|Sarah Elizabeth (Howell) Owen
Sarah Elizabeth Howell was the 3rd child of John Howell and his wife, Ann. She was born in 1844 at Nantmoel Uchaf farm, Rhyndwyclydach in the parish of Llangyfelach. She is first seen on the census of 1851 at Nantmoel Uchaf aged 6 years, described as a scholar. Sarah was probably named after her paternal grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth, wife of Rev. Roger Howell, who had died in 1844.
In the census of 1861 Sarah is described again as a scholar, but is curiously enumerated at the lodging house of a Martha Griffiths at 11 Mansel Street, Swansea. There are 2 other youngsters, also described as scholars lodging in the same house. This suggests that they are attending a school or college in Swansea. Slater's Commercial Directory of 1858-1859 lists several schools and academies in Swansea at this time - some of them specifically for the education of girls. The same directory lists 5 lodging houses in Mansel Street including that at No. 11 which seems previously to have been run by a Catherine Edwards. The 2 other chldren are Sarah's 1st cousins, Ann Elizabeth (15) and David Henry (9) Jones. They are the children of Isaac and Gwenllian Jones of Glynmeirch farm, Rhyndwyclydach. Their mother, Gwenllian is Sarah's maternal aunt. Their father, Isaac is a brother of Howell Jones, Llechartfawr who was married to Sarah's paternal aunt, Jane. As a grand-daughter of Roger Howell - who himself established a school at Baran Chapel and later, Nantmoel - it is perhaps unsurprising that Sarah should receive an extended education.
On 7th September 1866, when she was about 21, Sarah was married at Hebron Chapel in Clydach to a farmer, Morgan Powell from Llanedy in Carmarthenshire. Morgan, the son of Samuel and Mary Powell, was a batchelor, 7 years her senior. The couple apparently made their home at Nantmoel Uchaf where, in the 1871 census, Morgan is described as a farmer of 125 acres. They have no children of their own, but enumerated in their household is a visitor, John Hamilton Rees aged 2 of Swansea. This is Sarah's nephew, the son of her older sister, Ann. He is staying with his aunt and uncle because his mother has recently given birth (17 days before) to another child. In this census, Sarah Elizabeth's parents, John and Ann Howell are enumerated at the neighbouring, 38 acre farm, Tywith where they had semi-retired. Staying with John and Ann is their granddaughter, Maud Matilda Rees of Swansea, aged 5 who is another of their daughter, Ann's children. In the Cambrian newspaper on the 12 April 1872, Morgan Powell and Sarah's father, John Howell are reported as having been elected as Overseers for the Poor in Rhyndwyclydach Higher at the Pontardawe Sessions (pg. 3).
Despite being aged only 36 and 44 respectively, by 1881 Sarah and Morgan are described as retired and living at Gelly Villa, in the hamlet of Gwilly, in Morgan's home parish of Llanedy. Sarah's widowed father, John Howell, aged 65 is also included in the household together with a 3 year old nephew, Griffith Morgan Roberts. Griffith is the son of Sarah's youngest sister, Mary Jane who married John Roberts of Llandilo Talybont. Sarah still does not appear to have any children of her own. In this census, Nantmoel Uchaf farm is occupied by a John Davies and his family who are apparently not connected to the Howell family who still own the farm.
Morgan Powell died on 29th September, 1890 aged 53. In the census of the following year, the widowed Sarah is still living with her father at Gelly Villa. Also in the household is her 7 year old niece, Sarah Elizabeth Roberts; another of Mary Jane's children. John Davies and his family are again enumerated at Nantmoel Uchaf in 1891.
Sarah remarried on 14th September 1892, to a widower, Thomas Owen who farmed locally at Cae'rcoryn, Llanedy. The rector of Llanedy, Rev. Roger Williams officiated at the wedding assisted by Rev. Daniel Thomas of Stowebridge, Yorkshire. Thomas had previously been married to another widow, Anne Owens (? a relative) who had been about 25 years older than him. A notice of the marriage appeared in the Cambrian newspaper on 16th September. Although Thomas' first wife, Anne had children from her previous marriage, she and Thomas apparently had none of their own. It's not known where Sarah and Thomas made their home immediately after their wedding, but by the census of 1901, they are living back at Nantmoel Uchaf. Sarah's father, John had died in early February 1895 at Chancefield, the home of his youngest daughter, Mary Jane in Talgarth, Breconshire, where he was lodging. In his will, John bequeathed his estate to be divided equally between his 3 surviving children, his daughters, Ann, Sarah Elizabeth and Mary Jane. Obviously the sisters must have reached an agreement as to Sarah's occupancy of Nantmoel Uchaf. In this census, Sarah and Thomas' household continues to include her niece, Sarah, now 17 and known as Bessie, (probably to differentiate her from her aunt) as well as another nephew, Bessie's brother, Herbert Evan Roberts who is 21. Although Sarah apparently had no children of her own she appears to have been very close to her many nieces and nephews and actually regarded Bessie as her adopted daughter as later, tragic events were to reveal.
Bessie continued to live with her aunt and uncle and went with them to neighbouring Brynchwyth farm when they retired; allowing Sarah's sister, Mary Jane and her husband, John to take over at Nantmoel.
It was at Brynchwyth farm that an event occured on Tuesday 11th February 1908 that was reported the next day in the South Wales Evening Post:
"A sensational shooting affair is reported from the neighbourhood of Pontardawe. At Bryngwyth (sic) Farm, on the Baran Mountain five miles from Pontardawe about nine o'clock on Tuesday night a shot was fired through a window, and Miss Roberts, niece of the occupier, was severely wounded. A neighbouring farmer was arrested and an element of romance is imparted to the tragic occurrence by the allegation that it was the act of an old sweetheart of the victim."
There followed a very lengthy report of all the details of the evening's events, together with interviews of witnesses and family members and an artist's impression of the perpetrator.
It transpired, that although Bessie was happily engaged to be married to another man, she had been persued for a number of months by John Thomas, the son of a local farmer. He had called on her earlier that evening and with the encouragement of her uncle, Thomas Owen, had been sent away by the 24 year old Bessie. He had gone home to Nantgwyn Farm but returned later, broke a window and entered the farmhouse. He then jumped onto a sofa in the kitchen where the family were sitting and fired a shot at Bessie who screamed and tried to run away. The bullet passed through her left forearm - shattering the bone - and continued onward into the left side of her chest near her heart. Bessie ran out of the house but was persued by Thomas. Her uncle, found Bessie collapsed in the yard and, despite his 71 years, struggled with Thomas for possession of the weapon. With the help of Bessie's aunt, Sarah, John Thomas was eventually disarmed. He then attempted to attend to Bessie by carrying her into the house and trying to offer her water, before being asked by Sarah to leave. He picked up his cap and walked away from the scene. A servant was dispatched on horseback, by the family, to Pontardawe to alert a doctor and the police. 2 doctors arrived to attend Bessie but were immediately aware that nothing could be done. In the meantime, Inspector David and PC Turner took possession of the gun and went to Nantgwyn Farm to arrest John Thomas, who was in bed. He was taken to Pontardawe to be formally charged and detained in the police cells.