Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Searching Benoni Powers' Genes

introductory note by Donna Gloff:
The children of several families from the Hacker's Creek area settled to the far west and east sides of the Oil Creek watershed just before and after of the Civil War. They came as
McCauleys, see Mar '08 Clarence McCauley, A Man of the Soil
Mitchells, see Jul '07 The Reverend Captain John Elam Mitchell

and Hawkinses. See Nov '07 Gun Gets Snake Bit
The families were early settlers in Lewis County. There are many fascinating stories from those Lewis County pioneer families.

One of the forebears of this group was Benoni Powers. Benoni had been particularly difficult to document. Ann (Bligh) Powers finally went to DNA testing to untangle the threads of Benoni T's heritage. The science of genetics discovered that Benoni's biological heritage belongs with the McWhorters of Lewis County. Here is the amazing story of Ann Bligh Power's search.

Rt: Benoni Teter Powers' great-grandchildren Oscar "Junior" and Thelma Hawkins in the 1930s. They lived in the Oil Creek/Posey Run area.
. . . . .

The Search for Benoni Powers'
Biological Heritage
by Ann Bleigh Powers
Almost 200 years after the birth of Benoni Teter Powers there are hundreds of his descendants who want to know who his parents were. Included in these descendants is my husband, James Allen Powers. As his wife, I wanted to know the answer to these questions and I started doing research. I asked Joy Stalnaker, a genealogist specializing in central West Virginia, to help me.

lt: Benoni and Elizabeth (McCally) Powers

The place where I began was with Benoni Powers’ death certificate at the Lewis County Court House. It states that his parents were “William and Jemima Powers.” There was indeed a Revolutionary War Indian Scout, William Powers, who was living in Jane Lew in 1815 when Benoni was born. He, however, had long been married to Hannah Stout, had several grown children, and was 48 years old. Since he was already married to Hannah, it was then quite clear that Benoni Teter Powers was born out of wedlock to William Powers and to Jemima, whose last name the family always said was Teter. How then, could I prove this relationship to William Powers?

I turned to Family Tree DNA to solve this problem. My son, James Judson Powers, sent in his DNA to Family Tree DNA to be analyzed. While this was being done, Joy Stalnaker researched and discovered that Jemima Teter did exist and lived in Jane Lew in this same period, 1815. She found both a marriage bond and a marriage record for her and John Booher. The marriage bond from the Harrison County Court House was taken out on 21 December 1816 and signed by Jacob Stanley and John Booher. On this marriage bond there is also a note written by Henry McWhorter, also of Jane Lew, which states, “26 December 1816 this is to sartafy that Jemima tetar that was aprantis to me is of full age and that I am willing for her to marry to John Bugher giving over my hand and seal in the presents of test.” And he signed this note with his signature. There is also a marriage record in the Harrison County Marriage Record books showing that the Rev. John Mitchell married Jemima Teter and John Booker on 27 December 1816.

Lt: Rev. John Mitchell's statement in the Harrison County record book that he married Jemima Teter and John Booker on 27 December 1816. Click on it to enlarge the image.

It was discovered that Jemima Teter and John Booher presumably moved to Wirt County, WV where Jemima Booher later shows up on the 1850 Census at age 62 being married to William Booher, 58. Also in this census is an eight year old girl, Jemima Booher, living with her parents, John and Elizabeth Booher, also in Wirt County.

Some eight weeks later I received from Family Tree DNA the analysis of my son’s DNA. The results showed that James Judson Powers was genetic distance one from Chester McWhorter. Genetic distance one means that every one of the 37 markers of the DNA of the two men matched, except for one that was off by one number. I sent an email to Chester McWhorter who had since died in Ohio and whose cousin was handling his correspondence and doing research on the McWhorter family. Chester McWhorter’s family was originally from Bucks County, PA but they thought that one member of the McWhorter family had gone to West Virginia. The family conferred on this and after some time said that they thought that the member who had gone to West Virginia was a distant cousin of Chester McWhorter, Henry McWhorter. They, however, did not have proof of this relationship but were searching for it.

