Capt. William Powell, Ancient Planter

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Capt. William Powell, Ancient Planter

Also Known As: "William Hugh Powell"
Birthplace: St. Olave Parish, Surrey, England
Death: January 20, 1623
Chickahominy, Virginia (Disease)
Immediate Family:

Son of John Powell
Husband of Elizabeth Powell and Margaret West

Occupation: Planter, military officer, Virginia Company investor
Immigration: Arrived Jamestown May 23, 1610
Managed by: Erin Ishimoticha
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Capt. William Powell, Ancient Planter

Capt. Nathaniel Powell, of Jamestown was a cousin, not a brother.

William Powell was born 1577 in St. Olave Parish Southwark, Surry, England, son of John Powell, who is said to have been a brewer.His baptismal records are at St. Olave Parish Church.

William Powell was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1619. Shortly after the massacre in 1622, Sir George Yeardly, Captain William Powell, and Captain Richard Butler each took a company and joined forces to avenge the deaths of their friends and relatives. They destroyed everything they could find, and returned to Jamestown, where they stayed a month, quartered at Kecoughtan. (See Smith's "History of Virginia", pp. 24, 212, 594)

Despite these biographies, it appears likely that William Powell died of disease in 1623 - not in battle with the Chickahominy. A letter to the London Company mentioned William Powell's death by the very illness swept through Jamestown at this time.


For some unknown reason people keep writing that Capt. William Powell arrived in Jamestown in 1607 with Capt. John Smith.This is not true.The London Company records list Nathaniel Powell, Gent., as the only Powell on the first voyage.For some reason people keep misquoting Capt. John Smith.In his book“History of Virginia” he never mentions Capt. William Powell as being in the Jamestown while he (Smith) was there.In the book, Smith does list Nathaniel Powell, Gent., as arriving with him in 1607, and later writes about his trusted friend Capt. Nathaniel Powell.

In May 1609 William Powell signs the Second Virginia Charter, in London, England, and on June 2, 1609,he leaves England for Virginia on board the “Sea Venture” along with 8 other ships.On July 25 the ships become separated in storm.One ship sink and the “Sea Venture” is run aground on a reef off of Bermuda on the 28th.The survivors spent the 9 months building 2 smaller ships out of salvaged material from the “Sea Venture” and island timber.

October 1609 Capt. John Smith leaves for England to recover from burns on his leg that he received while mishandling gum power.He never returns to Virginia.

Capt. William Powell along with the other survivors of the “Sea Venture” do not arrive in Jamestown until May 23, 1610, eight and a half months after Smith leaves. There is no record of the two men having ever meet.

The next major error is that Capt. William Powell and Capt. Nathaniel Powell were brothers.They were kinsmen, not brothers, they were probably first or second cousins.This is in the London Company and the British Chancellery records.Nathaniel did have a brother named Thomas who lived in Howelton, Suffolk, England and did later inherited his estate after Nathaniel and his wife were killed by Indians March 22, 1622.

There are many false stories about Capt. William Powell and his family.The first is, he was not the son of Hugh Powell Jr. of Castle Madoc, Brecon, Wales.Hugh Powell’s son William was born in 1580 at Castle Madoc.He became a poet and remained in Wales where he died in 1620.Capt. William Powell was born 1577 in St. Olave Parish Southwark, Surry, England, son of John Powell, who is said to have been a brewer.His baptismal records are at St. Olave Parish Church.

Capt. William Powell is said to have first married Elizabeth Wells of St. Olave Parish.Some people claim that she came to Jamestown with William in 1609/10 and brought their children and that she died there in Jamestown.This is not true, as records indicate she died in 1626 in her home town of St. Olave Parish.Neither her name or the names of her children appear in the London Company Records, (another point later).William took a so called second wife in Jamestown named Margaret Stitt.I say so called, as in the Chancellery records there was a suite filled by a Thomas Powell against a William Powell for bigamy.There is no way to directly tie this to Capt. William Powell, put it fits.

When Capt. William Powell died in January 1623, (note I said died not killed), The London Company repossessed his estate on the grounds that he had no heirs.If he had been legally married to Margaret, she and/or their children would have inherited the estate.If his first wife, Elizabeth and their children had of come to Jamestown, the company would been aware that he had heirs in England as well as his fellow colonist.

More false hoods!In his book Smith says that Capt. William Powell was killed by Indians.This was just a story to make the book more exciting.Letters in the London Company records report William’s death by disease after being weakened by low rations.The winter of 1622/23 was known as the starving time when many, many people died.Not long after William Powell died Margaret married Edward Blaney and then she died shortly after that, 1624.

Another error that I have found, is that some people claim, William and Margaret had children.The 1624 Mustard list (census) only one child with the name Powell, and that was John Powell, Jr. son of John Powell, Sr. and his wife Katherine.Another laughable error is that many of these people claim that these children were born in 1626 and dates after that.Please check your dates, as dead people cannot have children.

