A Civil War Homecoming: Suzy’s Story

The Story Told By Susan Elizabeth Hunter Powell to Earl L. Weaver1

susan-elizabeth-hunter-powell-aunt-susieSusan Elizabeth Hunter was born on March 15, 1840 in Williamson County, Illinois. She was the third child of Jacob Hunter (b. 1-18-1809 d. 12-21-1874) and Mary Moore Duncan Hunter (b. 5-1-1814 d. 8-21-1896).

She married John R. Powell, son of James Thomas Powell and Elizabeth Perry on December 20, 1860.

During the Civil War, Susan stayed with James and Elizabeth Powell, her father- and mother-in-law. News reached them that John Powell had been killed in the Civil War. Earl Weaver recorded the story Susan told about the evening John returned home.

Earl refers to Susan as “Aunt Suzy.” Susan Elizabeth Hunter Powell was a sister to Cynthia Ann Hunter, wife of Jesse Weaver, and after Jesse’s death, Cynthia Ann married Arch Odom. Cynthia Ann Hunter Weaver Odom was Earl L. Weaver’s grandmother, so “Aunt Suzy” was really his great aunt.

Earl also refers to Arch Odom, his step-grandfather, as “Uncle Arch Odom.” Arch Odom was captured and taken to Andersonville Prison in Georgia along with Suzy’s husband John Powell.

By Earl’s account, he first heard this story from Aunt Susie around 1895 or 1896. Susan Elizabeth Hunter Powell died on January 19, 1927. Her husband John Powell died in 1899. Susan and John Powell have two children, Mary Powell and James Powell, buried at the Jacob Hunter Cemetery. Both children died within 11 days after developing Whooping Cough in the summer of 1882. She was survived by one son, William Troy Powell, two brothers (George Washington Hunter & James Monroe Hunter), two sisters (Lucina Evaline Hunter Newton & Sarah J. Hunter Aikman), three grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and several nephews and nieces.

People interested in the histories of the Hunter, Lee, Duncan, Spiller, and Weaver families are indebted to Earl Leland Weaver for his research and notes over the years and to his daughter, Lois Weaver Kelly, for compiling and editing his extensive family records.

Richard H. Hunter, Trustee
Jacob Hunter Trust

The Susan Hunter Powell Story

as told to Earl L. Weaver

I can’t remember how early I heard Aunt Susie tell the story, but along when I was 7 or 8, I first recall it. Along towards the end of the Civil War, no word came from Uncle John for a long time. Finally, a letter came from one of his comrades saying a body had been found after a skirmish and that the buzzards had been at it and there were no eyes left. (Aunt Susie said she had hated those nasty things ever since.) But, judging from the size, teeth, and color of hair, it must have been John. So that was the last news of him. (He was in Andersonville Prison.)

James Powell, the father of John, was living in old Shake Rag. He ran a store there and the flour mill. Aunt Susie could have worked in the store in the millinery department, for somewhere she learned the trade. She had magic in her fingers and could trim a hat as long as she lived…(87). Her eyesight was never normal. From birth, one of her eyes was blind. She was very near-sighted, and she finally got glasses that let her see far off at a distance, but let her start to read or see a picture, she would push her glasses up and leave them and look with her naked eye.

She stayed with the Powells a good part of the time while Uncle John was away. Along about sundown, “James,” as his wife called him, would close things down and start home. The women folks would have the supper all cooked and ready to serve when they saw him coming, so he could go right to the table. The old lady, being able to see “off” would do the watching. One evening, she sang out, “I see ‘James’ coming, Susie. Put things on.” But, she kept looking, then said, “Well, who is it stepping along so pert and fisty with him?” In a minute or so he said, “Put another plate on, Susie, I guess it’s another soldier starved to death.” Then she said, “Somehow, he makes me think of John.” At that, Aunt Susie lost interest in the kitchen and came too. While she could not see the men coming, she could watch her mother-in-law’s face. She said, Mother Powell would set her glasses out to the end of her nose and look over them; then under, then through them. She said, “The poor thing looks starved to death. I guess we had better fry some more ham.” Then she came up with, “Well, if I didn’t know John is dead, I’d think sure it is John, for he even walks like him!” At that, Aunt Susie said she never let her eye leave the old lady’s face. In a moment, a look of wonder, then her good old face seemed to light up as if a light had been turned on. She screamed like a wild Indian and said, “It IS John!” and made out at the door. At this point, Aunt Susie would choke up and she and Mother both had to wipe tears from their eyes before she could go on with her story. Uncle John, who was sitting there, old and sick, with head down on his hands. I’d notice a tear or two trickle down between his fingers. I could not puzzle out why three grown people would want to cry when not a soul had done a thing to any of them!

I waited as long as I could for I wanted the story to go on. So, I piped up, “Then what did you do, Aunt Susie?” She wpied her eyes dry and grinned down at me and said, “Well, I yelled too and made right after her.” They all met out in the yard. The mother grabbed him and “she would hug and she would pat; she would shout and she would hug; on and on. All John could do to let me know he saw me was to look over his mother’s shoulder and grin.” Finally, Father Powell said, “My goodness, Mother, do let the boy say Howdy to his wife!” He had to pull her poor old hands away and half carry her into the house. “Then,” I asked, “Did Uncle John tell you ‘howdy’?” She cackled out in her cheerful little laugh I always loved to hear so well and said, “The story has ended!”

Uncle John, Uncle Arch Odom and Dr. Ben Felts had been captured and taken to the infamous Andersonville Southern Prison in South Georgia. They were there nine months and were but living skeletons when they finally were released. Neither of them held any ill will against the Southern people and both died Democrats. Uncle Arch said along after they were poor old scarecrows, a Southern officer rode in. (It was General Joseph Wheeler, look him up.) Uncle Arch said he went up and gave him a good cussin and expected to be shot. He told him that any set of men who would let human beings starve to death like they were being starved was a set of fiends and murderers. When his breath was all gone, he looked up in the man’s face, expecting the bullet. The General was in tears. He said, “Soldier, what you say is true, but we are doing all we can. Our own women and children are starving too.” You see, General Sherman had been through there and had made a thorough job of destroying all food. The North had also quit exchanging prisoners.

When they were leaving there, staggering along in rags and tatters, they passed through a good big town (Southern). Women brought out men’s garments and threw them to them as they marched. “Here, Yankee! My boy won’t be home. He will not need it; you do!”

1 Earl Leland Weaver’s Family History: His Research and His Memories. Compiled, edited, and typed by Lois Weaver Kelly. Z & M Enterprises, Inc. Manchaca, TX 78652. Computerized, updated, and reprinted in 2001 by Zipra Hartwell Morgan.