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My Research Adventures

The Powells in Henry, Illinois

The Powell Home, Henry, IL

I've just completed a research trip to Henry, IL and am astonished at what I was able to find on the Powells - including their home, which still stands with all its charms.

Charles Leven Powell and his wife Selina Lloyd Powell moved their family to Henry in the Spring of 1852. They stepped off a steamboat after traveling over the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Illinois Rivers far from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Loudoun County, Virginia into a town of over 400 residents (and rapidly growing). Steamboats brought goods and new residents several times each day, announcing their arrival with a piercing whistle and creating a burst of activity when they docked. In this respect, the sights and sounds of Henry were likely not a far cry from Mark Twain's hometown of Hannibal, MO.

The Powells joined four of Selina's brothers who settled in Henry in 1849: Richard, Frank, Frederick, and Edmund Lloyd. Richard Lloyd (the oldest) ran a mercantile store and later a successful land office on Main Street. The other brothers were engaged in running a store, or working for Richard at various times. Charles Powell was an attorney and worked with Richard Lloyd in his land office. The Lloyds and Powells numbered about twenty five of the local population, and all lived in four homes at the corner of Market and Richard streets, as shown below in an excerpt from the print titled, "1873 Bird's Eye View of Henry, Marshall County, Illinois" by Herman Brosius, courtesy of the Henry Public Library.

1873 Bird's Eye View of Henry, Marshall County, Illinois by Herman Brosius, courtesy of the Henry Public Library

The only home still standing is that of Charles Powell (pictured at the top), and locals know it as a funeral home that operated for many years.

Once they were settled, Charles and Selina Powell sent their daughters Rebecca and Hattie back to Virginia (one at a time) to visit family and friends. The girls received letters from home with news on local politics, parties, friends, and the development of the town. Consequently, these letters provide a charming window into life in Henry in the 1850s.

My goal in traveling to Henry was to learn as much as possible about the town, its history, and where the Powells and Lloyds lived. I hoped to find old images, study old maps, meet local historians, and learn about other residents the Powells knew 160 years ago. I spent most of my time at the Henry Public Library, which has a fascinating collection of materials on the history of Henry. I also spent time at the Marshall County Courthouse and the Marshall County Historical Society in Lacon. The trip and the information I found exceeded my expectations, and I'll be organizing and studying the details for some time.

I'm thankful for the friendliness and hospitality of everyone I met, and I look forward to a return trip before long.

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