Van Gundy Family Tree

Notes for Nelson Erastus POWELL

Civil War records described Nelson as a farmer, 5'8", dark complexion, dark eyes, dark hair, born Vermilion Co, IL.

Residences & events in his life:

1850 Shelby Co, IL. Nelson married Elvira there and was listed in the census as a farmer with real estate valued at $700.

1851 Shelby Co, IL. He was named defendant in a circuit court case against Albertus Harper, details unknown.

1855 Coles Co, IL, was his residence when he was listed in the State census.

1857 Moultrie Co, IL. He was listed on the delinquent tax list, possibly because he was in Coles Co.

7/30/1860 T13 R6E, Moultrie Co, IL. Having lost his wife just a few months prior, Nelson, 30, and his 2 daughters, Elizabeth, 9, and Elvira C, 8 months, were living with his brother, James, and family at census time. Also living there was a 20 year old neighbor girl as a housekeeper's assistant named Elizabeth Purvis who would become his second wife in five years. Nelson's occupation was farmer.

Name: Nelson E Powell ,
Residence: Sullivan, Illinois
Enlistment Date: 06 August 1861
Distinguished Service: DISTINGUISHED SERVICE
Side Served: Union
State Served: Illinois
Unit Numbers: 364 364 364
Service Record: Promoted to Full Quartermaster Sergeant
Enlisted as a Private on 06 August 1861
Enlisted in Company B, 41st Infantry Regiment Illinois on 06 August 1861.
Reenlisted in Company B, 41st Infantry Regiment Illinois on 17 March 1864
Transfered on 23 December 1864 from company B to company G
Mustered out Company B, 41st Infantry Regiment Illinois on 22 July 1865

When Nelson left for war, he entrusted the care of his sole surviving daughter, 10 year old Lizzie, to brother James. However, this arrangement proved unsuitable as she was soon moved to the home of Addison McPheeters, family friends and neighbors. In a letter to Elizabeth Purvis, Nelson wrote: "I received a letter from James yesterday who told me in his letter that Lizza had always been a good girl, always minded him well but that she didn't mind her Aunt atall. I wrote to Lizza yesterday about it & asked to know what was the matter. I told Eveline that I had heard that she did not use Libba as she ought to. I told her that I had never whipped anybody elses child, and that I never would and it hurt my feelings verry bad to hear what I have heard." Other sources said Eveline treated Elizabeth as a servant.

Nelson corresponded with relatives and friends while he was away and while several of the letters remain intact, they are very hard to read due to his small handwriting and lack of punctuation. Writing paper was a rare commodity and he used every scrap available, writing along the margins and anywhere he could squeeze in a sentence. In most of
the letters, besides relating events of the war and his activities, he tried to keep the tone humorous and full of funny anecdotes.

Nelson was also mentioned often in the McPheeters' family letters during the Civil War:

1/7/1863 - "Nelson Powell is yet here (Sullivan) - Some of the black democrats (Copperheads) about Sullivan don't like his presance - Say they think he is kept here as a spy."

And - "Nelson Powell, evening before last came near having a dificulty in Sullivan. A little crowd of black democrats gathered around him and wanted to know his business here - accused him of being a spy etc He told them that he was in the service of the U.S. government, and that whatever his duties might be, he intended to discharge them faithfully, regardless of consequences - He gave them no information as to his business--There was a good deal said, and as one of them went off he said that shooting was what Powell needed or something to that effect. Powell did not hear him"

Again - "Donty has a good deal to say about Powell--Powell is fully prepared for them"

2/15/1863 - "Mrs (James) Powell and Nelson start for Humboldt (TN) next week."

4/5/1863 - "Betty Cornwell has another correspondent in dixie now (Mr N E Powell) she seems very much pleased with her new correspondent."

5/31/1865 "A late letter from N.E. Powell informs us he expects to be here (Moultrie Co) by the middle of June. Was in Washington city when he wrote."

Michael Fryburger, a friend from the area serving in the War efforts, also made references to Nelson and James in his letters:

2/10/1861 - He read Nelson Powell's letter to Peyton.
2/12/1862 - From Cape Girardeau, Nelson Powell sent a letter from Paducah and is well.

