Uintah County, Utah Pioneers



A Brief History of the Family Of William and Nellie Powell


William was born, along with his twin brother, John A, near Plattsburg, Missouri in 1850. He was the sixth out of nine children born to Charles Kelly and Elizabeth Ann Ellington Powell. They farmed between Plattsburg and St. Joseph and own slaves. William left his home as a young man and went west to seek his fortune. He had been in his fourth term at the academy and his mother wanted him to become a Methodist minister. He left and never wrote to them to let them know where he was. His mother thought he was killed on Custer's battlefield in 1876. In 1890, William's father sent him a letter informing him that his mother had died, The news caused him to travel back to Missouri and visit his family.

After working in the northwest and in Ogden, William decided to settle in Uintah Basin, Utah in 1877. He homesteaded 160 acres in Ashley Valley and was one of the first settlers in Vernal. He introduced honeybees in the valley, helped build rock point canal, and established schooling in the area. He helped build the first school building and was one of the valley's original schoolteachers. He married Nellie Luckey in 1887 and they had five children (they divorced in 1907). In 1902, he bought 200 acres of ranchland on the Green River in Jensen.

William was an honest hard working man with a kind, generous nature. He was well known in the vicinity for helping his family and neighbors. He died in Vernal in 1923 and is buried in Vernal Memorial Park Cemetery. William's wife, Nellie Eleanor Luckey was born in Rio Vista, California in 1868, to Isaac Thomas and Eliza Jane Taylor Luckey. The Luckey's moved to the Vernal area in 1882. It took them over a year to make the trek as they herded cows 800 miles. Nellie and her little brother had to help. She was twelve years old. William and Isaac became good friends and William and Nellie became acquainted. They were married in 1887. They lived in a big one room house William had built out of cottonwood logs. He built more rooms as the family grew. Nellie knew horses and could handle them as well as a man. She did horse trading with the Indians who frequently traveled by their homestead.

After the divorce, Nellie married four other husbands: John Harper, Frank Fairchild, George Emory Stone, and Erastus Savage. Some husbands died and one took all her money, but William helped her when she was ill or down and out. He always made sure she had a place to live. According to her grandson, Nellie never was happy after she divorced William. The 1910 census for Uintah County indicates that her sons John, William and daughter Nellie were living with her and John Harper. Nellie died in 1952 at 84 years of age. She had a colorful character and came to be known as Grandma Savage. She is buried next to her father, Isaac, in the Vernal Cemetery.

Minnie Eleanor Powell was the first child of William and Nellie. She was born on the homestead in 1888. Her father built a loft in the home and fixed it up for Minnie and her sister, Elizabeth (nicknamed Lizzy). Minnie and her siblings grew up riding horses, swimming, and ice skating in the winter. When her father traveled back to Missouri after the death of his mother, he brought home dolls for her and her sister. Minnie cherished the doll from her dad. It had a painted china head. In 1905, two brothers came out to Ashley Valley from Missouri in covered wagons: Peter and Porter Long. Minnie married Porter in 1908, and her sister married Peter in 1906. Minnie and Porter moved to Iowa for awhile but she missed her father so much that she longed to get back to Vernal. William sold a cow and sent her the money ($60.00), so she could get back. Porter stayed in Iowa until Spring, so Minnie, who was expecting her fourth child, had to travel most of the way by train with three little children. A stagecoach took them the remainder of the trip into Vernal. William was there waiting for her and the children. The journey was so hard on her that she miscarried. She and Lizzie refused to move away from the homestead again. Minnie had five surviving children: Nora Ann, Ruby Mae, Eugene V., Porter Jr., and George Emery.

When William started slowing a bit, Minnie and Porter built a log house on the homestead and helped run the ranch. Minnie died in 1977 in Vernal. Elizabeth or Lizzy, was the second child of William and Nellie and was born in 1890. She married Peter Long, as aforementioned, in 1906. Her father tried to talk her out of marriage since she was so young, but she got married in spite of his advice, two years ahead of her older sister. For their honeymoon, they went to Lone Tree, Wyoming. Nellie, Minnie, and even little Nellie went along. Nellie drove the team and wagon and they stayed in an old cabin on Taylor Mountain (named after Eliza's brother, Teancum Taylor). They hung a blanket over the door and that night two wolves came within 100 yards of the cabin. Nellie would not let Pete shoot the wolves. Instead, she shot a pistol into the air and they took off.

