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Ven Owen

Teacher in the De Smet school beginning fall 1883, and principal of the graded school.

School board meeting, present were Wilkin, Owen and Barnes. Moved that V. S. L. Owen of De Smet be employed as principal of school No. 2 for the year if a satisfactory contract can be made. Carried. Moved that V. S. L. Owen be employed for six months at $49 a month as principal of school No. 2 such period to be divided in two terms; first term to commence Sept 24. Carried. – De Smet Leader, September 1, 1883

Vidocq Seltz Lavengro Owen was born April 1, 1857, in Geneva Lake, Wisconsin, to Sarah and Samuel Burdette Owen. He was educated in the schools of Kasson, Minnesota, and after graduation from Winona Normal School, Ven Owen began a thirty-year career as teacher and superintendent of schools in several states.

September 30, 1880, he married Sophia Stimson Hilton, daughter of Julia and Thomas Hilton. Sophia’s brother, James, married Lettie Davis, adopted daughter of De Smet hardware merchant, Edward Couse. Sophia and Ven had seven children: Harry, Robert H., Eleanor, Clifford J., Homer, Sidney A., and Eva.

Owen followed his father and uncle, attorney John A. Owen, and other relatives to Kingsbury County, filing on a tree claim, the NE 9-112-56, in May 1881. He also had a preemption claim in Sully County. In September 1883, Ven Owen was hired as principal and teacher of the higher classes in De Smet at a salary of $49 per month, a position he held for almost four years. Owen was forced to resign in July 1887 after a back injury and lengthy recovery, and he was replaced by Rollin Gleason. Mr. Owen was rehired in early 1889, although his health remained poor during the term. On May 31, 1889, Professor Owen informed the Board of Education that four students had completed the two-year course of study adopted for the higher classes of the graded school of De Smet and had passed a rigid examination which entitled the following to diplomas of graduation: Florette Bonney, Neva M. Whaley, Alma V. Davies, and David Davies.

Owen was also an active participant in De Smet social events. At the Agricultural Fair held in De Smet in 1883, he took 1st prize for four ink portraits. At the G.A.R. Campfire in De Smet, February 1887, he brought down the house with a song-and-dance routine as well as performing “The Skidmore Guard” with Edward Couse, Billy Broadbent, and Daniel Loftus. At the first official Old Settler’s Day gathering in 1890, Mr. Owen presented a short farce of his own get-up, in which he represented alternately the character of an Irishman and his wife.

Ven Owen taught in De Smet until 1891 (having taught Laura, Carrie, and Grace Ingalls), when the family moved to Adrian, Minnesota, where Mr. Owen continued to teach and served as principal. He was also hired to teach classes as Mankato Commercial College, and worked in a department store. Sophia and Ven Owen moved to Seattle in the late 1940s to live with a daughter. Ven Owen died in July 27, 1953 in Seattle, Washington. Sophia died May 29, 1955, in Seattle.

Mr. Owen was remembered by former students as an inspirational teacher who taught much more than was found in textbooks, including good citizenship and respect for others. A firm disciplinarian, Owen required students to stand at their desks when reciting and to use both a distinct voice and complete sentences. He gave special training in both reading and writing, skills which Laura Ingalls Wilder well remembered, keeping her first composition written for Mr. Owen, on the subject of ambition, her whole life.

The photo below was taken in March 1887. Top row (L-R): Mr. Owen, Alma Davies, Anna Meckstroth, Mary Benedict. Middle (L-R): Leslie Wheeler, Esther Benedict, Emma Hayman, Carrie Reisdorph. Front row (L-R): Neva Smith, Neva Whaley, Carrie Ingalls, Minnie Johnson.


Vidocq Owen / Ven Owen LTP 23-24; THGY 4, 12, 18, 24, 27; PG), see also A Tribute to the Early Day Teachers
     whips Willie Oleson (LTP 23)
     regrets not graduating Laura (THGY 27; PG)
     De Smet Cemetery tour info for OWEN