Old Letters

This old letter was written in 1939 by Florence Powell Caton in which she
describes Daniel Powell and several of his descendants.

Submitted by Carol Olson.  Thanks, Carol!

From Florence Powell Caton, 3967 Drexel Blvd, 
Chicago, Illinois to Eugene E Silliman, 
3647 Grim Street, San Diego, California

26 Jan 1939

My dear Cousin Eugene:

          Your letter of the 21st instant, received by me this morning, gives me great pleasure, in as much as it brings with it that feeling of intimate kinship which betokens family life – something I miss so very much, since I am no longer surrounded by even collateral kin people.

          From Cousin Rebecca Eubanks, who 35 years ago moved to Los Angeles, from her old home in Eldorado, Illinois, I gained much knowledge of our family history.  She loved to visit with me for hours at a time going over and over details that my interest recalled to her.  Her house up to the very last when she passed away five years ago, was, I imagine from what I’ve heard my mother say, a rendezvous for kin even unto the forty-fifth generation and all the friends and their friends were made welcome.  A FINE woman, with hosts of friends.  With her passing I felt indeed a loneliness intensified, and that city is no longer the same to me.  Her mother, as you may know was the only relative we have every known of Grandfather [Daniel] Powell – a half sister [Sarah Wrenwick?].  Cousin Rebecca never knew, which seems queer, what state they came from, nor have I ever been able to ascertain.  She said when Grandfather’s first wife died [Marjery Miller in Jan 1825], leaving a little son, TOM, that grandfather rode on horseback back to his old home and brought her mother [Sarah Wrenwick?], then a very young girl back with him, riding back of him on the same horse through the wilderness.  She kept house for grandfather until he married again [Aug 1825] and then she married Jack [John] Eubanks.

          Tom Powell married a Lankford [Zelphai L Langford]; Cousin Mary, his [only] daughter, inherited Tom’s portion when the estate of grandfather was divided, and she married Marion Thompson, who proceeded to spend her inheritance.  Their pretty home I noticed when I was in Norris City, is in excellent repair.  Marion mortgaged it and when she had to give it up they moved to Tennessee [between 1886 and 1900], where she reared and supported her three boys [George W & Ralph M & Daniel P], and died there in Chattanooga.  Her boys had no bad habits and were good men.  Two of them live here in Chicago, one Ralph, has been one of Swift’s key men for twenty-five years, is married and has one fine boy, a lad of sixteen.  The other and older George, has never married.  AND THAT is the Tom Powell issue.  I am very happy to have found who their grandmother was – they themselves do not know.

          The Dagley girls: Well, you know Cousin Flo’s life was a sort of tragedy.  She was with us in Colorado for awhile after graduating from a Catholic seminary in Kentucky, where she and Cousin Mame spent most of their young lives.  Her daughter [Mary G Kerr] lives in the Dagley settlement, and her life is not a happy or prosperous one, I’m told.  Eledith Crebs sees her now and then, but I never do when I’m down there.  She [Eledith Crebs], too, keeps in touch I think with Mame’s family.  I saw Mame the last time when I went to Louisville, KY to have my wedding clothes made [mid 1890’s was when Ben was a baby].  Harry [Arnold] was a fine big looking man and had a good position, and they had many children – all the boys died leaving three girls and a baby, Ben, when I saw them [not true, their son George was still alive].  Mame was as different from Flo as day light from dark in every way.  Harry was always good to her and she loved him devotedly, but they were never prosperous, misfortune seemed to dog their footsteps.

          I believe it was one of the Bryant men who told me the foundation of the old Powell home was of hickory.  It might have been OAK; I wouldn’t want to go on record that it was hickory, but some way or other it was imbedded in my consciousness.  At any rate it stands there imposing, homey as staunch as the people who built it were.  Two years ago when I visited it last they told me that long ago, there were great granaries, a blacksmith shop, a store, all kinds of stock, Jacks [mules?], stallions, bulls, rams – everything to improve the farm.  He [Daniel] built a church with doors too narrow for women with hoops to crowd in – he did not permit his women folks to wear those “contraptions” Cousin Rebecca told me.  He built the school house, and mostly paid the preachers who came now and then, also the teachers.  They said he had a voice that would reach from one end of the county to the other, when he called his hogs, of which he had hundreds fattening on the native nuts in the forests.  Cousin Rebecca said he used to call my father [James] or Uncle Jay [John Gideon] out of school to add up interest when some one came to pay their indebtedness to him.

