. (Click for larger image.)
Click for larger image. Historical Marker for the Owings House mansion, built 1811-1814 by Colonel Thomas Deye Owings, iron smelterer at Owingsville, Kentucky. (Click for larger image.)

From 1804 until 1814, the year that the new Owings mansion in Owingsville was completed, the T. D. Owings family lived in a stone house in Lexington. The new 3-story brick building took 3 years to complete. The mansion was involved in a competition between Owings and Richard Menefee to see which man could complete his home the quickest, and thus has the town of Owingsville named after him. However, other sources state that the town was named much earlier for Owings’ father.

The new Owings home was indeed pleasing in appearance, and included kitchen, servants’ quarters, and basement. He hired Benjamin Latrobe of Washington to design and build the residence, using hand-carved woodwork and mantels, made from black walnut wood. There was a wide hall in the center of the building from whence a spiral staircase, made of mahogany, was built up to the third floor. The stairway was built in Baltimore, and its parts were hauled across the mountains to Owingsville in ox carts. In 1813 the staircase had cost $10,000, and the entire mansion had cost $60,000, a magnificent sum in that age.  Owings invited everyone to the house warming, and afterward all the political elite of Kentucky passed through its portals.14

Today the “Col. Owings House,” the Owings House, or Owingsville Banking Company is occupied by a banking institution, a lawyer, and others. It is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. The surviving stones of the Bourbon furnace are also listed, being now within a highway roadside park, an effort successfully completed jointly by the Owingsville Jaycees and the state Highway Department. The park and iron furnace ruins were dedicated on July 1, 1969.15

Thomas Deye Owings exhibited his patriotism during the War of 1812. He raised a regiment of 377 soldiers, and on April 1, 1813, he received a commission as colonel of the 28th U. S. Infantry. He immediately attached his Kentucky regiment to General Shelby’s army, which in Sept. 1813 became a part of General W. H. Harrison’s army of the Northwest. The latter’s troops captured Detroit on Sept. 29th. Gens. Harrison, Shelby and about 3,500 soldiers under their command continued to press British General Proctor and his Shawnee Indian allies. Eventually they defeated them at the Battle of the Thames, northwest of Detroit, during which time the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh was killed.

Col. Owings distinguished himself once more in battle when 28 soldiers from his regiment joined Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet as sharpshooters in the rigging of the ships. After Perry lost his flagship Lawrence, he continued the fight aboard the Niagara until he defeated the British fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie, fought on Sept. 10, 1813.16

David Owings has a copy of an interesting letter from the War of 1812 that he has shared with this writer, as follows:

September 13, 1813

Dear Worley,

Our fleet is victorious from under the signature of Commodore Perry, this moment received by express states that six of their ships were commanded to strike (colors) to us yesterday. Viz 2 ships, 2 brigs, 2 scooners (sic) and more prisoners than we had men on board. We are now on our march to take care of the prisoners and to push the enemy across the lake, which we have so far forced to retreat that our hot-blooded Kentuckians with hands off and if try their strength. I have but just time to assure you of the correctness of this pleasing intelligence by subscribing.

Your obedient servant,

Thomas Deye Owings

Another interesting saga in Thomas D. Owings’ life occurred in 1814, when Owings was on a visit to Baltimore and he met Louis Phillipe of France, the son of the Duke of Orleans. Louis Phillipe, although he had been a successful general under Napoleon, had been exiled in 1813 because of a suspected plot against the republic. Owings invited the dapper French aristocrat to visit his home in Kentucky. According to family records, Louis Phillipe remained Owings’ guest from July 17, 1814 until July 22, 1815, after which the French nobleman returned to France and reclaimed his estates. Replacing King Charles X on the throne, Louis Phillipe was crowned “King of the French,” following a revolution in 1830. He remained on the throne until 1848, when another liberal revolution toppled him, and he fled in exile to England.17 Actually another account claimed the visitor was an imposter.

