Woe for the Powells

Lewis Powell as an infant with his mother Patience. From Betty Ownsbey's Alias Paine.

Lewis Powell as an infant with his mother Patience. From Betty Ownsbey’s Alias Paine.

After the events of April 14th, 1865, there were many ramifications for those related to the conspirators.  I’ve often highlighted the hardships of the Booth family in dealing with John Wilkes’ horrible act.  The fact that Edwin Booth managed to continue his successful theatrical career after such a tragedy demonstrates the power of his acting ability.  He gives a wonderful foil to his brother and his many years after in the spotlight allows us to really study his brother’s effect on his and his family’s life.  For the families of the other conspirators, however, such a study is not possible.  Edwin Booth was a newsworthy individual and the historical record speaks volumes about him.  The other families affected all too often just faded  away into obscurity.  Therefore, I find this brief newspaper article regarding the Powell family’s grief to be quite poignant.  After their son Lewis attacked Secretary of State Seward and his household, the Powells carried a similiar stigma as the Booth family.  Just because history did not fervently document their struggles with their kin’s actions does not make their suffering any less real.

Woe for the Powells New York Herald 8-2-1865

Alias “Paine” by Betty Ownsbey
New York Herald – August 2, 1865
Lewis Payne – Pawn of John Wilkes Booth by Leon Prior

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Woe for the Powells

  1. Poignant in many ways, Dave. Yes, the Powell family suffered horribly as well. I have one article in which it was stated that after the hanging, some horribly cruel anonymous person sent the poor Powell family via mail a series of CDV photographs of son Lewis in “every possibly conceived tortuous position while hanging.” What a heinous thing to do to poor grieving parents….

  2. I actually own a copy of Leon O. Prior’s publication. I am sure Betty has forgotten, but I told her this 16 years ago. Prior’s work is right next to Betty’s work on my bookshelves. Guess which one is thicker!

    • I was fortunate enough to receive in the mail a copy of the “Loux Archives”, Art Loux’s collection of recorded speeches and visits to different places. I was listening to John C. Brennan go through the Rare Book Room at the LOC and he read off Prior’s work. I googled it and found it available online through archive.org. I love that website!

  3. I’ve had a copy of Prior’s work for years, Dave….. email me privately and I’ll tell you about his “Powell novel -”

    Prior’s family info is good – but watch his “facts” otherwise…..

    Archive.Org is WONDERFUL —

  4. Dave- great story. I don’t think alot of people realize that the conspirators families also suffered terribly. They probably felt they were hung right along with there family members. I hope you don’t mind me asking but I haven’t heard much about Mary Surratt’s mother. Was she aware of her daughter Mary’s conviction of being a conspirator? Did she visit her daughter in prison? Was she at the actual hanging with her grandaughter Anna? Does anyone have information on her?

  5. Laurie Verge

    We have yet to find any reference as to Mrs. Jenkins’s thoughts, etc. during her daughter’s arrest, imprisonment, trial, and execution. She outlived Mary by thirteen years, but if she ever expressed an opinion, she didn’t leave a trace.

    There is no evidence that she ever visited her daughter in prison or offered any support whatsoever. Anna went to live with her briefly after the execution, but the press and publicity caused a problem evidently, and she went into semi-seclusion with former schoolmates. There is no indication that her grandmother was present in 1869, when Anna married Dr. William Tonry. Nor is there any report (and it was reported in the newspapers when Mary’s body was exhumed and re-interred at Mt. Olivet) that Mrs. Jenkins was present at the interment.

    She is not even buried at Mt. Olivet with the rest of her family (except for the youngest son). Mrs. Jenkins is buried in the small churchyard of St. Ignatius Catholic Church in present-day Oxon Hill, Maryland. That is the church that Mary Surratt helped to raise funds for in the 1840s while the Surratts still lived in that area. She and the first priest developed such a friendship that he was transferred to Baltimore. She continued to write to him, and some of those letters are what have led us to believe that she had an unhappy marriage with a man who was his own best customer at his tavern.

    P.S. The youngest son of Mrs. Jenkins was James Archibald, and he is in an unmarked grave in the back of a Methodist church about three miles from Surratt House, near where the Jenkins farm was (that farm would now lie within Andrews Air Force Base – home to Air Force One).

    • Thank you Laurie. This was alot of information but not what I was hoping for. Maybe Mary Surratt’s mother was a cold person who didn’t want to get involved with her daughter’s problems. Thank you Dave as well.

  6. Laurie Verge

    I think we must consider the Victorian social stigmas of the day against anyone (even a child) who brought disgrace to the family.

  7. Pingback: “Our family is in grate distress” | BoothieBarn

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