From rags to riches to rags...The famous Col. Ownbey of NC, GA, NV, and CO:
He was born 28 Jan. 1854 in Cherokee Co., NC. The family moved across the line into Union Co., GA, where many of their Ownbey / Owenby / Owensby kin lived. He was the son of Jeptha Ownbey (1826 Buncombe Co., NC - 1863 Battle of Chickamauga, GA) and Harriett Dorinda Chastain (1827 Madison, old part of Habersham Co., GA - 1919 Denver, CO).(Mother remarried in CO to James Blundell).
His full birth name was John Abner Albertus Ownbey. "Ownbey" was the original family spelling, but became diversified with every public record. As an adult, he went by the name Col. James Albertus Ownbey. ("Colonel" may have been an honorary title.) It is uncertain why he adopted the name "James" in lieu of his given name, "John." Could he have renamed himself after his stepfather, James Blundell?
After his father was killed in the Civil War, his mother moved with her parents to Colorado, where she later married James Blundell.
In Colorado, and later in Nevada, John (aka James) Ownbey became involved in the gold and silver mining industry, and became best friends with future legendary industrialist and financier J. P. Morgan, with whom he was in business the rest of his life. He named one of his children, Donald Pierpont Ownbey, after J. P. (John Pierpont) Morgan. Unfortunately, later in life a son of J. P. Morgan found legal means to ruin Col. Ownbey financially.
ARTICLE ABOUT THE DEATH OF COL. J. A. OWNBEY:
(From The Daily Camera, Boulder, Colorado, 15 August 1927):
Col. J.A. Ownbey, Once Noted Capitalist,
Partner of Late John Pierpont Morgan
And Pioneer of Colorado Died Today
A peaceful death in contrast to the storms and battles that
had characterized his life came to Col. James A. Ownbey at 4
o'clock this morning at the home of his son James Ownbey at
Death was due to a weakening of the heart caused by constant
coughing that medical science was unable to correct. He had
been bothered by the cough for years, his son James said today.
During his last illness blood was coughed and this weakened him
rapidly for he had been failing in strength for some time.
Col. Ownbey became seriously ill in Denver early last week.
His sons were notified last Friday. Donald P., age 16, was sent
to his fathers bedside and was joined there that night by his
brother. They brought the Colonel to Boulder on Saturday. He
stood the trip well, but Saturday evening went into a stupor
and was unconscious all day Sunday.
By peculiar coincidence Judge Gary, head of the steel company,
and an old time friend of J. Pierpont Morgan, famous financier,
died at approximately the same time as Col. Ownbey. The latter
was a western representative of Mr. Morgan and was entrusted by
him with great sums of money and was placed in fine positions,
that heirs of the banker, who died March 31, 1913, in Rome,
took away from him leaving penniless at his death.
Much written about his fight with Morgan.
Col. Ownbey's battles have occupied column after column of
book and magazine space. He has appeared in the Congressional
Records, in the resolutions of the Colorado state senate and
his room in the Armory of Co. F on University avenue is filled
with newspaper clippings, papers and magazines dealing with
various phases of his life and legal and political battles.
At one time Col. Ownbey was rated as one of Colorado's
wealthiest citizens. He spent much in fighting the Morgan heirs,
his battle with them lasting for years through the courts of
the nation. An old law in force in Delaware that required a
$200,000 bond to fight a receivership that had been established
over the Morgan holdings in Colorado, of which Ownbey was
manager, deprived him of his last hope for a favorable
settlement of the dispute. It did not rob him of his fight
however, for judge Stone, who was involved in the case and
later became United States Attorney General and now Justice of
the United States supreme court, nearly lost his appointment to
the bench thru charges filed against him, and taken up by
senators at Ownbey's instigation.
A biography of Col. Ownbey says in part:
"Colonel James A. Ownbey of Boulder, Colorado-and of the
world-is one of the few survivors of the real Winners of the
West, scout, interpreter, Indian fighter, miner, a successful
mining engineer, cattle and coal magnate- was born in Cherokee
County, North Carolina, January 28, 1854.
