- [S74] Atchley Funeral Home Records, Volume IV, 1987-1999, Larry D. Fox, (Smoky Mountain Historical Society), 13 May 1992.
Rev Jake Robert Owens obituary
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 6 Sep 2009.
Parton plants tree, entertains guests during visit home
By ELLEN BROWN
Curt Habraken/The Mountain Press
Dolly Parton, with her uncle Bill Owens, stand behind a newly planted hybrid American Chestnut tree, planted in Owens' honor.
Sevierville's favorite hometown girl, Dolly Parton, wrapped up her role as ambassador of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's 75th anniversary Friday by planting a new hybrid American Chestnut Tree at Dollywood's Backporch Theater.
Parton planted the tree in honor of her uncle, Bill Owens, who has been working with the American Chestnut Foundation for 25 years to ensure the protection of the tree for future generations.
Parton made her entrance by joining Owens and other family members on stage at the Backporch Theater while singing.
"For 25 years, I've been hearing about them dang chestnut trees," she said with her signature giggle. "I came up here today to talk about my Uncle Bill Owens. He used to take me around Nashville and wherever else I could sing."
In fact, it was Uncle Bill who first "discovered" Parton when he heard her singing while she was washing dishes as a child.
Parton told the crowd she recently learned Owens was honored by Dollywood for another good deed. He had heard of a little boy who loved the park but couldn't ride the attractions because of his heart condition. When he found out the boy wanted to learn how to play the guitar, Owens presented him with one of his own and gave the boy lessons.
"You're the best thing that has ever happened to me," Owens told Parton. "And this (day) is the second best thing that has ever happened to me."
Bryan Burhans, president of the American Chestnut Foundation, said his organization relies on the work of volunteers.
"We're working hard to bring back the American Chestnut Tree," Burhans said to Parton. "We couldn't do it if it weren't for people like your Uncle Bill."
The foundation harvested its first blight-resistant nuts in 2005 and hopes to begin reforestation trials with blight-resistant American-type trees before the end of this decade, using sound ecological principles.
"This was the tree that the Appalachian people depended on in their economy," Burhans said. "Now we have the opportunity to return it to its Appalachian heritage, where it belongs."
Tabitha Hall and Sabrina Taylor, who bid $75,000 for a visit with Parton at her Tennessee Mountain Home at the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation "Evening of Elegance" auction last month, also attended the event. Just that morning, they enjoyed a breakfast country ham, gravy, biscuits and more prepared by Parton herself. The evening before, they toured her home and enjoyed a barbecue and live bluegrass music with the singer and 10 of their friends.
"It was worth every penny," said Hall, who was wearing sparkly butterfly jewelry that was a gift from Parton. "She was just like an old friend; she makes you feel like you're part of her family. And the food was amazing!"
"We're very humbled that she would even open her home to us," agreed Taylor, who was also wearing her gift of jewelry.
Scott McClelland of Beaumont, Texas was one of the lucky guests invited to Parton's home.
"The most touching part of the night was when she sang "My Tennessee Mountain Home.' And she was so patient - I took about 20 pictures of her!"
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 26 Mar 2011.
Owens family recognized by park attraction
by JEFF FARRELL
Dolly Parton sings for family, media, and visitors during the opening of the Barnstormer ride Friday at Dollywood.
Bill Owens talks about spotting his niece Dolly Parton’s talent, working at Dollywood and growing chestnut trees.
PIGEON FORGE — Dollywood’s newest ride, the Barnstormer, is set in at the “Owens Farm,” a nod to Dolly Parton’s rural childhood and to her mother’s side of the family — including the uncle who helped her get started.
During the grand opening Friday, Parton took the stage with several members of the Owens family singing or playing backup. That included her uncle, Bill Owens, who she credits as one of the first people to recognize her talent.
It was Owens, she said, who heard her singing and started taking her to shows when she was a child. He co-wrote songs with her and helped her develop her talent.
Owens said it was easy to see she had the makings of a star, even when she was 10. The first time he heard her singing, he said, she was cleaning dishes. He turned to her mom, his sister, and said “Who’s that?”
“I thought she could be a star the first time I heard her in that kitchen,” he said. “You could just hear it.”
He was a musician himself, and took her to the Cas Walker show in Knoxville. Walker signed her right away, and her march to stardom began.
