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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Who was Riverside Cemetery's Confederate soldier?

  • He'll soon have a new headstone, thanks to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
    For now, his final resting place is marked with an aged marble block.
    But who was William Henry Owen?
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  • He'll soon have a new headstone, thanks to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
    For now, his final resting place is marked with an aged marble block.
    But who was William Henry Owen?
    There's a number of Civil War veterans buried in Hannibal and a several in Riverside Cemetery, and each one of them has a story.
    As it turns out, the story of William Henry Owen is very interesting.
    Thanks to information provided by his great-grandchildren and their family, Owen's story can be admired and told as preparations come to fruition to honor his life and his service.
    The Raider
    He was best known by his nickname "Tip" — "Uncle Tip" to some.
    The middle of seven children in his family, William Henry Owen was born March 30, 1840. Publications say he was born near Hannibal, however, he was more than likely born on the family farm located between New London and Center. An area that became known as Owendale. Never big enough to be a town by any means, but a large family settlement of Owens nonetheless marking the halfway point between two Ralls County cities.
    Tip was just a young man in his prime when the United States divided between the North and the South, divided on slavery, divided on law, divided on the conflict of what truly is right, what truly is wrong.
    Missouri alone had its own divisions. Some fought for the Union in the North, others fought for the Confederacy in the South.
    Tip fought for the Confederates serving in many Missouri fights that have never faded thanks to the strong documentations which have made their way into the history books over the past 148 years.
    "I think the areas close to the Mississippi, or adjoining the Mississippi, were more sympathetic to the Southern cause because their economic environment depended on river traffic," Bob Toalson, Owen's great-grandson who now resides in Phoenix, said. "I don't think St. Louis just in itself was a dividing line as far as Union-Confederacy, I think that the Confederacy bled somewhat northward in a shrinking manor."
    In 1864, Tip was part of the Missouri Partisan Rangers and at times was with "Quantrill's Raiders," a ravenous group of Confederates known for sparing almost no enemy when they came into battle.
    William Quantrill had the original group of deadly bad boys who wiped out their enemies with full force aggression. He and his raiders are best known for their attack on Lawrence, Kansas with 450 guerrilla fighters. Included in the group was "Bloody Bill" Anderson and famous outlaw Jesse James, along with his brother, Frank.
    Tip reminisced about his time serving with Quantrill in Missouri in a newspaper article.
    Ernie Young, who married Sue Young Toalson — Owen's great-granddaughter — discovered the article while researching family history.
    Page 2 of 3 - "Yes, I was with Quantrill at the time, (Sterling) Price made his famous raid through Missouri," Owen said in the article. "At the battle of Centralia, September 27, 1864, I was slightly wounded. A spent miniball hit me on the left forearm breaking a bone. It was not properly set, see it left quite a knot. There is also a knot in my wrist, but it doesn't bother me from using my hand."
    "No, I wasn't at Lawrence, but with him on many of his operations in Missouri," Owen added. "Yes, I knew Anderson, knew him well. I knew the younger boys and the James boys. I knew them all."
    Life after war
    Tip was 30-years-old when he married his first wife, Jennie C. Sloan on January 31, 1871.
    She was among the cultural elite in Palmyra with family roots reaching back to President William Henry Harrison who would die 30 days after taking office. To this day Sloan Ave. and Pocahontas Ave. in Palmyra are named for her family. At one time the section between the two streets was known as the Sloan edition.
    By this time, Tip had become a mason and had begun a well-traveled life as a miner. Between the 1880s and 1902, the couple gave birth to their only son, Harry.
    They settled in Colorado. Tip could mine and Jennie, who was an established author, lived in a cabin.
    However, tragedy struck May 1, 1902 when a coal, oil-fueled house fire took Jennie's life.
    Tip eventually returned to the New London area and farmed the family land. He married Susie Briscoe, who proceeded him in death and later Annie Haines who also passed before him.
    Harry would was Tip's only son. He had no children with his other wives. In November 1927, Tip moved in with Harry in his Hannibal home.
    Tip took ill in 1928 and the final six months of his was confined to his bed. Cause of death, according to his death certificate is documented as senility and chronic nephritis, a kidney disease.
    Tip died on February. 20, 1929.
    A final salute
    It's undetermined when a new headstone will be installed. It could be as early as the end of the summer.
    "I think it's wonderful," Bob Toalson said. "I spent many of an hour there at that site. Both my mother, my father, my brother are buried right there in that same family plot. As kids we would go up there and kind of have a picnic certain days of the year; Memorial Day and a number of other holidays generally during the course of the summer. That was a very traitorous road in the winter time getting up there because it's pretty steep."
    Confirmation will actually be brought to Tip's final resting place with a new headstone.
    Page 3 of 3 - On first glance of the current marker, it appears Tip died in 1926. A feel of the carved dates indicates the stone actually reads 1928. However, it is the death certificate that sets the truth at 1929.

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