Robert Owens, labourer and crop farmer, was born around 1830 in Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, Wales. It is thought he arrived in Australia in 1858 and then ventured north to Queensland in 1859. He married Welsh born Elizabeth Davies in Brisbane on 10 September 1864. Over the next 17 years 11 children were born to the couple. Robert died 22 January 1892 at Moggill, Brisbane and is buried in the Moggill Historic Cemetery.
Robert Owens was born in ca.1830 at Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, Wales. Further research is required to determine when he immigrated to New South Wales, although a Robert Owens was on the Turon (Red Cross Line of packets) ex Liverpool 18 October 1857 that arrived at Hobson Bay, Melbourne 4 January 1858 (Maitland Mercury, 21 Nov 1857). That Robert Owens is listed as Irish, however there was no category for Welsh in the ledger. The Welsh may have been listed under English, yet other members of the United Kingdom, Scotts and Irish, had their own category, so why not the Welsh? Owens could have been listed as Irish by mistake, as the Irish and Welsh both speak the Brythonic Celtic languages, and the Captain, Thomas Tillson, could not pick the difference. The timing for this Robert Owens to move to Queensland by 1859 matches Owens’ family records and the age is probably correct as well.
Robert Owens married Elizabeth Davi(e)s (spelt both ways on official documents) on 10 September 1864 at Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, by a Wesleyan minster. Elizabeth was born in Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales around 1842. The couple had 11 children born between 1865 and 1882. At the birth of their first child, Owen William, in 1865, Robert and Elizabeth were recorded as living at Harcourt Street, Fortitude Valley. Robert is listed as a labourer and Elizabeth signed the registration, suggesting Robert was not present at the birth. Later, when the second child was born, Jane Ellen in 1867, Robert signed as a farmer living in Moggill, Brisbane.
According to information contained on his death certificate, Robert Owens had resided in Queensland for 32 years, therefore he would have been present in Queensland in 1859/60. He owned two adjoining blocks of land, 24 acres freehold purchased in 1861 with the final deed dated 30 October 1888 and later 49 acres bought in 1888 for £121 (The Brisbane Courier, 2 Nov 1888; R. Buchanan (2009), The Bremer River, Figure p54) opposite the Bremer River junction with the Brisbane River at Moggill. The property was named Junction in 1869, (Queensland Times 24 Apr 1869) this being confirmed in the 1872 Brand’s register and on his death certificate in 1892. His brand, R9J, was registered in the Queensland Horse and Brand Register 1872-1899, dated 9 Sep 1872 and also registered in Directories & Almanacs 1874, p61. Later, after his death, the property’s name changed to Myora Park.
Robert Owens helped build the riverine training wall designed by Mr (John?) Petrie, engineer and later mayor of Brisbane, at Barellan Point at the junction of the Bremer and Brisbane Rivers in ~1861-1864 (pictured in The Queenslander, Sat 25 Apr 1891, p778). This magnificent, huge stone wall still has the chisel marks of the hand trimming on it. Where did the stone come from? Two stone quarries are nearby, at Bremer Mills a short boat ride up the Bremer River to Bundanba (sic. later renamed Bundamba) or at the quarry of Maurice Lyons (Lot 118, Livesay Rd., Moggill (Cameron 1999). During this time Robert Owens was listed as labourer on the birth certificate of Owen William Owens signed by Elizabeth. Is this why he was not present to sign the birth certificate of Owen William Owens because he was building the riverine wall at the junction at Moggill?
On Thursday 15th October 1888, a deputation including Robert Owens and Tom Makepeace of Moggill and AW Darvell, HS St Paul, GH Shilitto, and GR Weiss from Brisbane, went to the Minister of Lands asking that a parcel of land (47 acres) at the junction of the Bremer and Brisbane River be continued to be set aside for picnics for the residents. Two petitions stated that the local residents and those from Ipswich had been using the area for 25 years (since ~1863). The Minister’s opinion was that they were asking too much (Queensland Times 25 Oct 1888). It is of considerable interest that on the 2 Nov 1888, Robert Owens purchased land at auction (see above) of almost the same size (49 vs 47 acres) in the same place, Junction. Was he acting for the above deputation to buy the said land and keep it partially for public use as a recreation (picnic ground)?
Robert Owens was appointed to the Moggill School Board 27 Apr 1878 and 29 Jul 1882. Robert Owens is listed in a number of registers as a land owner and therefore being registered to vote on a number of Queensland Electoral Rolls.
A deputation of ratepayers represented by Mr J Shield, Owens, O’Brien and Finlay approached the Indooroopilly Divisional Board meeting at Taringa on the 20 Oct 1888 (Queenslander 20th Oct 1888). They were asking for the rate increase of 8% be returned to the previous 5% based on the land valuation. The chairman Mr. Moon explained they needed the extra money to spend on the Brookfield Rd., right-hand branch, Moggill Creek and made a motion to that effect. Later newspaper articles deplored the state of the roads in Pullenvale/ Moggill saying the government was not doing enough.
He was rumored to be a lay preacher supported by the fact a Mr Owens was a guest preacher at the Welsh Free Church at the Oddfellows Hall, Charlette Street, Blackstone, 1891 (Telegraph, 8 Aug 1891). His photograph has a beard with no moustache favoured by Calvanistic Methodist/ Baptist preachers. Marrying and funeral rites were by Wesleyan Methodist ministers.
Robert Owens signed the registration book for the birth of his children; therefore, he was literate. However, he wrote “X” on his will which suggests his ability to sign the document may have been impeded, but he died of a stroke. Did he have previous stroke episodes that led to his inability to sign the will correctly?
Citation: Leigh Owens, ‘Robert Owens’, Harry Gentle Resource Centre, Griffith University, 2023, https://harrygentle.griffith.edu.au/life-stories/robert-owens/.
Marriage registration, Robert Owens and Elizabeth Davies, m. 10 Sep 1864, Reference ID 1864/B/2685
Death registration, Robert Owens, d. 22 Jan 1892, Reference ID 1892/C/3209
HO107, piece no. 1427, book no. 16, folio no. 25, pg. no. 11, schedule 2378
10 Sep 1872, No. 99, p. 1479, “Brands Act of 1872”, Robert Owens proprietor, farm name Junction, Brand R9J, Certificate number 2440.
Queensland Horse and Cattle Brands 1872-1899, 9 Sep 1872
English Shipping, The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, 21 Nov 1857, p. 3.
Moggil, Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser , 24 Apr 1877, p. 3.
Divisional Board Meetings, The Queenslander , 20 Oct 1888, p. 724.
Spoiling a Picnic Ground, The Telegraph , 24 Oct 1888, p. 5.
Family Notices, The Telegraph , 3 Dec 1892, p. 4.
Administration and Probate, The Week , 4 Aug 1899, p. 20.
Fifty Years Ago, The Brisbane Courier, 20 Feb 1915, p. 12.