Biographies of Elliott Residents

Elliott Centennial History, 1879 - 1979

Elliott Centennial Committee

Page 158 - 160





     The Powell family in Montgomery County, Iowa are descendants of ANDREW MOSES POWELL and MIVINDA VIRGINIA SAMPLE POWELL. Andrew was born in Hancock County, Indiana 25 July 1831, the eldest of five children. Mivinda was born 9 October 1834 in Cleveland, Indiana the eighth of nine children. Her parents, JAMES SAMPLE and MARY BARRETT SAMPLE had found the word MIVINDA written in the snow at a gypsy encampment. Andrew and Mivinda were married in Cleveland  on 8 January 1853. This was a big social event with all her sisters, brothers and cousins with their respective servants coming to help serve the wild turkey dinner and the thirteen wedding cakes. She had the blessing of her parents although earlier her father, a native of Virginia, had said he would disinherit any daughter who married a northern man. At the time of her marriage, Mivinda had never combed her own hair, these duties having been done by one of their servants. They had sixty-three years of marriage.

    In 1855, Andrew's father, DR. AARON POWELL and his father, SIMON, came west and stopped at Burlington, Iowa, then the end of the rail road. Lured by the wild West, they walked overland from Burlington to MONTGOMERY COUNTY the same year. They were so enthusiastic about the NISHNABOTNA VALLEY (named by the Indians and meaning 'crossed in a canoe') that they walked back to Burlington through tall, prairie grass, returned to Greenfield, Indiana; and next fall, in a covered wagon with many family members, returned to this county. Mivinda had two small children, ELIZA MATILDA and LUCIAN DANIEL so she remained in Indiana. By the next spring, the railroad line had been completed as far as OTTUMWA and she, with the two children took the train that far and proceeded west by WESTERN STAGECOACH COMPANY. This line eventually went through RED OAK and as far west as PLATTSMOUTH, NEBRASKA.

    The Powells first settled on land east of ELLIOTT where they built a log cabin. Soon they purchased land from LEONARD EVERLY and wife and moved to the Powell homestead two and one-half miles southwest of Elliott. This later was known as the S. D. SHIRES farm. Three more children, JAMES AARON, MARY JANE and ORANGE JUDD were born here. They attended school in the old stone house in the STENNETT vicinity.

    The only town near was LEWIS. Two shopping trips a year were made, traveling with a team of oxen. It took one day to go and one day to return. Many dangers lurked along the way because this was the route the Indians travelled to SALT LAKE. During one of her husband's trips, Mrs. Powell looked up to see Indians with their faces pressed against the window of their cabin. While contemplating what to do, she looked again and saw the entire valley filling with a wall of water. There had been a cloudburst near Lewis. The Indians left for higher ground.

    Andrew Powell had been raised a devout Quaker. He was against slavery. No one should be held in bondage. Accordingly, he lined up with the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. Slaves were escaping from MISSOURI enroute to CANADA and freedom. One station was JOHN BROWN'S CAVE in NEBRASKA CITY, the next an attic for hiding them in TABOR. Andrew established the next station at his farm. His responsibility was to take them on to Lewis. He would use his wagon and ox team, covering the fugitives with straw by day and delivering them to Lewis at night. The present town of GRANT was called MILFORD and it had been settled by Southerners who were as favorable to slavery as the Northerners were against it. They would hold bon-fire rallies contriving how to stop the escape route that was proving successful for the slaves. They heard Andrew Powell was assisting. They planned to capture and lynch him. Their plan leaked and friends came to Andrew insisting that he go into hiding to avoid his would be captors. After much urging, he reluctantly agreed to absent himself from the farm for a few days. The Milford group did appear on the farm and Mivinda answered their knock. She saw the ropes they had brought with them. Despite her intense fear, she calmly told them Andy wasn't home, she didn't know where he was or when he would return. To her amazement, they went away.

    Travellers also learned of the Powell "stop" and would often ask for overnight lodging. The publisher of an Iowa agriculture journal was just such a visitor on 24 April 1866. Andrew agreed to let them stay although they were expecting the birth of a baby. She gave birth to her youngest son and named him for the publication, the ORANGE JUDD FARMER, later the WALLACE FARMER. In his business life he was more familiarly known by his initials, O. J. POWELL.

    Theirs was a large farm. They had three live-in help: MALARICO RIN NALTOR, who was Indian and GUSTAVE THOLEN from DENMARK, both working as farm laborers and the third who worked in the quarry. This farm had a 10-12 foot bed of the finest glass sand to be found in the country. Besides the usual farm crops, they had a fine peach and apple orchard. Andrew's mother, ELIZA PURDY POWELL, also lived in the home. Her husband, still lured by the West, in company with their other three children, ELIZABETH, WILLIAM and BENJAMIN had taken residence in LONGMONT, COLORADO.

    Mr. Powell was active in the Republican Party, serving on both the county and township boards. His brother, DANIEL C., taught the first school in SHERMAN TOWNSHIP in 1858-1860. There was an enrollment of fifteen pupils and he received $20.00 a month. The following year he was named Clerk of the District Court. He then joined the 4th IOWA INFANTRY VOLUNTEERS as a PRIVATE but was killed on 18 Feb. 1864.

    The youngest son, O. J. Powell taught rural school after attending one year at DRAKE UNIVERSITY, 1887-1888, in DES MOINES, IOWA. In preparation for this year, his mother had sheep sheared, carded the wool, wove the cloth and made his going-away suit of clothes. He, with ED HULLY, opened an insurance and real estate office in ELLIOTT, the town having now been laid out by the BURLINGTON railway. Prior to this, the people of the county were anxious to secure railroad connections with ST. LOUIS and accordingly, a company was formed, namely the ATLANTIC, RED OAK and ST. LOUIS RAILROAD COMPANY. The company required a certain amount of aid from each township through which it would run and aid was voted in Montgomery County. In the meantime, the C. B. & Q. quietly built a branch line through Elliott and GRISWOLD and the ROCK ISLAND built one from Atlantic to Griswold. This scheme of the two CHICAGO lines eventually headed off the St. Louis project and the tax levied was cancelled.

    On 24 April 1909, he married MARY FREDERICA KNAPP, daughter of CHARLES AUGUST KNAPP and MARTHA SUNDEAM MASSEY KNAPP. She was born 11 September 1876 in COKATO, WRIGHT COUNTY, MINNESOTA, the second of four children, CHARLES MAYNARD, HULDAH BERNARDINO and JOHN WILLIAM and a step-sister ELLA MASSEY KEPHART. Her parents had both emigrated from SWEDEN, Charles at age eighteen and Martha at five years. At the time of their marriage, Mary was employed in the local telephone office. Until their home was ready to occupy, they lived with his parents who had moved from the farm to the home one block north of the First National Bank corner.    

     Shortly after their marriage, O. J. Powell became President of the First National Bank where he remained until the forced closing in 1929. He then went back across the street to his first office with W. I. HULLY, a brother of his former partner, and sold real estate and insurance, retiring in 1947. He was always active in civic affairs, being instrumental in organizing the telephone company for which he was assigned the telephone number 1. He was very active in the religious life of the community, being a charter member of the Church of Christ. Four daughters were born to this union: MABEL ANGELINE, MILDRED BERNICE, LOIS MIRIAM and CAROL ELAINE, all of whom are living, presently in Red Oak; Denver, Colorado; Whittier, California; and Hayward, California. Their mother died in Elliott in 1933 and their father in 1950 in Atlantic.   



~ Mildred B. Powell