It would certainly be an understatement to say that Sarah Helen’s father, Nicholas Power, led an interesting and controversial life. He was born to parents Captain Nicholas and Rebecca Cory Power on September 15, 1771. He would marry Helen’s mother, Anna Marsh, in 1798 and continue on making a living as a merchant until 1812 when the war with the British put him out of business. In 1813, Nicholas Power departed Rhode Island for North Carolina, where he would begin a seafaring life, venturing to the West Indies. It was at this point his vessel was caught by a British fleet 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 began the stages of mourning by wearing a widow’s bonnet. She purchased the red house at 76 Benefit Street (now 88 Benefit Street) to make a home for herself and her three daughters. In 1832, nearly nineteen years after his departure from home, Nicholas Power returned to his “widow” and his two daughters (his oldest Rebecca having died during his absence in 1825) in an attempt to resume his family life. Anna did not receive him well. Filled with shock, disgust, possibly despair but definitely anger, she removed her widow’s bonnet and promptly beat Nicholas with it until he was forced out of the house. Anna would have nothing to do with Nicholas Power after this, and began a fervent distrust of men all together. Their youngest daughter, the eccentric Susan Anna, never knew her father, having been born shortly after his departure in 1813. His return surely would have affected her already fragile state of mind, and she would express her impression of the ordeal by writing this little couplet:
Mr. Nicholas Power left home in a sailing vessel bound
for St. Kitts,
When he returned, he frightened his family out of their
Nicholas Power would take residence in a Providence hotel, living the rest of his days as an outcasted family deserter. In 1842, he was imprisoned once again after taking part in the Dorr Rebellion (a Rhode Island civil-war in favor of allowing men without land to vote. The legislation in Rhode Island at the time was that a man had to be white and own at least $134 in property in order to vote). He served his sentence, was released, and died on April 28, 1844. He was buried next to his parents at The North Burial Ground in the Power family lot.