Deborah Ball Powers (1790-1891)
At the Annual Meeting of the taxable inhabitants of School District No. One, of the town of Lansingburgh, held on the 14th day of July, 1854,—at the Public School House in said district, was called to order by H. W. Day. […]
A. E. Powers was unanimously re elected Trustee for the ensuing three years.—[…]
By Wm. J. Lamb, Revolved—That the thanks of this meeting be tendered to Mrs. Deborah Powers for the liberal donation of 1332 09 for the erection of an addition to the present public school house, in said district, for the special care & tuition of young children, and that the Moderator, with the Clerk, be a committee to present her with a copy of this resolution.
A. T. TWING, Moderator.
B. G. HATHAWAY, District Clerk.
OF THE TRUSTEES OF SCHOOL DIST No. 1.
TO THE ELECTORS OF SCHOOL DISTRICT No. 1, the Trustees Report:—[…]
In accordance with the authority conferred by the last Annual Meeting, the Trustees entered into a contract with Mrs. Deborah Powers for the erection of an addition to the School house, according to the plans then proposed to the meeting—on the terms proposed by her. The building has since been completed at an expense of [$1332.09]—Thirteen Hundred and thirty-two and one nine-hundredths dollars,—which amount has been paid to the trustees by her, thus fulfilling the contract on her part.
The trustees are intending to open the Infant Department in this addition at the beginning of the next term, and believe that it will be a valuable addition to the school.
The income of the District for the past year is as follows, viz:
Proceeds of Tax, 1853, $1029 13
Receipt from Town Superintendent for Teachers’ wages, 1947 97
Receipt from Town Superintendent for Library Money, 169 48
Receipt from Deborah Powers, on contract, 1332 09
Total, $4478 67
Lansingburgh Democrat. July 20, 1854: 2 cols 5-6.
A NOBLE WOMAN —Mrs. D. Powers has generously advanced $1200 to replenish the exhausted treasury of the poor master’s department of this town.
Lansingburgh Democrat. December 2, 1858: 2 col 2.
☞ LIBERALITY.—The Unitarian Society of this city have raised $1,000 for the Antioch College, in Ohio, of which Hon. Horace Mann is President. Of that sum, $500 was given by Mrs. D. Powers, who resides in Lansingburgh, and who only a week ago loaned $1,200 for the support of the poor of the village for the ensuing year. A collection for Church purposes was taken up a few days ago, at which a very respectable sum was donated, Mrs. Powers heading the contributions with $50.—This lady performs her charities without any display or ostentation, and we know it to be her desire that nothing should be said about the matter. But such whole-souled generosity is deserving of commendation, and we therefore take the liberty of stating the facts.
Troy Daily Times. December 11, 1858: 3 col 3.
This company [Lafayette Volunteer Hose Co. No. 3, of Lansingburgh] has just received an elegant donation of books and a picture of Washington, from Mrs. D. Powers, mother of the excellent Supervisor from Lansingburgh.
Troy Daily Whig. January 7, 1860: 2 col 4.
Among many prominent business men we might refer to […] Wm. Powers and his energetic survivor Mrs. Deborah Powers […] each and all of whom have achieved in their several callings extraordinary business success
Semi-Weekly Chronicle. April 13, 1864: 3 col 1.
Joseph Mark has become a resident of Albany County, having purchased a farm there. In part payment [?] exchanges his dwelling house on Congress street. The land owned by him on the hill east of the village and north of the cemetery, has been purchased by Mrs. Deborah Powers.
“Real Estate Changes.” Lansingburgh Weekly Chronicle. April 4, 1865: 3 col 1.
☞SOLD—.Dr. F. B. Leonard, the executor of the late Jonathan E. Whipple, deceased, has conveyed the private residence of the latter to Mrs. Deborah Powers for $8000.
Lansingburgh Weekly Chronicle. April 10, 1866: 3 col 4.
