Lee County Biography

Hon. Abijah Powers
& Wife
Amanda (Sprout) Powers
Palmyra Township

Hon. Abijah Powers, was for many years one of the most prominent citizens of Palmyra Township. He died at his home on the 24th of July, 1891, aged seventy-six years, and no death in the community has been more deeply regretted on the part of many friends, for he was widely and favorably known throughout the entire county. He has here resided since the spring of l838, and in the long years had formed an extensive acquaintance and secured the regard of all with whom he came in contact.

Born in Greenwich, Hampshire County Mass., December 16, 1814, Mr. Powers belonged to that family of which Hiram Powers, the sculptor, is a member. His grandfather, Col. Thomas Powers, was also born in the Bay State and was quite prominent in public affairs in Hampshire County. He lived and died in Massachusetts, passing away at the advanced age of four score years. His business through much of his life was that of the construction of turnpikes, he married a Massachusetts lady, Miss Hines, who was of Irish descent, although her parents were born in America. She died in Massachusetts at an advanced age.

The father of our subject, Joseph Powers, was one of the younger members of a large family, and in the usual manner of farmer lads was reared to manhood. While residing in Hampshire County, Mass., he had the misfortune to lose his property by signing notes for supposed friends and this led him to seek a home in the West. In the county of his nativity he married Sallie Powers, who was descended from the same family as her husband, although the relationship was not very near. In the spring of 1838, Joseph Powers and his son. Abijah, our subject, started to the West together, and the expenses of the journey were paid with the money which the latter had earned as a day laborer. His father having lost his property, it was in the hope of retrieving in a measure his lost possessions that they left their old home.

Together they traveled to Milwaukee, Wis., and then separated, the father going to Chicago with their baggage, while the son traveled through southern Wisconsin and down the Rock River. They later met in Rock Island and thence came up the river to Dixon`s Ferry, now the city of Dixon, where they decided to locate. In the wilds of Palmyra they took up their residence and with their son, Joseph Powers and his wife resided until called to their final test. His death occurred April 28, l853, at the age of sixty seven year's. His wife survived him some time and died at the age of seventy-six. The were industrious people, upright and honorable in all things, but in later life misfortune overtook them. With the Congregational Church they held membership, and in the early days, Mr. Powers was a Whig. Ever a strong opponent of slavery, on its organization he joined the Republican party, which was formed to prevent the further extension of that institution. Generous and kind-hearted, he was a friend to the poor and needy and wherever known was held in warm regard. He made friends wherever he went, and few indeed were his enemies. The last of the family, a son, who resided in Worcester, Mass., died in February, 1892.

Abijah Powers had only $5.00 in his pocket when he reached Lee County. He thus began life in the West a very poor man, and for some time worked by the month as a farm hand. He entered land in the fall of 1838, and when it came into market was enabled to purchase it, having by his industry and economy acquired a sufficient sum, but it was some time afterward ere he located upon it. All unbroken was the tract, not a furrow having been turned or an improvement made, but with characteristic energy he began its development and in course of time had one of the finest farms in the county. It is situated on section 31, Palmyra Township, and comprises three hundred acres of valuable land, whereon might be found the improvements of a model farm. At the time of his death he also owned five hundred and sixty acres in Jordan Township, Whiteside County, which yielded to him a golden tribute.

After making some preparations for securing a home, Mr. Powers returned to his native county in the fall of 1839, and in September wedded Miss Amanda M. Sprout, who was born in Greenwich. Mass., in 1819, and is a daughter of Ezra and Dency (Newland) Sprout, who were farming people of the Bay State. Her father died in Greenwich, Mass., after which Mrs. Sprout came to Illinois and died at the home of her daughter in Sterling at the age of nearly ninety years. She was a member of the Baptist Church and her husband held membership with the Congregational Church. In polities, he was a Whig, and afterward a Republican with strong anti-slavery views. Two of his sons served in the War of the Rebellion and Elmer was killed at the battle of the Wilderness. Three others are still living in Massachusetts.

Mrs. Powers spent the days of her maidenhood in her parent's home, and has become one of the faithful and noble wives and mothers whom all delight to honor. In the family were six children, but two are now deceased - Alfred A., who died at the age of six years; Helen became the wife of Anson Thummel, of Palmyra Township, and died in 1889, leaving five children. Of the surviving members of the family, Elvira is the wife of Capt. Charles Eckles, who wore the blue in the late war and is now a prominent farmer near Marshalltown, Iowa; Mary is the wife of J. C. Nickerson, a commission merchant at No. 91 South Water Street, Chicago; Warren F., who wedded Mary Miller, of Whiteside County, now operates the farm in that county which was owned by his father; Austin, who married Adella Tailman, operates the home farm and completes the family.

In politics, Mr. Powers was a Republican and held a number of local offices, including that of Town Supervisor, which he filled for five year's. In 1876, he was elected to represent his district in the Thirtieth General Assembly of Illinois, where be proved an able officer, discharging his duties with promptness and fidelity. His public and private life were alike above reproach. Genial by nature and kindly in disposition he easily won friends and their high regard was never forfeited by an unworthy act. He was a faithful member of the Congregational Church, of Prairieville, and was its Deacon at the time of his death, having filled the office for some years previous. Mrs. Powers is also a member of that church. She still resides upon the farm where she has made her home for more than half a century since she was brought there a bride by her honored husband.

Our readers will be pleased to notice in connection with this sketch the lithographic portraits of the late Mr. Powers and his estimable wife, as well as a view of the pleasant homestead (above) where Mrs. Powers is quietly passing the twilight of her life.

Portraits and Biographical Lee County IL Pg 207 1892


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