Frank Powell, wife and 3 stepchildren
[By Glen Villa Jr., Last Revised July 31, 2011]

Frank Powell was born February 20, 1872 in Richey, Amador County, was the recognized medicine man and dance captain of the local people at Yangputi, a place in Jackson Valley, during the early 1900’s. Frank Powell was a son of John Powell and was a medicine man and dance leader like his father.

In 1900, Frank Powell was residing with his wife Mary in Township 2, Ione. According to 1900 Census, Frank and Marry were married for one year. Frank Powell’s Indian name is listed as Chief Jim. Frank Powell was 30 years old at the time and indicated a birth year of 1870. Mary Powell was 35 years old at the time and indicated a birth year of 1865.

In 1905-1906, CE Kelsey identifies Frank Powell, wife, 1 child and 3 stepchildren living in Buena Vista of Amador County without land.

In 1910, Frank Powell was residing with his wife, Mary, in Township 2, Ione, of Amador County. Frank was a laborer of odd jobs. According to 1910 Census, Frank married Mary in 1902. It was the third marriage for Frank Powell and the fourth marriage for Mary Powell. Frank was 39 years old and Mary was 40 years old. Frank Powell was born at Richey, while his father was born at Richey and his mother was born at Jackson.

On December 28, 1917, Frank Powell was interviewed by Edward Gifford in Ione. Edward Gifford collected ethnographic information from Frank and identified Frank as a Northern Miwok. Information provided by Frank Powell was used in the publication by Edward Gifford entitled California Kinship Terminologies.(see Gifford's Northern and Central Sierra Miwok Fieldnotes. 1917)

Two photographs (15-6168 and 15-6169) were taken of Frank Powell by Edward Gifford in January of 1918.

In 1920, Frank Powell was residing in East Ione, Township 2 of Amador County. Frank was identified as a laborer at clay pit. Frank was living with his wife Mary and their granddaughter Stella Lee. Frank was 48, Mary was 60 and Stella Lee was 6 at the time. Jennie Powell was residing with husband Ollie Aleck in the house of John Porter in East Ione, Township 2 of Amador County, next door to Frank Powell. Ollie was 27, Jennie 23 and Tiny 5.

In 1932, Frank Powell was listed in the East Ione Precinct of the Index to Registration Affidavits Amador County. Frank declined to state an affiliation.

Frank was also interviewed by Burt Aginsky in 1936. Burt Aginsky collected ethnographic information from Frank Powell, which was later published as Cultural Element Distributions: XXIV Central Sierra by the UC Press in 1943.

In 1950, Frank Powell was recorded by Peter F. Abraham singing 12 songs classified as Northern Miwok. Frank Powell was recording singing one funeral chant, one doctor song, a Sukin dance song, two Hiwe, four Tula, and three Lole songs.

Frank Powell died May 2, 1954 in Amador County and was buried in the Jackson Valley Indian cemetery.

Articles Concerning Frank Powell

Amador Dispatch
April 22, 1927
A Trio From Ione
Frank Powell, Henry Titman and Chris Schonwaldt, all of Ione, are in the county jail. All were arrested Saturday night by Constable Sibole. The two first named were charged with disturbing the peace and the latter with having liquor in his possession. They all plead guilty. Powell was given 20 days, Titman 90 and Schonwaldt was awarded 500 days or pay $500.

Sacramento Union
December 19, 1970
Miwok Medicine
In times past the old men of our people passed their wisdom down to certain selected youth.  The medicine man always has been selected and trained in this way from childhood on.

I can remember how I decided this was what I wanted.  One time when I was very small a group of us was hunting cows.  One of the girls running along the trail was bitten by a rattlesnake.  We didn’t miss her until we got back to camp.

When we went back after her we found her sitting beside the trail, her leg already swollen.  The rattler was coiled under a bush a few feet away.  When we got her back the medicine man looked at her but she was too far gone.  She died the next day.