I hope this will help those people who find these errors in their family trees to correct them.Please do not take offence as is not pointed at any one person and is meant to help those who have received the misinformation and taken it as fact.

Enjoy your research into your family history, and have a good day,

Doug Collins

William Powell was born in St. Olaf Parish, Southwark in Surrey, England on March 16, 1577 to William FitzHugh Powell and Jane FitzJohn Jones (family connections unsourced.) He is believed to have married Elizabeth Wyllys (Wells) of Fennycompton in Warwickshire in 1594. He emigrated to the Americas, settling in Virginia, where he eventually became the commander of the fort at Jamestown.[1][1] He is believed to have died on January 24, 1623 in the "Chickhoninies Indian Massacre."


“Captain William Powell and all of his family were murdered in the terrible massacre of 1623, when so many of the Colonists lost their lives. It was thought that one of his sons, George, escaped, but he was not heard from afterwards; and, because no heir appeared to inherit the estate, his lands were returned to Governor Berkley, who deeded it to Captain Henry Bishop in 1646. [Note: apparently George did survive, died in 1650, leaving a daughter, Anne (Powell) Parker of London.]”

William was described as a man of character and worth, a gentleman of great name and fortune, a trusted friend of John Smith, one of the largest planters in the colony.

He was said to have made several merchant trips to Barbados and Jamaica.

Residences & events:


12/19/1606 Blackwell, Eng. William sailed aboard ship with Capt. John Smith either on the Godspeed, Discovery, or the Sarah Constant, there was a William Powell on each of them.

4/20/1607 Chesapeake, VA, just below Jamestown. The ship arrived in America.

Another source states: "Capt Powell and his first wife, Elizabeth Welles, came to America aboard the ill-fated "Sea Venture" which was shipwrecked in Bermuda in 1609. The ship became wedged between two rocks that kept it from sinking. From the wreckage and from timber from the island, they were able to construct two smaller ships and continue on to Virginia in 1610." It is difficult to say what actually took place considering the next item.

1611 William crisscrossed the ocean often, returning to America with Sir Thomas Gates on the Sea Venture.

10/20/1617 From the records of the Virginia Company of London: "Appointment of Wiilliam Powell, captain of guards belonging to the governor and lieutenant-governor and commander of James Town."

1618 William's name appeared in a listing by the above company of "Adventurers to Virginia" with the Several Amounts of their Holding. He had property worth 25 (pounds).

He owned a "200 acre tract in the Territory of Tappahannock (Rappahannock?) over against James City, VA," and another 550-600 acres in the same vicinity. His plantation across the river from Jamestown was called Chipokes and is now a state park with some

original buildings still standing.

From history is the following:

"Captaine William Powell prefented to the Affembly a petition to have juftice againft a lewde and trecherous servante of his who by falfe accufation given up in writing to the Governor fought not only to gett him depofed from his government of James citty and utterly (according to the Proclamation) to be degraded from the place and title of a Captaine, but to take his life from him alfo. And fo out of the faid Petition fprang this order following: 'Captaine William Powell prefented a Petition to the generall Affembly againft one Thomas Garnett, a servant of his, not only for extreame neglect of his bufineff to the great loft and prejudice of the laid Captaine, and for openly and impudently abufing his house, in fight both of Mafter and Miftreffe, through wantonnes with a woman fervant of theirs, a widdowe, but alfo for falfely accufing him to the Governor both of Drunkenes & Thefte, and betiides for bringing all his fellow fervants to teftifie on his side, wherein they juftly failled him. It was thought fitt by the general affembly (the Governor himfelfe giving fentence), that he should ftand fower dayes with his eares nayled to the Pillory, viz: Wednesday, Aug. 4th, and fo likewife Thurfday, fryday, and Satturday next following, and every of thofe lower dayes should be publiquely whipped. Now, as touching tim neglecte of his worke, what fatisfaction ought to be made to his Mr for that is referred to the Governour and Counfell of Eftate.'"

And again:

