HON. ALVIN C. OWSLEY, whose name is found upon the legislative records of Texas and who is now successfully engaged in the practice of law at Denton with a large and representative clientage, was born in Johnson county, Missouri, April 8, 1856, his parents being Dr. Henry and Louisiana (Mansfield) Owsley. The father was born in Crab Orchard, Kentucky, October 4, 1817, while his ancestors were from Virginia. In his boyhood days he accompanied his parents on their removal to Johnson county, Missouri, where he studied medicine in the office and under the direction of Dr. Hoff of Harrodsburg, that state. In order to still further prefect himself for the practice he entered the Jacksonville (Illinois) Medical College, in which he completed the regular course and was graduated with the class of 1846. He then opened an office in Johnson county, Missouri, where he remained until 1849, when he made an overland trip to California, attracted by the discovery of gold on the Pacific slope. In 1851 he returned to Missouri, where he devoted his time and energies to professional service until 1861. In that year, however, he put aside all business and personal considerations and joined the Confederate army as assistant surgeon in Price’s Battalion, while later he was appointed hospital surgeon. While at the front he was wounded and this occasioned his return home. In 1863 he started again to make the trip across the plains to the gold mines, this time accompanied by all of his family. They stopped first at Austin, Nevada, then a new mining camp, and in 1864 they resumed their westward journey to California, locating in the central part of that state. A few years later, however, Dr. Owsley returned east and in 1873 he located in Denton, Texas, where he remained until his death, which occurred in 1902. His wife survived him, passing away in Denton on the 22d of December, 1904.
Hon. Alvin C. Owsley has the interesting experience as a boy of living in the new west, where pioneer conditions existed and all of the environment was that of frontier life. He acquired his education in the schools of Grass Valley, Lakeport and Marysville, California, and also attended Hill’s Institute in Sacramento, subsequent to which time, in 1869, he entered St. Vincent’s College at Los Angeles, from which he was graduated in 1872 with the highest honors of his class, receiving a special medal for mathematical proficiency. He paid his own way through college with money earned as an employe[e] of the Los Angeles Star, first having a newspapers carriers’ route and later in charge of the city circulation of the paper. The ambition which he displayed in thus preparing for his education has been a salient characteristic of his entire life and has led to successful accomplishment where others of less resolute purpose would have failed.
Immediately after his graduation Mr. Owsley returned to Missouri, and at Sedalia took up the study of law in the office of the late Senator Vest. In February, 1873, he came to Denton, Texas, where he has since made his home. For two years he engaged in teaching school here, but devoted all of his leisure hours to the study of law, and in 1875 he was admitted to practice. He has always been an energetic, progressive and resourceful lawyer, presenting his cause with clearness and force, while in his arguments his deductions follow with logical sequence. His practice, which is now extensive and important, connects him with all the courts and he has a large and valuable library.
On the 8th of April 1880, Mr. Owsley was married to Miss Sallie M. Blount, a daughter of Judge J. M. Blount of Denton, Texas. Eight children have been born unto them: Eunice, Louisiana, Jessie, Alvin, Stella, Clark, Charlotte and Henry. All are still at home with the exception of the eldest daughter, who is now the wife of James G. Wright.
Mr. Owsley holds membership in the Christian church and Mrs. Owsley in the Baptist church. He is an orator of considerable prominence in Texas and has been a recognized leader in public life of the state for many years, wielding a wide influence. In 1888 he was elected a member of the twenty-first Texas legislature, and his work in that body resulted in the passage of some of the most important legislative measures ever enacted in the commonwealth. He served on a number of the leading committees of that session of the general assembly, having a position of prominence and on judiciary committee, No. 1, as well as on internal improvement committee and others. He was responsible for the fist anti-trust law ever agitated in Texas, which state has become famous for its effective anti-trust statutes. During the same session he was appointed chairman of a committee of five to draft a substitute trust law and Mr. Owsley prepared the draft of the law with the assistance of Attorney General James Hogg, afterward governor of Texas. This measure was passed by the session, but was held to be unconstitutional by United States Circuit Judge McCormick. The delay in obtaining a decision form the supreme court caused the people to become impatient and another trust law was passed in its place by the following legislature, but later, when the supreme court finally rendered a decision on Mr. Owsley’s measure, it was decided to be entirely constitutional.
Mr. Owsley was re-elected a representative to the twenty-second legislature, in which session he held a still more prominent position. On the committee on internal improvements it came within the jurisdiction of this committee to frame a railroad commission law, another measure that has brought renown to Texas as a model in that class of legislation. Mr. Owsley was likewise a member of the committee of five which drafter the bill for a railroad commission, which became a law, and was the leader in the fight for this measure, especially for the “long and short haul cause,” of which he was the advocate. Again in the twenty-second legislature he has a prominent position on the judiciary committee No. 1, and was chairman of the committee on penitentiaries and instrumental in passing the reformatory law for youthful offenders. As a member of the internal improvement committee he was one of the framers of the separate coach law, one of the most popular to the people at large that was ever enacted in any state. In 1894 Mr. Owsley was elected to the twenty-fourth legislature and served for a third term. He was one of the most active working members of the house and was prominently in the fore in all the most important legislation enacted during his service. In 1892 he was presidential elector, representing the fifth district and helping to cast the vote of Texas for Cleveland in the electoral college. He was again chose presidential elector in 1904.
In his home town Mr. Owsley should be given credit for many of the substantial features that make it one of the best know cities of Texas, specially as an education center. It was through his specific efforts that the North Texas State Normal College and the Girls’ Industrial College, both state institutions, were located in Denton, although numerous other cities pressed their claims for this distinction. Mr. Owsley’s wide and favorable acquaintance with legislators, state officials and other men in public life enabled him to perform this service for his town. In many other ways he has promoted public measures and in fact his co-operation is never sought in vain for the advancement of any movement for Denton’s up building and welfare. He is a man of great force of character and possesses an undaunted spirit toward the accomplishment of any object which he undertakes. His public record is one which will bear the closest investigation, as it is characterized by the conscientious performance of every duty devolving upon him and loyalty to every trust that is given him. He ranks among the distinguished citizens of Texas, honored and respected in public life, while in his home town, where he is best known, he has the warm personal regard and friendship of the great majority of his fellow citizens.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 106-108.