Hiram Powers

Hiram Powers was an ordinary guy, just like most of us. He lived a productive and moral life and was respected by his community; it was there, not in the larger world, that he left his small but firm footprint. Born in 1827 in Medina County, Ohio, he moved to Woodbridge Township in 1864 to farm. After a brief sojourn back in Ohio for an unknown reason, he returned to his home in Cambria, where he died in 1909.

Hiram was no slouch with his mechanical skills. According to the Portrait and Biographical Album of Hillsdale County, Mich., published in 1888, he was a carpenter, a “natural born mechanic, a blacksmith by trade, and more than ordinarily skillful in handling tools.” But he was also a learner, reading voraciously and by doing so becoming a fine scholar.

Though Hiram’s public involvement was limited to local politics and he made no historical contribution, his memory endures in the form of a coverlet dedicated to him. From 1901 until his death in 1909, someone collected his discarded muslin tobacco sacks. We can only speculate who spearheaded this memorial. Possibly it was his second wife, Nancy, possibly his sisters, possibly some combination of these ladies or possibly someone outside the family. Whoever it was used the tobacco sacks to make a coverlet. With red thread the creator(s) of the coverlet embroidered Hiram’s birth and death dates on the top, with a message that the item was constructed of his muslin tobacco sacks. The rest of the coverlet contains prayers and numbers, animals and objects—kind of like a giant sampler.

Virginia Stenley, an antique lover who purchased this coverlet in either Maryland or Pennsylvania and used it for her own home occasionally, found the Hillsdale County Historical Society website and offered to send it to back to Hiram’s home county. We are most grateful for her thoughtful gesture.


JoAnne P. Miller