[Illustration: HIRAM POWERS.]
Hiram Powers was born in Woodstock, Vermont, on the 29th of July, 1805. He was the eighth in a family of nine children, and was the son of a farmer who found it hard to provide his little household with the necessaries of life. He grew up as most New England boys do, sound and vigorous in health, passing the winters in attendance upon the district schools, and the summers in working on the farm. “The only distinctive trait exhibited by the child was mechanical ingenuity; he excelled in caricature, was an adept in constructiveness, having made countless wagons, windmills, and weapons for his comrades, attaining the height of juvenile reputation as the inventor of what he called a ‘patent fuse.’”
The Powers family lived just over the river, opposite the village, and all joined heartily in the effort to keep the wolf from the doors. Mr. Powers, Sen., was induced to become security for one of his friends, and, as frequently happens, lost all he had in consequence. Following close upon this disaster came a dreadful famine in the State, caused by an almost total failure of the crops. “I recollect,” says Mr. Powers, “we cut down the trees, and fed our few cows on the browse. We lived so long wholly on milk and potatoes, that we got almost to loathe them. There were seven of us children, five at home, and it was hard work to feed us.”
One of the sons had managed to secure an education at Dartmouth College, and had removed to Cincinnati, where he was at this time editing a newspaper. Thither his father, discouraged by the famine, determined to follow him. Accordingly, placing his household goods and his family in three wagons, and being joined by another family, he set out on the long journey to the West. This was in 1819, when young Hiram was fourteen years old. It cost him a sharp struggle to leave his old home, and as they climbed the hills beyond Woodstock he lingered behind with his mother to take a last view of the place. They crossed the State, and passing through western New York came to the vicinity of Niagara Falls. They were near enough to the great cataract to hear its solemn roar sounding high above the silent woods. The boy was eager to visit it, but the distance was too great to the falls, and he was forced to relinquish this pleasure. Continuing their journey westward, they reached the Ohio River, down which stream they floated on a flatboat until they came to Cincinnati, then a city of fourteen thousand inhabitants.