"This day alfo did the Inhabitants of Pafpaheigh, alias Argall's towne, prefent a petition to the general affembly to give them an abfo-lute difchardge from certaine bondes wherin they ftand boung to Captina Samuell Argall for the paymt of 600G, and to Captin William powell, at Captaine Argall's appointment, for the paymt of 50G more. To Captaine Argall for 15 fkore acres of wooddy ground, called by the name of Argal's towne or Pafpaheigh; to Captaine Powell in respect of his paines in clearing the grounde and building the houfes, for wch Captaine Argal ought to have given him fatisfaction. Nowe, the general affembly being coubtful whether they have any power and authority to difchardge the Faid bondes, doe by there prefents (at time Inftance of the laid Inhabitants of Pafpaheighs, alias Martin's hundred people) become molt humble futours to the Trefurer, Confell and Company in England that they wilbe pleafed to gett the faid bondes for 600G to be cancelled; forasmuche as in their great comiffion they have expreffly and by name appointed that place of Pafpaheigh for parle of the Governor's lande. And wheas Captain William Powell is payde this 50G wch Captain Argall enjoined the faide In-habitantes to prefente him with, as parte of the bargaine, the general affembly, at their intreaty, do become futours on their behalfe, that Captaine Argall, by the Counfell & Company in England, may be compelled either to reftore tim laid 50G from thence, or elfe that reftitu-tion therof be made here out of the goods of the laid Captaine Argall."

From the Court Bk - 4/28/1619-5/8/1622

"The Petition of Cap' Powell and m' John Smith beinge presented by their brother Prouest Marshall of Middlesex to have graunt of the Company 400 Acres of Land for fiftie pounds Adventure betwixt them vizd, One hundreth lyinge in one pcell between the Sunken Marsh one the other side the River against James Citty Land, and Choapooks Creek, and one pcell of Marsh Land conteyninge 200 Acres called Hogg Iland, The Court held itt inconvenyent to graunt Land in that kinde, pickt out by the Plante" themselves not knowinge who all-redie may lay clayme thervato or othersiwe how necessary itt may be for the publique; Butt m' Treasurer in regard of the good affection declared by their brother to the Companies service hath promised to write to the Governor that the said 400 Acres shallbe well sett out for them and to their Content wth reason."

4/26/1619 There was a letter written to Sandys concerning needing "counsellors" for the court in which it stated: " Capt Powell and Mr Macok dwelling at Charles Hundred 40 miles fro(m) James towne it is a very great troble for them vpon all ocations to come away fro(m) theire p(ri)vate workes to attend herevpon the publike, yett in truth I find the(m) both willing to spare what tyme they can for the publike...."

7/30-8/4/30/1619 He sat in the first House of Burgess Assemby as a representive of James City Co, VA,

It was then that he learned of the Indian's plot to massacre the colonists.

5/9/1621 Again from records of the Virginia Company of London: "Geo. Tharp and Mr. John Pory: A letter to Sir E Sandys. Complaints against Powell and Madison." Tharp and Pory sent a series of letters to Sandys about various things concerning VA including the Indians, commodities, and "perplexities of government."

6/12/1621 He wrote a long letter to Sandys concerning a difference between himself and Gov Yeardly, even quoted some Latin and signed it "Wil Powell." But shortly after the above Tharp and Prory wrote in one of their letters that Powell and Yeardley had reconciled, had Sacrement, and wanted the matter buried.

1/20/1623 Severel men were sent out on expeditions to revenge the massacre of Gov Powell and the rest. William was sent to the Chocohominy tribe.

William was killed by Indians between 1/20-23/1624.

Upon his death a younger brother, also named William, filed a petition from England to claim the Capt's estate but it wasn't until 1650 when Capt William's son, George, died that the younger William inherited anything. (The younger William's last name was Powerr in the original petition.)

As late as 6/24/1625 the Virginia Company of London had references to William in their records On this date there were questions concerning one Capt Jones who had arrived in a leaky Spanish frigate from the west indies with depleted supplies stating "there are rumors risen contrairie to theire first examinations, of mutynies and disorders committed by Joanes and some of his company against Capt. Powell, of wch we may have more light from England...."

At the time he himself was killed, he was acting administrator of Nathaniel Powell's estate, leaving settlement to others.

William AP Powell was born Abt. 1574 in St Olave Parish, Surrey Co, England131, and died 1624. He married Elizabeth Wells.

Notes for William AP Powell:

This is probably the first POWELL in America. From Colonial Families of the US...The first appearance of the name of Powell in Va is found in Smith's "History of VA". Capt Wm Powell sailed with Capt John Smith from Blackwell,, 12-19-1606 (age fits) and entered Chesapeake Bay 4-20-1607. He represented James City in the 1st House of Burgess of VA in Jamestown, 7/30/1619.

His 2 sons were living in Lancaster in 1660.

William and his brother, Stephen came to VA in the expedition headed by Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers in 1610. Sir Stephen and Capt William were subscribers to the 2nd charter of the VA Company of London.

They sailed from Plymouth, England in 1609 in the ill-fated ship "Sea Adventurer" which was wreaked on the Bermuda Islands, and whose history written by Strachy & published in London in 1610, was the foundation of Shakespeare's "The Tempest". The ship wrecked crew constructed 2 small vessels from the timbers of the wreacked ship. They were called "Patience" & "Deliverance", with which they arrived at the starving colony of Jamestown in May 1610, just before the arrival of Lord DeLaWarre, the new governor. After the great massacre Capt William & Sir George Yeardley commanded 2 expeditions to chastise the savages and an interesting account of this in given in John Smith's "True Relations". He was killed by the Indians on the Chiccahominy river in 1623-4.

