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Owen Thomas, Revolutionary War Soldier.....or maybe not

For as far back as I can remember I have known that we had a Revolutionary war soldier in the family tree. My Grandmother had joined the DAR through him. When grandma passed away I received her original DAR application along with certificates and her regents pin. Those are items I have always treasured and always will, but I have realized they may all be based on false information. When I started doing the family genealogy one of the first things I did was pull out the DAR application and put all of the info into my genealogy program. Wow, this is easy I have one line of my family back to the Revolutionary War and I can concentrate on some other less documented line because this one is done (oh how naive I was!)

For the last 10 years or so I have gone on my merry way, posting Owen Thomas with the information from the DAR application to online family trees. Of course I knew the information was correct, it came from grandma and grandma was always right.

Yesterday I was searching for another ancestor when I found a pension record for Owen Thomas. I quickly downloaded it and began looking at it. Right away little bells started going off. Something wasn't right. I never knew that Owen had lived in Ohio which is where the application was made. Hmm new info. Again I set it aside, thinking that I would look at it later.

Early this morning I sat straight up in bed. Everything was all wrong. I couldn't go back to sleep until I read the entire pension application. With caffine in hand, still bleary eyed I again started reading the pension application. Yes, the birthdate and place of service was all the same info I had, but wait. My Owen Thomas died in Loudoun co,VA in 1800. This application is dated 1832. The deposition was given by Owen Thomas in front of a judge 16 Aug 1832. Something is really hinky here. I pulled out grandma's DAR application, the pension papers and the Will of Owen Thomas to make a comparison. Following are the facts from each of the documents.

DAR application of Erma Leona Heskett Powers
Patriots name: Owen Thomas
Date of birth: 12 May 1754
Place of birth: Chester Co, PA
Married to: Martha Davis born in PA
Marriage date: abt 1780 no marriage place given
Death date: 26 Aug 1779
Death place: Fairfax co, VA
Children: Sarah Thomas b 13 Jun 1782 married Nathan Nickols, Susannah Thomas m John Ross, Ruth Thomas, Anne Thomas, Matilda Thomas, Joseph Thomas, Phillip Thomas, and Jesse Thomas

My hope that there was some small simple explanation began to drop when I looked at the proof grandma had used. The first was "The Historical and Genealogical Sketch of the Nickols-Thomas Family" written in 1909 by Robert F Bartlett, a great grandson of Owen Thomas. The second and only other proof was "History of Morrow County, Ohio" written in 1911, and wait., of the authors is...Robert Frankiln Bartlett. This is not boding well.

Next I looked at the pension papers. No family information was given. In a sworn statement given in front of a judge, Owen Thomas stated that he was born in Chester Co, PA on 12 May 1754, So far so good. He enlisted in Montgomery Twp, Philadelphia county, PA on 31 Jul 1775 and served until 5 Oct 1775 as a private with Capt George Smiths PA company. Next he is drafted on 30 Jul 1777 and served 2 months as a private in Captain Isaac Longstreets Co , Colonel Curry's PA regiment.and was taken prisoner 18 Feb 1778 and held for 5 months.Lastly he was drafted 30 Jul 1782 in Loudoun co, VA and served 3 months as a private in Captain Thomas Cannons Co, Colonel Merriwether's regiment. He then states that he lived in Loudoun co VA until about 1792, moved to Barkley co, VA and then to Coumbiana co, OH, where he was allowed pension 16 Aug 1832. My heart fell. How could I have his will from 1800 if he was still living in Ohio in 1832?

I next went to the will of Owen Thomas. It is recorded in Will Book F, pages 184-185, Loudoun co, VA. Written 20 May 1800 and proven 8 Sep 1800. Mentions the following family members: wife Martha, 5 daughters Sarah, Ruth, Elizabeth, Susannah, and Metilda. and 4 sons, David, Joseph, Phillip and Jesse.

I next looked for census records on Ancestry. There were no records for VA for 1790 or 1800, but I did find an Owen Thomas in both 1820 and 1830 Center Township, Columbiana county, OH, where the pension papers were filed. There were definitely 2 Owen Thomas, both born in PA, both lived in Loudoun county, Virginia. But did both fight in the American Revolution? I really can't even be sure that my Owen was born in PA, but I do know that David Thomas , Owen's father was from Pennsylvania, and he also left land and stock in a PA bank to one of his daughters in his will.

So there you have it. In a matter of a few hours I managed to shatter a proud family tradition that has been accepted as fact for over 100 years. The only facts I can be sure of are the following:
My Owen Thomas was probably born in PA. He married Martha and they had nine children, Sarah, Ruth, Elizabeth, Susannah, Matilda, David, Joseph, Phillip and Jesse. Owen owned a Bark Mill, which is also mentioned in his fathers will (will book E pages 200-201, written 23 Jun 1796 and proven 12 Sep 1796, Loudoun county, Virginia)Owen died between 20 May 1800 when his will was written and 8 Sep 1800 when the will was proven.
The pension file I found can not be from my Owen, and the DAR application was made using the same pension file that I found. (the file number is cited on the application)

I think Owen died too early to have filed for a pension, and I haven't been able to find a record that Martha filed either. I don't know when or where Martha died. How do I find out if my Owen Thomas actually did serve in the Revolutionary War. And to take it farther, how do I correct the info with the DAR? I know of several other people who joined all with the same information.

What I have learned from this is accept nothing at face value, question everything, and even grandma can make a mistake

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Comment by MsFoxRider on July 29, 2011 at 7:20am

Hi Dawn,

I know this is an old blog, but I just thought it was funny because I'm sitting here, caffeine in hand, still blurry-eyed, trying to figure out how to separate "your" David and Owen Thomas from "my" David Thomas", and with the naming patterns of the children, I keep running across your family.

Evelyn Avery has your line and posted this yesterday, which may help: 

Good luck and happy Friday!


Comment by Dawn Evans Stringer on August 17, 2009 at 10:10am
Sandy thanks for the lead! I will definitely check that out
Comment by Sandra Reustle Recker on August 17, 2009 at 9:58am
Not to worry....
I think you may find your answer and link to the correct Owen Thomas if you check PA Archives, 5th Series, Vol 5, page 541 I believe he may have served under Capt. Barber and ,LCol Thomas Bull. Good luck.


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