According to the book, The Kernel Of Greatness, published in 1971 by the Bedford County Heritage Commission: "The first white men on record to set foot in what is now Bedford County, Pennsylvania, were those of the Thomas Powell expedition in 1625." That assertion was based on the interpretation by S.M. Lutz of a report filed by Powell on 25 October, 1625 to the governor of the colony of Virginia. Powell’s expedition, which resulted in his setting foot on Bedford County soil, was undertaken to explore the western reaches of the colony of Virginia. Mr. Lutz, a member of the Pioneer Historical Society of Bedford County, gave a speech on Memorial Day, 1937 in which he quoted from Powell’s report. Mr. Lutz also provided explanatory notes to link names of natural features given by Powell with present-day place names. That speech, accompanied by certain auxiliary notes, was reprinted in The Pioneer, the newsletter of the Pioneer Historical Society Of Bedford County, in July, 1976.
The whereabouts of the Powell report, which Mr. Lutz utilized as the basis of his speech, is not known at this time. According to Helen Greenburg, who is deceased, she and Mr. Lutz made a visit to the Clearville home of Mrs. Henry Nycum in 1935. Mrs. Nycum was a descendant of Thomas Powell through her grandfather, Jacob Adams. In 1935 Mrs. Nycum was in the possession of the original "leather bound" log book of the Powell expedition. She also possessed "other family papers dealing with the migrations from the Virginia colonies into Bedford County in those years." The log house in which Mrs. Nycum dwelt has since been destroyed by fire, and the family papers along with the log book have disappeared. There is no way, therefore, to prove or disprove this story. In view of the fact that reference to the log book does not appear in the archives of Virginia, and that the accounts supplied by Mr. Lutz and Mrs. Greenburg are the only records extant which pertain to this story, we must simply accept their existence and validity on blind faith.
According to Mr. Lutz, although the French had made their way up the St. Lawrence River as early as 1535, they did not venture southward into the south central region of Pennsylvania any earlier than the 1720s. The French Indian agent, Joncaire, was the first of the Frenchmen to arrive in Pennsylvania, which he did in 1725.
Thomas Powell was a brother of John Powell, an English captain of the ship, Seafoam, who arrived in the James River region in 1620. Thomas apparently resided in Jamestown, Virginia and from there embarked on his expedition into the wilderness that encompassed the most of the colony of Virginia. No exact dates were recorded by Powell or his contemporaries as to when the expedition got started; it was estimated by Lutz that it was in June, following the recession of the spring flooding. The expedition was completed with the return of the adventurers in the latter part of October, 1625.
The report Thomas Powell submitted upon his return to civilization was as follows:
I have the pleasure to report to your Highness that after going many days, a little northwest through the wilderness, we came to a high plateau of land which bounds in all kinds of game. We camped and killed and ate our fill; when rested, we continued about the same direction when we came upon some water drained north-ward; we followed it, and it got bigger, when to our great chagrin we heard a thunder noise. We were then close to a great mountain when all of a sudden it disappeared, and from all its noise I think it fell through the earth. I know not what to name it, unless ‘Lost Water’, as it never can get on top of ye earth. We then went towards the setting sun for two days when we came to other waters going towards the North Star. We continued along its bank until it got much larger. We found it not so good traveling, and crossed to the other side. In doing these things we lost one of our men, George South, which I much regret. We got him and of course buried him in his clothes near the big pine tree, that we marked. We came on down this water two days travel when we come to a large water. By making log rafts all got over safe when we rested and fished two days. We took our course toward the North Star one day’s journey, and came to another water as though it came from the North Star; we followed it three days travel; we come to where three waters come together, one was near the North Star. This water had a sweetish taste; was full of the most beautiful speckled fish we have ever seen. There was lots of Indians here; they showed us all the friendship they could; we continued up this till we came to high ground; we went beyond that, where waters run toward the North Star. Then we traveled and came back to the big waters we had crossed. We followed it many days. Then we came to a great water which seems to come from the High Sun. We followed it till we came to water going toward the high noon. We followed it; we came to our own big water. When we followed our trail home. I assigned myself your humble servant. Thomas Powell, October 25th day 1625.
According to modern-day interpretation, Powell’s expedition ended up in Friends Cove. The stream along which the adventurers traveled, where "three waters came together", is believed to have been Town Creek. The stream that "had a sweetish taste" was probably Little Sweet Root Creek. And the "high ground" that the group went beyond would have been Martin Hill. The place where the adventurers turned around is thought to have been near the villages of Ashcom and Lutzville in Snakespring Township.