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My Research Adventures

Greetings from Mr. Powell!

Charles Powell.  Image is courtesy of the Powell Family Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary

I received a surprise greeting from Mr. Powell! It's as if he knew I found the pencil sketch the week before (see my earlier post at this link) and was eager for me to know that his image was within my reach.

I had returned to the Special Collections at Swem Library at The College of William and Mary to continue studying the Powell Family Papers. I shifted my focus to the earliest letters and had the first box of papers pulled. I was surprised to find a summary of the family history typed by a descendant. I flipped through it and found unlabeled images at the back. The images were mostly 20th century, but I wondered whether there would be any of "my" Powells. My flipping of the booklet stopped at a page with three 19th century images I had not seen before. Despite the lack of labels and the high volume of images included, I knew without a doubt the third image on that page (shown above) was Charles L. Powell. I was not prepared to see his image and felt a shock. I'd never seen his face and yet knew him immediately. I searched the booklet to determine if the images had been identified and found a list of images with descriptions that reconciled to the images at the back. I confirmed that the image is indeed Mr. Charles L. Powell.

Mr. Powell had a sweet face, and it looks like he was holding in a smile in an attempt to look serious for the photographer. His kind face is haunting to see knowing the enormous heartache he suffered: the loss of 2 sons on the battlefield, 1 daughter to illness, another daughter and grandchild in childbirth, his wife, the school he ran, their home, and their belongings.

The booklet also had images of Rebecca and Nina Powell, but I thought I would limit my shock and save those images for another day. For now, it is charming to finally see Hattie's father. He was so tender in his letters to her and to all of his children that he appears to have been a doting and loving father. It is a blessing to finally associate a face with a man I've known for several years.

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