Name: Nelson E Powell ,
Residence: Sullivan, Illinois
Enlistment Date: 18 December 1863
Distinguished Service: DISTINGUISHED SERVICE
Side Served: Union
State Served: Illinois
Unit Numbers: 376 376
Service Record: Promoted to Full Quartermaster Sergeant
Enlisted as a Private on 18 December 1863
Enlisted in Company G, 53rd Infantry Regiment Illinois on 18 December 1863.
Promoted to Full Captain on 22 July 1865 (Not Mustered in Co G)
Mustered out Company G, 53rd Infantry Regiment Illinois on 22 July 1865 in Louisville, KY

12/17/1863 Nelson was discharged at Vicksburg, Miss and reenlisted immediately as a veteran.

12/12/1864 Moultrie Co, IL. Estray notice (he claimed a stray animal, probably a horse).

7/15/1865 Just a few days prior to his discharge from the service, Nelson bought a lot in Sullivan from James and Eveline for $160.

Name: Nelson E Powell ,
Residence: Sullivan, Illinois
Distinguished Service: DISTINGUISHED SERVICE
Side Served: Union
State Served: Illinois
Unit Numbers: 376
Service Record: Enlisted as a Quartermaster Sergeant
Mustered out Company S, 53rd Infantry Regiment Illinois on 22 July 1865 in Louisville, KY

During his tour of duty, he saw action at Ft Henry & Heaman, TN; Ft Donelson; Shiloh, Pittsburg landing; seige of Corinth, Miss; seige of Vicksburg, & Jackson, was in the Battle of the 12, seige of Atlanta and ended up at Savannah, GA, with Sherman in his march to the sea.

A few months later he married Elizabeth Purvis whom he had courted by mail throughout the war.

4/6/1867 Nelson bought a plot of ground for $210.

6/26/1868 Paying $80 to Robert Bracken and wife, Nelson received another lot in town.

7/29/1870 Town of Jonathan Creek, Moultrie Co, IL, was his residence at census time, Lizzie had married but he, at age 42, and Elizabeth, 33, had 2 more small children to be counted, William, 3, and Emogene, 1. The daughter of son Ansel said he was born in MO in 1870 but if so, it must have been a quick trip in view of the next items.

1871 Moultrie Co, IL. He paid the tax for the school district.

8/31/1872 Moultrie Co, IL. Nelson bought 39.87 acres from the railroad @ $12.00/acre for a total of $478.

9/1872 Jacksonville, Morgan Co, IL. One of his daughters died and was buried there.

1873-1876 Near Hutchinson, KS where one son was born and died. Nelson went to Kansas with friends to seek the good life but lost everything due to a grasshopper plague.

Mercer Co, MO. It is not clear when he lived in Mercer Co, whether on the way to or from Kansas, but he was remembered by the old settlers there as a former resident.

10/13/1877 Sullivan, Moultrie Co, IL. Nelson paid $200 for a lot.

1880 Washington Twp, Mercer Co, MO, where he was listed in the census, as a farmer and had a house full of children. Also living with him was an Emery Rachybough, 18, laborer in a rock querry (sic). In the same township was brothers, John Lisle, and Benjamin, with their families.

About 1882 Jonathan Creek Twp, Moultrie Co, IL.

9/13/1884 He applied for an invalid's pension due to rheumatism from exposure near Ft Donalson & Henry, Tenn, 2/13/1862 and the resulting disease of the heart 11/1865. The application was approved and he received his last check on 1/4/1904.

1892 Nelson signed an affidavit for Eveline Powell, James' widow, in her efforts to obtain a Widow's Pension.

7/9/1892 In Sullivan news column of the Decatur newspaper: "Nelson Powell had two fingers on his left hand mashed by a runaway team the Fourth, and they had to be amputated."

7/20/1892 At the Republican county convemtion of Moultire Co, "Nelson Powell, Johnathan Creek township," was nominated for circuit clerk.

9/3/1892 Nelson bought the north half of the NW quarter of the NW quarter of S5 T12 R5 in Whitley Twp from Thomas T Townley for $500.

1/12/1895 Continuing to add to his estate: James T Garrett to Nelson Powell, (description undecipherable), $3,200.

1/18/1895 From the newspaper: "Joseph Powell of Nebraska is visiting his cousin, Nelson Powell here on the creek at this writing."

9/10/1895 Sullivan, Moultrie Co, IL. Nelson paid $800 to John and Nancy Purvis for a lot in the Lewis subdivision.