"His father fought in the Confederate army under General Joe
Wheeler and received his death wound at the battle of
Chickamauga. The family estate lay in the pathway of Sherman's
famous March to the Sea, and as the Colonel put it a crow
flying thru that country would have had to carry its own
provisions. Poverty pinched, the West beckoned, and at sixteen
years of age little Jimmy Ownbey started West on his own.
"When first he struck the West he was a herd boy, that is a
night rider guarding the loose stock of emigrants crossing the
plains. He went to work for the famous Ben Holliday, who ran a
fast freight line, a slow freight line and the historical Pony
Express. Ownbey crossed the plains 24 times between the Rocky
Mountains and the Missouri river before the bands of steel
rails joined them.
Was Underground Miner...
"He was employed as an underground miner in Blackhawk. While
working in the mines in the day time he paid a Catholic priest
$300 a year to instruct him in the evenings. He studied
geology, he studied metallurgy and he studied assaying. The
result was that he became proficient not only as a practical
underground miner, but also as a practical mining engineer."
"Mr. Ownbey was at Virginia City, Nevada, in the early days and
became a friend of John P. Jones, who later became a U.S.
senator. It was on a business message east to secure financial
help in development of the Comstock lode that Col. Ownbey and
J.P. Morgan first met. It was a stormy meeting, but later
resulted in friendship and a confidential relation that
continued until Morgan died.
Sent to Australia...
"The biography states that he was sent to Australia, Peru and
South Africa in mining missions. It says that "under his
management the lost reefs of gold were found at Rand and over
four hundred millions of gold were produced. For this he
received a salary of $50,000 a year and ten percent of the net
proceeds. On his return to Colorado he went into the Cripple
Creek district were he successfully operated mines for Morgan
and the Mills and himself."
Was With the Grand Duke...
"Col. Ownbey was with Grand Duke Alexis-subsequently the
Emperor and Czar of Russia-on a buffalo hunt that was conducted
by the late Buffalo Bill. The hunt was staged between Deer
Trail and Kit Carson. According to the biography the Colonel
and the Duke became bunk mates and the former subsequently
visited the Czar at his castle in St. Petersburg.
Later he was sent to Russia by Morgan, Whitelaw Reed, and others,
to obtain a Russian railroad concession, but failed. In England
he met the Prince of Wales, and subsequently Edward VII.
"Col. Ownbey, according to the biography, has made and spent
huge sums of money on three continents. He was Morgan's
representative in obtaining and developing the Maxwell land
grant lying on the Colorado-New Mexico boundary. It was in the
formation of the Wooten Land and Fuel company, and in
incorporating it under the law of Delaware, that led to Col.
Ownbey's financial ruin when the son of Morgan turned against
Married Pearl McGaffey...
"Col. Owenby was married in Denver, Oct. 10, 1899 to Pearl
McGaffey, daughter of the late Dexter McGaffey, who was
railroad conductor between Boulder and Sunset.
They divorced in 1925. Mrs. Ownbey, who is the popular ticket
agent of the Denver and Interurban Motor Bus Line, obtained the
"In 1926 Col. Ownbey ran independently for the United States
senate on an equal rights and a "Golden Rule" platform. He
secured but comparatively few votes, Charles Waterman being
elected. Once he threatened that the brilliant Charles J. Hughes would not be seated in the United States senate. This because Hughes was a lawyer opposed to Ownbey litigation.
"The funeral will probably be held Wednesday afternoon at the
Tippett-Rice mortuary. Rev. Donald Tippett of Gunnison, a warm
personal friend of James Ownbey, the son, may be able to come
to officiate. The son is operating a sightseeing car and
attending the University.
"Columbia Lodge No. 14 is to assist in the funeral services.
Interment will probably be held in Longmont beside a brother
and their mother.
"Mrs. Myra Sager of this city, mother of Mrs. Dick Maupin, is a
sister of Col. Ownbey. He has a brother Jepp Ownbey, residing
in Los Angeles.
[There is a very dignified and impressive photo of him on horseback, in the Heritage Of Union County (GA) Book.]