The school meeting last Wednesday resulted in the re election of Robert C. Haskell as one of the school trustees. The estimate of school expenses the coming year aggregating $10,975, as heretofore published in the GAZETTE, was adopted. Over forty ladies voted, among whom was the venerable Deborah Powers, over 90 years old. The following preamble and resolution were adopted:
WHEREAS, The laws of this state, in reference to the distribution of school money, direct the superintendent of public instruction to apportion to incorporated villages having 5,000 inhabitants, $800 per annum for supervision, provided they employ a superintendent under a special act, be it therefore,
RESOLVED: That the trustees of this district be requested to prepare a special act authorizing this district, which includes the village of Lansingburgh, to employ a superintendent of schools, and procure the passage of the same by the legislature of this state during the coming session.
Lansingburgh State Gazette. October 15, 1881: 3 col 3.
At the school election in Lansingburg, Rensselaer county, N. Y., for librarian, Mrs. Kate M. Dudden received 282; blank, one. Forty-three ladies voted. Of the latter, two of the number, Mrs. Deborah Powers and Mrs. Seba Foster, were over ninety years of age.
The success at Lansingburg is owing to the diligence of Mrs. Caroline M. Rogers, formerly Mrs. Clark, of Boston, also a member of the State committee, who was cordially seconded by her genial and broad-minded husband, Mr. E. F. Rogers, proprietor of Rogers’ wholesale laundry, in Troy, N. Y. […]
The Woman’s Journal. 12(46). November 12, 1881: 365.
The Roll of the Heaviest Taxpayers in a Thriving Village—Values Estimated by Assessors.
The following are Lansingburgh’s taxpayers assessed at a valuation of $5,000 and upward:
Real estate. Personal.
Powers, N. B. 7,500
Powers, A. E. 23,300
Powers, Deborah 61,944 35,142 […]
Powers, D. & Sons 97,600 75,000 […]
Troy Daily Times. September 21, 1886: 3 col 3.
DEBORAH POWERS, of [Lansingburgh] New York, who passed her ninety-ninth birthday recently, is at the head of the firm of Powers & Sons, bankers and oilcloth manufacturers. Sixty-five years ago, says the New York Sun, her husband founded in Lansingburg the first factory in this country for the manufacture of oilcloth. Shortly afterward he met his death by an accident in the works. Mrs. Powers stepped in and ran the factory, overseeing the numerous workmen and directing the office-work herself. She managed the business alone for a number of years, until her two boys became of age, when she took them into partnership. The Powers became the wealthiest residents of the town. About ten years ago the town bank failed, and Mrs. Powers and her sons established a private banking house, which has flourished ever since.
Woman’s Journal. September 29, 1888: 19(39). 1.
Hon. Thomas Coleman became the possessor of an afghan made by Mrs. Deborah Powers of Lansingburgh in her hundredth year. The afghan, with several smaller ones, was made by Mrs. Powers for the festival of holidays, conducted by the ladies of the Unitarian church, and it was there Mr. Coleman purchased the notable piece of handiwork. Just think of a lady in her hundredth year at the head of a banking institution, the oldest woman-banker, if not the oldest of either sex, in the world, attending to household affairs with cheerful alacrity and knitting afghans for a church fair—and all with vigorous vitality that speaks well for years to come! Lansingburgh and Troy are certainly proud of Mrs. Powers.
Troy Daily Times. December 11, 1889: 3 col 6.
Mrs. Deborah Powers, of Lansingburgh, N. Y., is the oldest woman in the village. She is in her hundredth year, but she is as smart and as “chirp” as a cricket. Since the death of her husband she has been the managing head of the Powers Bank, one of the oldest private banking institutions in this section. She also attends to household affairs. An afghan, just completed by her busy fingers, is now on exhibition at a church fair. Mrs. Powers shows but few marks of her great age.
Woman’s Journal 21(5). February 1, 1890. 34.
A Venerable Lady who will be One Hundred Years Old Next Tuesday—Mrs. Deborah Powers of Lansingburgh—Sketch of a Century of Noble Activity—Long-Lived Ancestry—How She Heroically Took Up the Work That Her Dead Husband Had Planned—Making an Honored Name in the Business World—Social Influence—Remarkable Preservation of Strength—An Anniversary That is Memorable.
Mrs. Deborah Powers of Lansingburgh will be one hundred years old next Tuesday. […]
Many and Useful Years.
