William D. Owen

William D. Owen
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 10th district
In office
March 4, 1885  March 3, 1891
Preceded by Thomas Jefferson Wood
Succeeded by David H. Patton
Secretary of State of Indiana
In office
January 17, 1895  January 16, 1899
Preceded by William R. Myers
Succeeded by Union B. Hunt
Personal details
Born (1846-09-06)September 6, 1846
Bloomington, Indiana
Died Unknown
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Mary Ross (d. 1885)
Lucy A. (Williams) Luce (d. 1899)
Alma mater Indiana University
Profession Clergyman

William Dale Owen (his middle name is given as "Dunn" in some references) (September 6, 1846 – date of death unknown) was a U.S. Representative from Indiana. Before serving in Congress he was a clergyman, attorney, newspaper editor, and the author of two books. After serving in Congress and as Secretary of State of Indiana, he engaged in various business ventures, including promotion of coffee and rubber plantations in Mexico. In 1905 his business partner was arrested; in 1906 the partner was convicted of fraud and theft, and imprisoned. Owen left the United States to avoid prosecution; what happened to him after he fled the country is not known.

Early life

Owen was born in Bloomington, Indiana, the son of William D. Owen and Priscilla (Rawlings) Owen.[1] He was educated in Bloomington, and began working as a store clerk at age 13 to save money so that he could attend college.[2] He worked until age 18, including time as a farmhand and a brickyard laborer in addition to his work as a store clerk.[3] He attended Indiana University in Bloomington for over two years, and left before graduating so that he could begin to study law in the office of a local attorney.[4]

Start of career

He quit the study of law when he was called to the ministry; he received his ordination in the Christian Church in 1870, and became pastor of congregations in Oxford, Indiana, Salem, Oregon, Tallula, Illinois, and Chicago, Illinois.[5] In 1878 he resumed the study of law, attained admission to the bar, and began to practice, first in Oxford, and later in Logansport.[6] In addition, Owen was a part-owner and editor of two weekly newspapers, the Logansport Saturday Night[7] and the Logansport Sunday Critic.[8]

In 1880, Owen was a Republican candidate for presidential elector; his party carried Indiana, and he cast his ballot for the ticket of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur.[9] Owen also published two well-received books, 1878's Success In Life, And How To Secure It, and 1883's The Genius Of Industry, Or How Work Wins and Manhood Grows.[10]


Owen was elected as a Republican to the Forty-ninth, Fiftieth, and Fifty-first Congresses (March 4, 1885 – March 3, 1891).[11] He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1890 to the Fifty-second Congress.[12]

From July 1, 1891 to April 7, 1893 Owen served as the first Superintendent of the United States Office of Immigration; he had been chairman of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization during his Congressional service, and played a lead role in passage of the legislation which created the agency.[13]

Indiana Secretary of State

Owen was elected Secretary of State of Indiana in 1894[14] and served from January 17, 1895 to January 16, 1899.[15][16][17]

Later life and career

After leaving office, Owen engaged in real estate speculation and invested in coffee and rubber plantations in Mexico.[18]

In 1905, Owen and his business partner were indicted for fraud and theft in connection with the promotion of their Mexican plantations.[19] The partner was convicted and sentenced to prison.[20] Owen fled the United States to escape prosecution.[21] Individuals from Indiana later reported having seen Owen in Paris, Switzerland, and Egypt, but the sightings did not lead to his arrest.[22][23]

An individual was arrested in Georgia in 1909 and accused of being Owen.[24] Investigators subsequently determined it to be a case of mistaken identity, and the individual who had been detained was released.[25]

Owen's whereabouts after he fled the country, his date of death, and his burial location are not known. There is a grave marker in his name at Mount Hope Cemetery in Logansport, the burial location of his first wife.[26][27]


In 1871, Owen married Mary Ross of Cincinnati, Ohio.[28] They had two children who died infancy; she died in December 1885.[29][30]

In 1888, Owen married Lucy A. (Williams) Luce, a widow from Logan, Iowa.[31][32] They had met in Washington; during the 1888 Republican National Convention, Owen became ill and Luce nursed him until he was well.[33][34] The second Mrs. Owen died on a train in Arkansas on April 1, 1899 while returning with her husband from a visit to his Mexican plantations.[35] She was buried in her hometown of Logan, Iowa.[36]


