James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Mary Owen

We return again to the children of Rev. Elias Owen and Margaret. Their eldest daughter, Mary, was born in Llanllechid in about 1866. To date the only certain UK civil record for Mary was found in the 1871 census, when she was aged 4 and living with her family in Llanllechid, though in the 1881 census she might have been the Mary Owen, aged 14 and born in Bangor, who was a boarder at Howell’s School, Denbigh (Bangor is very near Llanllechid). This was a school set up under a charitable foundation for the instruction of girls, and to maintain, clothe and provide portions for orphan students; Mary was not an orphan but her family was not wealthy. Mary was definitely living with her family at Efenechtyd Rectory in 1888 at the time of her brother Elias's suicide; she and her sister Maggie showed great presence of mind and maturity in the way they acted on the night of his death and in the way they gave evidence at the inquest (see reports).

I was told Mary married, had at least one child and that she and her family moved abroad. One of her nieces thought her brother and sister, Jack and Sally, who arrived in Chile in 1906, lived during the summer on the 30,000 acre ranch of a man called Wharton (spelling uncertain and presumed to be his surname) and during the winter in a hotel he owned in Santiago. Once it was discovered that Mary's sister Lizzie Wilde and family also sailed to Chile later that year, the evidence was mounting that Mary could have preceded them. It was several years before this was confirmed and recent research (2021) has revealed much more of Mary’s adult life with a man called Wharton Peers Jones, twenty years her senior. (See this page, for my account of his intriguing life history).

Wharton had already left Wales to live in Chile and Mary would have been nineteen in 1887, when he returned to spend over a year living with his mother in Rhyl, while he worked for the Chilean Government to promote emigration to Chile. One can easily see how the debonair, much travelled, Wharton would have attracted the attention of the young ladies of his country of birth, but can only speculate as to how he met Mary. It is very likely to have been through the family of her uncle, Timothy Morgan Owen; the Morgan Owens were living in Rhyl at that time and local newspapers reported several events at which Wharton, Timothy, and his wife were present. Howell School was only 15km south of Rhyl, so it may be that Mary had got into the habit of staying with the Morgan Owens, in their large mansion.