          Father [James] and Uncle Jay [John Gideon] were the only sons who were sent to college.  Aunt Mary and Aunt Betty were sent to Saint Vincent’s, Morganfield, KY.  The Bryants told me during my last visit that the house had 11 rooms.  I did not suspect it of being so large, but I’ve no doubt it was always pretty well filled.  Uncle Wright [Silas Wright] some how got hold of a lovely old drop-leaf mahogany table that was a part of the furnishings of the old home and he left it to me.  I took it to California ten years ago, together with a lot of old mahogany from the Heard family.  Elizabeth Crebs Evans, Eledith’s youngest daughter who lives in L. A. has it now and will pass it on down to her children – two little daughters.  I have an old portrait of grandfather hanging up here near my desk and a large photo of his old home.  Grandmother would never have a picture of herself.  My mother told me she was a pretty little black-eyed woman [Rhoda Douglass Powell].  My father [James] loved her devotedly.

          I do want to go on record as going to bat for Uncle Wright.  My father loved him; he was a misunderstood, lonely boy whose eyes never permitted him to study, and he was never strong.  When father failed and had to go hurriedly to Colorado on a stretcher, Uncle Wright took him and stayed with him until my mother settled up matters and joined them.  When Father after five years saw his end was near and wanted to die among his people, Uncle Wright came and took us – my mother and 3 little children, back to McLeansboro.  He had all the good qualities of the other boys, and he was very KIND and honorable.  Brother [also Silas Wright] and I loved to visit him and did many, many times and he humored and was most generous with us until we grew up and neglected him, I’m sorry to say, and he died among strangers.  But he was and is the only one who is buried in the family church yard, and I’ve never understood it.

          Some ten years ago [about 1928] I visited the old Herald’s Prairie cemetery, and midst tall weeds and bushes and grass was a fallen monument with grandfather’s [Daniel Powell] name on it.  John Powell of Carmi [I assume John Gideon Powell b 1866] was with me, and we could not find anything that would indicate grandmother was buried there.

          I am sorry that I did not know your brother Henderson was living in Norris City when I was down there last – I shall probably not go again – for we could have had a regular talk-feast.  He must have a fund of information.  It is queer – I have asked perhaps fifty people down there who grandfather’s first wife was, and no one knew.

          I know pretty well all the kin and their collaterals scattered here and there over the world.  I have no record of a single one that is not a credit to the name.  None brilliant particularly, but honorable and good citizens.  Their word is as good as their bond – which is or was, one of the strongest planks in grandfather’s platform – that and “never to go on the bond of any living human being.”  Aunt Betty’s family are the only ones that seem to have been off color, but I blame her husband for any dereliction – it did not come from the Powell side.  Will Trafton, is I hear living in Mississippi, and is a fine honorable man, well liked.  His daughter married I believe former Gov. Heard’s daughter [does she mean descendant?  The only Governor I found with last name of Heard was during the American Revolution in Georgia.  And which daughter Francis or Hattie who married Charles Bell].  Eledith liked her very much.

          I have borrowed the use of this typewriter – it is an antique, and while I am, too, still it is a trifle more jittery than the writer, but I cannot write with pen and ink any more – at length. I’ve always had my own until this last move from the Coast when I sold it.  Your writing and also your spelling is marvelous.  I am unable to see any indication of age in either.  My books, too, I had to relinquish – they cost so much to move and take up so much room, but oh, how I miss them!  I had five hundred when I broke up – all sorts of reference books and encyclopedias and dictionaries – I have my doubts about the spelling of the last two but I have with me a little 25 cent dictionary, so please to my faults be very kind and blind.

          We have had a wonderful winter – only two snows and they left no aftermath such as slush and water, went off decently and in order.  I enjoy the winters, but the heat in summer lays me out flat and listless and lifeless.  As I look again over your good, newsy letter, I desire to reassure you of my appreciation of the time and effort it took to produce it.  I wish I might have the pleasure of conversing long hours with you on the many interesting and varied things that have come into your life.  As I look back over the long, long trail of my own life, it falls short but a very little of frustration, disappointment and loneliness, but I have kept the faith and tradition of my people and made a good fight.  My old friend and physician of years told me last week that I was the most wonderful woman he had ever known, and that I would go down fighting conditions and misfortunes to the last with my fingers crossed.  All of which was very comforting, but not all true.

         With kindest possible wishes for you and the good companion, I am very cousinly,

          Florence Powell Caton. [Written by hand.]

Always it will afford me great pleasure to hear from you and yours.
F. P. C.

Copyrighted @ 2002

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