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Ancient Planters: Capt. William Powell family

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  • Capt. William Powell, Ancient Planter (bef.1577 - 1623)
    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...

Evidence needed

Special thanks go to the 1999 and the Powell research team of Roger Alex Powell of Texas, Joann Rhome Herring of Alaska and Flo DeFoor of Missouri whose combined six decades of prior Powell family research led to an assemblage of a vast bulk of Powell documented evidence of which this biography is based.

THE POWELL SURNAME From Family Surname History and Coat of Arms is on the Internet at, "The history of this ancient Breconshire family traces its ancestry as a family of Welsh origin before the year 1100 and appears first in the ancient records in Breconshire." From Colonial families of the United States of America: Volume 1:"The POWELL'S of Loudoun County, Virginia, are descended from the family of that name in the County of Brecknock or Brecon in Wales. The name of POWELL was ap [son of] HOWELL until the time of William ap HOWELL, of Bevalt, A. D., 1550, who was called William POWELL. "

WILLIAM'S PARENTS One version of the parents of Captain William POWELL is given in Family Tree Maker's CDROM #5,: William POWELL (b. cir. 1470 - d. cir. 1530) Castle Madoc, Wales; (son of Wm.) Hugh POWELL (b. cir. 1510 - d. cir. 1570) m. Elizabeth GWYN, cir. 1530; (son of Hugh) Hugh POWELL (b. 1545 - d. cir. 1600) m. Ann (Unknown); (son of Hugh, Jr) Captain William POWELL (1585-1623) m. (1) Elizabeth WELLES (2) m. Margaret STITT. A second parent version, the one used here, is Capt. William POWELL (abt. 1577 - abt 1623) had a father John POWELL (abt 1558 - ?) of St. Olave Parish, Surrey Co, England who married abt 1576 in England of an unknown lady born in England.

WILLIAM POWELL William POWELL was born ABT 1577 (or possibly 1585) in St. Olave Parish, Surrey Co, in England. He married (1) ABT 1599, in England, Elizabeth WELLES, born AFT 1585 in St. Olave Parish, Surrey Co, England and who presumably died abt 1619 (or aft 1628) in Virginia, and married (2) BEF 1621 in England, Margaret STITT, born ABT 1589 in and, and died AFT 1628 in Surry Co, VA. William died in 1623.

WILLIAM'S BROTHERS & RELATIVES William had two (or more) brothers who also immigrated to early Virginia: (1) Nathaniel POWELL, Sea Captain & Gov. born ABT 1587 in England (1598?),1 occupation Acting Gov. Jamestown who married ABT 1607 in England, Joyce TRACEY born ABT 1590 in England (daughter of William TRACEY, Sea Captain Esquire. Nathaniel died 22 Mar 1622 in VA, hacked to death by Indians. Nathaniel had immigrated 13 May 1607, (E1607) in either the "Discovery" or the "Godspeed"; and (2) Thomas POWELL was born ABT 1590 in Powellton, Suffolk, married BEF 1618, in England Gody UNKNOWN born ABT 1590 in England, ABT 1618 Emigrated to VA to East shore on the ship "Sampson". Thomas died 9 Feb 1687 on Isle of Wight, VA, and buried: 12 Jul 1626, He petitioned for his brother Captain Nathaniel Powell lands in 1626 and won.

William POWELL, John SMITH and John BURROW appear to be related - In "Colonial Surry" by John B. Boddie, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1966, p. 53, it says, "John SMITH, ancient planter, came over in the Ship "Elizabeth" in 1611. He later purchased or rented "Burrows Hill" and called "Smith's Mount". He and Captain William POWELL were brothers-in-law of the Provost Marshall of Middlesex County, England, quite an influential gentleman in the Virginia Company." From another source (Flo DeFoor by email): "Capt. [William] POWELL and Capt. John SMITH (not the swashbuckler John SMITH of the original colonists) were brothers-in-law of the Provost Marshall John BURROWS. But I never found out if it was through Capt. POWELL'S wife Margaret [STITT], Capt. SMITH'S wife Susannah, or John BURROW'S wife Bridgette or what. [Note A John BURROW is shown in the 16 Feb 1623 VA census. It isn't always clear which John SMITH is being referred to in these documents.]

