Why Did They Move?

Moving Westward

The migration of families is an interesting one. Most people in the United States of America came from immigrants who arrived by boat from Europe. These people came seeking a better way of life for themselves and their families.

It is interesting too, to see how these families moved within the United States as well. Some families settled down and stayed for generations, and still can be found in the area today. Others seemed to be unsettled and kept moving.

One family I have been researching is the family of Elisha Powell. He seems to be one of the unsettled. He claimed to have been born in South Carolina as per census records. He may have married here, but they did not stay long. His children claim birth in Alabama and Mississippi, as well as Texas. Again, these are found in the census records and what was claimed on death certificates.

Having a family with a common name moving often in this time period, makes them hard to follow and find in a specific area. The only certainty we have is that Elisha was granted land in Jasper County, Texas in the 1840s. They lived here for a time before moving to Liberty County, Texas. They did however remain in Texas until their death. Most of their children seem to have stayed in Texas as well, though not all in the same area. But, why did they move again?

The Powells arrived in Texas most likely from Mississippi in January 1841 according to a document in his Land Grant file. It was under the “fourth class” of headright certificates that Elisha Powell received his land. Heads of families arriving between January 1841 and January 1842 were entitled conditionally to receive 640 acres of land. According to Powell’s file, he was proven to have lived there for three years and performed the duties required.

This “cheep” land as it were, must have been a draw for Elisha Powell and his growing young family. Having moved states about three times, I wonder what opportunities he had had in the deep south – or lack there of. Was farming difficult in South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi? Or was Texas his destination from the beginning? We do not know much about his life before Texas. I wonder if he came with other friends and relatives.

Much more needs to be done on this family. It is difficult though, because during the Civil War many documents and records in the South were destroyed or lost. Also, family stories were not passed down. We may never know where in South Carolina Elisha and Ruth came from, or who their parents were.

It is a slow process and collaborating with other families leads to interesting ideas and theories that are still being explored. Perhaps one day, we will be able to travel to these areas to search for evidence of Elisha Powell and find out what prompted him to move his large young family westward.


Handbook of Texas Online, Aldon S. Lang and Christopher Long, “LAND GRANTS,” accessed January 24, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mpl01.

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