Richard Dale Owen was born in New Lanark, Scotland, died in New Harmony, Indiana and a sculpture of him stands inside the Indiana Statehouse. Why?

His varied career included a tenure as State Geologist of Indiana, a member of the Indiana University faculty and the first president of Purdue University. So how did he end up in the State Capitol?

Richard Dale Owen

In February 1862, Indiana Governor Oliver P. Morton named Owen commandant of Camp Morton, which had become a prisoner of war camp. “Combining strength and gentleness, he was a good disciplinarian and at the same time tempered his rulings with sympathy.”

Richard Dale Owen Statehouse

Many years after the conclusion of The Civil War, a Confederate man conceived of creating a “bronze memorial tablet somewhere in Indianapolis.” Taking up a collection from former Confederate prisoners who had been under Owen’s command, contributions were greater than anticipated, enabling the commission of a full bronze bust, designed by Tennessee artist, Belle Kinney, daughter of a Confederate soldier. Owen, too, had a connection to Tennessee, having been a professor of natural science at the Western Military Institute in Nashville, following the Mexican War.

Owen later returned to scientific studies in New Harmony (the southern Indiana town his father Robert Owen bought in 1825). Richard Dale Owen died in New Harmony after mistakenly drinking embalming fluid.

Owen by Belle Kinney

Do you have a favorite bronze statues or busts in Indy? Do tell!

Reference: Camp Morton 1861-1865 Indianapolis Prison Camp- Winslow & Moore, Indiana Historical Society