Remembering Wes Powell – The Man from Puddle Dock

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Former Gov. Wesley Powell


Next time Donald Trump threatens Nikki Haley on camera he should remember former NH Governor Wesley Powell, the man from Puddle Dock.

It brought to mind the story of Wesley Powell below.

Now, to begin this story, I first need to introduce you to a particular part of the New Hampshire port city of Portsmouth, Puddle Dock.

Puddle Dock was a very tough working-class and poor neighborhood of Portsmouth. The Puddle was a pre-colonial waterway that flowed from the Piscataqua River through present-day Prescott Park and Strawbery Banke Museum. From the earliest colonial days it was a densely-populated working class neighborhood made up of African American, Jewish, Irish, English, Canadian, Italian, Polish and Russian families.

Although my ancestors had been inhabiting the area for a good 20,000 years prior to the arrival of the English, Puddle Dock is today recognized as one of the oldest post-colonial neighborhoods in the country.

From its earliest days, residents of Puddle Dock took pride in their attachment to this rough and tumble area of brothels, criminals, ner-do-wells and plain old hardworking folks doing their best to cope with the challenges of life on the margins.

It was here that Wesley Powell grew up. Though he would be badly injured in World War II, leaving him with a left arm weakened for life, his son Peter described his right hand as carrying triple the power, and for a kid who grew up in Puddle Dock, the power of your arms and hands often meant the difference between hiding or thriving.

Wes Powell overcame his humble beginnings, but he never left Puddle Dock in his heart, and after graduating from UNH and then Southern Methodist College of Law, he would practice law in Manchester before being elected Governor in 1959.

His reputation as an independent-minded and pragmatic politician (back when the Republican party had those) soon earned him the respect of his peers, and he was nominated by them to be the Chair of the Regional Governor’s Association.

Of course, such a prestigious position was not conferred, and Powell faced opposition in the runoff election from the Governor of New York, a fellow you may have heard of, Nelson Rockefeller. Powell was honored by the faith of his peers, but Rockefeller had more ambitious motives. He saw the selection to Chair the Governor’s Association as a stepping stone to the White House.

During a break in the speechifying, Wes Powell excused himself and headed for the men’s room. As he approached the door, he was met by a very large NY State Trooper who politely told him that the “Governor” would like a word with him, gesturing to Rockefeller, who was standing nearby.

Knowing that Rockefeller was probably looking to make some sort of a political deal with him, Wes Powell politely declined. The trooper became more insistent and said, “The governor would like to speak with you now.” Wes Powell replied once more, as he pushed his way past the Trooper, that he was not interested in speaking with the “Governor” and headed into the men’s room.

As he stood at the urinal, he felt a tap on his shoulder and turned his head to see a writer for a New York newspaper who said to him “Governor, if you do not cooperate with Governor Rockefeller and drop out of this race you will be reading some stories about yourself that you will wish you weren’t.”

Wesley Powell finished at the urinal and turned to address the reporter.

“Write any damn thing you want,” he said, “just make sure you tell them one thing . . .” He then delivered a powerful right-hand fist to the jaw of the reporter, who slumped against the wall. “Make sure to tell them I’m from Puddle Dock.”

That night, Wesley Powell became the Chairman of the Governor’s Association.

Notes and Links

If you have not listened to the recent “New Hampshire Secrets Podcast” with Peter Powell, son of the late Wesley Powell, NH Governor in the early 1960s. This story is adapted from Peter’s retelling of it in the podcast.

History of Puddle Dock Seacoast Online Story

Wikipedia: Wesley Powell

Anamaki Chronicles Gallery

Anamaki Chronicles is an occasional look at interesting people, living and long departed. Produced at Anamaki Studios in Bath, NH. 

About Wayne D. King: Author, podcaster, artist, activist, social entrepreneur and recovering politician. A three-term State Senator, 1994 Democratic nominee for Governor. His art ( is exhibited nationally in galleries and he has published five books of his images, and a novel: “Sacred Trust” a vicarious, high-voltage adventure to stop a private powerline. He lives on the “Narrows” in Bath, NH at the confluence of the Connecticut and Ammonoosuc Rivers and proudly flies the American, Iroquois and Abenaki Flags. His publishing website is:
This land lies in N’dakinna, the traditional ancestral homeland of the Abenaki, Sokoki, Koasek, Pemigewasset, Pennacook and Wabanaki Peoples past and present. We acknowledge and honor with gratitude those who have stewarded N’dakinna throughout the generations.

Wayne D. King

64 Monroe Rd., Bath, NH 03740

603-530-4460 Cell : Productions & Studios : Fine Art


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