The progeny of James Owens, Revolutionary War patriot, lives on in Cole County.
James Owens was born Oct. 19, 1763 — some accounts say in Belfast, Ireland, and others say in Virginia. At the age of 14, he enlisted in the Revolutionary War, first as a drummer boy for five months, then as a regular soldier for a year and a half during the latter part of the revolution.
He married Elizabeth Marrs in 1784, and they had eight children in Virginia. They moved to Kentucky around 1796, and four more children were born there in Jessamine County.
As their children married and had families of their own, some began moving westward, leaving their siblings and parents behind. The decision to "go west" was not to be taken lightly; it meant uprooting and separating families. The trip was difficult and dangerous; carving an existence in the new land was hard work.
Around 1819, before Cole County was organized, Avy Owens and her husband, Andrew Rice, with Rebecca Owens and her husband, Michael Sone, came here to make their new home. They chose property overlooking the Moreau River on what is now Glover's Ford Road.
After James Owens died around 1825 in Kentucky, other members of his family began relocating westward.
In 1829, his son John immigrated to Springfield, Illinois, then in the spring of 1837 came to Missouri, establishing a farm about 3 miles west of Jefferson City. Their daughter Elizabeth, wife of Zephaniah Walden, made her home in Randolph County; daughter Mary Polly with her husband, George Miller, chose Springfield, Illinois. Another daughter, Nancy Anne and second husband, Aaron Campbell, lived in Lafayette County.
An oft-repeated family story tells that Elizabeth Owens, who was more than 60 years old, rode alone on horseback from Kentucky to see her two daughters in Jefferson City. There are no particulars about the trip, but it is more likely that she was traveling with her daughter Elizabeth Walden or son John Owens.
When Elizabeth Owens died March 17, 1836, she was buried on son-in-law Andrew Rice's farm; this was the beginning of the Rice-Sone Cemetery. In following years, she was joined by three daughters, Nancy Campbell, Avy Rice and Rebecca Sone.
Over the next 93 years, the family burial ground grew to 54 recorded burials with the names Rice, Owens, Sone, Curnutt, Gordon, Payton, Barton, Boggs, Askren and Riggins — all related. Avy and Andrew Rice had 13 children, five of whom are buried there with their parents. Of Rebecca and Michael Sone's six children, three are known to be buried at Rice Sone Cemetery. Two children interred there are not related to the family — James and Louisa Skidmore, who died in 1840 and 1842 respectively. Their parents, James and Delilah (Brown) Skidmore, also died in the 1840s, but the location of their graves is not known — possibly Rice-Sone Cemetery?
On Mother's Day 1948, members of Jane Randolph Jefferson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution held a ceremony honoring Elizabeth Owens. A DAR marker was unveiled by Allen Platt, Roy Sone and Malcolm Ruthven Jr., her great-great-grandsons. At that time, it was reported she had more than 100 descendants living in Cole County and six of them were members of the organization.
To date, 28 people have joined the DAR with patriot James Owens; 22 were members of Jane Randolph Jefferson Chapter.
When the Rice-Sone Cemetery was surveyed in 1986 by DAR volunteers Bettye Prince Gilbert and Betty Schnider Morse, they reported in their book, "Cemeteries in Cole County, Missouri," that "Part of the fence has been down for some time. Cattle have left only 4-5 stones standing. Most of the stones are broken in small pieces." The graves of Rebecca and Michael Sone and their son James Owen were originally marked by large tablet stones that stood on legs like a table. Only James' stone remains, shattered in 20 pieces.
Linda Dunbar, local chapter regent, has chosen the Rice-Sone Cemetery as her service project. She and her committee of three have been working there all summer, cutting trees, repairing tombstones and fencing, and restoring the cemetery. When the work is completed in the spring, a dedication ceremony will commemorate Elizabeth and her three daughters, Avy Rice, Rebecca Sone and Nancy Campbell — Daughters of the American Revolution.
Nancy Arnold Thompson is a retired medical administrator and former member of the Cemetery Resources Board for Jefferson City. Her hobby is cemetery preservation and restoration.