[ Descendents of Sampson Power ]

The name Powers (or Power) is of French origin, le Poer, and refers to "the poor." It refers to someone who was poor or who had taken a vow of poverty. The most prominent members of the Power family came into England and Ireland from France. Power(s) is the most common surname in County Waterford, Ireland according to the Irish History Foundation

One of William the Conqueror's officers in the battle of Hastings (1066) bore that name (and appears on the roll of survivors at Battle Abbey). The name le Poer is recorded frequently in English history after 1066. One Richard Poer is recorded as the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1187.

Though not Gaelic in origin, Powers may be regarded as one hundred per cent Irish. It is derived from the old French word "povre" (Latin pauper, poor). ("Irish Families," by Edward MacLysaght, 1957, pg. 247)

While many members of our Powers family say they've "always been told" we were English, it is possible our roots could come from England by way of Wales or Ireland. The name appears frequently in both countries. There is a significant Power family in County Waterford, Ireland (in the old Parish of Ring) (David Clarke, HFBK19A).

This group of Powers' is explained in Amos Powers' 1884 book ("Powers Family: Genealogical and Historical Record," Fergus Printing, Chicago). He says King Henry's 1171 invasion of Ireland included one Roger le Poer, an "English Knight," who performed "distinguished services." For these services, he was granted large tracts of land in County Waterford. He had many descendants and many of the local Celts took the name of the estates to which they were attached. As a result, the name Power or Powers is widespread in County Waterford. Many of the Power families that came to America were these poor Irish men and women, not the English lords.

In the US, there is an extensive Powers family in Maine and Massachusetts that traces back to Walter Power (b.1639 in Essex, England; died 22 Feb 1708) who arrived in Salem, Mass. in 1654. ("Powers: A Narrative and Historical Account of the Walter Power Family," published 7/4/1976).

Walter Power married Trial Sheppard (m. 11 Jan 1660, Weymouth, Mass.) and they had eight children. The line of three of those children is fairly well documented. While there is no indication they are, in any way, related to our line: the Sampson Power/Powers family in Virginia, we should note there are at least two Sampson Powers families in New England. Sampson Sr. (b. 22 Mar 1748, Hollis Twp, Hillsboro, New Hampshire) is the son of Peter Powers. He has a son, Sampson (b. 17 Jan 1777, Hollis, Hillsboro, NH). And there is a Sampson Powers, son of Dr. Stephen Powers, a descendent of Walter & Trial Power.

There is a Power family in York County (Virginia) in the late 1600's. Dr. Henry Power and his wife Mary are the start of a line of prominent Virginians, including several Doctors, military officers and ministers. They trace their line back to a Power family that includes several English Gentlemen (ie. Esq. on their names) and Lords. We have included their line from Henry Power as an addendum, but we believe it has no connection to our Power family (unless it's back in England).

The name Powers or Power is found frequently through early Virginia. In the 1790 Census, there are 29 Powers or Power families in Virginia, including Sampson Power of Mecklenburg County.

William Powers of North Carolina (America Online BILLNOCAR) says there are stories suggesting the Virginia Power family comes from four Power (or Powers) brothers who came over from Ireland in the 18th century. Three of the brothers stayed in Virginia, the fourth moved to Northern South Carolina.

The book "Cavaliers and Pioneers" lists the arrival of several Power families in the late 1600's. Our most likely ancestor, Sampson Power, is one of 60 persons transported by Thomas Fenwick. Fenwick is rewarded with 3000 acres of land in Norfolk County, on the Elizabeth River, on 28 Sep 1681. This Sampson Power would be too old to be the Sampson Power of Mecklenburg County that we know to be "our line." But the name is unusual enough to be a grandfather or great-uncle. And the migration from Lower Norfolk, probably through Brunswick (where we find several Power families), or through Northeastern North Carolina, to Mecklenburg-Lunenburg is quite logical for that time.

