Anna Marsh Power

IMG_20191028_111806There’s little to be said about the life of Mrs. Anna Marsh Power. Most of what we know about her revolves around her part in the Poe-Helen affair. She was born in 1773, and married Nicholas Power in Newport, Rhode Island in 1798. Their first child, Rebecca Power Staples, was born two years later in 1800. Sarah Helen followed shortly after in 1803. Their third and final child, Susan Anna, was born ten years later in 1813. However, Nicholas wouldn’t meet his last born daughter right away, for he set out to sea and wouldn’t return for nineteen years. What happened over the course of those nineteen years changed everything for Anna and her children. Nicholas Power’s vessel was caught by a British fleet not long after his departure, and he was held a prisoner of war for nearly two years. Upon his release in 1815, he decided to continue his life at sea without ever notifying his family of his survival. He was presumed dead and Anna Marsh was now a widow (so she thought). Alone and raising three young girls, Anna proved in her lifetime that she would protect her daughters at all costs. She moved her family into the red house we know today on Benefit Street. Here she raised and cared for her daughters devotedly. Rebecca married and moved out in 1821 (but sadly passed away shortly after in 1825), Helen married and moved out in 1828, and Susan (being mentally unstable) remained under the care of her mother. In 1832, Nicholas Power returned to his wife and daughters in an attempt to resume his family life. Naturally, Anna did not receive him well, removing her widow’s bonnet and promptly beating him out of the house with it. Anna had nothing to do with Nicholas Power after this, and began a fervent distrust of men all together. Helen returned home a widow herself in 1833, and Anna kept her two daughters tightly under her wing. The family lived comfortably off of family wealth, and it was for this reason that when Edgar Allan Poe came along in 1848 to scoop Helen off her feet and take her away as his bride, that Anna Power became very controlling of the situation. Poe undoubtedly had a very unfair reputation at this point in his life, and Anna wasn’t the only one among Helen’s circle that strongly disapproved of a union between the two. When the marriage seemed inevitable, Anna forced Helen to sign over her inheritance so that there was no way Poe could get his hands on it. William Jewett Pabodie signed this document as a witness. After all this failed to corrupt the engagement, an anonymous note was passed to Helen at the Athenaeum just days before the wedding was to take place. The note claimed that Poe had broken his vow of sobriety (the one condition to marriage Helen instilled onto Poe) and one wonders if Anna had anything to do with this note. Poe made his final plea to Helen at her home on Benefit Street, and as the distressing situation forced Helen to inhale her ether-soaked handkerchief and pass out on the sofa, Anna unhesitatingly stood over her daughter, and for the second time in her life, kicked a groveling man out of her house.

Anna died on February 23, 1858. She lived to the ripe old age of 84. She was interred next to her husband, Nicholas Power, at The North Burial Ground, and it’s probably safe to say she rolled over in her grave just as soon as she was put in it.

 

Anna Power
Grave of Anna Power. Located in the North Burial Ground.