Henry Charles Powell (1814-1911)
I’ve been fortunate in my research, so far, to pretty definitively trace back several branches in the family tree to our first ancestors in America.
In previous posts, I’ve written about my great-great-great-great grandfather Charles Ley setting up shop as a saddler in Shanesville, Ohio after emigrating from Bavaria, and the careers of his father and grandfather as ministers in St. Alban.
In future posts, I’ll tell you about Michael Pfouts first settling along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border after emigrating from the Baden-Wuerttemberg region of Germany about 1787. He eventually made the trek to Ohio with his young family in the early 1800’s, settling in Harrison County.
And I’m still digging up information on Thomas Morgan and Janette Louise Reese, who — as best as I can tell — were immigrants in the Philadelphia area before 1872, when they were married. They eventually settled near Pittsburgh, where Janet was widowed while my great-grandmother, Beatrice Ethel (Morgan) Weible was still a little girl.
At any rate, those are three families we can trace to being “right off the boat” in America, with roots in The Netherlands, Germany and Wales, respectively. Here’s a fourth family, with roots again in Wales, but here we also add England and Ireland to the mix.
Babe of England, Child of America
Henry and Francis (McCullough) Powell were parents to Harriet “Hattie” J. Powell. She married Augustus Ley, son of the German immigrant saddler Charles. Augustus and Hattie were parents to Charles Henry (named after Henry Powell) Ley, whom you might know better as father to Robert Earl Ley Sr.
Henry’s parents were Thomas Powell and Henrietta (Howells) Powell. Both were descendants of the same old Welsh line. I’ll share more of Henry’s parents, and by consequence, of his wife’s ancestry, in a later post. Much of that history is revealed in the exceptionally detailed book by W.D. Shirk, which you can download and read in its entirety. But in summary, the Powell and Howells name derived from “ApHowell.” One branch dropped the Ap and became Howells (the s added by the English); the other dropped the A and H and thus became Powell. They came from Breconshire, Wales, and were known as far back as 1509, during the reign of King Henry VIII.
Henry’s family were descended from Welsh lords, and made their money as merchants. His mother’s family were manufacturers of flannel clothing, and first came to America following the Revolutionary War (it is said at the request of President George Washington himself) to establish textile factories.
Henry was born on High Street in London in 1814, the fourth son of Thomas and Henrietta. His family had amassed a fortune as merchants, but times in London were turning hard. When Henry was 3, they packed up and sailed for Maryland, first settling in Virginia, and then in Ohio, finally landing in Coshocton County, near Bakersville.
A man of faith and family
The family lived a frontier life among the early Ohio settlers. There was no proper school. Henry learned from his father about using an ax, hoe, grain cradle and scythe. His mother would instruct him to remain seated until he had committed the day’s scripture or poetry to memory. It sometimes took hours, but later in life Henry became known for the scripture and verses he would recite while visiting the sick to cheer them up.
Church was central to the family’s life at home and in the community. Henry joined the Methodist church as a young man, and apparently suffered a falling out with his father because of it. But he took an active role in the church his entire life. At home, his family worshiped and prayed together each morning and evening. He was an ardent attendee of prayer meetings. At 88, he drove five miles through a howling wind on a zero-degree day to reach church.
He was small in stature, but stood up for his convictions. As Shirk wrote:
One time at church when it was customary for the women to sit on one side and the men on the other, a young ruffian took the women’s side. (Henry) asked him, kindly, to go over on his own side, and when the fellow still persisted in staying where he was, (Henry) took him by the back of his neck, and lifted him into the aisle.
Henry married Frances McCullough in 1839. He was 24, she was 19. Fannie was born in Ireland, and came to America with her parents, John and Catharine, in 1820. She was not formally educated, but, as Shirk writes, “she was a great reader and took much pleasure in… her church paper, the Christian Advocate, and good books.”
They raised their five children on 108 acres near Bakersville, Ohio. They cut their grain with a sickle and threshed it with a flail. They knit, spun, wove and made their own clothes. They rode to church on horseback. With the assistance of his sons, Henry’s farm eventually grew to 300 acres.
Life his father, whose farm served as a hiding place and way station on the Underground Railroad, Henry was a staunch abolitionist. During the Civil War, as Shirk wrote, Henry’s anti-slavery stance put him in danger from a group of southern sympathizers who called themselves the Knights of the Golden Circle.
After 35 years of marriage, Fannie died in 1874. Four years later, Henry remarried. Lucretia Meek’s first husband, Sylvester, had been killed in the waning days of the Civil War. With Henry, she enjoyed 33 years of marriage, most of it spent on the family homestead in Bakersville.
Shirk writes that Henry retained a sharp mind late in life, and was hardly ever sick, save for the usual physical wearing down in old age. One of his favorite scripture verses went, “For we know that, if our earthly house of the tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Henry died in 1911. At 96 years, 7 months and 9 days, his confirmed lifespan is the longest of any Foutz or Ley ancestor.