Biography of Hon. Abijah Powers

Hon. Abijah Powers, a respected figure in Palmyra Township, passed away in 1891, leaving behind a legacy of dedication and community service. Arriving in Lee County in 1838 with just $5, Powers transformed his life through hard work, eventually owning extensive farmlands. A descendant of a family with historical significance, including Hiram Powers the sculptor, Abijah was deeply involved in politics as a Republican, served as Town Supervisor, and represented his district in the Illinois General Assembly. Known for his genial nature and commitment to the Congregational Church, Powers’ life story is a testament to perseverance, community contribution, and moral integrity.

Abijah Powers
Abijah Powers

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 had resided here since the spring of 1838 and, over the years, had formed an extensive acquaintance and secured the regard of all with whom he came in contact.

Born in Greenwich, Hampshire County, Mass., on 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.

Amanda M Powers
Amanda M Powers

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 Township, they took up their residence and with their son, Joseph Powers and his wife resided until called to their final rest. His death occurred on April 28, 1853, at the age of sixty-seven years. His wife survived him some time and died at the age of seventy-six. They 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 in his pocket when he reached Lee County. He thus began life in the West as 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 the market, he 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 the 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 politics, 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.

Abijah Powers Residence
Abijah Powers Residence

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 Tallman, 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 years. In 1876, he was elected to represent his district in the Thirtieth General Assembly of Illinois, where he 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 where Mrs. Powers is quietly passing the twilight of her life.


Biographical Publishing Company, Portrait and biographical record of Lee County, Illinois, containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens, together with biographies of all the governors of the state, and of the presidents of the United States, Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1892.

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