Text: Hervey Allen, “Appendix 01,” Israfel: The Life and Times of Edgar Allan Poe (1934), pp. 679-681


[page 679:]




EDGAR (ALLAN) POE’S ancestry, on his father’s side, was Scotch-Irish, and can be traced back into the Parish of Fenwick in Ayrshire, Scotland, where there were intermarriages with some of the remote ancestors of the Allans and Galts. The Poes belonged to the Protestant Scotch who went to Ireland. There is some indication that their name is one of the variants of Powell, Powr, Power, etc. All attempts to be dogmatic about the immediate ancestry of the poet, prior to the early Eighteenth Century, must be regarded as whimsically doubtful.

By about 1745, there are some genuine documents and records to be traced, with authentic mention of the Poes about Bring, in the Parish of Kildallen, County Cavon, Ireland. Here one David Poe (great-great-grandfather) of the poet, departed this vale of tears shortly before August, 1742, leaving a will containing considerable theological sophistry, and some tangible biological records. Upon his wife, Sarah, he had begotten, in the order named, Alexander, John, and Anna.

Alexander Poe came to America about 1739, and settled at Marsh Creek, near the present Gettysburg Battlefield in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He prospered, and must have written home to brother John Poe, still in Ireland, and now married to Jane McBride. John Poe and Jane McBride Poe, bringing with them two young sons, David Poe and George Poe, therefore left Ireland about 1748, or a little earlier (date not certain) and landing at Newcastle, Delaware, at first went to settle in Pennsylvania. John Poe and Jane, his wife, had ten children in their family. It was their son, David Poe, who was the poet’s grandfather. This David Poe lived in Pennsylvania where he married a Miss Elizabeth Cairnes, whose family also hailed from Ireland, but had been living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Sometime prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution, David Poe and his wife Elizabeth moved to Baltimore where his pursuits were various, ranging from making furniture and spinning-wheels, to driving the British and Tories out of Baltimore. In 1778 he was appointed as “Assistant Deputy Quartermaster” of the Continental forces, which meant that he was a purchasing agent for the Revolutionary Army. He is said to have been of great assistance to La Fayette (I have not been able to trace the sources except for some minor mention that tends to confirm the tradition). His services caused him to be spoken of as “General.” From 1790 on, there is no difficulty in tracing him. The Federal Census of 1790 shows David Poe to have owned four slaves, to have had nine “free white males” [page 680:] in his household (four under 16 years of age), and two free white females. By the aid of old Baltimore directories, he can now be traced as follows:

About 1800 — 173 West Baltimore Street, — Store and Residence

    1807 17 Camden Street, Fish Inspector

    1810 19 Camden Street, [number probably changed (?)]

    1812 Park Lane

October 19, 1816 — Death notices.

This brief sketch of the poet’s grandfather, David Poe, in many respects a remarkable man, must end here, except to note that he had by his wife Elizabeth Cairnes seven children. Three only, of these seven, concern us:

1. David Poe (eldest son, father of Edgar)

2. Maria Poe (afterward Mrs. Maria Clemm) aunt and mother-in-law of Edgar Poe> the poet.

3. Eliza Poe (afterward Mrs. Henry Herring)

David Poe, the poet’s father married a widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Hopkins (born Arnold), and had three children:

William Henry Leonard Poe (no issue)

Edgar Poe — (the poet) (no issue)

Rosalie Poe (no issue)

Note: To avoid confusion, all account of collateral relatives springing from brothers of the poet’s grandfather, David Poe, are here omitted.


Trace of Poe’s ancestry, on the maternal side, is to be found in play bills and pamphlets, not readily obtainable in America, of the Drury Lane Theatre, London, and in the records of St. George’s Parish, London, The maternal great-grandfather of the poet was William Smith, an actor of some repute, and occasional flattering mention. His daughter, Elizabeth Smith, married Henry Arnold, the son of one William Henry Arnold, author of some comedies produced at the Drury Lane about the end of the Eighteenth Century. The brother of William Henry Arnold, James Arnold, became manager of the Drury Lane Theatre in 1812. (It has not been possible to collect much data on these Arnolds in America. What material has been available, all points to the fact that they were persons of considerable executive, literary, and histrionic talents. Names and dates were checked by a friend of the author from old play bills and pamphlets in England.)

Henry Arnold and Elizabeth Arnold (born Smith) were the maternal grandparents of Edgar Allan Poe. From Church Records at St. George’s, London, where many “theatrical marriages” were performed, it appears that the couple were married about June, 1784. Sometime in the Spring of 1787 (Ingram), a daughter was born to them, baptized “Elizabeth.” Elizabeth Arnold was the mother of Edgar Allan Poe.

Henry Arnold’s name, the author is informed by an English correspondent, disappears from the play bills about 1783 (sic). He appears to have [page 681:] died, leaving his widow with the young Elizabeth Poe to support. Her mother (Poe’s maternal grandmother) acted at the Covent Garden Theatre Royal, London, and appears on the play bills there of the 1790s, as a singer. Early in 1796, taking the young Elizabeth (Poe’s mother) with her, she came to America, and landed at Boston. Either before, or immediately after her arrival in the United States, she married a Mr. Charles Tubbs who acted (danced?), and played the pianoforte. The appearances of Mr. and Mrs. Tubbs, and of the young Elizabeth Arnold from 1796 on, can be plainly traced in old American play bills at Boston, Portland, Newport, Rhode Island, New York, Charleston, South Carolina, etc., etc., and in the dramatic notices in the newspapers of the time. (Professor Woodberry gives a nearly complete list of Miss Arnold’s, Mrs. Poe’s, appearances from 1796 to 1811.)

In August, 1802, Elizabeth Arnold married an actor by the name of C. D. Hopkins; apparently an American. C. D. Hopkins died October 26, 1805, leaving his widow, Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins, childless. In January, 1806, the widow, Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins, married David Poe, an actor in the same company with her. There were born of this union three children:

William Henry Leonard Poe — Boston, 1807.

Edgar (Allan) Poe — Boston, January 29, 1809.

Rosalie Poe — Norfolk, December 10, 1810?

The last date entered in the Mackenzie Bible is not certain, nor is Rosalie’s parentage.

Mrs. David Poe (Elizabeth Arnold) died in Richmond, Sunday December 8,1811, and was buried at ten o’clock Tuesday, December 10, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, in Richmond, Virginia, where she now lies in an unmarked grave. Of her three children, all were childless.






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