The Historical Research Center

Family Name History


The English surname Powell is of patronymic origin, belonging to that category of surnames derived from the forename of the original bearer's father.  In this instance, the surname Powell can be traced to the personal name Paul which is ultimately derived from the Latin Paulus meaning "small" which has always been popular in Christendom.  It was the name adopted by the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus after his conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus.  He was a most energetic missionary to the gentiles in the Roman Empire, and perhaps played a more significant role than any other of Christ's followers in establishing Christianity as a major world religion.  Early written references to the name include one Henry Powel and Geoffrey Powel who are both recorded in the Hundred Rolls of London and Cambridgeshire in 1273 respectively.   John Powell or Powle was recorded as a student in the registers of Oxford University in 1532.   The surname Powell can also be found in Wales where it is derived from the personal name Howel or Hywel meaning "Eminent" which is prefixed with the Welsh prefix "Ap" meaning "son of".   Early references in this case include one John ap Howell, prebendery of St. David's Church in 1554 and John Appowel appears in the Valor Ecclesiasticus.  Finally, the surname Powell may also be of locative origin, being derived from the place where the original bearer once lived or held land.   In this case, the surname Powell signifies "one who lived by or near the powel" as "powel" here is derived from a term meaning "pool".  Early records include one Jordan de Powella who is recorded in the Pipe Rolls of Warwickshire in 1184 and Ralph atte Powel appears in the Court Rolls of the Abbey of Ramsey in Huntingdonshire in 1288.

BLAZON OF ARMS:      Argent, a cross flory engrailed sable between four Cornish choughs proper, on a chief azure of a boar's head couped argent, tusked or, langued gules.

CREST:      A talbot's head couped proper.
MOTTO:      Inter hastas et hostes.
TRANSLATION:      Among spears and enemies.


Rhodes and Nancy Hodge Powell were in Roane County, Tennessee as early as 1830.  They received their land grant in Morgan County through Tennessee Land Grant No. 29094.  They took possession of the land on April 7, 1854.

Rhodes Powell (Mar 26, 1803/Nov 6, 1884) married Nancy Hodge (July 5, 1810/Sep 9, 1884).  Both Rhodes and Nancy are buried at Pine Orchard.  Rhodes' tombstone has "An honest man is the noblest work of God" and Nancy's tombstone has "Jesus loves the pure and holy". 

Twins were born to Rhodes and Nancy - Ann Elizabeth and Joseph, born Mar 29, 1842.  Joseph died July 13, 1927.  Ann also died in 1927 before Joseph with both buried at Pine Orchard. 

Joseph married on Oct 27,1870 Mary Ann (Polly) Summer (Feb 12, 1852/Mar 31, 1939) also buried at Pine Orchard with one big tombstone for Joseph, his wife, and his sister.  They were married in Mount Pisgah Baptist Church on Oct 27, 1870.  To this union were born Charles Henry (Dec 2, 1872/Dec 15, 1949) who married Ruth Farmer; John H. (1873-1942 who married Eliza Snow; Levi Stanton (1874-1944) who married Harriett McGuffey; Vesta M. (1876-1955) never married; Reubin J. (1877-1936) who married Linnie Stone; Arlenia Frances (1879-1968) who married Joseph Johnson; and David Ernest (1886-1978) who married Emma Alley.

In addition to the twins, Joseph and Ann Elizabeth; there were six other children - Martha, William L, Garrett Stanton, Louise J, Mary C and Rhodes Gambil Powell, Jr.

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