Owings studied law under Col. Nicholas between 1797 and 1798. He was elected and served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1815 until 1818. He also served as Associate Judge of the First Circuit Court in 1811, and years later he was elected state senator in 1823.18

A recent article in Kentucky Explorer observed that after 1814 T. D. Owings had retail outlets in Owingsville, Mount Sterling, and Lexington, where he sold a variety of merchandise, including groceries, clothing, cotton and wool yard goods, utensils, dinnerware, and other household and farm hardware needed on the frontier. Also, lawsuits began accumulating against him, principally with Walter Beall, a former partner who at one time had managed the Bourbon furnace, and had accumulated 15,000 pounds in debts,19 and with Green Clay, who claimed that Owings had agreed to purchase a half-interest in the Red River Iron Works and the 695 acres of land that were attached to it. Of course, T. D. Owings eventually had owned the Bourbon furnace, its related interests, as well as part interest in other firms that became known as the United Iron Company.20 George Stone reported that over a series of years, he had found 125 lawsuits in which Thomas Deye Owings was either the plaintiff or the defendant. Stone reported that, at the time of one suit, the company indebtedness was reported to be 14,000 pounds. Many years after the Beall lawsuit was filed and Beall was already deceased, his heirs obtained a judgment against Owings, but by that time the latter’s assets had been exhausted, and he had declared bankruptcy.21

James Bishop reveals a letter, written to Henry Clay by Thomas Jefferson from the Monticello on Aug. 28, 1822.  Allegedly, Jefferson learned of a 10,000 pound bond, “Kentucky money,” owed to W. C. Nicholas by Thomas Deye Owings. Since Nicholas was already dead, the bond had apparently been passed along to one of his heirs, and Jefferson and his associates hoped to collect it. It is doubtful if Clay took any action since T. D. Owings was a close friend, whose home he often visited. Even so, by 1822 Owings had already lost all of his fortune, and a lawsuit could only have awarded a judgment to the plaintiff.22

Very little information survives about T. D. Owings between 1822 and 1836. His youngest daughter, Ann Eliza Owings (Mason) was born in Owingsville in 1822, and Owings’ wife, Mary Nicholas Owings, died on Aug. 9, 1825; and Owings never remarried. The Grand Lodge AF&AM of Kentucky has advised me by email that Thomas Deye Owings was recorded as a Master Mason for 1821-1822 in the Proceedings of the now defunct Owingsville Webb Lodge 55. However, the facade of the Masonic building in Owingsville bears the notation: “Bath Lodge #55, AF&AM, 1819-1921.23 Owings returned to politics in 1823, when he was elected state senator and served until 1827. In 1822, Owings also lost the Bourbon iron furnace, which was sold by court order to Robert Wickliff of Lexington, who in turn sold the furnace to Major John Calvin Mason, who in 1847 would become Owings’ son-in-law, following his marriage to Ann Eliza Owings. Mason kept the furnace at full blast until Aug. 1838, when it was shut down and abandoned after 47 years of operation.24 It seems logical that Owings quickly established a close relationship, perhaps even a working relationship, with John C. Mason, which eventually led to his marriage to Owings’ daughter. T. D. Owings began one more business venture in iron-smelting in 1829, when he built the Estill furnace on Miller Creek. After a short time, he sold the Estill iron smelter to Resin H. Gist and James Mason, and the Estill furnace was operated by them and others until 1879.25

It seems logical; too, that Stephen F. Austin of Texas had at least a passing acquaintance with Thomas D. Owings, although the first offer for Kentucky troops passed from Owings to Austin. By Nov. 1835, solicitations for troops to fight in the Texas Revolution against Mexico were published up and down the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys from New Orleans to Cincinnati, and Owings may simply have responded to that request. By 1798 Austin was living at the lead mines in Missouri, and since Austin graduated from Transylvania College and remained in Lexington, Kentucky, until 1810, the probability is great that the two men first met at that point. A few extracts from Austin’s letter to T. D. Owings, dated New Orleans, Jan. 18, 1836, follow:

