John J. Powley was born in 1844 in New York, the son of Peter (b. 1807) and Melinda (b. 1812).
Both New York Natives John’s parents were married on December 13, 1839, in Nyack, New York and were living in Buffalo, New York by 1849. The following year the family had moved to Oswego, Oswego County, New York where Peter worked as a baker and John attended school with his siblings and lived with his family. They moved west and eventually settled in Michigan. By 1860 John was a student living with his family in Grand Rapids’ Third Ward where his father worked as a baker. John was described as “a smart active lad and a great help to his parents of whom he was very fond.” (In 1867 his sister Agnes would marry George Prescott who had served in Company A of the Old Third.)
John was 17 years old and probably still living with his family in Grand Rapids when he enlisted in Company K on May 13, 1861. Although he was first listed as missing in action on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run, in fact, he was either killed in action at Second Bull Run or wounded that day and left on the field where he presumably died. It seems fairly certain, anyway, that he was not taken prisoner. He was presumably among the unknown soldiers killed at Second Bull Run whose remains were reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery. John was said to have been “an estimable lad and his death on the field of battle was much lamented by all who knew him and an irreparable loss to his parents.”
In the early 1880s, John’s mother applied for a dependent pension (which she eventually received, no. 199,919).
In 1882 Gilbert Vandermere, a neighbor who lived next door, testified that he knew Malinda and her husband Peter since 1861. He stated that Peter “did not contribute to any great extent his earning toward the support of his family, all the money he earned nearly went for drinking and something else, rather than towards the support of his family, his physical condition was all right, with the exception of his drinking, . . .”
By 1889 Malinda was living as a widow at 430 Fountain Street in Grand Rapids.