Rev. Joseph Powell, of Welsh parentage, was born March 6, 1734 in Pennepek, Pennsylvania. He was classically educated at the Hopewell Academy in New Jersey and ordained there in 1764. He and his wife Rachel (Rose) Powell, were leading members of the Tonoloway Primitive Baptist Church beginning August 1765, when he was called to be the first pastor of this church. In the following year, Rev. Joseph Powell, David Bowen, and Elias Stillwell applied for a warrant for the land that the church was built upon. He would not only work diligently in his capacity as Pastor here for nearly forty years, but additionally be appointed as Chaplain in the Revolutionary War and serve as a member of the Constitutional Convention of July 15, 1776.
He would also serve as a member of the General Assembly 1779-80, and solemnize 845 marriages over the course of his ministry. He married Rachel Rose, September 1, 1742. They had eight children Mary (b 1767), Anna (b 1769), Joseph (b 1771), Rebecca (b 1774), Samuel (b 1777), John W. (b 1779), and Rachel, (b 1781). When he died Sept. 8, 1804 he was aged 62 years.
The family Bible of Joseph Powell, as of 1939, was in the possession of Mrs. Miller of Indianapolis, Indiana, and contains records of the exact times each of their children were born.
Tonoloway Primitive Baptist Church is located in Thompson Twp., in present day Fulton County, formerly part of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, just a couple of miles north of Hancock, Maryland and the Potomac River.
Military Career of Joseph Powell
(From: Joseph Powell 1734-1804 Delegate From Tonoloway, Fulton County Historical Society, Inc., Written for the Historical Society by: Glenn R. Cordell and John H. Nelson)
“…What information is available indicates that he was an active soldier, and was probably acquainted with… Brigadier General Charles Scott, Major General Nathaniel Greene and General George Washington.
Francis B. Heitman’s 1914 book Historical Register of the Continental Army Durning the War of the Revolution, April 1775 to December, 1783 briefly states that Joseph Prowell (with the ‘r’) was a Captain in John Pratton’s Continental Regiment, was promoted to Major in 1778, transferred to the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment, and retired in 1779.
Much more information can be found in John B.B. Trussell, Jr.’s 1977 book, The Pennsylvania Line-Regimental Organization and Operations 1776-1783. Trusell confirms the above information and provides more details of Patton’s ‘Additional’ Continental Regiment, and all the following information is taken from his account.
Patton’s ‘Additional’ Regiment was the second of two regiments recruited primarily in Pennsylvania on authroity of Congress on Dec. 27, 1776. The outfit included a number of officers and enlisted men from New Jersey and Delaware.
Command of the unit was designated to Col. John Patton, and although he resigned his commision in Feb., 1778, the outfit continued to be identified as ‘Patton’s Regiment’. The unit’s uniform was a short brown jacket, buckskin breeches, and a round hat.
Records of the unit are scarce, according to Trussell; however, seven company commanders have been idntified. Company A was commanded by Joseph Powell. Trussell himself states that ‘Prowell is deen as “Powell” in some cases and “Prowell” in others’. Powell was promoted directly from civilian life on Jan 11, 1777. That he was promoted from civilian life should come as no surprise. He was certainly qualified as a leader of men, and demonstrated such ability not only in the pulpit, but at the Pennsylvania State Constitutional Convention of 1776 as well, and no doubt he was known by the country’s leading political and military figures.
Trussell states that little reference to the units activities can be found. However, at least some of the regiment took part in patrolling and skirmishes in New Jersey during the late winter and spring of 1777. As well, the outfit saw action in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth. Patton’s Regiment was also present at the encampment at Valley Forge, where it was a component of Brigadier General Charles Scott’s brigade. By the end of the encampment, the regiment was greatly reduced in numbers and was primarily absorbed by a regiment commeanded by Col. William Grayson.
…Powell was the first chaplain of the original seven to vacate his capacity, when he was promoted to the rank of major on Jan. 17, 1778. Almost a year later, on Jan. 13, 1779, Powell was transferred to the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment. The so-called ‘new’ 11th Pennsylvania was formed as a result of two resolutions of Congress- one on Dec. 16, 1778, and the other on Jan 13, 1779. It was to consit of Patton’s and Col. Thomas Harley’s regiments, plus several independent companies.
According to Trussell, there was a controversy over the regiment’s majority. Powell was initially appointed as major… however the position was claimed by Evan Edwards of Hartley’s unit who, incidenrally, spent most of his service time as aide-de-camp to Major General Charles Lee. A board of general officers selected Edwards to be the major, this despite the opinion of Lt. Col. Adam Hubley, who considered Powell to be a “worthy, good officer.”
During Powell’s tenure with the 11th, the unit was primarily stationed at Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Joseph Powell retired from his military career on June 5, 1779. It is not known why he was promoted to major, why he was transferred to the 11th Pennsylvania, or why he retired. Perhaps he simply felt it was time to return to his little log church in the wilds of western Pennsyslvania. He would see little rest, though, for in a few short months, Rev. Joseph Powell was elected as Representative from Bedford County in the Pennsylvania Assembly.”
Heitman, Francis B. “Historical Register of the Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution April, 1775 to December, 1783.” The Rare Book Shop Publishing Company, Inc. Washington, D.C. Pg. 454. 1914.
The Pennsylvania Archives. Series 5. Volume 3. Pg. 637. Harrisburg, 1906-1907.
“The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography”. Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia. Vol. 4. 1880.
Trussell, John B.B. “The Pennsylvania Line-Regimental Organization and Operations, 1776-1783.” Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Harrisburg, Pa. 1977.
The Fulton County Historical Society publication (Vol. 9: Joseph Powell 1734-1804, Delegate from Tonoloway, 1987 – (48 pgs.)