Since then, he’s co-written songs with her and helped her as she continued on that path. Now he performs at Dollywood, and she remembers him and his family in many ways in her work.
Playing there is one of his favorite things to do these days, but he has also used the opportunity to work with the American Chestnut Foundation, which works to restore the American chestnut tree.
The tree was an important part of the ecosystem in the eastern United States before it was affected by a blight, and the foundation is working to return it. Owens helped started and tend a chestnut orchard at Dollywood Park.
“That’s really important to me,” he said. “I’m proud of my work with them.”
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 23 Mar 2013.
Dolly honors her uncle with display at Dollywood museum
Dolly Parton dedicates a display room in her Chasing Rainbows Museum to her uncle, Bill Owens. Owens was her first manager.
PIGEON FORGE —
After the sneak peak for Dollywood season ticket holders and a quick costume change, Dolly Parton reappeared at the Chasing Rainbows Museum in the park to dedicate a display room to her uncle, Bill Owens, the man she credits for her rise to fame.
"He was my first manager, the one that saw me when I was just a little thing singing my songs and doing my steps," Parton said. "He said, 'Hey, I think we can make some money at this.' He's actually been the one who's helped me the most through the years ... of course I thought it would be a wonderful thing to do some sort of tribute to him as part of the museum."
The room is forest-themed, reflecting Owens' involvement with the American Chestnut Foundation, which is dedicated to reintroducing the American chestnut tree to forests in the Eastern U.S. The musuem features to Parton memorabilia.
The theme also suggests "the old caves" in the Smokies where she used to roam, she said.
When she was older, it was Owens who drove her to Knoxville and Nashville at the beginning of her career.
"We traveled a lot, and right around here, too," Owens said. "When she was 10 years old I started taking her back and forth to 'The Cas Walker Show' in Knoxville. ... My old car, I just wore it out."
"But it worked, didn't it?" Parton said.
Parton said Owens will play music in the room when he's at the park, "answering questions, singing his songs and telling people about the old days."
"He's a wonderful guitar player and a wonderful songwriter, and we've written many songs together," Parton said. "... I know a lot of people get a lot of credit for my career, but if it hadn't been for you (Owens), I never would've gotten out of these hills."
"You didn't let me down," Owens said.
- [S144] Phone Record.
Name B Owens
Also Known As Bill Earl Owens
Residence Date 01 Feb 1998-01 Apr 2000
Residence Place Sevierville, Tennessee, United States
Birth Date 28 Sep 1935
Phone Number (423) 428-0515
Phone Number Recorded Date 10 Jan 2009
Address 4306 Evans Chapel Rd
Address Continued Sevierville, Tennessee 37876
Address Date 01 Feb 1998-01 Apr 2000
2nd Address 4302 Evans Chapel Rd
2nd Address Continued Sevierville, Tennessee 37876
2nd Address Date 01 Dec 1997-10 Jan 2009
3rd Address 91 PO Box
3rd Address Continued Pigeon Forge, Tennessee 37868
3rd Address Date 01 Sep 1990-10 Jan 2009
Record Number 72196665
- [S112] Census, 1940.
Name: Billy Owens
Titles & Terms:
Event Year: 1940
Event Place: Pigeon Forge, Civil District 13, Sevier, Tennessee, United States
Marital Status: Single
Race (Standardized): White
Relationship to Head of Household (Original):
Relationship to Head of Household (Standardized): Son
Estimated Birth Year: 1936
Residence in 1935:
Enumeration District Number: 78-21
Family Number: 191
Sheet Number and Letter: 13A
Line Number: 38
NARA Publication Number: T627
NARA Roll Number: 3933
Digital Folder Number: 005461375
Image Number: 00557
Household Gender Age Birthplace
Head Jake R Owens M 41 Tennessee
Wife Rena Owens F 40 Tennessee
Daughter Estel Owens F 18 Tennessee
Son Lester Owens M 15 Tennessee
Daughter Dorthy Joe Owens F 11 Tennessee
Son Henry Owens M 8 Tennessee
Son Lewis Owens M 6 Tennessee
Son Billy Owens M 4 Tennessee
Son Alden Owens M 0 Tennessee
Daughter Avilee Parton F 16 Tennessee
- [S91] Smoky Mountain Memories, Willadeene Parton, (1996), xxii.