January 18, 1836

To Col. T. D. Owings


Your offer to furnish one or more regiments, not to exceed 1,500 men, to be in Texas March next, armed and equipped for the service of Texas … your offer is accepted - The Regiment … will be received into the service of Texas on terms…enacted by the Provisional Government by their ordinance of Dec. 5 …The expense of arming and equipping said force … will be refunded to you at the close of the war… On your arrival, you will report yourself to the Governor of Texas or the Commander in Chief of the Army… The bounty lands for the volunteers are to be located under the direction of the government.

S. F. Austin26

Actually, long before the date of the foregoing letter, Thomas D. Owings was already active in recruiting Kentucky volunteers for the Texas Army. On Dec. 25, 1835, Robert Smith Owings, T. D. Owings’ son, enlisted in Capt. Burr H. Duval’s company of “Kentucky Mustangs.”27 By the end of Jan. 1836, Duval’s company of Bardstown, the Paducah group of Capt. Peyton S. Wyatt’s company, and Capt. Amon B. King’s Paduacah Volunteers were already at New Orleans, awaiting shipment to Texas.28 Both R. S. Owings, Duval and 75 other Kentuckians were murdered at the Goliad Massacre

On Jan. 20, 1836, Austin wrote Gov. Henry Smith that he had engaged Col. Owings to enlist 1,500 men for service in Texas.29 On Jan. 24, 1836, while aboard the schooner Tuscarora, Austin wrote Gov. Smith that he (Austin) had directed Texas agent William Bryan to provide $35,000 worth of articles for Col. T. D. Owings’ troops.30 On Jan. 28th, Bryan’s report to the governor showed that $5,000 had been deposited for Owings in the Bank of Orleans.31 (Also Bryan to  Smith, Jenkins (ed.) Vol. 4, pp. 238-239.)

On Feb. 16, 1836 Austin, while soliciting in Nashville, Tennessee, wrote a letter to his cousin, Mary Austin Holley, that Col. T. D. Owings was en route from Kentucky with a regiment of troops for the Texas Army.32 On March 27, 1836 (the same day that 75 of his Kentuckians, about one-quarter of Col. James Fannin’s ill-fated army, were massacred at Goliad) Samuel M. Williams, Austin’s secretary at San Felipe, wrote from New Orleans that: “...Col. Owings is on the march with 1,400 men, left Maysville on March 12th, is armed principally with U. S. Yagers (muskets)...”33 In April, 1836, William Bryan, purchasing agent for Texas, wrote President D. G. Burnett that: “...the $5,000 in the bank for Col. Owings has been used by us,.. Not one dollar of means is now left... and the result will be that Col. Owings will lose the large amount he has expended on us...”34 From the last letter, it appeared likely the Thomas D. Owings personally paid for the recruitment, arming and transportation for his Kentucky troops with no monetary remuneration from the Republic of Texas. And because of the quick termination of the war, many of Owings troops never experienced any military action. However he later was awarded 4 land grants from the State of Texas, which was probably intended as reimbursement for his expenses during the Revolution. Also Thomas D. Owings drew as sole heir the last pay of his massacred son, Robert S. Owings, although the latter’s name was garbled either as Robert G. Owings or Charles Robert Owings in the Revolutionary records.35

Thomas Deye Owings never returned to Kentucky to live, except possibly for a couple visits, after 1836, and the last sixteen years of his life again are marked by extensive obscurity. Also, why he chose Brenham, Texas as a place to live is also marked with mystery. In 1838 it was a very sparsely-populated rural community known as Hickory Grove, when it changed its named to Brenham in 1843, and in 1844 became the county seat of Washington County. T. D. Owings lived to have two more of his sons predecease him, the first being Thomas Cockey Deye Owings, who died there in October, 1837, still single. The second son was John Cockey Owings, who also fought during the Texas Revolution, and died at Brenham in July, 1847, also still single. They were the first members of the Owings family to be buried in the Old Masonic Cemetery in Brenham.36

