Biography of Edward J. Owens
Bronx County, NY Biographies





EDWARD JAMES OWENS - The Owens family of which Edward James Owens, retired mechanic and engineer of The Bronx, is a valued member, proceeded from Martin Owens, a native of the city of Cork, County Cork, Ireland, and Mary (Buckley) Owens, of the same city and county, who immigrated to the United States in 1848 and settled at New York City, where during all of his active life Mr. Owens held the position of foreman of the freight department of the Harlem Railroad, Center and White, Franklin and Elm streets, New York City.

Mr. and Mrs. Owens brought with them Edward James Owens, who had been born two years before April 13, 1846 at Cork. The parents settled at New York City and went to live on Forty first Street between Third and Lexington avenues, on the north side of the street, a house his father purchased at the time. When the father obtained a position with the Harlem Railroad, he sold his house and removed to White and Center streets, the Lower East Side, in the old Sixth Ward, to a residence then owned by the late Pierre Lorillard.

Edward J. Owens attended a parochial school that stood where St. Patrick's Cathedral now stands at Fifth Avenue and Fiftieth Street. He later attended the old Thirty seventh Street school, between Second and Third avenues, and of which William H. Wood was the principal. At the suggestion of his father, who was then station foreman, he obtained a position with the Harlem Railroad, on White Street, where the New York. Municipal Building now stands, and after two years of earnest effort he was advanced to the main office on Twenty sixth Street, where was located the office of Commodore William H. Vanderbilt. In this position he was acting as clerk, with occasional duties, as messenger and was entrusted with carrying large sums of payroll money and other funds he transported in a buggy or other rig. This was the day before street bandits had to any extent invaded New York City, so he felt perfectly safe to tie his horse outside of a restaurant, eat his lunch in a restaurant, and return to the buggy to find the money unmolested. Again his wise father came to his aid, with the advice that if he wanted to progress he should enter the machine shops of the company and learn the trade of machinist. So after two years in the main office with Commodore Vanderbilt, he was given an opportunity in the shops at Thirty second Street and Fourth Avenue as an apprentice. He learned quickly and after three years left the Harlem Railroad to accept a position with Cobanks & Theall, machine, engine and boiler makers on Harrison Street, with whom he remained two years as machinist, and proved to be one of the best men they had. He then entered the employ of the American Arms Company on Center Street, over the old Harlem Railroad depot, and continued with them as machinist for a year. Next he accepted a position as engineer for the A. H. Hart Company, owners of the Elm Flax Mills, with whom he remained until 1868, when he became engineer to the New York Fire Department, a position he filled with great credit to himself and the city until 1903, when he was retired on a pension, thus rounding out thirty five years in the service of the New York City Fire Department, during which he built up a reputation for integrity and ability that has been equalled by few men in a similar position. It will be seen in these brief statements that Mr. Owens was thoroughly familiar with New York when it was a small town compared with what it is today, and that he maintained a friendly relationship with numerous New Yorkers of the old school, whose like has not been seen since. Mr. Owens grew to admire Commodore Vanderbilt very much as a man of his word and action, who contributed so much to early transportation development in this country.

Many years ago Mr. Owens bought theold Schuyler homestead at Coles Lane off Bainbridge Avenue, in The Bronx; the house is now seventy five years old, and in a fine state of preservation, for builders in that day know how to build a house that was proof against wind, weather and time. His purchase included the surrounding ground, to which he added on occasion until he had a beautiful place to live. Finally he had a lot which measured 131 by 169 feet. The city took 60 by 169 feet to cut through Bainbridge Avenue, and he later sold a 54 by 70 foot lot to William Bergen, builder, retaining 70 by 97 feet on which the homestead stands, and in which he lives with his two daughters.

Mr. Owens is a member of Unity Council, No. 326, Knights of Columbus, and of Archbishop Hughes Council of the same order; the Catholic Big Brothers; the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of Mercy and the Holy Name Society of that denomination. In political life he is a member of the North End Democratic Club of The Bronx. He is likewise prominent in the Firemen's Benevolent Association and the Twenty Year Fire Department Association.

Mr. Ownes married, in 1869, at New York City, Emily McDermott, daughter of Hugh McDermott, member of the New York City Police Force, who died in 1894 in his seventy sixth year, the ceremony having been performed in St. Theresa's Roman Catholic Church by the Rev. Father Boyce. Their union has been blessed with two daughters: 1 Emily, married Robert E. Norman, who died in April, 1926, as the result of an injury at the Billings Estate fire, at Washington Heights, as a member of the New York City Fire Department 2. Theresa Irene Owens. Both daughters now reside with their father at the old homestead, No. 269 Coles Lane.

From:
The Bronx and its people
A History 1609-1927
Board of Editors: James L. Wells,
Louis F. Haffen
Josiah A. Briggs.
Historian: Benedict Fitspatrick
Publisher: The Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc.
New York 1927


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