I was about 8 years old when I told the old men of my desire to be a medicine man.  They were pleased and set about to train me.

First they took me to the spirit dance.  I must watch the dancers as they circled the fire and chanted.  Then I must understand the dance and be able to explain its meaning.

After that they started my training in earnest.  They took me into the fields and forests to show me the different herbs and how they grew, where to pick them and how to prepare and use them.

We went at different seasons.  Our people gathered some plants for their juices in spring.  Others we gathered in fall for seeds and roots, to grind into powder.  Others after they became dormant in winter.

Our trips were short at first.  I went out with Frank Powell, our medicine man.  He showed me some of the milder herbs and how to use them.  He taught me all I learned about Indian medicines.

He taught me how to take care of the plants and wildlife, to take only what was to be used and always to leave some of the plants and seeds so we could go back and gather again.  We killed only the game and caught only the fish we needed immediately.

One time my stepfather was cutting wood.  The ax slipped and cut him.  I scraped dust from the root of the milkweed (chiwata) and applied it to the wound.  He got well right away.

Another time it was my son who got hurt.  He was using a screwdriver to drive a cotter key.  It slipped and cut him to the bone.  A doctor slashed it open, scraped the bone and sewed it back.  The wound healed but two or three months later it swelled again.  I made a wormwood poultice and applied it to the wound.  It healed and stayed healted.

We used ashes for poultices, as well as salt.  Once I had a wart on my hand that I couldn’t get rid of.  A friend tried cutting it off, but it just bled and came back.

I tried coking it with a horsehair.  That didn’t work either.  Finally my wife asked why not try an old Indian method: burn out the root and then make a poultice of ashes.  It worked.  The wart came off and never came back.

We used ashes or salt for carbuncles, too.  The old Indian method was to take ashes or salt, wrap it in a piece of cloth and twist it into a small bag.  The we dipped the bag in melted bear grease or tallow to soak it up good, then lit the wick end.

Next we took a piece of bark, laid it next to the carbuncle, then laid the lighted bag on top of that and covered it with an airtight cover – a glass or in the old days an animal horn cut in half.  This created heat and suction that usually drew the poison right out.

We then covered the open wound with a poultice made from the root of a certain plant.  We left it on a week or so until the wound was healed.

When the medicine man dies, according to our custom, his medicines are buried with him.  This was the way it was with Frank Powell.

Sometimes a medicine man had no medicine left.  So he was buried without it.

I myself have only a few medicines left, for I have not practiced in many years.

But those that I have I hope can be buried with me when I go.

Additional quotes scattered throughout the article:

The medicine man among my people is no more.  I am the only one left and I no longer practice.

Yet I still remember, and I want to tell you about it.  Unless I do, when I go these things will go with me.  There is no other to take my place.

These have been sacred things to our people.  And there is good in them, much that has never been told before.  I do not want to have it lost.

(photograph caption) Billy Villa, last of the Miwok medicine men, lives in Ione and practices his medicine no more.  But he still has some medicines saved for a special purpose, as he tells about it in his story.

Mary Powell 

Mary Powell, a full blooded Indian, was born May 19, 1854 at Lancha Plana. Mary's father was named Jim and was from Camanche, Calaveras County. Her mother was an unknown full-blooded Indian from Jackson, Amador County.

In 1910, Mary Powell was residing with her husband, Frank Powell, in Township 2, Ione, of Amador County. Residing with Mary and Frank were Mary’s daughters Pauline, Jennie, and Annie. Pauline was 15 and born at Camanche. Jennie was 14 and born at Richey. Annie was 16 and born at Camanche. Pauline and Annie’s father was an Indian born at Richey. Jennie’s father was a non-Indian. According to 1910 Census, Frank married Mary in 1902. It was the third marriage for Frank Powell and the fourth marriage for Mary Powell. Mary Powell had given birth to 9 children, which 3 were still living. Mary was born at Launcha Plana, while her father was born at Camanche and her mother was born at Jackson.