  1. Seeds, Russel M. (1899). History of the Republican Party of Indiana. 1. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana History Co. p. 302.
  2. History of the Republican Party of Indiana
  3. History of the Republican Party of Indiana
  4. Helm, Thomas B. (1886). History of Cass County, Indiana. Chicago, IL: Brant & Fuller. pp. 543–545.
  5. History of Cass County, Indiana
  6. History of Cass County, Indiana
  7. "Advertisement, Brown's Iron Bitters patent medicine". Fort Wayne Sentinel. Fort Wayne, IN. September 28, 1882. p. 4. (subscription required (help)).
  8. Wright, Williamson Swift (1907). Pastime Sketches:Scenes and Events at "The Mouth of Eel" on the Historic Wabash. Logansport, IN: Cass County Historical Society. p. 201.
  9. History of the Republican Party of Indiana
  10. "Mr. Owen Gets There: The Ex-Congressman Appointed Superintendent of Immigration". Indianapolis News. Indianapolis, IN. June 5, 1891. p. 1.
  11. Herringshaw, Thomas William (1904). Herringshaw's Encyclopedia of American Biography of the Nineteenth Century. Chicago, IL: American Publishers' Association. p. 710.
  12. "Election Echoes". The Daily Democrat. Huntington, IN. November 6, 1890. p. 2. (subscription required (help)).
  13. "Mr. Owen Gets There"
  14. "The State, County and Town Show Republican Gains". Logansport Pharos-Tribune. Logansport, IN. November 8, 1894. p. 13. (subscription required (help)).
  15. Cook, Homer L. (1916). Biennial Report. Fort Wayne, IN: Fort Wayne Printing Company. p. 115.
  16. "The newly-elected State officers will take their offices on the following dates". Huntington Weekly Herald. Huntington, IN. November 16, 1894. p. 2. (subscription required (help)).
  17. "The newly-elected state officers will take their places this month". Monroeville Breeze. Monroeville, IN. January 19, 1899. p. 4. (subscription required (help)).
  18. The Manual of Statistics: Stock Exchange Hand-book. New York, NY: Manual of Statistics Company. 1903. p. 444.
  19. "A Serious Charge is Resting Over Former Secretary of State William D. Owen". Elwood Free Press. Elwood, IN. November 16, 1905. p. 3. (subscription required (help)).
  20. "Brilliant Borges of Ubero is Guilty". Indianapolis News. Indianapolis, IN. June 9, 1906. p. 1. (subscription required (help)).
  21. "Investors Lose Millions; Postoffice Department Unearths the Gigantic Fraud". The Daily Times. New Philadelphia, OH. April 18, 1905. p. 1. (subscription required (help)).
  22. "Indiana Fugitive Said to be in Egypt and in Good Health". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, KY. May 12, 1905. p. 4. (subscription required (help)).
  23. "A Promoter Convicted: Ferdinand E. Borges Found Guilty by a Boston Jury of Larceny and Conspiracy; Former Congressman is Implicated". Galena Evening Times. Galena, KS. June 11, 1906. p. 1. (subscription required (help)).
  24. "Bonanza Land Man Under Arrest; William D. Owen Charged with Fraud in Mexican Schemes". Green Bay Press-Gazette. Green Bay, WI. March 31, 1909. p. 1. (subscription required (help)).
  25. "Arrest of Supposed W. D. Owen a Mistake: Boston Officers Say so, on Arrival in Georgia; He is Released at Once". The Republic. Columbus, IN. April 5, 1909. p. 2. (subscription required (help)).
  26. William D. Owen at Find a Grave
  27. Mary Ross Owen at Find A Grave
  28. History of Cass County, Indiana
  29. History of Cass County, Indiana
  30. "Notes: Mrs. W. D. Owen, wife of the representative in Congress from Logansport, Indiana, died in this city of consumption this morning.". Fort Wayne Daily Gazette. Fort Wayne, Indiana. December 24, 1885. p. 1. (subscription required (help)).
  31. "Congressman Owen to Wed". Fort Wayne Sentinel. Fort Wayne, IN. November 20, 1888. p. 1. (subscription required (help)).
  32. "Mrs. W. D. Owen". Logansport Pharos-Tribune. Logansport, IN. May 26, 1890. p. 4. (subscription required (help)).
  33. "Congressman Owen to Wed"
  34. "Congressman Owen's Bride". Saint Paul Globe. Saint Paul, MN. November 19, 1888. p. 1. (subscription required (help)).
  35. "He Brings Home His Dead: Ex-Secretary Owen Returns in Sorrow from His trip to Mexico". Huntington Weekly Herald. Huntington, IN. April 7, 1899. p. 7. (subscription required (help)).
  36. "Funeral of Mrs. W. D. Owen: Remains Taken to Logan, Iowa Today for Interment". Logansport Pharos-Tribune. Logansport, IN. April 4, 1899. p. 24. (subscription required (help)).
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Thomas Jefferson Wood
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 10th congressional district

1885 1891
Succeeded by
David H. Patton
Political offices
Preceded by
William R. Myers
Secretary of State of Indiana
Succeeded by
Union B. Hunt

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website http://bioguide.congress.gov.

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