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 of 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 & Margaret" (landed May 1607), arriving as the first wave of colonists in the new American continent in 1607, the year of the founding of Jamestown in what later would become the United States of America. Virginia is known as the "Cradle of the Republic". Alternately or additionally, he may have been in the 2nd supply, because in the "List of Settlers by Occupation in the 2nd Supply of Fall 1608", by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), is, "Master [William?] POWELL, tradesman", so apparently Captain William POWELL was in the 2nd supply of Sep 1608 after the 1607 census. But both he and his wife Elizabeth WELLES were also in the 3rd supply of 23 May 1610 after the ill-fated "Sea Venture" ship wreck on a Bermuda offshore reef.

MILITARY CAPTAIN WILLIAM POWELL'S LEADERSHIP AT JAMESTOWN From "A True Discourse of the Present State of Virginia, 1615", Ralph Hamor, "Records of the Virginia Company of London," edited by Susan M. Kingsbury, Washington, 1933-1935, Volume III, pp. 87, 169, Volume IV, pp. 111, 209: "At first such an office [military office] served at the pleasure of the Governor. Ralph HAMOR mentioned in 1614 that "Master John SCARFE, Lieutenant to Captain WEST held that post. But in 1617, Governor Samuel ARGALL appointed William POWELL for life to be "Captain of his guards and company, Lieutenant Governor and Commander of James Town blockhouses and people there."; Also from "Jamestown 1544-1699," Carl Bridenbaugh, Oxford University Press, 1980: "But in 1617 Governor Samuel ARGALL appointed William POWELL for life to be "Captain of his guards and company, Lieutenant Governor, and Commander of James Town blockhouses and people there." William POWELL is always spoken of as a man of character and worth, "a gentleman of great name and fortune," and one of John SMITH's "trusted friends." He was one of the largest planters in the Colony and represented James City in the First House of Burgesses of Virginia, which assembled in the choir of the Jamestown church at Jamestown on the 30th July, 1619." His Chippokes Plantation which originates from a 1619 land grant is now part of Chippokes Plantation State Park, "One of the oldest working farms in the nation, is a living historical exhibit located in a rural agricultural area along the James River in Surry County... The plantation has kept its original boundaries since the 1600s and has a variety of cultivated gardens and native woodland..."

CAPTAIN WILLIAM POWELL KILLED IN A MILITARY ACTION BY INDIANS Portions from a summary email post by Roger POWELL: "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." Roger continues, "By whatever version of Captain William's death, it is presumed to be in early 1623, either January or February. The various dates given are only a few days apart, generally the last week of January or so and early February.

WILLIAM'S WIDOW MARRIED EDWARD BLANEY From "Colonial Surry", John B. Boddie, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1966, p. 55: "Captain POWELL led an expedition against the Chickahomonies and was killed by them between January 20 and January 24, 1623. Captain POWELL's widow married Edward BLANEY" Submitted by; John Patrick Peck of Pittsburgh, PA

The Children of Capt. William POWELL and Elizabeth WELLES were.

1. THOMAS, Sr. b. abt. 1600, m. abt. 1629, Lucretia______. 2. Capt, GEORGE, b. abt. 1609, m. abt. 1626 Annie________. 3. CUTHBERT, b. abt. 1610, m. abt. 1634 Mary SAYRE. 4. ANN, b. abt. 1611, m. abt. 1632 William PARKER. 5. (possibly) SAMUEL, b. abt 1616, m. abt. 1638 Ann______.

The Children of Capt. William POWELL and 2nd wife Margaret STITTS were

1. ALICE, b. abt. 1622, m. abt. 1642 Thomas WARREN, Sea Capt.






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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