John Powell (1822-1902)

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John Powell
JPowell yng.JPG
Born: 31 Oct 1822
Died: 3 Jun 1902
Father: John Powell
Mother: Ann Belfield
Spouse: (1) Fanny Chamberlain
Married: 13 Nov 1842
Children: Mary Ann Powell
Fanny Louise Powell
John Powell
Jessie Powell
Mercy Powell
Samuel Powell
Ephraim Powell
Elizabeth Fanny Powell
Alice Jane Powell
Spouse: (2) Henrietta Seaton Blythe
Married: 18 Jun 1864
Children: Sarah Powell
Annie Powell
Henrietta Powell
Lily Powell
Alma Powell
May Powell
Ellen Powell
Spouse: (3) Martha Ann Truman
Married: 20 Mar 1885
Children: John Franklin Powell
Jesse Truman Powell
Nathaniel Ashby Powell

John Powell was born in St. Sepulchers Parish, London, Middlesex, England, Thursday, October 31, 1822, the son of John Powell and Ann Belfield. John Powell, Sr. was a wood turner and trained John and his brothers in that occupation. John became a talented furniture maker.

The Powells were a religious family and John was confirmed a member of the Church of England by the Lord Bishop of London. His sister, Ann, became a Sunday School teacher and John eventually taught the Testament Class for four years.

John described his decision to marry as follows:

About this time I saw a family at the next pew to us at church. There were some young women, one of which I wished to form an acquaintance with, but here I was in trouble. There was the one Sunday School teacher named Louisa Eastman, who I was very fond of, and also the young lady in the next pew. I did not know which one to choose for a wife for I loved them both.
So I wrote a letter to each, worded alike. I took the letters to my bedroom and knelt down before the Lord and asked him to direct me to the one which would make me the best wife. I arose and tossed the letters, feeling that the one I should take up first was the one to be my wife. I took up the one addressed to Miss Fanny Chamberlain. I then burnt the other. I then got acquainted with Miss Fanny Chamberlain, and after two years courtship we were married on the 13th day of November, 1842.

John and Fanny raised a family of nine children, four of whom lived to have families of their own. Their children are:

John and his small family were introduced to the gospel of Jesus Christ by James Hill who loaned the Powell's some Mormon literature. John read and prayed and was baptised Monday, April 24, 1848. Soon thereafter his wife joined the Church as well. Within months John was called to Preside over the Globe Road Branch of the Church.

The Powell's saved their money and left England to gather with the Saints in 1851. They crossed the Atlantic on the "Ellen" arriving in New Orleans in March 1851. They traveled up the Mississippi River to St. Louis where they tried to go west. Illness and poverty kept them from arriving in Utah until 1856.

Once in Utah John became a member of the Nauvoo Legion and was called upon to help defend the Saints. He participated in the Echo Canyon campaign in 1857, helping to keep Johnston's Army out of Utah for the winter.

In 1858 the Powell's moved to Millard County. They settled in Fillmore, but helped to settle the town of Deseret as well. John set up his furniture business and was successful in that endeavor. Many furniture pieces he created are still to be seen in the State House Museum.

John was active in the Church. He served several missions: to Stratford, England (before their emigration), to Illinois (while stuck in Missouri), to the temple in St. George and as a home missionary in Fillmore. He participated in the School of the Prophets in Fillmore in 1869; he became a member of the High Priests Quorum Presidency in 1871 and joined the United order in the 1870's.

In 1864 John married his second wife, on Saturday, June 18, in Salt Lake City. He married Henrietta Seaton Blythe, a convert from Scotland. Henrietta was the daughter of Charles Blythe and Isabelle Brown. She was 33 and John was 41. Together they had a family of seven, six of whom lived had families of their own. The first three children were born in Deseret, the fourth in Meadow and the last three in Fillmore. They were:

In 1872 John's first wife, Fanny Chamberlain Powell, died on Sunday, August 18 in Fillmore. John only had two daughters living in that household, the youngest already 10. The extra burden wasn't too great on Henrietta as she cared for her husband's extended family.

In the 1880's John was called on a mission to the Temple in St. George. While there, he met a young widow, Martha Ann Truman Ashby, daughter of Jacob Mica Truman and Elizabeth Boyes. John recorded in his journal that they were married on Friday, March 20, 1885. John was 28 years older than Martha. They had three children, all boys, together. The first two were born at Gunlock, probably on the Truman ranch. The last son was born in Fillmore. They were:

Since his first wife had died, John wasn't technically living Celestial Marriage until he married Martha Ann. He was an honest man and when charged with "co-habiting" with more than one wife in 1888, he plead guilty. He was sentenced to a term in the Utah State Penitentiary.

Within two years after John was freed from prison, his third wife, Martha Ann Truman Ashby Powell died. They'd been married only about 6 1/2 years. 70 year-old John held complete responsibility for his remaining young sons. He did his best to nurture and teach them. His youngest son, Nat, died 4 years after his mother.

John Powell died on Tuesday, June 3, 1902 in Fillmore, Millard County, Utah. He was 79 years, 7 months and 3 days old. He left only one wife and a numerous posterity to mourn his passing. His generous life and willingness to assume responsibility shine as a sterling path to follow for those that come after him.


  • Black, Susan W. E. Early LDS Membership Data (Infobases, 1995).
  • Day, Stella H. Builders of Early Millard, pp. 80, 143, 145, 373, 473-474, 568-569.
  • Fillmore City Corporation, Cemetery Single Line List, by Deceased Name, 22 Apr 1990, p. 38.
  • Lichfield, Beulah Menlove. Cemetery Records, Fillmore, Millard County, Utah, pp. 35, 53.
  • Robison, Wayne Ashby. Interviews. 16 Apr 1995, 13 Jan 2002.
  • Rogers, Sadie, ed. John Powell’s Journal, 1849-1901. Typewritten Manuscript, 1942.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ancestral File, data as of 5 January 1998, Salt Lake City, UT: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.