Bowtown – James Edwin Powell

[Continued from previous article]

The deed to David Young’s Bowtown Possession passed to the hands of Jonas Brown from Daniel Steward. Jonas sold the lot to his brother, Stephen Brown in 1837. Stephen and Jonas Brown were sons of David Jr. and Esther (Buttrick) Brown of Baldwin, Maine. Another son, Thomas, married Harriet Baker Pierce, daughter of Nathaniel Pierce, and they lived in West Forks and Bowtown. The ownership of the lot between Stephen Brown’s deed and its occupation by James Powell has not yet been traced.

James Edwin Powell was born in England about  1819, and died in Tennessee in the Battle of Shiloh during the Civil War, April 6, 1862. He was at The Forks by  September 9, 1849, when he married Mary Ann Hunter. William Hanson, Justice of the Peace, performed the ceremony at The Forks.


Mary Ann (Hunter) Adams, wife of James Powell, Obadiah Stafford, and William Adams (Old Canada Road Historical Society)

A map drawn by Frank H. Sterling, a Caratunk native and State Assessor in Augusta, shows evidence of Powell’s earlier possession of land in Bowtown. A small pond near the old David Young possession carried his name.


Powell Pond in Bowtown (Maine Archives, map by Frank H. Sterling – detail)

How and why Powell came to The Forks is yet undocumented. He did have an association with William Hanson, son of lumberman Nathan Hanson of New Portland. William Hanson bought a property known as “The Robinson Possession” from Englishman Henry S. Robinson in 1845. This lot was in Caratunk near Pleasant Pond, bordered on the north by the town line, on the south by Pleasant Pond Stream, and on the west by the public lots. Hanson also acquired David Young’s possession at The Forks, near Moxie Stream, quitclaimed to him by David’s son Cyrus, and later deeded to Hanson by Charles B. Foster in 1846. (1)


Probable location of the Robinson Possession in T1R3, Caratunk (from the 1883 Colby Atlas of Somerset County) The lot may have included one or more of those to the east.

In 1849, Hanson quitclaimed the Robinson Possession, his home lot at The Forks, and a parcel near Cold Stream called the Mains Possession, to James Powell. William left his wife and children at The Forks, living on the old David Young possession near Moxie Stream. He went to Calaveras County, California for a short time, and then to Lowell, Massachusetts, where he died of typhoid fever in 1852. His father, Nathan, had moved to Lowell by 1850.

James Powell evidently got into some financial difficulty. On February 22, 1851, he mortgaged his Bowtown homestead to James Allbee of The Forks for $174.56. The deed conveys “a certain parcel of land by virtue of possession lying on the south side of Dead River and also the dwelling house and other buildings on said land, meaning the same on which I now live.” He was to pay the amount back in one year.

In May 1851, James Powell quitclaimed his Bowtown possession to Moses Burnham for $430. The land was bounded “on the west by land now occupied by E. Witham,(2) on the north by Dead River comprising all the right that the said James E. Powell had by possession or otherwise to any land on west side of Dead River.”

In December 1851, as a result of a sheriff’s sale on a judgement against James Powell, Moses W. Burnham acquired the Robinson Possession, the David Young lot near Moxie Stream, and a lot of land near Cold Stream known as the James Mains possession. William Hanson’s wife, Alma (Morse) Hanson, had lost the right to her home, and her husband died shortly afterward, in July 1852. In September 1852, Moses Burnham deeded the Robinson Possession to Alma, who was then living in North Anson, for the sum of one dollar. (3)

James Powell no longer held land, and in 1855 he left The Forks, taking his young son James with him.  That year he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was made Captain, in June 1861, with the 25th Missouri Volunteers. Mary Ann was living at The Forks with her sons Albert Tracey and Winfield Scott Powell in the 1860 census; James and James, Jr. were not there. She was granted a divorce from Powell in 1860, and married Obadiah Stafford.

James E. Powell, Jr, born in June 1850, accompanied his father as his waiter during the Civil War, an accepted practice. When his father died at Shiloh, Jimmy, not yet twelve, was cared for by a friend of Powell’s, who wrote home to his father in New Jersey about the plight of the boy. The soldier’s father wrote to Maine’s governor Washburn, seeking help in locating Jimmy’s family.

Newark, N.J., August 5, 1862

To his Excellency Governor of Maine:

Dear Sir:  While my son, Captain E.W. Dimock, was at Pittsburg Landing, Capt. James E. Powell, Co. F., 1st Infantry, U.S.A., acting Major of the 25th Missouri volunteers, placed his son, a young lad of some fourteen years, in my son’s charge in case he was killed. The Major was killed, and the lad says he is from Forks, Maine on the Dead River. He says he left with his father at the age of seven years, and only remembers the name of “Burnham” who “kept a hotel at Forks, Maine.” I find no post office of the name in the books of the P.O. The young lad is very intelligent, and if he has friends they should know his condition. Without doubt he is entitled to back pay from the Government.

I have the lad with me, and am doing for him all I can. His father’s commission, &c, are in charge of my son, Captain D.

Any information or advice you may give me will be duly acknowledged, and very much oblige your obedient servant, 

E. W. Dimock


E.W. Dimock Letter to Governor Washburn, 1862, as appeared in the Bangor Whig (photocopy held at Old Canada Road Historical Society)

In 1864, Mary Ann applied on behalf of her children for a pension to support her three sons, and it was granted. The papers in the pension archive are filled with details about the Powells. It even contains a copy of a poignant letter James sent to Mary Ann, written on March 31, 1862, just days before he was killed.

Young James Edwin Powell, Jr. found his way home to The Forks and married Lizzie Bates. They raised their large family in what is known as the “Hangtown” section of The Forks, north of Pleasant Pond. The photo below shows three sons and one daughter (Evie) of James and Lizzie Bates Powell.


Powell Group Portrait. David Eugene, back left; Tracy Powell and wife Cora; James Edwin Powell, far right back. Evie Powell Redmond, left front; “Jane”; Charles Pierce; Florence, wife of James Edwin. (Old Canada Road Historical Society)

  1. Charles Benjamin Foster named one of his daughters Alma Hanson Foster.
  2. Ephraim Witham, the well-known blacksmith, lived for a time in Bowtown before he moved to Caratunk. His lot was west of, and abutting, Powell’s possession.  
  3. Alma Hanson was the daughter of Col. Elias Morse of New Portland; Moses Burnham’s wife was Louisa Morse. There may have been some familial connection, not yet explored, to explain Burnham’s generosity toward Alma.


  • Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War Veterans, ca.1861-ca.1910.
  • Somerset County Registry of Deeds, Skowhegan, ME.
  • Vital Records at
  • Collections of the Old Canada Road Historical Society.
  • Encampment at Shiloh Church, in Coffin, Charles C., Drumbeat of the Nation,1915.

The next installment will discuss the cluster of homes in what was later commonly known as “Bowtown,” across from Caratunk, encompassing the border between Carrying Place and Bowtown Towhships.


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