Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Revolution Road Trip: Dempsey Powell and Wake Forest

Leaving Kings Mountain, we drove through the small town of Lowell, looking for a place to eat. We found a great little diner called "Grits 'n Greens." Even at lunch, we couldn't escape history. We noticed that the large photographs on the walls were all of child textile mill workers in the late 1800's. One of us said, "I wonder if that has anything to do with Lowell, Massachusetts?" We googled, and sure enough, Lowell, North Carolina, took that name because they hoped to become a center of textile production. We were definitely in North Carolina, not Massachusetts, because the menu was all-Southern. I had the BLT with fried green tomatoes, and Tim had the special--fried chicken with greens and fried okra. Yum yum!

We were on our way to Wake County, North Carolina, to stay the night with my brother's brother-in-law and his family, and then on to Wake Forest to explore the area where our Powell ancestors lived. We were met with Southern hospitality, a great dinner, and fun by the pool, playing a colonial game called Shut the Box. I am completely addicted! It is a simple game, but so much fun, especially with a big group of family.

Shut the Box!

The next morning after breakfast by the pool, we took off for Wake Forest, about 40 minutes away. We were looking for the home of Jesse Powell, the son of our 5th great-grandfather, Dempsey Powell (See The Powells) and the brother of our 4th great-grandfather, Caswell Powell. We had the history of the house from an online article about downtown Wake Forest and the address from the Wake Forest Historic Preservation Plan, also available online.

I typed the address into Google Maps, and we found ourselves in Wake Forest on Capital Boulevard, a highway running past self-storage units and car lots. We couldn't imagine how there could be a 200+-year-old house where it was supposed to be. I didn't even see the little road running parallel to the highway and into a wooded area, but my brother did. He got us turned around to make another run at it, and this time we pulled off the highway and down a little road/driveway to find the Jesse Powell House, built about the year 1800.

According to the Wake Forest Downtown article, "Powell built the beautiful symmetrical Federal house that still stands on the east side of Capital Boulevard. He had inherited 318 acres on the north banks of the Neuse River after his father, Dempsey Powell, died in 1793, and later added several hundred more." We can also add Jesse to our list of education-minded family members; in 1826 he founded the Pleasant Grove Academy just across the road from the house.

In addition, he was responsible for building a road through Wake Forest, long known as the Powell Road and now part of South Main Street. Tim and I spent some time on North Main Street, walking through the historic district and admiring the beautiful houses and gardens. When I got home and did some research, I found out why the Jesse Powell House still stands, even so close to the highway. It was a conscious decision by the highway planners.

In a memorandum concerning the "Proposed Improvement of US 1, from US 401 Northward to Wake Forest Bypass, Wake County," dated 1972 and available through Google Books, the director of the survey staff made these statements: "We believe that the Powell House is of considerable importance, historically and especially architecturally...The house was built about 1800 by the Powell family, probably by Jesse Powell, son of Dempsey Powell, a soldier in the American Revolution...We believe that the Powell House is one of the very finest Federal country houses in Wake County and among the significant buildings of its type in the state. Its importance is such that if this alternate [the choice of highway direction] is selected, we urge strongly that you consider an arrangement that would not disturb it." And they did.

Dempsey Powell was our second connection to the Revolutionary War, and we were headed to Edenton, North Carolina, home of our Ming ancestors, where we would learn that the citizens of Edenton, especially the ladies, had a most interesting role in the lead up to the American Revolution.

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