Virginia Ann Owens
of Cecil County, Maryland
My grandfather, Edward C. Jones, Sr. tells this story in “Recollections” about his grandmother, Virginia Ann Owens Touchstone:
“Grandmother Touchstone was the daughter of Captain Owens of Perryville, Maryland. He had sailed many vessels on the Chesapeake Bay. He was born October 6, 1800 and lived to be about eighty-six years old, living in Perryville all his life. My grandmother Touchstone was his oldest daughter. She was a tiny baby at birth, and it is told that she had to be wrapped in cotton, and was so small that she could have been put in a quart tin cup. At any rate, it is a fact that at the age of fifteen, she eloped and married my grandfather Touchstone, who in order to marry her, took her out the second story window by using a ladder. She was the mother of a large family; seven children, and several died in infancy. My mother was the oldest of the family, and strange as it may seem, was born when grandmother was only sixteen years old. I have heard grandmother tell that when they came home after the elopement and wedding, when she saw her father coming up on the porch, she ran out and threw her arms about his neck and kissed him, and said, “Indeed, Pop, I will never do that again.”
According to family tradition, Hazlett Owens was most unhappy about the May, 1844 elopement and marriage of his fifteen year old daughter Virginia Ann to James Touchstone. Later he did relent and gave Virginia a dowry of $500. and the use of a young slave girl named Mary. In fact, Cecil county slave records for 1853-1854 show that Hazlett Owens was the owner of a 21 year old slave named Mary who was valued at $300. Mary was probably around eleven or twelve years old when given to Virginia to help the new wife and mother with household chores sometime after 1845. Virginia, a young mother only seventeen years old was reported to have said . . . “Oh, another child to take care of ! ”
Mary stayed with the family after emancipation, and was known to the Touchstone children in later years as “Old Black Mary”. I quote from a letter from Marion Touchstone – “When she tried to work for other families, it didn’t last but a very short time before she would tell her employer that they didn’t do things the way her people did.” Many years later there was a knock at the Touchstone door and there stood Mary. “I’se come home to die” she said. Mary was put to bed in the upstairs and she did die there. Marion Touchstone related this story to Jim and Dorothy Salisbury and showed them the bedroom in the Touchstone home where “Old Black Mary” passed away.
My Grandfather’s “Recollections” of His Grandmother Touchstone’s Home in Port Deposit
“I have a dim recollection of an incident which was rather painful to me. When a little past three years old, I fell off our front porch near the steps, and badly fractured my right arm. As Jim was a small boy, and Roy was just a baby, my mother’s sister, Aunt Laura Touchstone, took me home to grandmother’s in Port Deposit, while I recovered from the injury. It was during this time, that a courtship was going on between Aunt Laura and Mr. Eden N. Baldwin, whom she married a short time later. It was also during this stay at Grandmother Touchstone’s home that they had some photographs made of me by Mr. Barry, the local photographer. I have now in my possession one of the photographs taken almost sixty years ago. It shows me wearing a nice little kilt dress, and stockings with ring stripes around them. I endeared myself very much to Aunt Laura and Mr. Baldwin, who later told me I seemed almost like one of their own children. Since our family was the oldest of Grandmother’s grandchildren, we were greatly spoiled through overindulgence. It was always a wonderful and joyful occasion to visit there, even after we were large boys.”
The Obituary of Virginia Ann Touchstone
The Cecil Whig, 6 Jan 1906
“Mrs. Virginia A. Touchstone, widow of the late James Touchstone, died at her home in Port Deposit, on Saturday evening, the 30th u’t., aged 77 years. Five children survive her – Mrs. Hugh A. Jones of Harford county, Mrs. E.N. Baldwin of Claymont Del., the Misses Ella and Clara Touchstone, of Port Deposit, and Clayland Touchstone, of Moore, Pa. Mrs. Touchstone was a daughter of the late Hazlett Owens of Perryville. She was married when quite young to Mr. Touchstone, who was a prominent citizen of the Seventh district of this county, a member of the Maryland Legislature, and who, during the Civil War, was Quartermaster of the 6th Maryland Regiment. Of a quiet and peaceful disposition, Mrs. Touchstone was a most lovable woman, who exemplified in her Christian life, the religion she professed. Her funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon, from her late residence, the services being conducted by Rev. J. Wilson Sutton, Rector of St. James’ P.E. Church, of which she was a member. Internment was made at Hopewell.
From an unidentified newspaper account – PERRYVILLE – Mr. and Mrs. George Owens, of Ridley Park, Pa., Mr. and Mrs. Ira Owens, of Middletown, Del., and Mr. H. F. Owens of Philadelphia, were in town on Wednesday, having attended the funeral of their half-sister, Mrs. Virginia Touchstone, in Port Deposit.
Updated 11 April 2010