Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tubal Cain Owen: Family Notes

Kind readers likely think of Ypsilanti's water baron Tubal Cain Owen as an eccentric genius and a master of self- marketing. His well, drilled near where EMU's Roosevelt High School building stands today, made him a fortune with its murky water. But his family was interesting as well. Tubal's son Eber got a law degree from U-M but apparently never used it, preferring to spend his adult years breeding fancy poultry. Tubal's daughter Abba kept a colorful diary. Though Tubal sold his water as a cancer cure, tragically both of his children died of this disease.

Abba's diary reflects the occasions of her day, such as the election of Benjamin Harrison as President in November 1888. She and her mother were 30 years shy of being able to vote, but Abba took a lively interest nonetheless. Here are a few excerpts:

November 5th: Tonight is the last night before election and the Republicans and Democrats each had a torch parade. The boys went down and tried to get a torch to join the Republican parade but there were none left so they did not join it. . . We could hear the noise of the horns, bands, and cries way up to our house.

November 6th: Today is election day, the tug of war. It has been cloudy but it did not rain. Everybody is excited. This evening about half past seven we began to get reports and by the time we went to bed we heard that YPSILANTI had gone Republican the first time in a great many years. All the Republicans are quite positive that Harrison will be elected.

November 7th: The boys did not get home last night until 12 o'clock and they said that they went over to the Light Guard Hall [northeast corner of Michigan and Washington] where they received the reports and the Republicans were so tickled that they sent for the band and had a great time. The latest news we have got today is this evening that Harrison is elected even the Democratic papers own up to it. Mama and I were downtown this afternoon and most everybody was talking politics. Harry Ferrier, a little boy whose father is a Democrat, met a little girl and said, "I have just heard that New York State had gone Democratic and if it has we will beat the Republicans all to shucks," and off he ran and it did sound so funny for such a little boy. The band is out serenading Allen this evening."

Harrison was elected, but the vote count wasn't finalized for many days, and not until the 15th do victorious Republicans in Ypsilanti stage a "grand torch light parade" in town, also memorialized and handed down to us through the years in the little diary kept by the daughter of Ypsilanti's water baron.


Wystan said...

In an antique shop, 40 years ago, I saw a bottle of T. C. Owen's mineral water. It was still corked, but all of the liquid had evaporated. What remained was salt, caked together in a big lump, which occupied the bottle two-thirds full. That would not have been a wholesome cure for high blood pressure, or anything else, really . . . .

Dusty D said...

Dear Wystan: Thank you for your kindness in visiting this blog! I appreciate your stopping by.

That is fascinating about the bottle. I must ask, did you buy this item? The residue does not sound particularly healthful, as you you know the water was marketed as the cure for something like a dozen diseases...

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