In the meantime, I wanted to find a direct male descendant of William Powers to prove our relationship to him. Joy Stalnaker suggested that I should take the Weston, WV telephone book and call all the Powerses in the book. There turned out to be 38 people with the Powers name who lived in Lewis, Upshur, Gilmer, Harrison, and Randolph counties. I had many interesting conversations over a period of a couple of months with many who were related to my husband and his family and many who were not. But I did not turn up anyone whose family went back to William Powers. Joy Stalnaker then turned to Gloria (Powers) Husk, a descendant of Benoni Teter Powers, who has done research on this family. Gloria knew Earl Arnold Powers of Parkersburg, WV who was a direct descendant of William Powers through his son, William D. Powers, Jr. and his wife, Charity Paxton. She gave Joy Earl’s telephone number and I called him.

Rt above: illustration of DNA's double helix.

Lt: illustration from website regarding genealogical DNA testing.
Rt below: the kit used to collect DNA for sampling

Earl Powers is a generous man who is very interested in, and proud of, his Powers family roots. He was immediately willing to give his DNA in the interest of finding out more about his family and in helping me to find out more about ours. I ordered a DNA kit for Earl and after about six weeks we got the results from his test. There was absolutely no relationship between Earl Arnold Powers and my son, James Judson Powers, although Earl had an exact match with another man on the Powers family FTDNA website. We were fully expecting to find a relationship and were quite shocked by the results. Family Tree DNA provided the comparison of 25 markers of Earl Arnold Powers’ DNA with James Judson Powers’ DNA as follows:
In comparing the 25 markers, the probability that the males who provided the samples shared a common male ancestor in the past is…
4 generations is 0.00%
8 generations is 0.03%
12 generations is 0.38%
16 generations is 1.78%
20 generations is 5.21%
24 generations is 11.29%

When I realized that this meant that there was no relationship between a direct descendant of William Powers and my son, I looked again at the results of the DNA analysis of my son. There was the one relationship that had come up was with Chester McWhorter. In addition I knew from Henry McWhorter’s note on the marriage bond of Jemima Teter and John Booher that Jemima Teter had been his apprentice.

At this point I told Joy Stalnaker that there was no DNA match with Earl Arnold Powers and that I now needed to find a direct male descendant of Henry McWhorter who would be willing to help us by taking a DNA test. She knew two male descendants of Henry McWhorter, one in Upshur County and one in Monongalia County, WV. She suggested that I call Robert F. McWhorter in Morgantown and ask his help and this I did.

Like Earl Powers, Bob McWhorter knew his family history and was very proud of it. He had been to Scotland in search of his roots and had helped his relatives write up their family genealogy. When he heard about our 200 year old search for the parents of Benoni Teter Powers, he generously offered to help us by sending in his DNA for testing. It took some time, but when it was finally finished, our son tested genetic distance one with Bob McWhorter’s DNA as he had with Chester McWhorter. Bob McWhorter and Chester McWhorter had an exact match. The results from Family Tree DNA showed the comparison of 37 markers of Robert F. McWhorter and James Judson Powers as follows:
In comparing the 37 markers, the probability that the males who provided the samples shared a common male ancestor in the past is…
4 generations is 58.99%8 generations is 89.03%12 generations is 97.47%16 generations is 99.46%20 generations is 99.89%24 generations is 99.98%

Thus after 200 years the mystery is solved. Although Benoni Teter Powers was raised by the descendants of William Powers and used their surname, DNA evidence indicates that he was a McWhorter. There are four men who could have been his father. He was the son of either Henry McWhorter or of one of his sons, John, Thomas, or Walter. Who was Benoni Teter Powers’ father finally has an answer. It is not a definitive answer but it is the best that modern science can give us at this time. The search for the parents of his mother, Jemima Teter, continues.

Rt: Benoni Teter Powers' death record. To read it click on: http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=2916841&Type=Death

. . . . .

