Powel, John A.


John Alkire Powel was born on 20 February 1807 at Xenia, Ohio, one of fifteen children born to Joseph and Sarah (Alkire) Powel. John’s maternal grandfather, George Alkire, was an itinerant preacher during the Restoration Movement in early nineteenth-century America, and John and two of his brothers followed in their grandfather’s footsteps as preachers for the Disciples of Christ.

John married Sevilla Smith in Illinois in 1828. He organized a religious congregation in 1838 at Sugar Grove, Illinois, where it is recorded that “a large, well-formed man, with a powerful voice and dressed in homespun, began to preach . . . he spoke just as the Disciples preached on Pentecost” (Haynes, 324). John did not receive money for preaching, but supported his large family as a farmer.

John and Sevilla left Illinois in 1851 for Oregon, accompanied by all of their ten children. The family traveled with John’s brothers, Alfred and Noah, who were also preachers. Alfred and Noah brought their wives and children, and the brothers hired several single men to assist the company. John served as captain of the “Powel train,” as it was called.

After the three families’ arrival in Oregon, John preached throughout the western portion of the state. He later built a church building with Alfred and served as pastor of the congregation. John continued to support his family as a farmer, and also served on the board of trustees for Christian College in Oregon.

John died on 8 June 1880 in Albany, Oregon at the age of seventy-three. He had lived in Linn County, Oregon, for almost thirty years.


1850 Illinois Census (J.A. Powel, no township listed, Menard County, 294).

1860 Oregon Census (J.A. Powel, no township listed, Linn County, 346).

1870 Oregon Census (John A. Powell, Lebanon, LinnCounty, 658).

1880 Oregon Census (J.A. Powell, Albany, LinnCounty, 323A).

Dailey, Charles. “The Powell Brothers: John, Alfred, Noah—Pioneer Oregon Gospel Preacher.” Internet. <http://ncbible.org/nwh/ProPowell.html>;.

Haynes, Nathaniel S. History of the Disciples of Christ in Illinois, 1819–1914. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 1915.