Robert Hutchison Powrie was born on 27 July 1842 in Kinnoull, Perthshire, Scotland. When 13 years of age, he came to the Wisconsin with his family settled in near Sussex, Waukesha County.
When 18 years of age Robert Powrie enlisted in the Northern Army, eventually becoming first musician of the 5th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, Regimental Band. (F Company). He served through the four years of the war with distinction and left some 50 letters about his experience including the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and the Wilderness. While in camp, he often sketched officers and men, even Gen. Grant. He met President Lincoln, and felt a strong affinity for his Commander-in-Chief.
In 1866 he was married to Elizabeth Powrie, his cousin, and they settled in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where Robert began a life long business of monument sculptor. He has carved bone and wood, sketched in charcoal and painted throughout the war. He even built a fiddle, and learned the bugle and several other instruments while serving. This would become twin lifelong passions: art and music.
Mr. Powrie was naturally gifted as a sculptor and painter, having had no instruction in either art. He carved many exquisite monuments and tablets, one of which, a monument for General Gibbon which is in the at Arlington National Cemetery. Many exquisite carvings in stone and wood, the result of his skill with chisel and mallet are to be found in St. Paul's Cathedral and First Presbyterian, Fond du Lac. A fine oil painting by him of Abraham Lincoln is one of the works of art to be found in the public library hall. He also carved a bust of General Edward S. Bragg and it was placed in the circuit court house.
He also executed tombstones for Fond du Lac's famous Gen. Bragg and artist Mark Harrison. Both are located at Rienzi cemetery. He enjoyed art in all forms, and began using glass slides and a rudimentary camera very early. This made an impression on his children, and one son, John Hutchison Powrie, who later worked with Thomas Edison on the early color photography process at the lab in West Orange, New Jersey.
Information kindly sent to me by Mary Powrie Schacht