There are, however, several other possibilities.

The name William Powers is found frequently in "our line," and so we note the arrival of one "William Power" about 1663. For his transportation, George Catchmaid is granted 3333 acres north of Roanoke Island (North Carolina) between the Pequimons River and Owaseake Creek on 1 Apr 1663.

"Cavaliers and Pioneers" also notes the arrival of Thomas Power about 1662. Thomas is transported by Thomas Robinson and Edward Lewis. And Robert Chowning transports one James Power in 1663.

As we noted above, Sampson Power arrived in the Norfolk area in 1681. From 1697 to 1720, a Sampson Power (or sometimes Powers) is a frequent witness on wills in Lower Norfolk County.

  • 25 Sep 1697, witness on will of Peter Hobson
  • 26 May 1698, witness on Francis Tully Emperour's will
  • 02 Aug 1700, receives 300 lbs tobacco in will of John Anderews
  • 08 Jan 1700, witness on will of Thomas Tabor
  • 19 Mar 1700, witness on will of John Dunn
  • 05 Aug 1708, witness on will of John Godfrey
  • 15 May 1710, proves John Godfrey's will
  • 18 Oct 1714, witness on James M.A.C. Morrin's will
  • 25 Dec 1717, witness on will of Lemuel Powell
  • 20 Jun 1718, proves will of Lemuel Powell
  • 04 Mar 1718, witness on will of Thomas Bowles
  • 17 Jul 1719, proves will of Thomas Bowles
  • 05 Apr 1720, witness for John Bruce

One would think with that much experience in witnessing wills, there would be a Sampson Power will. If it exists, we haven't found it yet. We've looked in several Virginia counties, but have not yet looked into North Carolina.

But on the list of tithables (Lower Norfolk), starting in 1730, we see a Mrs. Elizabeth Powers with a group of slaves. In 1733, the list includes Mrs. Elizabeth Powers and her son Sampson. If that is the year Sampson turned 16, the customary age to show a son on the list of tithables, this Sampson would have been born about 1717. Elizabeth could be the emigrant Sampson Power's wife, and this younger Sampson (born in 1717) could be the emigrant Sampson's son.

The first entry that shows young Sampson: "A list of the Tithables is the Westron Branch taiken the 11th of June 1733 by Thomas Scott. Mrs. Elizabeth Powers & her son, Sampson & negroes Quoth, Sara, Miro & Thomas. 5" Sampson and his mother and various slaves are shown through 1736. That is Elizabeth's last appearance on the Norfolk County tithable list.

Sampson and a Samuel Smith are shown in 1750 in the "tithables in the Borough of Norfolk and down the South side of Daniel Tanners Creek, Mr. Christopr. Perkins list." A Sampson Powers (with a negro Amey) is also shown in 1750 on a list of "Tithables taken in the Western Branch Persinkt, 10 Jun 1750, per Geo. Veale."

Sampson's land - along the Elizabeth River in Lower Norfolk - matches land we later see in the hands of Samuel Power. And so, we speculate that Sampson Senior (and wife Elizabeth) have two sons: Samuel (older and out of the home at Sampson Senior's death) and Sampson Jr.

Sampson Junior appears to have no sons. His will mentions only a daughter Elizabeth. Samuel has two wives, Amy Butt, by whom he has several children, including a Sampson (grandson of the immigrant) and a Samuel Jr.; and Mary, by whom he has additional children. We note that both Samuel Jr. & his brother Sampson (sons of Samuel & grandsons of the immigrant) are "Master Tailors" in Princess Anne County (carved from Lower Norfolk) around 1750-1752.

I am persuaded that Sampson (son of Samuel, son of Sampson Sr.) is the same Sampson we find in Mecklenburg County in 1790

There is a Sampson Powers in Edenton District of Bertie County, North Carolina, in the census of 1790. The family shows one White male over sixteen, one under sixteen, four White females and four slaves. Bertie County is in Northeastern North Carolina, not too far from Lower Norfolk. By the 1800 census, Sampson is no longer there but a Mary and a Susanna Powers are.