Mrs. Deborah Powers was before her marriage Deborah Ball, the youngest daughter of Nathaniel and Sarah Nevins Ball of Hebron, Grafton county, N. H. Her parents were natives of Hollis, N. H., and were among the early settlers of Hebron. There were ten children in the family, one only, a son, dying in infancy. Five children were sons and five were daughters. Mrs. Powers was the seventh child, and is the survivor of the family. Her father died of whooping-cough at eighty-four years. Her mother died at the age of eighty-nine years. Her grandfather, on the maternal side, lived to 100 years. Of her brothers and sisters one died in infancy, one at thirty-five years and a third about forty years. The other seven passed three-score and ten years. […]
On February 23, 1816, Deborah Ball was married at the residence of Bird Rolfe Page, minister, to William Powers. Mr. Powers was a native of the adjoining town of Groton, and was at that time a resident of Lansingburgh, where he was a school-teacher. In June of that year she came to Lansingburgh, and has since continuously lived there. She had two children, both now living: Albert E., born December 5, 1816, and Nathaniel B., born July 22, 1823.
The mutual attachment of Mrs. Powers and her husband was one of unusual strength. This, coupled with her strong practical ability, led her to become thoroughly acquainted with his business affairs, so they were partners in the fullest sense. Mr. Powers had acquired some knowledge of the manufacture of table oilcloths, and engaged in their production. His attention was attracted by a piece of floor oilcloth on the bottom of a carriage, and he determined to attempt the manufacture of that article. He was still employed in teaching, and in that occupation Mrs. Powers assisted him. But his experiments in manufacturing were so successful that he relinquished teaching in 1821 or thereabout, and devoted himself to the manufacture of floor oilcloths. In all his experiments Mrs. Powers was her husband’s active helper, both in counsel and in labor, and thus became well versed in the details of his business. As early as 1817 the first public advertisement of the manufactory was made in a little hand-bill, and the business grew steadily till 1828, when the buildings occupied were too small, and the factory now standing on the west side of Second avenue, Lansingburgh, was erected and partly finished.
In June 1829, Mr. Powers lost his life while making varnish, and Mrs. Powers was left a widow with two young children, with a factory partly finished and a large debt incurred in its construction. Mrs. Powers was also badly burned in the accident by which her husband lost his life. As they had often talked of the value of the growing business for their children, she resolved to carry out their plan. In her execution of this purpose her intimate knowledge of details was very valuable, and her strong common sense and sagacious business ability manifested itself in her efforts. She called to her aid John Ball, her youngest brother, a lawyer residing at Lansingburgh. After a year or two, she employed the late Jonathan E. Whipple as an assistant, and later he became her copartner in business, in 1832. In 1842 her eldest son became her business partner, and in 1847 her youngest son succeeded Mr. Whipple, and the present firm of D. Powers & Sons was then formed.
For many years Mrs. Powers was actively engaged in the practical conduct of the business, but gradually she surrendered to her sons her personal control and gave her attention to more important questions arising in the extensive operations of the firm, her clear perceptions and prudent judgment always possessing signal value in the prosecution of the business affairs of the establishment.
In 1877 Mrs. Powers and her sons entered into another branch of business. The bank of Lansingburgh, which was the only bank in the village, failed, and Albert E. Powers became its receiver. In order to facilitate the liquidation of the failed bank, and to accommodate themselves and the bank customers in that village, the firm opened a private bank under the title of Bank of D. Powers & Sons. Since March, 1877, the mother and sons have jointly conducted both these branches of business.
Mr. Powers was one of the earliest teachers in the public schools in Lansingburgh, and during his life was interested in their management. He was active in the establishment of the “Monitorial school,” organized for the introduction of the Lancasterian system of teaching in the district schools, and was a school trustee at the time of his death. As Mrs. Powers aided her husband in teaching, she came to feel a strong interest in the public schools, which she always has retained and evinced in substantial ways. When the Market street school-building became crowded in 1853 she asked the trustees to build an addition thereto in order to accommodate the little children, which was done, and Mrs. Powers paid the cost of it, making it a gift to the district. Several years later, when the Whipple school needed a piano she gave it one. And when the trustees and district decided to build the Diamond street school-house, she bought and gave to the district an additional lot, so the children might have larger room for play in the yard. In 1889, when the Powers school-building was finished, being received in token of gratitude for her service and aid and that of her husband, she caused an ornamental iron fence to be built about its yard on the streets and gave it to the district.
