1922: A death in the Owen family

Sepia Saturday 413: Sixth  in a series about my Welsh immigrant great grandfather Francis Hugh Owen, who married into the Irish Dempsey family in Baltimore, Maryland.


Mrs. Elizabeth Owen died suddenly yesterday at her home, 1519 West Franklin street. She leaves her husband, Frank H. Owen; three daughters, Mrs. James J. [Charlotte] Wilson, of Kansas City, Mo., Mrs. Ray [Mary] Chardoneau [sic], of Utica, N.Y., and Miss Katherine Owen, and five sons, Arthur, Evan, William, Joseph and John Owen. The funeral will be held at 8:30 o’clock Friday morning from St. Martin’s Catholic Church. Burial will be in New Cathedral Cemetery.

On 25 July 1922, a sad event took place in the household of my great-grandfather Francis Hugh Owen — the death of his beloved wife Elizabeth C. (Dempsey) Owen, 57.

Brief details are contained in the accompanying transcription of her 26 July Baltimore Sun obituary. I have added the first names of Elizabeth’s married daughters and highlighted my paternal grandmother.

The Owen family’s third loss

Sadly, Elizabeth’s death was not the first loss for the Owen family. My great-grandmother was predeceased by two of her ten children — her son Francis, 12, who died in 1909, and her daughter Dorothy, 17, who died in 1918. Elizabeth was laid to rest alongside them in Baltimore’s New Cathedral Cemetery.

Alas, I have no photographs of my great-grandmother to post. However, one of my dad’s Owen cousins shared a photocopy of a beautiful memorial to Elizabeth from my great-grandfather Frank.

Memorial to my great-grandmother Elizabeth C. (Dempsey) Owen, possibly for a headstone that was never placed or for a mass card or other printed piece to be handed out to mourners. Photo by Molly Charboneau

I don’t know if this was a design for a headstone that was never placed — or if it was intended for a mass card or other printed piece to be shared with mourners who attended Elizabeth’s wake and funeral.

St. Martin’s Catholic Church in W. Baltimore. A High Mass of Requiem was celebrated at this church for my great-grandmother Elizabeth C. (Dempsey) Owen, 57, who died on 25 July 1922. Photo: Baltimore’s Catholic Churches

What I do know is that Elizabeth’s passing was celebrated at a High Mass of Requiem at St. Martin’s Catholic Church in West Baltimore — likely attended by her extended Dempsey family as well as her surviving Owen children (then in their 20s and 30s) and their families.

A life spanning an era

Elizabeth was born at the end of the U.S. Civil War, and her life spanned an era in which women entered the modern age.

Many, like her daughter Katherine, became independent and self-supporting — while women in general took a more direct part in civic life after winning the right to vote. I am sorry my great-grandmother did not live longer to witness these historic developments.

After his wife Elizabeth’s untimely death, my great-grandfather Frank H. Owen soldiered on as a widower for more than two decades without her — leaning on his children for support during his later years when he was no longer able to work.

More on Frank Owen’s later years in the next post. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

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6 thoughts on “1922: A death in the Owen family”

  1. 20 years a widower – that is amazing to me. In my family most men did not last long alone. Some remarried while others died within a few years.

  2. Your great grandfather must have been a rather independent fellow himself to have gone on for 20 years without marrying again after Elizabeth’s passing. Of course he had several children to see him through those days. But more men than women tend to marry again – and often not all that long after their beloved wife’s passing. We tend to think of men as being the independent ones, but in reality, they aren’t always.

  3. It’s interesting to see the differences in funeral memorials from different decades and places. Your In Memoriam has a poetic quality that seems to link it more to 19th century sentiments than 20th century. It resembles a gravestone but I think it might be a handout from the requiem service.

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