During the sixteen or seventeen years of Thomas D. Owings residence in Texas, it would appear that he was neither penniless nor enduring poverty. He was apparently involved considerably in land speculation, and other than his land grants from the State of Texas, he purchased ten tracts of land from private sources.37 If the grantor index were checked, it would probably divulge a considerable list of land sales. Also a check with the Texas State Library and Archives in Austin reveals that the following original documents survive in that facility, as follows:

1.   “Memorial of Col. Thomas Deye Owings to (Pres.) David G. Burnet, n. d. but about March 1836;”

2.  “Broadside, Liberty Triumphing over Tyranny: Call for volunteers from Col. Thos. D. Owings. Additional terms handwritten on the reverse by Owings on March 28, 1836,”

3.    “Stephen F. Austin and Branch T. Archer to Owings, January 18, 1836;” and

4.    Stephen F. Austin to Owings, Feb. 12, 1836;”

5.  also, Republic Claim of Thos. D. Owings for payments of services of Robert S. Owings (his son, executed in Goliad Massacre.”36a

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Major John Calvin Mason, son-in-law of Col. T. D. Owings, veteran, Mexican War and of the Brenham Graybeards, Texas State Troops, Civil War. Operated Bourbon furnace 1826-1838. (Click for larger image.)

When the 1850 Washington County, Texas census was enumerated, Thomas D. Owings was recorded at residence 200, page 299-A, living in the household of Rebecca and A. G. Compton, who was a Brenham merchant with $8,000 of assets. Perhaps Owings was away at census time, and Mrs. Compton reported several incorrect items. T. D. Owings was listed as being born in Texas rather than Maryland; no assets for him were reported, and the census listed his age as 65 when in fact he was actually age 74.38 In his article, George Stone reported that Owings died in his home on October 6, 1853, so most likely he allowed the Compton family to live in his home, in return for cooking and care during his geriatric years. T. D. Owings was age 77 at the time of his death, and he was the third Owings family member to be buried in the Old Masonic Cemetery.39

This article would be remiss without adding a paragraph about Major John Calvin Mason and his wife Ann Eliza Owings. Mason was born in Mount Sterling, Kentucky in 1802, and he graduated from Mount Sterling Law School and Transylvania College in 1823. From about 1826 until 1838, he owned and operated the Bourbon iron furnace. He served in the Kentucky House of Representatives for 2 terms. In 1846 he enlisted during the Mexican War in Col. Ben McCulloch’s Texas Rangers, Worth’s Division, under Gen. Zachary Taylor. Mason was wounded at the Battle of Monterrey and he was “appointed quartermaster with the rank of major following gallantry in battle in the field...”

While returning from the war, Mason stopped in Texas long enough to marry Ann Eliza Owings, T. D. Owings’ daughter, in San Antonio in 1847; the newlyweds soon returned to Kentucky. Mason was elected to the 31st, 32nd, and 35th U. S. Congresses, and he was an elector to the Democratic National Convention in Charleston in 1860. When Mason found himself so close to the Ohio River while living in a slave state in 1861, he moved his family to Brenham, Texas. Already age 60, Mason served the Confederacy in the Brenham Graybeards of the Texas State Troops in 1863. In 1864 his wife Ann Eliza Mason died, leaving a houseful of infants and children, and she was the last Owings family member to be buried in Brenham. Mason died aboard a steamship at New Orleans in 1865, and Kentucky brought his remains back to the State Cemetery in Frankfurt. Afterward, their oldest daughter brought her siblings back to Kentucky to live.40 However, all records or markers of 4 Owings burials at Brenham, Texas appear to be lost.

