A History of the Owsley Family Historical Society



Prior to the formation of the Owsley Family Historical Society in 1979, many Americans had traced their descent from the Reverend John Owsley, Rector of Glooston Parish in Leicestershire, England, from 1660 to 1687. Some of these descendants, individually and in small groups, visited Reverend Owsley's church, formally known as St. John the Baptist Church, and paid homage to their ancestor who is buried beneath the church's altar.



Glooston Church dates back to the early 13th century when Robert was appointed Dean of Glooston in 1216. The passage of 700 years has seen this small church gradually deteriorate, and having only a tiny congregation to support it, the church was faced with the ever-growing possibility of being declared redundant by the Diocese of Leicester. In November 1978, the Reverend Albert Willcock, Rector of Glooston Church since 1974, retired. The cost of maintaining Glooston Church in a state of repair befitting its significance, when ministering to a village population of only 42 in 1977, placed the Bishop in the position of determining whether the Diocese could continue to financially support the church when its responsibilities extended over a large area with even greater needs. The end of Glooston Church appeared near.


1979-1983. Presidency of Thomas Miller Owsley, Jr. (1911-2000)


In step Charles and Elizabeth Rawls. Elizabeth Rawls, a descendant of Rev. John Owsley, and her husband, Charles Rawls, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, with the support of a small group of other descendants, contacted the Bishop of Leicester in September 1978 and proposed that a soon to be formed society would be willing to assist in the financial support of Glooston Church to prevent its being declared redundant. The Bishop agreed and on 1 March 1979 the Reverend Roderick M. Chatfield was inducted as the new rector.


A meeting was held 31 May to 2 June 1979 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky to formally organize a society of Owsley descendants to not only contribute financial support to Glooston Church, but to facilitate an exchange of information among the society membership. The meeting was attended by 57 persons from 17 states and resulted in the formal organization of the Owsley Family Historical Society. A board of officers was elected, committees were formed, and formulation of a constitution was discussed. The constitution and by-laws of the society were ratified on 23 May 1980 at the annual business meeting of the society in Richmond, Virginia.


Since its formation in 1979, the officers and members of the society have been active in continuing their efforts towards furthering research into their Owsley heritage.


In 1983, Dr. J. Marion Bryant, a founding member of the OFHS, reprinted Sir John MacLean's splendid work, Historical and Genealogical Memoir of the Family of Poyntz, originally published in 1886. This extensive volume detailed the illustrious ancestry of Dorothy Poyntz, the wife of Rev. John Owsley.


1983-1986. Presidency of Carl Jean Owsley (1907-1997)


Through financial support by the OFHS and the efforts of Miss Kathleen Mills, Churchwarden and Treasurer of Glooston Church, a plaque was dedicated on 6 May 1984 and installed at Glooston Church containing the names and dates of appointment of all rectors of Glooston Church from Robert, Dean of Glooston in 1216, to the Reverend George Punshon, vicar of Great Bowden and Welham, who was appointed in 1983.


An Owsley family tour of England was conducted 17 to 30 September 1984, which included society members from at least 15 states. The tour visited such landmarks as St. John the Less Church at Iron Acton, containing memorials to the Poyntz family who were Lords of the Manor of Iron Acton from 1344 to 1680; Glooston Church in the village of Glooston where Rev. John Owsley served as rector; Benefield, Northamptonshire, where Dorothy Poyntz was born and baptised at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin; and Canons Ashby with its direct ancestral connections through Dorothy Poyntz.


1986-1990. Presidency of Laurel Joseph Owsley. (1908-2000)


Through the efforts of L. Joseph Owsley, OFHS President, a dedication ceremony was held on 23 August 1986 at the grave marker of Lieutenant William Harris in the cemetery of Pohick Episcopal Church in Lorton, Fairfax County, Virginia. William Harris was the father-in-law of Thomas Owsley, founder of the Owsley family in America and son of the Rev. John Owsley. The marker, made of Georgia marble contains a bronze plaque duplicating the original inscription on the Harris gravestone and commemorates its placement by the Holy Church, Pohick Church and the Owsley Family Historical Society.


In 1989, under OFHS sponsorship, Harry Bryan Owsley's Genealogical Facts of the Owsley Family in England and America was reprinted. This small volume, first published in 1890 and reprinted in a softbound edition in 1971, and long out of print, chronicles the early history of the Owsleys in England and follows several major lines in the United States.


1990-1994. Presidency of Charles Alva Rawls, Sr. (1916-2002)


In 1990, a permanent location for the preservation and storage of genealogical data on Owsley and allied families was established at the Filson Club, the oldest Kentucky genealogical society, in Louisville. In 1995, these records were transferred to the Garrard County Public Library, in Lancaster, Kentucky, thereby placing the collection in the middle of "Owsley country" and making it more readily available to those interested in the family.


By December 1991, OFHS membership had passed 200. Of this number 121 were life members.