Peter and Lizzie moved to Iowa when their second child, Elsie, was one year old. It took them three months by covered wagon. They had three black mares. The two couples were in Iowa together, but Minnie and Porter moved back to Utah before Lizzy and Pete. Lizzy and Pete moved back to Vernal by train in 1918. The husbands did not care for the dry Utah climate, but their wives would not budge a second time. Lizzy and Pete made two trips back to Iowa though. They had five children: James K., Elsie M., Hazel N., Sylvia June, and Denver Cecil. They lived in a home on the original homestead the rest of their lives. Lizzy died in 1975. John, William and Nellie's first son, was born in 1892. They called him Johnnie. When he was about one year old he fell into the irrigation ditch. His big sister, Minnie pulled him out by his dress (baby boys wore dresses until they were toddlers). She saved his life. He was only fourteen years old when his parents divorced. Johnnie was close to his mother and stayed with her when she was married to John Harper.

In the spring of 1908, while herding goats, he found a huge bone. He wondered what it was. Then he found another bone. He told a man named Conrad Frank who lived nearby. Johnnie took Mr. Frank to see the bone. Mr. Frank told others and soon all of Jensen knew about Johnnie's find. The news of a dinosaur find reached a man who was a professor from The Carnegie Museum of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The area where Johnnie was goat herding is now the Dinosaur National Monument. The rest is history, but young Johnnie was never given credit in the history books for being the one who first discovered dinosaurs in Vernal, Utah.

John married Ruth Olive Gray in 1918. He could not have found a sweeter, nicer wife than Ruth. The couple had cattle and raised a big garden. They worked hard, living humbly in a house with a sod roof and dirt floor. It was modernized over time, and still stands on the place. Powell descendants live there today. One the 23rd of June, 1923, William was at the river home visiting John and Ruth. He passed away without any suffering with John by his side. He was 73.

John and Ruth raised eight children on the ranch: John William, Dorothy Ruth, George Keith, Charles Kelly, Mary, Robert Ray, Betty Elizabeth, and Alice May. John died in Vernal in 1968 at 76, the first of the children to pass away. The fourth child was William Swinford, whom they nicknamed Bud. He was born in 1894. He got his nickname from Bud Waful, who was his father's nephew from Missouri. Bud also stayed with his mother and John Harper along with his big brother, John.

Since Bud's father, William had a good education (for his day), it was a source of joy for him to see Bud go off to Kansas City for to mechanics school. After returning from school, Bud got a job for awhile at a saw mill on Diamond Mountain. He helped rescue a man who was lost due to snow blindness. In 1923, He worked for Calder Bros. Creamery, and remained at that job for 23 years. Bud married Ivy Adams in 1925. What was probably their first home was a boarded up tent under a big cottonwood tree on the Powell place. Gay was born there. Bud and Ivy's children are: Iva Gay, Nera Mae, William Swinford III, Stephen Ray, Sarah Layne and Rhama. Bud died the 21st of June, 1977, two weeks after his oldest sister, Minnie.

The last of the Powell children to be born was Nellie Elaine, named after her mother, on her mother and father's wedding anniversary, February 1, 1901. She lived her entire life on the place where she was born, the original homestead. While her mother, Nellie was living in New Mexico several years with her third husband, Frank Fairchild, she met a lady named Mrs. Kloeppel. Nellie told her about her 18 year old daughter, Nellie. The Kloeppel's had a handsome son who had just returned from serving in WW1. Mother Nellie left her husband Frank, and went back to Vernal (ill). In the meantime, Kloeppel's son, Henry began to write letters to young Nellie. They were married in 1921: They had five children: Nellie Mae, Alvaretta, Ruby Ruth, Walter Henry, and Jerry William. Nellie and Henry were married 63 years together. Nellie passed away in 2002 at 101. She was the last of William and Nellie' children.

Every member of the family lived their lives out on the homestead. It has been placed on the 100 year Century Farm listing.


This history received from Christine Hinckley, submitted by Bob Walker


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