In the period between Sampson Sr.'s death (c. 1730) in Lower Norfolk and our Sampson in Mecklenburg (by 1790), there is a James Powers in Brunswick County (Mecklenburg was formed from Lunenburg which, in turn was formed from Brunswick).

In the order book for 1732-37, he is shown four times. First, he and Clement Read "produce attornies, licenses and took requisite oaths." On 06 Jul 1733, James Powers receives a judgment in a suit he brings against James Parham. On 01 Oct 1733, he wins a suit against Walter Long. And on 09 Dec 1734, he wins a suit against Marmaduke Johnson.

There is another line that could well be the source of our Sampson Powers of Mecklenburg County. Tom Powers (tfpowers@aol.com) has found a Joseph Powers Sr. (wife Sarah Franklin) who moves from King & Queen County to Chesterfield County in the 1750's. Tom shows sons Joseph Jr., William and Sampson…and shows the entire group moving to Mecklenburg County about 1765…with William and Joseph Jr. moving on to South Carolina about 1770.

Tom's data is not absolute, but it is persuasive. He believes the family is Irish.

As our data shows, the names fit. And there seems to be considerable contact and land dealing among Sampson, Joseph and William.

We can trace our line with certainty to Sampson Power, a Mecklenburg County, Virginia, farmer. He was born about 1750 and died in Oct 1813. By 1790 standards, he is moderately prosperous and has a household that includes three slaves.

Sampson Power made several land purchases in Mecklenburg in the late 1700's. He also appears on census and tax rolls. From those sources, we know his wife was Sarah (RIN #0814). Sampson Power is also listed as an appraiser on the estate of James Vaughan in 1797 (Vaughan is listed as a shoemaker with a small estate).

There are two other Power (or Powers) families in Mecklenburg County at about the same time as Sampson. The 1790 census lists William Power with a family of seven white persons and no slaves and Joseph Power, also with no slaves. There is a land deal, apparently between these same two men on 9 Jul 1770. Joseph Powers sells William Powers 157 acres near Hutchnon's Creek "...along the dividing line..." between William's and Joseph's property.

There is a Joseph Power who is Sampson's half-brother (son of Samuel by the second wife, Mary) and he seems to have disappeared from the Lower Norfolk/Princess Anne County area about the same time this Joseph appears in Mecklenburg. It could be that he first took the name Power to Mecklenburg.

Joseph Power is also mentioned among those who file a claim in Mecklenburg after the Revolutionary war. He asks to be compensated for "...one gun." (13 May 1782). And William Powers appears on 9 Nov 1772 as the seller in a deal for 169 acres of land on Laton's Creek, being sold to Richard Hutchinson.

And in nearby Lunenburg County, there is a Thomas Powers in 1759. On 04 Dec 1759, Thomas Powers sells land to James Boyd.

We have also located four people in Mecklenburg County who appear to be the next generation. They could be children of William or Joseph:

  • Sally Powers, m. Thomas Crafton, 13 Mar 1826.
  • William Powers, m. Dosha Farley, 10 Dec 1796.
  • Rebecca Powers, m. Matthew Walker, 21 Dec 1805.
  • Thomas Powers, m. Rebecca Wright, 19 Mar 1827.

And we have marriage records of two Brunswick County Powers (Brunswick was carved up in 1732 to make Lunenburg and Lunenburg carved up to make Mecklenburg in 1765).

  • Henry F. Power m. Mary (Polly) Harrison, age 21, surety James Harrison & Willie Harrison; 14 Feb 1797
  • William B. Power m. Araminta Harrison, dau. of James H. Harrison; 24 Nov 1823. (Could be brothers mary sisters)
(C) 2006. Harvey W. Powers. All rights reserved.