6/23/1896 This item may belong to the other Nelson Powell: "Nelson Powell to F M Martin q c to block 3, Bruce; $150."

2/2/1897 He bought a second lot in the same area from the John and Nancy Purvis for $600.

4/15/1897 As a memento of his war service, he presented to his wife a large poster containing his war record. The record was incorporated into the design for a national monument of the Grand Army of the Republic planned to be erected in October 1898. Among family mementos are a photo of Nelson in his uniform, a photo of "My Fathers Co. 41st Ill. taken where their comrads were buried Battle at Shilow," and a photo of the Civil War veterans of Jonathan Creek Church.

6/18/1900 Sullivan, Moultrie Co, IL. According to the census, Nelson, 72, had retired and moved to town. He had been married 35 years to Elizabeth 63, who had birthed 8 children, 4 of whom had died. Only daughter Mary C, 18, was still at home. .

6/13/1901 Cadwell, Moultrie Co, IL. Nelson E Powell became the postmasters there, assuming the position held some 3 years prior by nephew, Lycurgus Powell. Apparently he could not convince his wife and daughter to move there with him as shown by the following letter to son Joe, and his new bride, dated 8/5/1901:

"Dear Joe and Pearl
I have no time to either read or write so I dont do much of it I was home Sunday and read a little letter from you to Ma I was glad to hear you had got employment hope you will succeed in the business and give good service to the company and you will soon find it will beat a little restaurant bad I hope your little failure over at Sullivan will be a good schooling to you nearly every boddy has to get there eye teeth cut and take a little rought schooling at the start. I know I did write and tell just how things are Running with you I am still all alone except Puss Runs up and helps me a day or two in the week Ma is not well has that pain in back of head she had with on Levi's place she is bent on not coming up here so is Puss Ansell is thrashing and hauling his oats this week says he can
haul your things to you next week
well I must go to supper so good bye for this time

Your Old Pa

1902 He applied for a renewal of his $12/month invalid pension because of his "inability to earn a support by manual labor" because of rheumatism disease of heart and senile debility from 12/7/1896 and 6/27/1890, disease of left leg, deafness of both ears, and general debility from age. Witnesses who signed for him were E Davis and WP Wright.

2/24/1903 Nelson bought a third lot in the Lewis subdivision, paying $800 to son, William and Eugenia Powell.

9/19/1903 He applied for an increase of his invalid pension of $12/month. Signatures as witnesses for the application included GR Hawkins and Ira McIlwain.

The doctor, A.D. Miller, gave the following report of Nelson's death for the application for pension of his widow:
"The onset of Mr Powells death dates back for at least one year prior to death. I did not see him untill Jan 12, 1904 before that time he only complained of a numness of left side with impaired use. on Jan 12 he lost use of left side with loss of speach for a few hours but regained partial use with improved speach. On Mar 2, 04 he fell in the floor from chair and up to his death he talked at random. from henceforth to death he was totaly unconscious and died in coma. I noted his heart disease at my first examination that he came before the board of examiners. I don't remember the date. Did not have any fever at any time during his sickness.
A.D. Miller"

The same physician also gave the following affidavit:
"I first knew the soldier about Sept 1894. I first treated him professionally about fall of 1899 for heart trouble and at intervels of 3 or 4 months for same and Lagrippe also for a nervous condition untill his last illness which was paralysis with softening of brain, as a result of which he died on March 12th 1904. At the last five days of his illness pneumonia appeared which hastened his death."

His obituary states: "Nelson died at his home in the east part of Sullivan Saturday night after weeks of suffering. He had been in poor health all winter and was partly paralyzed. The funeral was held in the Christian church Tuesday afternoon. He had been an efficient
member of that church for over half a century. Elder H. A. Davis conducted the service.

He was a member of the Fourty-First Illinois Regiment and gave three years of his life to the service of his country during the Civil War. He was a member of the local G.A.R. Post and the post attended the service in a body.

His second wife was a daughter of Samuel Purvis (was actually William Purvis) and to this union were given four children, three live near Sullivan and the other in Mattoon. He was a staunch Republican and always worked for the advancement of his party."

On 3/19/1904 Elizabeth bought the cemetery plot from W.A. and Mary
Steele for $10.

Copyright 2010 by BJ Van Gundy

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