The Sutherland and Powell families were part of the great westward migration of the 1800’s. Both families started their journey from the northeast and moved further west with each generation.
The Sutherlands had been in New York state for over a hundred years when Roger Sutherland (1775-1843) packed up his family and all his earthly goods and set out for the frontier of Indiana shortly before 1820. The Treaty of St. Mary’s had opened up a large area of Indiana for settlement. Roger settled near Salem, IN.
The oldest son, Isaac Sutherland (1802-1877), married Sylvia Hackett (1802-1834) in Washington County Indiana in 1822. They remained in Indiana and the family grew to include five children: Joseph, Sylvester, Philena, Darius, Mariah. Sylvia died in childbirth in 1834. Two years later, Isaac married a widow, Margaret McKegg Keerns (1805-1892). Margaret’s three children joined the Sutherland family. Robert Keerns (1827-1899), Lavinia Keerns (1829-), and John Keerns (1833-1900) remained close to Isaac and his children for the rest of their lives.
Isaac and Margaret moved to Bureau Illinois shortly after their marriage. Their six sons were born in Illinois. Isaac’s oldest son, Joseph Sutherland (1824-1906) was a young teenager when the family moved. In a history of Bureau County, he said that they drove ox teams to Illinois. It took 16 days to travel from Indiana.
In the spring of 1840, David Bryant settled on the south side of the grove, and Mr. Clark settled close by about the same time, and Barney Hagan made a farm on the north side of the grove; he occupies, and Isaac Sutherland made a farm south of the grove, on Section 22. In 1840, Edwin Merrick and A. E. May made farms on Sections 2 and 3. In 1842, J. W. Harris and J. V. Thompson became residents of this town, Mr. Harris settling on Section 24, and Mr. Thompson on Section 2.
Isaac Sutherland, J. V. Thompson, and J. W. Harris, were the first school trustees of this town. J. Sutherland, R. Hay, H. Griswold, C. R. Cook, and R. Steinauer, were among the early settlers.
Isaac served as postmaster of Milo, Illinois. He and Margaret continued to live in Illinois for 35 years. The Sutherland-Keerns family eventually grew to include 14 children. Isaac and Margaret had six sons: William Harrison, James Hiram, Lemuel, Harvey, Isaac Calvin, and Charles Wesley. They remained in Illinois until at least 1874. Their son, Isaac Calvin, returned to Milo to convalesce during his final illness. His will was filed in Bureau County, Illinois.
Between 1874 and 1877, Isaac and Margaret moved to Iowa, probably to be closer to their older sons. Charles Wesley lived at home to care for his parents and his unmarried half-sister, Mariah. Isaac died in 1877 and is buried in the Old Adel cemetery.
There isn’t much information about Ellen Powell’s ancestry, at least not on the Powell side. The Reeders were Quakers in New Jersey and New York. John Reeder (1614-1660) came to America with the Winthrop colony in 1630. Another ancestor on the Reeder side, Rev William Leverich (d. 1717) arrived in New Hampshire in 1633.
James Powell (1758-1823) moved to Indiana from New Jersey sometime before 1821. His wife, Mary Reeder (1765-1821) died in Wayne, Indiana. At least three of James’ adult children followed them to Indiana. Ellen’s grandparents, John Reeder Powell (1780-1832) and Elizabeth Millman (1805-1855) were married in Wayne, IN in 1821.
John Reeder passed away 11 years later leaving Elizabeth a widow with 5 children. Ellen’s father, Robert Powell (1827-1878), was the 2nd son and middle child. He was five years old when his father died.
Robert and Louisa Powell settled near her mother in Hagerstown, IN. A daughter, Elizabeth, was born in 1857. Thomas Benton was born in 1858. Eliza Ellen Powell was born in 1860. Her brother, Clinton Powell, was born in March of 1862. Tragedy struck the family later in that year. Four year old Thomas died in October. Elizabeth died 10 days before Christmas. She was five years old.
Most of Louisa’s brothers and sisters moved away over the years. Some went to Missouri. Some to Iowa. Robert’s sisters moved to Iowa with their families in the 1850’s. By 1870, Louisa’s mother was living alone in Hagerstown. After her mother passed away in 1877, Louisa and Robert moved to Colfax Township, Iowa. Robert’s sister, Polly Slaughter, lived nearby.
Robert Powell died in July 1878. He was fifty years old.
Ellen married Charles Wesley Sutherland in January 1879. She moved into a house with her mother-in-law, Margaret, and Charles’ older sister, Mariah. A nephew also lived in the household. Six year old Robert had been orphaned as a baby. He died a few months after the birth of Charles and Ellen’s oldest child, Robert Clarence Sutherland.
A new child was born every other year in the Sutherland household. After Robert Clarence “R.C.”, Clinton, Lovinia, Nellie, John Harvey, Minnie, and Leroy joined the family. With two grandmothers and Aunt Mariah in the house, there were plenty of hands to help with the babies and look after little ones. Although the children thrived, Charles became more and more ill. He had tuberculosis and he knew that his time was short.
By 1892, Charles was ready to make a move. Newspapers in Iowa were full of stories of Louisiana and the promise of easy land. These stories were largely advertisements for land developers and the railroad. So many Iowa farmers moved to Louisiana that they named a bayou town after their home state. Well-to-do families in Lake Charles split their time between Louisiana in the winter and Iowa during the summer months.
After the death of Charles’ mother in 1892, he bought a train ticket and traveled to the end of the rail line at Welsh, LA. He never saw his family again. Charles Wesley Sutherland died October 31, 1892. His youngest son, Charles Reid, was born two weeks later.
Ellen was thirty two years old, widowed, with eight children. The youngest was just a newborn. Charles’ brothers lived near Adel but they had their own families. Her brother Clinton was living in Nebraska with a wife and two daughters. Ellen decided to honor her husband’s last wish and move the family to Louisiana.
A year later, they were living in Welsh, LA. Despite the glowing stories in Iowa newspapers, homestead land was mostly gone by 1893. Speculators would file a homestead claim, cut all timber from the land, and abandon the claim. The J.B. Watkins company offered farm land in return for rice crops but these plots were already taken by the early 1890’s. And a widow was not eligible anyway. Ellen lived in Welsh for several years looking for homestead land. Homestead participation was available to widows, one of the few paths to land ownership for women.
Five years later, Ellen found her property. Acreage between the west fork of the Calcasieu River and Indian Bayou had been cut over and abandoned. It was “stump land”. Acres of stumps had to be cleared before crops could be planted in the poor sandy soil. Nobody else wanted it. Eliza Ellen Sutherland filed her claim on May 10, 1898. She completed requirements for occupancy in September 1903 and received patent for the land in 1904. Sadly, her son Leroy did not live to celebrate with the family. The nine year old died in a farming accident in 1900.
Ellen lived and worked on her property for thirty years. Her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren grew up in area and some live there to this day.