Friday, November 14, 2014

Rev James Powell in Newburyport


From The American Missionary Volume 42, No 2, February 1988 Project Gutenburg

"He whom thou lovest is dead," were the sorrowful words of the stricken sisters concerning their brother; we repeat them to our many friends who enjoyed the personal friendship of our beloved brother Powell. These friends cannot restore him to us, as the Friend restored Lazarus to his family; but they can sympathize with us in our great bereavement. It is scarcely three months since our honored president, Gov. Washburn, was suddenly taken away, and we have not yet found his successor; and now, Dr. Powell has been removed almost as suddenly, and we can scarcely hope to find one to take his place. Our only consolation is, that God makes no mistakes, and that, while men die, His work goes on.

The death of Dr. Powell was unexpected, but its cause lay far back. When only nineteen years of age, he entered the service of the Christian Commission, and in the malarial regions of the South, the germs of disease were planted in his system. They were the cause of frequent and distressing turns of illness, while his irrepressible energy never allowed him to take the rest necessary for recovery. The physicians pronounced the immediate cause of his death to be apoplexy, but most men carrying his burden of ill-health would have yielded long before; only his immeasurable hopefulness and activity sustained him to the end.

Rev. James Powell, D.D., was born in Wales, December 25, 1842. At an early age he came to this country, and partly by his own exertions and partly by the help of friends whom he had won to himself by his genial nature and evident indications of future usefulness, he obtained an education, graduating from Dartmouth College in 1866, and from Andover Theological Seminary in 1869.

He was installed as pastor of the church at Newburyport in November, 1869, his only pastorate, and remained there till February, 1873. His health being impaired by his incessant labors as pastor, he was persuaded by his friend, Rev. Mr. Pike, to aid in introducing the Jubilee Singers to the English public, with the further purpose of either remaining abroad to manage the affairs of the Singers in Great Britain, or of returning and temporarily taking Mr. Pike's place in Connecticut and New York, as District Secretary of the Association. The latter alternative was finally decided upon, and Mr. Powell assumed these duties in the latter part of the year 1873. A year afterwards, on the resignation of Rev. Dr. Patton from our Chicago office, Mr. Powell, who had shown remarkable gifts as a speaker, was at once selected as District Secretary of our Western department. Here he remained for nearly ten years, when some changes were required in our district offices and he was called to New York as Assistant Corresponding Secretary, and entrusted with the supervision of the entire collecting field. The work he had done so acceptably and efficiently at the West was followed by equally effective services in his wider field at the East. In the three years of the recent burden of debt upon the Association, the energies of Dr. Powell were called into full play, and when, at our last Annual Meeting, we rejoiced in deliverance from debt, it was felt that the gratifying result was due in a large measure to his eloquence by voice and pen. At that meeting Dr. Powell was elected Corresponding Secretary of the Association.

Bro. Powell was an orator born, not made. His eloquence was not of the Websterian sort, massive and logical, but rather of that magnetic kind which wins and sways an audience at will, sometimes to smiles and then to tears, but always with definite persuasion. He was a brilliant writer as well as speaker. His pen glowed with a special inspiration, and was prolific as well. The pages of the American Missionary, the columns of the weekly religious press, the numerous circulars issued from this office and his abundant correspondence, all bear witness to this. He was a wise man in counsel.

The impassioned and imaginative speaker is not usually characterized by a cautious judgment or administrative gifts; but we have found in this office that when grave questions arose for consideration, Dr. Powell was remarkably conservative and judicious. But the crowning glory of the man was his bright and genial nature, and his warm and devoted Christian character. It was this that won all hearts, that made him welcome on every platform and in every pulpit, that bound his friends to him in warmest attachment, that opened the doors of all homes to him and that leaves the memory of brightness behind him in the offices where he toiled and in his own dear home. His life went out not as the lightning's flash, that leaves the deeper darkness behind, nor as the setting sun, that has the night before and after, but his departure from life was only the entrance into eternal brightness, and leaves a radiance behind that will be a perpetual joy and consolation to his friends. He was born on Christmas day, and the festivities of another Christmas day were not wholly past when he died. His birth was a Christmas gift to earth, and, be it said with reverence, his death was a Christmas gift to Heaven, for through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the sanctifying influence of the blessed spirit, we believe he was made meet to be presented to the Father, in whose hands we leave him.

James was born in Wales December 25, 1842. He married Ella Andrews Powell
From  James Powell, Reminiscences (1893) Edited by H Porter Smith

  • Order of Exercises at the Ordination of James Powell, as Pastor of the North Congregational Church, Newburyport, Mass., Wednesday, November 24th, 1869, at 2 O'clock
  • Photo of Church from Clipper Heritage Trail 
  • The Dartmouth, Volume 4
  • Sketches of the Alumni of Dartmouth College

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