In 1992, Pleasant Retreat, the former home of Kentucky Governor William Owsley, in Lancaster, Kentucky was faced with destruction by land developers. Through the direct efforts of the Garrard County Historical Society and supported by the OFHS, a campaign was launched to purchase and restore this historic mansion. Finally, in April 1994, the Garrard County Historical Society purchased Pleasant Retreat for $65,000. Soon thereafter, the Brown-Forman Corporation and Owsley Brown II, chairman of the board, and Owsley Brown Frazier, co-chairman of the board, both life members of the OFHS, donated $55,000 toward the $105,000 that the community had to raise to match a $420,000 federal grant awarded in the fall of 1993. The grand opening was held 8 June 1997.


In 1992 also, the OFHS provided financial sponsorship for the publication of the 2nd edition of The Priory Church of St. Andrew, Stogursey, by Richard Ballard, Rector of Stogursey Parish from 1976 to 1978. This 55-page booklet included a complete listing of the 55 vicars from about 1100 and included, for the first time, Rev. John Owsley who served in that capacity during the time of the Commonwealth, 1652-1660. The service of Rev. Owsley was not known to the church council and when evidence was furnished by Charles and Elizabeth Rawls, Rev. Owsley was included in the list of vicars for the first time.


As of 8 January 1993, thanks to the efforts of OFHS member Carole W. Arnold, Henry Owsley (1755-1811), son of Thomas and Mary (Middleton) Owsley, joined the ranks of Revolutionary War Patriots recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). He became the fifth member of the Owsley family bearing the name to be recognized as such, joining his father, Thomas Owsley III, his brothers William Owsley and Thomas Owsley IV, and his cousin, Robert Owsley (Housley).


1994-2016. Presidency of Ronny O. Bodine


In 1995, through the efforts of OFHS member Homer Keck and contributions from many other members, a marble gravestone was placed over the graves of John Owsley (1757-1845) and his wife, Charity (Barton) Owsley (1760-1848), in Pleasant Point Cemetery, Claiborne County, Tennessee. John and Charity Owsley settled in Claiborne County in 1802. The grave of Phoebe Owsley had been marked with a rock inscribed with her initials and date of death. Next to her grave was a depression believed to be that of her husband. The new gravestone was placed so that the original rock marker remained undisturbed.


In the fall of 1996, the first OFHS website was established by OFHS members Brian and Karen Housley, who served as site administrators. This site provided ready access to those who frequented this fast growing communications medium with the latest information about the OFHS and direct links to related sites. 


In March 1997, Virginia Billingsley Fletcher and OFHS member Jewel Bruce reported that the Daughters of the American Revolution reinstated John Owsley (1757-1845), of Claiborne County, Tennessee, as a Revolutionary War Patriot, becoming the sixth Owsley name-bearing member to be recognized. This achievement was the culmination of eight years of effort towards this goal. 


By September 1997 OFHS membership passed the 250 mark. Of this number 170 were life members. 


On 6 May 1998, at the National Genealogical Society's 1998 Conference in the States, at the Denver Convention Complex, in Denver, Colorado, OFHS President Ronny O. Bodine, was presented with a certificate from NGS President Shirley Langdon Wilcox, C.G. recognizing the Owsley Family Historical Society as First Place Family Associations winner in its 1997 Newsletter Competition. 


In 2000, through the efforts of OFHS member Floyd Owsley, a granite gravestone was placed over the graves of Joseph Owsley (c1790-1870/80) and his wife, Phoebe (Longmire) Owsley (c1797-after 1880), in Baker's Forge Memorial Cemetery, LaFollette, Campbell County, Tennessee. The original graves in Cedar Creek Cemetery, Campbell County, had been relocated by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1934-5 to the present location. Joseph was a son of John Owsley (1757-1845).


An Owsley family tour of England was conducted 20 to 29 September 2001, under the direction of OFHS members Bill Gann and Gary Toms. Numerous historical sites with Owsley family connections were visited. Some of the sites visited included: Windsor Castle, Canons Ashby, Benefield parish, Glooston church (and village), Exeter College,  village of Iron Acton, and the village of Stougursey. 

In July of 2001, OFHS President Ronny Bodine created a new Owsley Family Historical Society website with a new design. He was the administrator of the OFHS website until June 12, 2008.  


In 2003, the Owsley Surname DNA Project began under the direction of Project Coordinators Floyd Owsley and Ronny Bodine. The Project has produced some unexpected results. For more information, visit the website: 

The Owsley Surname DNA Project at Family Tree DNA 


An Owsley family tour of England and North Wales was conducted 15 to 24 September 2003, under the direction of OFHS members Bill Gann and Gary Toms. Numerous historical sites with connections to the Owsley family were visited. Some of the sites visited included: Lichfield Cathedral (Staffordshire), Nuneaton (Warwickshire), Warwick Castle, Glooston Church, Coventry Cathedral, Coombe Abbey & Hotel (Binley, Coventry), Althorp, Broughton Castle (Banbury, Oxfordshire), White Horses (Wiltshire and Avebury), Jarvis Grange Hotel, St. James the Less Church & Iron Acton, Berkeley Castle, Tintern Abbey, Lord Mayor's Chapel (College Green Bristol), and the Church of St. Michael and All Angels school for boys in Tenbury Wells. 


