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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
William J. Powers

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 808-810 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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It has been said of the Powers news store at Ilion that this popular commercial establishment is a place "where everyone meets and feels at home", which certainly is a complimentary as well as a very fitting reflection of the manner in which William J. Powers, proprietor of the store, has impressed himself upon the community of which he has been a part from the time of his birth. As a post office clerk and then for years the local news representative of the Utica Press at Ilion, and at the same time proprietor of a popular news stand, he has been brought about as closely in touch with the public at Ilion and throughout that region as any man there and thus is perhaps one of the most widely known men in that section of the beautiful Mohawk valley. He also has served his community as a member of the village board of Ilion and as treasurer of the village and in other ways has contributed to the public service. He was born in Ilion on August 26, 1874, and is a son of Edward A. and Anna (Hughes) Powers, the latter of whom was born in Madison county, this state, May 29, 1852, a daughter of Michael Hughes, a native of Ireland, who died at his home in Ilion in 1897. He was a brick and stone mason and was for years active in the building trades at Ilion. Mrs. Anna Powers died at her home in Ilion on October 26, 1907.

The late Edward A. Powers, who at the time of his death at Ilion in 1915 was referred to by one of the local newspapers as "one of the best beloved residents of the village," had been a resident of Ilion for nearly half a century and there were few persons there who did not know him. He had attained the distinction of being the oldest active fireman in the village and was said to have been known to practically every fireman in central New York. For thirty-five years he had served as caretaker of the public schools at Ilion and thus had come into touch with the children of the village in so close a relation that all knew him. That they also loved him is attested by the fact that when he retired from that position at the close of the school year in 1908 he was presented with a handsome purse of gold by students and past students, teachers and past teachers and members of the board of education. From that time until his last illness incapacitated him for active service, he had devoted himself to the affairs of his son's news store. During the last six years of his life he also had served as village assessor, both political parties giving him their indorsement. For many years Mr. Powers was a member of the board of trustees of the Church of the Annunciation at Ilion, served for fifteen years as treasurer of the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association of that parish and was also a member of the Holy Name Society of the church. As the local newspaper above quoted said at the time of his death: "Few people became more honored by the esteem and affection of their friends and neighbors than was Ed Powers." Mr. Powers was born on Christmas Day, 1848, in North Adams, Massachusetts, and his schooling was completed in the parish schools of Utica, New York. During the latter '60s he spent some time in what was then the pioneer country in the west, particularly in Nebraska and Wyoming, but was not sufficiently attracted to that region to think of making it a place of residence, and he returned east in 1870 and located at Ilion, where the remainder of his life was spent, his death occurring there on January 16, 1915. Upon taking up his residence at Ilion, Mr. Powers was employed by Brill & Russell. Later he became associated with Dr. H. A. Maben in the management of what then was Maben's Hall, but which came to be the Ilion Opera House. In 1873 he was employed as caretaker of the public schools at Ilion and for thirty-five years occupied that position. It was in 1877 that Mr. Powers became a member of the local fire department, joining the Excelsior Steamer and Hose Company, which later became the C. W. Carpenter Hose Company, and retained his active membership in this company until December, 1912, when he presented his resignation, after having become the oldest fireman in the village. As the newspaper biographer said:

"A man of infinite goodness of heart and broad sympathies and understanding, Ed Powers won his way quickly into the lasting affection of all who had the honor of his acquaintance. He was an optimist who saw the silver lining in the cloud and who saw the good in his fellowmen."

On October 29, 1873, at Waterville, Edward A. Powers was united in marriage to Miss Anna Hughes, who, as noted above, preceded him in death something more than seven years. Mr. Powers was survived by four children, the immediate subject of this biographical review having a sister, Miss Anna M. Powers, and two brothers, Leo H. Powers of Ilion, and Sylvester D. Powers of New York.

William J. Powers, who is better known to his friends as "Will" Powers, was reared at Ilion and supplemented the schooling he received in the public schools of that village by a course in the Eastman Business College, from which he was graduated in February, 1897. For six years previous to this time he was employed at the plants of the Remington Arms Company and the Remington Typewriter Company. In 1897 he transferred his connection to the offices of the American Car & Foundry Company at Berwick, Pennsylvania, where he remained a year. He then, in 1898, returned to Ilion and became a clerk in the post office, a position he occupied for about ten years, and was thus engaged when that office was made a classified office. It was during the time of his service in the post office that Mr. Powers became engaged in reportorial work as a local reporter from Ilion for the newspapers at Albany, Utica and Syracuse, a work which presently required all of his attention and he then resigned his position in the post office to take over the duties of news representative at Ilion for the Utica Press, which position he still occupies. On August 7, 1908, Mr. Powers bought the old established news stand of the late C. S. Jepson, which had been carried on by the latter since 1869, and in January, 1915, he moved this stand to the block he had erected across the street from the old stand to meet the increasing business, and is still carrying on his business there, the place "where everyone meets and feels at home". Mr. Powers has rendered civic service as a member of the village board and as treasurer of the same and for years has kept actively in touch with every important civic enterprise in Ilion. During the time of stress attendant upon this country's participation in the World war he was one of the organizers of the Ilion-Mohawk War Relief Association, the first such association to be organized in the state of New York, and was also active in Liberty Loan, Red Cross and War Relief "drives". He is a member of and former treasurer of the Ilion Board of Trade and has served the Chamber of Commerce as vice president and director. As one of the organizers of the locally influential Exchange Club he continues to take an active part in that organization. He is a charter member of the local council, No. 518, of the Knights of Columbus, and a charter member of Ilion Lodge, No. 1444, of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, membership in which organization he brought over from the lodge at Little Falls, of which he formerly was a member. He is also a member of Nokomis Tribe No. 413 of the Improved Order of Red Men at Ilion and of the Little Falls Country Club. He is a member of the board of directors of the Manufacturers National Bank, is a republican and is a member of the Church of the Annunciation (Roman Catholic) at Ilion.

On October 11, 1904, William J. Powers was united in marriage to Miss Mabel Duckworth, who also was born at Ilion, a daughter of John and Melissa (Houghton) Duckworth, the latter of whom was born in Vermont, of Revolutionary ancestry, and is now making her home with her daughter, Mrs. Powers, at Ilion. The late John Duckworth was a native of England, who years ago became a resident of Ilion, where he long was employed as a foreman and contractor in connection with the operations of the Remington interests there. Mrs. Powers was graduated from the Ilion high school with the class of 1892 and then turned her attention to the study of nursing and in due time was graduated from Roosevelt Hospital in New York, prior to her marriage having practiced her profession in New York city and at Ilion. She is an active member of the Mohawk Valley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution of Ilion, a member of the Evening Star Chapter, No. 82, of the Order of the Eastern Star, and is also a member of the Alumnae Association of Roosevelt Hospital. She is a member of the woman's associate board of the Ilion Hospital and of the board of the Old Ladies' Home at Mohawk. Mr. and Mrs. Powers have one child: A daughter, Evanelle Duckworth Powers, born in Ilion on June 5, 1917.

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