William H. Powell Papers, 1825-1899


William H. Powell Papers, 1825-1899


Powell, William H. (1825-1904)


Papers, 1825-1899


.42 linear feet (1 manuscript box)


Organizer and Captain of Virginia Cavalry, 2nd Regiment, Company B, brevetted Major-General, organizer, superintendent and general manager of the Western Nail Company in Belleville, IL and commissioned Revenue Collector of the Thirteenth District of Illinois by his friend, President William McKinley. Born in South Wales to William and Sarah Griffith Powell, he crossed the Atlantic with his mother and seven siblings in 1830 to come to the United States. His father had come to the United States two years earlier. The family stayed for a short time in New Jersey and then Pennsylvania, but in 1833 they crossed the Alleghenies and proceeded by steamboat to Nashville, TN. William Powell, an ironworker by profession, went to work for the Gennessee Iron Works. William began to learn the iron business at an early age and attempted to gain an education by attending day and night school whenever possible. He had aspirations of much higher education and had an opportunity to study medicine with aNashville doctor but because his family was dependent on his income, he could not. Due to a depression in 1840, the iron works closed, and the family moved to Wheeling,WV where William Sr. obtained work at the Rolling Mill Nail Factory. William Jr. attempted to read and study the law with a Wheeling lawyer, but again financial reasons prevented this. Instead he decided to learn all he could about the iron works and eventually he became the general manager and financial agent for the Lawrence Iron Works inIronton,Ohio. In 1846 after an accident of hot iron flying into his eye, he was left blinded in his right eye. After the war broke out he helped organize men from the iron works for military duty and was commissioned Captain of the Second Virginia Volunteer Cavalry; Major in 1862; Lieutenant Colonel in 1864; and Brevet Major General U.S. Volunteers in 1865. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for “capturing with twenty men the enemy’s camp and 500 men, without the loss of a man or gun, at Sinking Creek, in 1862”. He received a chest wound in battle at Wytheville, Virginia July 18, 1863. He was left on the field and taken prisoner to Libby Prison where he remained until February 1864 when he was exchanged for Col. R. H. Lee. He continued to serve in the Army until January 1865. His father had died shortly before, his mother was seriously ill and he needed to return home. After the war he continued to work for the iron works until an injury forced him to change careers. He worked for Standard Oil inKansas City, Ka. and American Central Insurance in St. Louis before moving to Belleville, IL; where he became manager of the Waugh Company Nail Works in 1876. In 1882 he organized and built the Western Nail Works inBelleville and remained there as superintendent and general manager until 1892. In 1895 he was commissioned as Revenue Collector by President McKinley. He was active in the Grand Army of the Republic and was elected Department Commander of Illinois in 1895. Powell had married Sarah Gilchrist in 1847 and they had six children, two of whom died in infancy and one at the age of twenty. Sarah died in 1878. In 1879 he married Emma Weaver of Belleville. She and three of his children survived the time of his death.



Hand written and typed manuscript of autobiography, letters, news clippings pamphlets, and a paper. Autobiography covers briefly his early life, gives extensive account of his war activities, and a less detailed account of his later years. Includes several letters from Rutherford B. Hayes, one letter from Gen. Sheridan, one letter from William Henry Harrison, one letter from William McKinley and several letters from Powell to President McKinley. News clippings pertaining to his military record and career. Several GAR pamphlets and memorial pamphlets about Powell.

                                                            William H. Powell                                                       Page 2


A paper written and presented, by Powell at the Missouri Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States in 1889 on the Sinking Creek Valley Raid in 1862.


Access: Open for research


Acc. No.: P. A.


Processed by: Connie Holberg, 1996 and Connie Butts, March 2001









                                                            William H. Powell                                                       Page 3                                                                  Container List


Box     Folder


  1        1                      Autobiography (BV)

            2                      “Important Letter” From Envelope on p. 267 of BV

            3                      Autobiography [Transcript] pp. 1-100

            4                      Autobiography [Transcript] pp. 101-200

            5                      Autobiography [Transcript] pp. 201-331

            6                      Miscellaneous Military Papers, Obituaries

            7                      Sinking Creek Valley Raid, 1862: A Paper Read Before the Missouri                                                 Commandery of Military Order…


“William H. Powell Papers, 1825-1899,” Chronicling Illinois, accessed April 25, 2019, http://alplm-cdi.com/chroniclingillinois/items/show/515.