Some years since, with the feeling that she had acquired more property than in her early life she had ever expected, Mrs. Powers had the desire to put some of it to some permanent benevolent use. After reflection and consultation she decided to found a home for old ladies. In 1883 a suitable property in Lansingburgh was bought, a matron was selected and in December, 1883, a beginning was made. In June, 1885, a corporation was organized under the laws of the state, under the name of “The Deborah Powers Home for Old Ladies.” This institution is now in full and successful operation.
During the last decade, as at present, Mrs. Powers has felt an interest in current affairs, and, through reading and by conversation, keeps well abreast of events. She especially delights, as she always has, in reading of travels, history and the discoveries in the scientific world. The reading of the volume of letters published by Mrs. John M. Francis for private circulation gave Mrs. Powers great satisfaction because of their interest and her personal acquaintance with the author. She had the entire work read to her, and manifested great delight. She finds satisfaction also in the domain of religious thought and discussion, wherein she has matured convictions united with a tolerant spirit so broad as to recognize good among all classes and to be thankful for this beneficence. […]
Mrs. Powers is now in good health. Some six or seven years ago she made a journey to New England with her brother—since dead—and with her eldest son. She then visited the old homestead, and found much pleasure in going over the ground once more. She also visits her children and grandchildren at their homes and enjoys social intercourse with congenial friends, both old and young. Occasionally she visits the home for old ladies and spends a day there in “pleasant converse” with the old ladies. She likes best to make these trips from her residence to the home in street cars, where she always receives the kindest attention from the car attendants.
Troy Daily Times. August 2, 1890: 3 cols 3-4. [The Francis volume might have been a collection of newspaper clippings. See e.g. John and Charles Francis collection 1869-ca. 1905 https://quod.lib.umich.edu/c/clementsmss/umich-wcl-M-3362fra?view=text and John Morgan and Charles Spencer Francis. Papers, 1874-1906. http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/pdf_guides/RMM00263.pdf ]
NEW YORK, JUNE 3, 1891.
Editors Woman’s Journal: […]
On Thursday, May 28, there died at her home in Lansingburgh, one of the most remarkable women that this State has ever produced — Mrs. Deborah Powers. She had nearly completed her one hundred and first year, having been born August 5, 1790. She died full of honors, surrounded by children, grand-children and great-grand-children. She was revered and loved by a wide circle of friends. For seventy-two years she had carried on extensive business in Lansingburgh, and had been in every way identified with its prosperity. Her husband died in 1829. Shortly before his death he had begun the manufacture of oilcloth, then a new industry here. His wife had been his counselor and assistant. From that time forward she took entire charge of the rapidly increasing business. The half-built factory was finished, and constantly multiplying orders were filled with so much intelligence and such satisfaction that year after year prosperity increased. Wealth accumulated. In 1877 Mrs. Powers organized the banking house of D. Powers & Sons. In this enterprise also she was entirely successful. To the day of her death her name stood at the head of the bank, whose solvency has never for a moment been questioned. For the beginning it has had a large and lucrative patronage.
Mrs. Powers was progressive in her views, taking an interest in all public matters, and contributing liberally to every scheme of local improvement, besides giving away thousands in unostentatious charity. She was much pleased at the establishment of school suffrage, and for many years did not fail to cast her vote at each election.
Deborah Powers was, it need hardly be said, a woman of remarkable ability, energy, executive force, and also of great kindness of heart. The people of Lansingburgh have celebrated her birthday for several years past, and on all such anniversaries Mrs. Powers spread a feast for friends and relatives, and always took care that baskets of candy should be placed on the piazza, to which all the children of the village might help themselves. Her honorable career is one of which the women of the State may well be proud, and her memory will long live in many hearts as an inspiration.
LILLIE DEVEREAUX BLAKE.
149 East 44th Street.
Woman’s Journal 22(23). June 6, 1891. 181.
Oedel, Howard. “Deborah Ball Powers 1790-1891.” Hebron Historical Society Gazette 6(1). January 2008. 3-5.
Deborah Ball Powers (1790-1891) at Oakwood Cemetery https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/86035641/deborah-powers