William Henry Powers

WILLIAM HENRY POWERS, died February 25, 1895, at his home 107 Court street, Grand Rapids. He was the only son of the Hon. William Thompson Powers (not the only son, there was also Charles Ball Powers). He was born in Troy, New York, April 7, 1841 and came to Grand Rapids with his parents in June 1847. He received a common school education and at the age of 18 entered the employ of his father as clerk and bookkeeper in which position be continued until 1863 when his father closed out his furniture business. In the spring of 1862 he was elected city clerk with the Hon. Charles C. Comstock as mayor in which position he served one year his office where the city business was transacted being with that of his father. At the conclusion of his term of office he in company with the late Dudley H. Waters secured from the city the contract for grading graveling and paving the gutters of Lyon street from Canal street east to Union street and subsequently they also secured the contract for grading Kent street from Lyon to Bronson and Ionia from Lyon to Hastings. At that time this was the heaviest grading contract ever let by the city These contracts afforded a fair profit and this was the business starter for Mr. Powers. From this he went into manufacturing having rented from his father the old furniture factory with its machinery on Erie street where the office and steam fitting shop of Adolph Leitelt now are He did a small amount of business at job work turning planing and sawing employing two or three men running the machines principally himself wood turning and scroll sawing being his forte After operating in this way for some time with but fair profit he put in shingle machinery and operated one winter on contract for Powers & White cutting out bolts which were run down from Rouge river and pulled out at the head of the rapids In 1866 in company with Ebenezer Morris Ball he purchased the interest of the George Whittemore estate and subsequently the remaining interest of his father in the steam saw mill on the west side of the river at the head of the rapids and they commenced manufacturing lumber continuing the business with reasonable profit until 1868 when they sold their mill to A. B. Long & Sons. They then invested their means in a water power site on the then new west side canal upon which they erected a planing mill and sash and door factory where the Powers & Walker Casket Company’s works are now situated Mr Powers was the principal stockholder and president of the Powers & Walker Casket Company whose business was founded in 1875 and which is classed among the largest manufacturing concerns of the valley city In 1885. Mr Powers in company with his father purchased the plant known as the Michigan Iron Works at the foot of Louis street and he at once assumed the management of the machine shop and foundry comprising this plant giving the business his personal attention and operating it with marked success Mr Powers was interested in many other manufacturing enterprises and filled many positions of trust of both business and public nature He was president of the Powers & Walker Casket Company president of the Wolverine Chair & Furniture Company secretary of the Grand Rapids Brush Company secretary and treasurer of the Rouge & Grand River Log Running Company secretary and treasurer of the Grand Rapids Electric Light& Power Company president of the Martin Middlings Purifier Company and for 15 years manager of Powers Opera House. Among the public positions which be filled were those of city clerk alderman member of the State legislature member of the board of police and fire commissioners to which position he was first appointed in 1881 being one of the original members named in the act of the legislature creating the board He was also an active member of the board of trade having been a member of its first board of directors He was one of the charter members of Mystic lodge of the Knights of Honor and filled all the chairs in that order to that of grand dictator. Mr. Powers married February 8, 1865 Sarah Leonard Bradford daughter of Durfee T. and Hannah M. Bradford of Walker township. They have had seven children of whom they have buried three. The four now living are Frederick W., Frank O., Carrie L., and Gertrude B. Powers It will be seen that he leaves a record of a busy life marked by energy industry enterprise sagacity integrity and thrift His work and the positions accorded him show better than mere words could his standing as a man and citizen and the place he won in the public esteem.

Source: Michigan Historical Collections, Volume 26. Collections and Researches made by the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, Lansing, Michigan, Robert Smith Company State Printers and Binders, 1896.

William Henry Powers’ Timeline
1841 — Born Troy, New York
1847 — Moves to Grand Rapids, Michigan with his parents

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