Edgar Allan Poe8

In the Valley of the Shodows

Edgar Allan Poe was born at 33 Hollis Street, Boston, Mass., on January 19, 1809, the son of poverty stricken actors, David, and Elizabeth (born Arnold) Poe. His parents were then filling an engagement in a Boston theatre, and the appearances of both, together with their sojourns in various places during their wandering careers, are to be plainly traced in the play bills of the time.

Paternal Ancestry
The father of the poet was one David Poe of Baltimore, Maryland, who had left the study of the law in that city to take up a stage career contrary to the desire of his family. The Poes had settled in America some two or three generations prior to the birth of Edgar. Their line is distinctly traced back to Dring in the Parish of Kildallen, County Cavan, Ireland, and thence into the Parish of Fenwick in Ayrshire, Scotland. Hence they derived from Scotch-Irish stock, with what trace of the Celtic is doubtful. The first Poes came to America about 1739. The immediate paternal ancestors of the poet landed at Newcastle, Delaware, in 1748 or a little earlier. These were John Poe and his wife Jane McBride Poe who went to settle in eastern Pennsylvania. This couple had ten children in their family, among them one David who was the grandfather of the poet. David Poe married Elizabeth Cairnes, also of Scotch-Irish ancestry, then living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, whence, sometime prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution they moved to Baltimore, Maryland.

David Poe and his wife, Elizabeth Cairnes Poe, took the patriot side in the Revolution. David was active in driving the Tories out of Baltimore and was appointed "Assistant Deputy Quartermaster," which meant that he was a local purchasing agent of military supplies for the Revolutionary Army. He is said to have been of considerable aid to Lafayette during the Virginia and Southern campaigns, and for this patriotic activity he received the courtesy title of "General." His wife Elizabeth took an active part in making clothes for the Continental Army. David and Elizabeth Poe (Sr.) had seven children David, the eldest son, becoming the father of the poet. Two sisters of David, Eliza Poe (afterward Mrs. Henry Herring) and Maria Poe (later Mrs. William Clemm) enter into the story of the poet\'s life, the latter particularly, as she became his mother-in-law in addition to being his aunt. With her he lived from 1835 to 1849.

Young David Poe was destined for the law, but as previously mentioned, he finally left his native city to go on the stage. His first professional appearance took place at Charleston, S. C., in December, 1803. A dramatic notice of this performance in a local paper describes David Poe as being extremely diffident while—

". . .His voice seems to be clear, melodious and variable; what its compass may be can only be shown when he acts unrestrained by timidity. His enunciation seemed to be very distinct and articulate; and his face and person are much in his favor. His size is of that pitch well fitted for general action if his talents should be suited to sock and buskin. . . ."
This is perhaps the only direct evidence extant of the physical appearance of the poet\'s father. No pictures of him are known to exist. His histrionic powers were at best very limited. He continued to play in minor parts in various Southern cities and in January, 1806, married Elizabeth Arnold Hopkins, a young childless widow, also an actress, whose husband had died but a few months before. Elizabeth Arnold Poe became mother of Edgar Allan Poe.

Maternal Ancestry
The young widow whom David Poe married in 1806 had been born in England in the spring of 1787. She was the daughter of Henry Arnold, and Elizabeth Arnold (born Smith) both actors at the Covent Garden Theatre Royal, London. Henry Arnold died apparently about 1773. His widow continued to support herself and her child by acting and singing, and in 1796, taking her young daughter with her, she came to America and landed in Boston. Mrs. Arnold continued her professional career in America at first with considerable minor