Background Shelby post
cards were published during her years in Shelby.
Elroy King Powell
and Hattie Blanche Sherman were married September 12, 1894 in
Morrow County, Ohio. Roy was the first son of Samuel G. Powell
and Harriett Henrietta Walker. Samuel was probably born in Loudon
County, Virginia, while his wife's Walker family was a long time
resident of Ohio. Hattie Sherman's father Judson, was born in
Morrow County, Ohio in 1828 and Julia Ann Miller, her mother,
was born in 1844 in Cardington, Morrow County.
Photos on this page
appear courtesy of Tim Page and were originally published in
his book: Dawn Powell - A Biography. It is a must read for any
Dawn Powell enthusiast.
Both Sherman and
Miller families were well represented in Morrow County. Dawn
Powell remarked that her mother's relatives populated half of
early Morrow County. Family lore indicated that Julia Millers'
mother, Rebecca Rogers, was of partial Native American heritage.
Julia's husband, Judson Sherman's mother, Catherine Chapman,
was reputedly related to John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed).
Roy and Hattie's
first child, Julia Mabel (probably named after her grandmother
Sherman), was born July 11, 1895 in Mt. Gilead, Morrow County,
Ohio. Roy was employed as a miller in Mt. Gilead and Hattie was
housekeeping at their home at 53 West North Street.
Undated baby photo
of Marthy Dawn Powell
November 28, 1896
was the birth date of their second child, Marthy Dawn, who was
almost certainly named for Hazel Dawn Sherman (Hattie's younger
sister). Dawn would later recall her birth date incorrectly on
several occasions, however her birth certificate verifies this
Phyllis and Dawn Powell
Their final child,
Phyllis Aileen, was born on December 29, 1899, while the family
was living at 115 Cherry Street in Mt. Gilead. The above photo
was taken c. 1901 on their Cherry Street front porch. Not long
after this photo was taken, Roy loaded the family possessions
in a horse drawn wagon and moved them to Shelby, Ohio. The family
arrived in time to be included in the 1901-1902 Shelby Directory.
The reason for the move is not clear, however Hattie's parents,
were living in Shelby at 114 West Main Street prior to 1900.
Orpha May Sherman Steinbrueck, Hattie's older sister, was living
at 121 1/2 North Broadway in a home she had built in 1897.
The above photo of
the three Powell daughters was taken shortly after their arrival
in Shelby. Hattie's parents and two siblings, Jay, born 1880
and Hazel Dawn, born 1886, were then living at 33 East Main Street
(a few doors east of the current Shelby Museum).
Auntie May Steinbrueck
was living with her daughter Gretchen, born 1892, and running
a boarding house at her 121 1/2 North Broadway location. She
was divorced from her first husband, Otto George Steinbrueck,
whom she had married in 1891.
Roy, Hattie Powell,
and family rented a house at 76 East Main Street which was later
demolished having been located just east of the current Rite
Aid rear parking lot. The 1901-1902 Shelby Directory lists R.K.
Powell as a traveling salesman (employed by the Heath City Mills
Company at that time). Dawn Powell's later diaries indicated
that home life then was centered on her mother and siblings,
and her father appeared occasionally, wearing clothing that was
out of place in a home that had to "make do"on his
stringent household allowance.
The Powell girls
lives changed dramatically on December 7, 1903 when their mother
died in their home, officially from pneumonia, but in later life
the girls all acknowledged it was possibly a botched abortion.
Hattie's viewing and funeral were held in the home parlor with
lasting effects on all the children.
Dawn's first two
appearances in the Shelby Daily Globe occurred first as "Dawnie"
in her mother's funeral notice (December 08, 1903) and secondly
when her letter to Santa was published in the December 16th edition:
"Dear old Santa
Please bring me a
drum, a sled, and candy, an orange, and that will be all and
please bring My Sister a dresser, a looking glass, a violin,
a doll dress, and bring a christmas tree for all of us, and I
am nine years old and My Sister is four years old. With all my
love to you. From your little friend, Dawn Powell 76 E. Main
At first glance it
seems that a nine year old would not write a letter to Santa
that soon after the death of her mother, however it may be explained
when the number of such letters mailed to the Daily Globe is
considered. There were over 320 "Santa" letters published
in 1903 in ten different editions of the paper. Dawn's was one
of the first 125 and could have been written earlier and the
publication was delayed due to the volume of letters.
Roy continued in
his role as traveling salesman for various companies, while the
three girls were "farmed out" to relatives. In 1904,
they lost their grandfather, Judd Sherman, almost exactly a year
after their mother died. Dawn was still enrolled in Grant School
in Shelby in June,1905 where she and Cloyd Zebold won awards
to the girl and boy who had obtained the largest number of perfect
spelling lessons for the year. Each winning Mexican hat!
The 1906 Shelby Directory
lists Roy Powell, commercial traveler, residing at 35 North Broadway
with no children listed. In June of 1906 Hazel Dawn Sherman Gates
(married George Washington Gates in 1904) died at her home on
East Main Street after only 24 hours of illness. The story circulating
in Shelby was her death was the result of poisoning after eating
two oyster sandwiches, however the official stated cause was
acute heart failure and yellow jaundice. Dawn Powell's vivacious
namesake "Auntie Dawn" was dead at the age of 20. She
would later appear as a central character in Powell's "My
Home is Far Away" novel.
Slightly over a year
later, Roy Powell married Sabra Myrtilla Stearns, born 1877 in
North Olmstead, Cuyahoga County, Ohio and the stories of the
"evil step mother" became true in the lives of the
Powell sisters. While Sabra's rules were inflicted on all the
girls, it made Dawn's life especially difficult because of her
freedom-loving independent nature. She was least apt to accept
what she thought to be unreasonable. Roy was still constantly
on the road and when home he was happy to be living in a house
whose purchase was due largely to his marriage to Sabra and was
unmoved by pleas from his daughters.
By 1910 the Roy Powell
family was living in Cardington, Ohio and 13 year old Marthy
Dawn was continuing her favorite form of escape, writing stories.
Sabra, upset over a perceived infraction of her house rules,
found Dawn's dairies and writings, and destroyed them. Unable
to tolerate this event, Dawn left home and returned to Shelby
to live with her "Auntie May" Steinbrueck.