Mary Powell died on July 9, 1937. Mary was listed as about 90 years old at the time of her death. Mary Powell was buried in the Jackson Valley Indian Cemetery.

3 Stepchildren

It is most likely the three stepchildren were the three daughters of Mary Powell who were residing with Frank and Mary Powell in 1910. The three daughters were Annie, Pauline, and Jennie.

Annie

Annie was born in 1894 to Mary Powell and an Indian man from Richey.

In 1905-1906, CE Kelsey identifies Frank Powell, wife, 1 child and 3 stepchildren living in Buena Vista of Amador County without land. Annie is one of the three stepchildren.

In 1910, Annie was residing with Mary Powell and Frank Powell, in Township 2, Ione, of Amador County. Annie was 16 and born at Camanche. Annie’s father was an Indian born at Richey.

Pauline

Pauline was born in 1895 to Mary Powell and an Indian man from Richey.

In 1905-1906, CE Kelsey identifies Frank Powell, wife, 1 child and 3 stepchildren living in Buena Vista of Amador County without land. Pauline is one of the three stepchildren.

In 1910, Pauline was residing with Mary Powell and Frank Powell, in Township 2, Ione, of Amador County. Pauline was 15 and born at Camanche. Pauline’s father was an Indian born at Richey.

Jennie Powell

Jennie was born April 27, 1898 to Mary Powell and a non-Indian. In 1905-1906, CE Kelsey identifies Frank Powell, wife, 1 child and 3 stepchildren living in Buena Vista of Amador County without land. Jennie is one of the three stepchildren.

In 1910, Jennie was residing with Mary Powell and Frank Powell, in Township 2, Ione, of Amador County. Jennie was 14 and born at Richey. Jennie’s father was a non-Indian.

Jennie had a daughter, Bernice Tiny Alex, on August 16, 1914 in Amador County.

On April 16, 1921, Jennie Powell married Ollie Alex. Ollie Alex was born May 19, 1894 to Jim and Tiny Aleck. Jim and Tiny were full-blooded Indians from Amador County. Ollie and Jenny Alex had a daughter Tiny Alex, born August 16, 1914 in Amador County.

In 1930, Jennie was living with her husband Ollie Alex and daughter Tiny. Jennie was 34, Ollie 37 and Tiny 15. According to the 1930 Census, Jennie was 25 at the time of her first marriage and Ollie was 29. Ollie was a laborer at a clay mine.

In 1932, Mrs. Jennie Alex was listed in the East Ione Precinct of the Index to Registration Affidavits Amador County. Jennie was Republican affiliation.

In 1934, 1936, 1938, 1940, 1942, and 1944, Mrs. Jennie Alex was listed in the East Ione Precinct of the Index to Registration Affidavits Amador County. Jennie was a housewife and Republican affiliation.

On November 30, 1962, Jennie Powell died in Jackson, Amador County. Jennie Alex was buried in the Jackson Valley Indian Cemetery.

Articles Concerning Jennie Powell

Amador Dispatch
April 22, 1921 In Jackson, April 16, 1921, to Olli Alex, 29, Jennie Powell, 25, both of Ione.

Amador Dispatch
December 6, 1962
Jennie Alex
Jennie Alex a native of Buena Vista, and a life long resident of Amador County, passed away on Friday, November 30th, at the Amador County hospital where she had been hospitalized for a week.

She was born on April 27, 1895 and was well known among her people in Amador County.

Surviving relatives include her husband, Ollie, of Buena Visto; and two daughters, Berniece Alex and Stella Lee, both of Ione.

Services were conducted at the Chapel Monday afternoon, December 3rd, with Rev. Gilbert officiating. Interment was in the Jackson Valley Indian Cemetery.

NARA RG 75 Sacramento Area Office Coded Records 1910-1958
Code 054.1 Box #20
Sacramento Indian Agency Fiscal Year 1933
Aleck Tiny, 8-16-1914, Mewuk, Ollie & Jennie Aleck, Amador Co