Owens, Richard (1813–1890)

By: Craig H. Roell

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: April 24, 2019

Richard Owens, pioneer merchant and building contractor, was born near New York City on September 6, 1813. He came to Texas in 1836 by way of Alabama to fight in the revolution against Mexico. Records indicate that a Richard Owens was granted a land bounty for service from February 1837 to January 1839. On April 8, 1844, he married Elizabeth McAnulty, the stepdaughter of a McMullen-McGloin colonist who resettled in De León's colony (see OWENS, ELIZABETH MCANULTY). Within a few years after his marriage Owens was known as a successful building contractor. He owned a brickyard and made his own brick, presumably from Guadalupe riverbottom clay. He was also engaged in the area's lucrative freighting business and was one of the earliest merchants in Victoria. In 1847 he built the county's first courthouse, at Victoria, and in 1849 was granted a permit to build a toll drawbridge across the Guadalupe River; the bridge yielded a good income after its completion, sometimes as much as forty dollars a day. Owens built nearly all the brick buildings in old Victoria, including the homes of Jesse O. Wheeler and Alexander H. Phillips. The latter still stands as one of the city's landmarks.

Owens became mayor of Victoria in 1852. The same year his bridge washed away and he contracted cholera, for which he traveled to New York for treatment. Upon his return to Victoria he continued his building enterprise and built the Ragland Cutoff to aid navigation on the Guadalupe River. When the San Antonio and Mexican Gulf Railway was built from Port Lavaca to Victoria (1857–61), Owens supplied the railroad ties, though he was never paid for the material. The track was destroyed by Confederate troops in 1862–63 when the coast was threatened by Union invasion. Though Owens voted against secession, he and his wife served the Confederacy. He outfitted an entire company with clothes from his mercantile store, and she sewed the regimental flag for Col. Robert Garland's Sixth Texas Infantry. After the war Owens continued in his merchandising business until he retired in 1884. He died in Victoria on August 2, 1890.

Roy Grimes, ed., 300 Years in Victoria County (Victoria, Texas: Victoria Advocate, 1968; rpt., Austin: Nortex, 1985). Elizabeth McAnulty Owens, Elizabeth McAnulty Owens (San Antonio: Naylor, 1936).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Craig H. Roell, “Owens, Richard,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/owens-richard.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
April 24, 2019