Birth, childhood & employment
The youngest of James and Susannah’s children was Elisha Edwin Owen who was born on Friday, 24 July 1846 in Llanidloes (map 2). His mother was by then forty-one and his father almost forty. The writings of Elias and his brother, Thomas, give an insight into the childhood of the Owen children and there is information about Llanildoes, followed by early pictures (here). In the 1861 census Elisha was the only one of the children with James and Susannah in Montgomery though his six-year old niece Catherine Ann Roberts was also with them.
As a young man, he left Wales and moved just over the border with England into Shropshire where he was employed by landowners to survey the property they were selling to the builders of the Bishop's Castle Railway; surveying for the line had begun in 1860 and the company had started buying up land all along the route during 1862. One of the six directors of the Bishop’s Castle Railway in 1866 was lead mine proprietor William Defeaux, of Oak Street, Llanidloes, (1871 census) and it may have been through him that Elisha obtained his job. Railway expansion, undertaken by a multiplicity of companies, was then at its height.
The Bishop’s Castle Railway Act of 1862 had granted the company approval to build a track between Montgomery and Craven Arms (map) but there was then a dispute over access to Craven Arms Junction. Other lines already met there and William Wilding, one of the solicitors acting for the company but not, I believe, a relation of Elisha’s future wife, had to give evidence in an appeal to the House of Lords. One proposal was to run new rails inside those of the Shrewsbury and Hereford rails as that company would not let them use their track! Unless this dispute was resolved passengers on the Bishop’s Castle Railway would have to be dropped off in a field about a mile north of Craven Arms. The Law Lords insisted that a bridge be built where the company had hoped a level crossing would suffice. This added to the expense already incurred by protracted delays. Not one sleeper had been laid but £20,000, a vast sum in those days, had gone to Thomas Savin, a contractor who had been involved in the construction of several railways but who would eventually go bankrupt. Following Savin’s dismissal a line 10 ½ miles long was built between Bishop’s Castle and Craven Arms.