William was an early Jamestown emmigrant. The record isn't clear whether WILLIAM POWELL's first emigration trip was in 1607 or 1608. In one account, the first appearance of the name POWELL in Virginia is found in Smith's History of Virginia. Captain William sailed from Blackwell , England (one of 105 men and boys) with his "trusted friend" John Smith on 19 Dec 1606 with the three Captain Christopher Newport ships, "Susan Constant," "Godspeed," and "Discovery " which entered Chesapeake Bay on 20 Apr 1607 and arrived at the location of future Jamestown site on 13 May 1607, or possibly on the "Sea-Venture" or "Mary and Margaret", arriving as the first wave of colonists in the new American continent in 1607, the year of the founding o f Jamestown in what later would become the United States of America. Both he and his wife, El izabeth Welles were also in the 3rd supply of 23 May 1610 after the ill-fated "Sea Venture" ship wrecked on a Bermuda offshore reef. Most accounts allude to Captain Nathaniel, William's brother, being beheaded by the Indians in the Great Massacre of March 22, 1622 (where 350 were killed and the population dropped to 1050). Then the ship "Abigail" docked on 12 Dec 1622 with infected passengers and dropped the colony to 500. There are accounts that say when Captain William Powell killed the three Indians, and, out of remorse for his brother's death and that of his family, he beheaded them . Then when he was ambushed in late January or early February of 1623, almost a year later, he was beheaded by the Chickahomonies. By whatever version of Captain William's death, it is presumed to be in early 1623, either in January or February. Captain Powell led an expedition against the Chickahomonies Indians and was killed by them sometime between January 20 and January 24, 1623. Gail Denkers Children of William AP Powell and Elizabeth Wells are: +Thomas Powell, b. 01 Apr 1599, Powelltor, Suffolk, England, d. 09 Feb 1686/87, Isle of Wright, VA.


William Powell (before 1586 – January 1623), was an early Virginia colonist, landowner, militia officer and member of the first Virginia House of Burgesses in 1619. He was one of the two representatives of James City County, Virginia. He was an “Ancient Planter.”


A great Native American (Indian) massacre of at least 347 of the 1,258 Virginia colonists occurred on March 22, 1622. Captain Powell, who was described as the "gunner" of James City County, was one of a few who received early word of the planned massacre and was "instrumental in giving warning to the plantations nearest Jamestown."[12][13] Most sources state that the friendly Native American (Indian) who gave warning of the impending attacks told Richard Pace of the planned attack. Since Powell and Pace lived near each other and were business associates, it appears that Pace warned Powell and that both men proceeded to warn other people in the neighborhood of Jamestown, as stated in William Stith's 1740 history of the colony.[14] Immediately after the attack, Powell went to Martin's Hundred to help evacuate the survivors. He took possession of the estate of Nathaniel Powell, who was killed along with his wife during the attack. It was later determined Powell was not related to Nathaniel as he had claimed. Nathaniel's older brother, Thomas Powell, succeeded to ownership of the property.[1]

Soon after beginning the Chickahominy River enterprise mentioned above, Captain William Powell was killed leading a party of militia against the Native Americans (Indians). The militia were seeking revenge for the March 22, 1622 massacre. Captain William Powell, as he is identified in the list of Burgesses,[8] may have died in late 1622 or possibly in January 1623. A letter of January 24, 1623 from colonist John Harrison to his brother, Richard Harrison, states that Captain Powell, and others, were dead.


After Powell's death, in June 1625, a controversy arose between Captain Samuel Mathews, father of future royal governor of Virginia Samuel Mathews, and the children of Captain William Powell, deceased, over a grant of land on the south side of the James River across from Jamestown, Virginia. Mathews relinquished his claim before the end of the year.

On a date between March 4, 1626 and the end of 1628, Edward Blaney, one of James City County's burgesses in 1623, married Margaret Powell, the widow of Captain Powell. Like Powell, Blaney lived on the south side or "Surry side" of James City County, across the James River from Jamestown, Virginia.


Captain William Powell and all of his family were murdered in the terrible massacre of 1623, when so many of the Colonists lost their lives. It was thought that one of his sons, George, escaped, but he was not heard from afterwards; and, because no heir appeared to inherit the estate, his lands were returned to Governor Berkley, who deeded it to Captain Henry Bishop in 1646


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Capt. William Powell, Ancient Planter's Timeline

March 16, 1577
St. Olave Parish, Surrey, England
Age 9
Saint Olave Parish, Surrey, England, United Kingdom
Age 43
Jamestown, Virginia
January 20, 1623
Age 45
Chickahominy, Virginia