Col. Thomas Deye Owings was an American hero in every sense of the word, having distinguished himself in battle in 1813. He was Kentucky’s pioneer industrialist, having earned a fortune while operating the first iron smelter, located west of Allegheny Mountains. He was a socialite who built a very exclusive mansion in Owingsville, where Henry Clay, Prince Louis Phillipe, and a host of others were often entertained. The State of Kentucky, the Daughters of the American Revolution and perhaps others have honored him often on several historical markers.

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State historical marker in Owingsville honoring Colonel Thomas Deye Owings. (Click for larger image.) Bath County historical marker at Owingsville, Kentucky cites Thomas D. Owings as town's namesake and iron smelterer. (Click for larger image.)

Stephen F. Austin engaged Col. Owings to raise 2 regiments of troops to fight in the Texas Revolution, and 75 of them were brutally slain during the Goliad Massacre. In spite of his Texas Revolutionary achievements, the remains of Thomas Deye Owings rest today in the the Masonic Cemetery in Washington County in total anonymity and oblivion, and no one in Texas bothers to remember who he was.

The writer acknowledges the contributions of Jim Bishop, Terry Mason, and David Owings with tremendous gratitude.

Veteran's Day 2006

In a Veteran's Day Program and Marker Dedication held at the Brenham Elementary School in Brenham, Texas on Nov. 11, 2006, Thomas Deye Owings was recognized by the State of Texas with the dedication of a historical marker.

Texas state historical marker in the Brenham Masonic Cemetery in Brenham, Texas honoring Thomas Deye Owings. (Click for larger image.) Brenham Masonic Cemetery in Brenham, Texas on Veteran's Day Nov. 11, 2006 after the installation of the Texas state historical marker on the left. (Click for larger image.) Tombstone in the Brenham Masonic Cemetery in Brenham, Texas. (Click for larger image.)


1 F. B. Focke, “Thomas Deye Owings of Maryland: A Record of His Life,” Maryland Historical Magazine XXX, No. 1 (1935), p. 39; “Modified Register of Thomas Deye Owings—D. A. R. 14526, as written by Mrs. Clara Hawes Bascom Owings, NCDAR; also genealogy of John Cockey Owings and  Benedict Van Pradelles, LDS Library, film 1255295, *film #T9-1295, by Mrs. Octavia LaFour; also on the web at Albert G. Van Pradelles, Cotton Merchant.

2 M. Anderson et al, “The Limestone Valley,” (Timomium, Md.), pp. 12-36; Robert Barnes, The Green Spring Valley: Its History and Heritage (Maryland Historical Society: 1978), 75-81; also Ibid., D. A. R. 14526.

3 “The Limestone Valley,” pp. 121-138; Archives of Maryland, Vol. 16, p. 348.

4 Email, D. Owings to W. T. Block, July 3, 2004; Elizabeth Smith, “Bourbon Iron Furnace,” in “Bath County Memories;”  Virginia Surveys and Land Grants, 1774-1791, compiled by Kentucky Historical Society; Maude W. Lafferty, “The Lure of Kentucky,” p. 169.

5 Original letters, T. D. to J. C. Owings, Lexington, KY., Aug. 14, 1795; also B. Van Pradelles to J. C. Owings, Spring Grove, KY., June 22, 1798, in American Historical Manuscripts, Box 3, Folders 1 and 3, Kent State University library archives.

6 Quoted by James Clell Neace in “The Early Iron Furnaces of Kentucky;” see also Harrison and Klotter, “A New History of Kentucky” (F451--H315), p. 139.

7 “The Bourbon Iron Furnace,” quoted in Elizabeth Smith, “Bath County Memories.”

8 Ibid.

9 Three long explanatory emails, Infocat, the University of Kentucky to W. T. Block, dated July 24, 2004, under titles of “Bourbon Iron Furnace” and “Thomas Deye Owings Records.”

10 E. Smith, “Bath County Memories.”

11 A. D. and E. S. Owings, “Owings and Allied Families,” (New Orleans: Polyanthro, 1976), p 315.

12 Last Will of John Cockey Owings, MSA Case o435, Baltimore County Registry of Wills, Vol.8 pp. 471-473, Maryland State Archives; also recorded Will Book D, p. 215, Kentucky Wills.