Comment 1:
Benoni Powers was born in Jane Lew, Lewis Co. VA on 4 July 1815 and died 26 August 1891 on Sand Fork, Lewis Co. WV. He married Elizabeth Watson McCally on 13 September 1836 in Lewis County. She was a daughter of Henry and Sarah (Alkire) McCally and was born 4 February 1815 in Lewis Co. and died there on 16 April 1887. Both she and her husband are buried in the Marvin Chapel Cemetery near Roanoke, WV. Rt:Marvin Chapel Cemetery in 2005, photo by Larry Lewis.
Benoni Powers
~ was a great-grandfather of Orlando's Oscar Hawkins.
~ married Elizabeth McCally and the Rev. Captain John Elam Mitchell married her sister Prudence McCally.
~ was the uncle of Jacob McCauley, who settled McCauley's Run,
~ was the uncle of the Mitchells who settled in the Oil Creek watershed, Cyrus Mitchell, Alonzo Mitchell and Samantha (Mitchell) Riffle.

Comment 2:
Information about William Powers, Henry McWhorter and Henry's sons John, Thomas and Walter McWhorter:
William Powers
Hacker's Creek Journal: V. XV, Issue ?? 1996-1997
William Powers: of 1765 was made Squire of the County Court of The Day. Already in his 80's. Sometime before 1852, William Powers resided on Hacker's Creek, one-half mile above the village Jane Lew. He was a very old man, Being one of the first settlers of the county. In point of education and general information, he was largely In advance of his neighbors -- a very systematic man and a close observer of events, He could give more general information of the early settlement of the county than any other man of his day. He kept a diary of the most important events that transpired from his youth up, and I was informed that he furnished a great deal of the matter that was embodied in The History Of The Border Wars With The Indians. He did not take any part In the business affairs of the county, except on special occasions, on account of his age.
Henry McWhorter
per Alexander Scott Withers, Chronicles of Border Warfare
"Henry McWhorter, born in Orange County, N. Y. November 13, 1760, was a soldier in the Revolution, from 1777 to the close. In 1784, he [Page 288] settled "about two miles from West's Fort; three years later, he moved nearer to the fort, and there built the house of hewn logs, mentioned above, which "is to-day in a good state of preservation." McWhorter died February 4, 1848.- R. G. T. For sixty years Henry McWhorter was a member of the Methodist church and was class leader fifty years. He died February 4, 1848, and was buried in the McWhorter cemetery, on his farm, by the side of his wife, who died in 1834."
John McWhorter
per the McWhorter Family Record - photocopied by Marlys Guildner, 1996:
"b. Apr. 28, 1784, Penn. d. Apr. 14, 1880, W. Va."
"Studied law and became a barrister of great ability. Served in war of 1812 as Capt.,then Col. Member of upper house of Va. legislature, was Judge of Co. Court for years. Late in life ordained minister in Methodist church. Preached until 90 years of age; died at age of 96, a bachelor, buried near his old home on Rush Run."
Thomas McWhorter
per Luccllus Virgil McWhorter, The Border Settlers of Northwestern Virginia From 1768 to 1795 pub. 1915, pg 290.
"Thomas McWhorter, born July 15, 1785, inherited a part of the home farm on McKinney's Run, and was a prosperous farmer. He was a man of sterling worth to his community during his short life. He died December 28, 1815, and was the first buried in the McWhorter cemetery. On Easter morning, 1807, Thomas McWhorter, married Delila Stalnaker, daughter of Samuel Stalnaker, Sr., an old resident of Hacker's Creek."
Walter McWhorter
from the family tree of the Lafferty, Jaenicke, West, Shearer Families:
"Walter, the third and last son of Henry McWhorter, Sr., was born October 31, 1787. In 1806 he married Margaret Hurst. He was a major of militia, a noted athlete and never met his equal in wrestling, jumping or foot racing.The major's house, like that of his father, was the recognized place of public worship. Here were held the winter revivals and big meetings. He died August 12, 1860. His wife died December 27, 1853. Seventeen children were born to this union, the Rev. John Minion McWhorter, D. D., the tenth child."


  1. Well well the more we find. I am a descendant of Henry/Thomas/Rebecca McWhorter. Just found some new 'cousins.'

  2. Hello,

    Can you tell me if the McWhorter who tested for you is a match with Kit # 60847 in the McWhorter Surname Project?

    Thank you.

    Holly3060 at yahoo dot com

  3. Ann Bleigh Powers.

    Hi Ann,
    Could you please contact me at mokurai_power@yahoo.com as I would like to include all your POWERS relatives too instead of just your son. Thanks.