An Owsley family tour of England was conducted 14 to 26 August 2007, under the directions of OFHS members Greg and Mary Jean Farnsworth. Numerous historical sites with connections to the Owsley family were visited. Some of the sites visited included: St. Werbergh's Abbey, Little Moreton Hall, Wedgwood Pottery, Iron Acton Church and Acton Court, Church of St. James the Less, Roman Baths, Tintern Abbey, town of Lyme Regis, villages of Axminster and Stogursey, Warwick Castle, Benefield Church, and the Sandringham House.  

Under the leadership of OFHS President Ronny Bodine from 1994 through 2016, the Owsley Family Historical Society has continued to thrive with very successful meetings and exceptional newsletters. Almost all of the meetings were planned and organized by our outstanding Program Directors: Connie Howard and Sheila Patterson. Meetings are always very interesting with excellent speakers and visits to historical sites. 

OFHS meetings have been held in cities with great genealogical libraries. The McClung Historical Collection is located in Knoxville, Tennessee, where the OFHS has met four times since 1996. The Midwest Genealogy Center - Mid-Continent Public Library is located in Independence, Missouri, where the OFHS has met four times since 1997. The Genealogy Center - Allen County Library is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the OFHS meeting was recently held in 2013.   

Along with his duties as OFHS President, Ronny Bodine continued as the OFHS Newsletter Editor, until Milancie Adams replaced him in 2000. Milancie held the position for fifteen (15) years through 2015. Both Ronny and Milancie have produced exceptional newsletters through the years. OFHS newsletters have always included very interesting information with lots of updates on Owsley family research. The newsletters are greatly enjoyed by all OFHS members. In 2016, Ronny Bodine was elected once again to serve as  OFHS Newsletter Editor.        


Since 2003, the Owsley Surname DNA Project has become extremely popular and has revealed some shocking results, such as the revelation that John Owsley (born c1731) was not a biological son of Thomas Owsley II. Extensive DNA testing is now on-going in an attempt to identify the true biological father of John Owsley.   

On June 12, 2008, OFHS member Floyd Owsley created a new Owsley Family Historical Society website with a new design. He has been the administrator of the OFHS website since that time.   

In 2010, the Owsley Family Historical Society (OFHS) Facebook page was created by Membership Director Floyd Owsley at the suggestion of OFHS member Beth Ousley. The OFHS Facebook Page has been very successful and has attracted over 1,000 members. It has been very effective in gaining new "dues paying" members to the Owsley Family Historical Society. 

In 2010, a new flat granite marker was placed at the grave of John Owsley (1757-1845) in the Pleasant Point Cemetery in Claiborne County, Tennessee. The marker noted John's Revolutionary War service.


2016 -  Presidency of Floyd L. Owsley


At the 2016 meeting in Independence, Missouri, Ronny Bodine retired after 22 very successful years as President of the Owsley Family Historical Society. Floyd L. Owsley was elected as the new President.

Ronny O. Bodine and Floyd L. Owsley

The 38th Meeting of the Owsley Family Historical Society was held on June 7-9, 2018, in Knoxville, Tennessee. The meeting was enjoyed by all attendees. During the meeting, the OFHS made the decision to create a new DNA Research fund to be utilized for DNA testing and research in connection with the Owsley Surname DNA Project. The focus at the present time is on extensive Y-DNA testing. 

Due to health concerns, the 2020 meeting, scheduled for June 4-6, in Savannah, Georgia, was cancelled.  The meeting was also cancelled for 2021.

The 2022 Zoom meeting (Conference) was held on June 11, 2022. The meeting was considered a success by all attendees. 

2022 OFHS Zoom Meeting Attendees (screenshot)

1st row:  David Williams, Judy Young, Beth Ousley, Douglas Warwick 

2nd row: Homer "Andy" Anderson, Floyd Owsley, James Lieland, Randy Pace 

3rd row: Dave Smeds, Ninez Giles, Ronny Bodine, Rev. Larry Ousley 

4th row: Valorie Butler, Christine Ruppel, Sarah Barton 

Not pictured:  Connie Howard, Sherrie Craun, Denzel Housley, David Raese

The 40th Meeting of the Owsley Family Historical Society was held on May 30 - June 1, 2024, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the Hilton Garden Inn/Hamilton Place. The meeting was considered a huge success by all attendees, who found the meeting very enjoyable. All presentations were very interesting and informative. Our guest speaker, McMinn County (TN) Sheriff, Historian, and Author, Joe Guy, gave a great presentation on the life of famous Tennessean David "Davy" Crockett. The weather was beautiful for the trips to the Chickamauga National Battlefield in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park near Birchwood, Tennessee.

Cherokee Removal Memorial Park

The time and place of our next meeting has not yet been determined.