This rare portrait of Shotwell Powell is located in the collection of the
Ontario County Historical Society in Canandaigua, New York.
Following up on August 17th's article on Naples, New York resident and legislator Cyrillo Southworth Lincoln, today's profile highlights the life of Mr. Shotwell Powell, another prominent 19th century resident of Ontario County, New York who was elected to two terms in the State Assembly in 1859 and 1860. Powell received a brief mention in Lincoln's profile a few weeks ago after I visited both of their grave sites at the Rose Ridge Cemetery in Naples whilst on vacation. At the time of that visit I hadn't yet seen an actual portrait of Mr. Powell and now, because of the diligence of Blanche Warner of the Naples Library and Ontario Historical Society Curator Wilma Townsend, a picture of Shotwell Powell has been located in the collection of the Ontario County Historical Society!!! I must give a hearty thank you to both of these ladies for their kind help in regards to researching this obscure man, as his article here really wouldn't be the same without your help!
We'll begin with the birth of Shotwell Powell, which occurred in the small village of Clinton in Dutchess County, New York on October 31, 1808. The Rootsweb genealogical website gives note that Shotwell was one of fifteen children born to James and Martha Townsend Powell, natives of New Jersey and Westchester County, New York. Young Shotwell received a common school education in his birth county, and later spent several years of his adolescence living with an uncle in New Jersey.
After returning to New York, Powell engaged in farming until relocating to Michigan in 1832. Soon after his arrival he "purchased several lots in that new country, remaining there about two years." In 1834 he returned home to Clinton, where he "purchased part of his old home", this according to his Naples Record obituary.
On September 17, 1835 Powell married fellow Clinton, NY native Sarah G. Clapp (1815-1889) and they eventually became the parents of three children: Thomas J. (1837-1906), Israel (1839-1918) and Lydia Ann (1841-1917). In a strange and truly interesting twist, research has been found that notes that Lydia Ann Powell married on February 27, 1870 to a certain William Elton Lincoln (1837-1915), who happened to be the younger brother of one Cyrillo Southworth Lincoln!!! A truly amazing historical fact/political coincidence that I wouldn't have known about had I not begun digging through Shotwell Powell's genealogy!
The Powell family continued to reside in Clinton until 1844 when they removed to South Bristol in Ontario County, New York. Powell purchased a farm here (later referred to as Powell Hill) and over the succeeding years engaged in farming, while also being involved in local political affairs.
Shotwell Powell's name as it appeared in an 1860s New York Red Book.
In November 1858 Powell was elected to the New York State Assembly as a Republican, officially taking office in January of the next year. He was reelected to the Assembly for the 1860 session and during his two terms is mentioned as having "secured the passage of many important measures, among which was one to prevent slave hunting in the Empire State." Powell's tenure in the legislature is listed by Milliken's History of Ontario County as one of distinction, with Powell being mentioned as "a man of strong convictions and great moral courage, a strong anti-slavery man, an opponent to capital punishment, and a zealous advocate of temperance." After leaving the assembly Powell refrained from political activity until 1876, and in that year mounted an unsuccessful campaign as the Prohibition Party candidate for State Canal Commissioner of New York.
An 1876 article mentioning Powell's candidacy for State Canal Commissioner.
In 1870 Powell and his wife removed to Virginia, where Shotwell is known to have bought up large tracts of land, later establishing a Quaker colony in the Keysville, Virginia area. As a member of the Society of Friends, Powell is listed in his obituary as investing $6,000 for piece of land in order to develop this settlement, "which he retained an interest in until his death." Powell's obituary also notes that "all liquor selling was to be excluded from the colony."
For the next two decades Powell would spend his winters in Virginia and his summers at his home in South Bristol, where he resettled permanently in 1889. In his twilight years Powell maintained a membership in the Western New York Horticultural Society, and is listed as attending its annual meeting in 1893. While at this meeting, Powell is listed as stating that "I want to say that in this, my 85th year, this is the grandest meeting I have ever attended. Progress is the immutable order of our being, and I think we are progressing."
As he approached his 88th year, Powell's health began to fail, and in March of 1896 was stricken with paralysis which greatly reduced his energy and abilities. He died at age 87 on June 19, 1896 at the home of his son Israel in South Bristol, New York.
Powell's obit as it appeared in the Rochester Democratic-Chronical a few days following his death.
Shotwell Powell's Naples Record obituary from June 1896.
The funeral of Shotwell Powell was held at his South Bristol home on the Monday following his death, and it was reported "that there was a very large attendance, with neighbors and friends from all country round coming to pay their last tribute to one whom they honored and loved for his beneficent life." Shortly afterwards he was buried in the Powell family plot at Rose Ridge cemetery in Naples. Powell's wife Sarah had been buried here several years previously, and their children Thomas, Israel and Lydia are also buried here.
As I related in Cyrillo S. Lincoln's article a few days ago, the search for both Lincoln and Powell's gravesite was done under severe time constraints (it was nearly 8 o'clock at night) and I was also dealing with scoping out a rather large cemetery with no clue as to where both were buried! After I found Mr. Lincoln's stone I set my sights on finding ol' Shotwell's stone.....which my father successful discovered less than fifty feet away from Lincoln! As I have recently found that both of these oddly named politicians are related by marriage, I now have a good idea as to why both of their plots were located so close to one another......and now some pictures from the trip!
Powell's modest gravestone bears the names of all of the members of the Powell family (with the exception of Lydia Ann, who is buried elsewhere in Rose Ridge.) This stone also denotes Powell's name with the prefix "Hon." for "Honorable", indicating to anyone even remotely interested in history that someone of importance is buried here!! All in all the above photo turned out rather well, considering it was taken at nearly 8:30 at night!
Like his political counterpart Cyrillo Lincoln, Shotwell Powell has very little available online in regards to his life and exploits, and I can now proudly announce that because of the profile here, a substantial biography of Mr. Powell is finally available for everyone to read! Once again this article wouldn't be possible without the help and assistance of Blanche Warner and Wilma Townsend, who volunteered their time to locate the portrait of Shotwell that adorns the top of his profile here. A thousand thanks for all of your help!