Mr. Powrie was born July 27, 1842, in Kinnoull, Perthshire, Scotland. His family came to Wisconsin when he was 13 and settled near Sussex, Waukesha County. Five years later when he was 18, Robert Powrie enlisted in the Northern Army and soon became the first musician of the 5th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, Regimental Band (Company F). He served the entire four years of the war and wrote some 50 letters describing his experiences at Antietam, Fredericksburg and the Wilderness. He often sketched military men, including General Grant. He once met President Lincoln.
Throughout the war he carved bone and wood, sketched in charcoal and painted. He built a fiddle and learned the bugle and several other instruments. This would become his twin lifelong passions, art and music. In 1866, he married Elizabeth Powrie, his cousin, and they settled in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where Robert began a business as a monument sculptor. He was naturally gifted as a sculptor and carved many exquisite monuments and tablets, including a monument for General John Gibbon which is at the Arlington National Cemetery.
He also executed tombstones for Fond du Lac's famous General Bragg and artist Mark Harrison. Both are located at Rienzi Cemetery. Many of his carvings are to be found in St. Paul's Cathedral and the First Presbyterian Church in Fond du Lac. In the public library hall there is an oil painting of Abraham Lincoln and in the Circuit Court room a carved bust of General Edward S. Bragg. He enjoyed art in all forms and began using glass slides made with a rudimentary camera. This impressed his children, especially one son, John Hutchison Powrie. More about him later.