13 A. D. Owings et al, “Owings and Allied Families,” (New Orleans, 1976), p. 315; also Terry Mason’s website.

14Owings and Allied Families,” p. 314; F. B. Focke, “Thomas Deye Owings of Maryland,” p. 40.

15 Elizabeth Smith, in “Bath County Memories;” also the Bath County, Kentucky National Register’ of Historic Places.

16 Focke, “Thomas Deye Owings of Maryland,” pp. 40-41; “Owings and Allied Families, p. 314. The year “1815” is in error. When the Battle of New Orleans was fought on Jan. 8, 1815, the war had already been over for 2 weeks.

17 A. D. Owings et al, p. 513; Cocke, p. 40; Maud W. Lafferty, “The Lure of Kentucky,” pp. 171 172; “Louis Phillipe, King of the French, in Owingsville,” (Louisville: Lost Cause Press, 1979), 2 microfiche.

18 A. D. Owings et al, p. 513; Focke, p. 41.

19 Fayette County Circuit Court Records, Box No. 4, Case File No. 430.

20 George B. Stone, “Lawsuits Involved the Iron Foundry: Finance Problems Plagued Thomas Deye Owings,” The Kentucky Explorer (June, 2003), pp. 58-59.

21 Stone, p. 59.

22 Letter emailed to W. T. Block by James Bishop; Source, The Papers of Henry Clay, edited by James F. Hopkins, 11 vols., Lexington University Press, 1959-1992.

23 A. D. Owings et al, p. 513; also email, William G. Hinton, GPM, Grand Lodge of Kentucky, to W. T. Block, Aug. 20, 2004.

24 Ibid, p. 515; Eliz. Smith, Bourbon Iron Furnace,” in “Bath County Memories, 1811-1874.”

25 Steven Combs, “The Furnaces of Estill County,” online.

26 Letter, S. F. Austin to T. D. Owings, in John H. Jenkins (ed.), Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835-1836, Vol. 4, pp. 54-55.

27 A. D. Owings et al, p. 515

28 Biographies of Burr Duval, P. S. Wyatt, and Amon B. King in Handbook of Texas online; survivor J. C. Duval’s 10-page letter in Texas State Library; record of those executed at Goliad Massacre in Men of Goliad, Index, online.

29 Austin to Smith in Jenkins (ed.), Vol. 4, p. 80.

30 Austin to Smith in Ibid., Vol. 4, p. 130.

31 Bryan to Smith, in Ibid., Vol. 4, p. 164.

32 S. F. Austin to Holley, Jenkins, Papers of the Texas Revolution, IV, 349.

33 Williams to Col. Fannin, New Orleans, March 27, 1836 (DATE OF THE MASSACRE), in Jenkins (ed.), Vol. 5, p. 210. A “Yager” gun was a 54-calibar (Eli) Whitney or Mississippi musket. See also Williams to President D. G. Burnett, in Jenkins, Vol. 5, pp. 212-213.

34 Bryan to Burnett, April 6, 1836, in Jenkins, Vol. 5, p. 38.

35 Deed Records, Washington County, Texas, Vol. Q, pp. 230-235; also Col. J. Fannin pay records, in E. L. Hawes’ article, San Antonio Express, Oct. 20, 1935., transcribed from An Unfinished Study of Fannin and His Men, H. D. Maxey, editor.

36 A. D. Owings et al, pp. 514-515.

36a Letter, Texas State Library and Archives, Austin, to W. T. Block, dated Aug. 19, 2004.

37 Grantee deed records, Washington County, Texas, Volumes E to Q.

38 Seventh Manuscript Census of the United States, 1850, Washington County, Texas, res. 200, page 299-A.

39 Stone, p. 59; Focke, p. 41.

40 Lengthy obituary of John Calvin Mason furnished by Terry Mason.

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