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Power(s)house: Hollis DAR dedicates historic marker commemorating homestead of town’s first English settler

COURTESY PHOTO Members of Hollis's Anna Keyes Powers Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution who attended the recent dedication of the highway marker for Capt. Peter Powers, including historical researcher Sharon Howe, center, gather in front of the marker.

HOLLIS – In his early 20s, newly married and teeming with a sense of adventure, Capt. Peter Powers strapped a pack onto his back, slung a rifle and axe over his shoulder, and started out on foot for a dense and unbroken forest known as the Nissitisset wilderness.

It was September 1730, and Powers, as his wife Anna Keyes Powers patiently whiled away the days and weeks at their homestead in Old Dunstable, was soon busy clearing the 37 acres of land he’d purchased with plans to erect a log cabin he, Anna, and their two little sons, ages 1 and 2, would occupy come January 1731.

Now, some 288 years and five months later, the Anna Keyes Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is commemmorating the young family’s arrival in present-day Hollis – which distinguished them as the first permanent English settlers in town.

“Strong and hardy” was Capt. Powers, while his wife, Anna, was a “brave 20-year-old,” according to Sharon Howe, an historian and researcher who read a history of the Powers family at last week’s dedication of the historic highway marker recently erected at the site on which their log cabin once stood.

“The marker recites the contributions that Capt. Powers and his wife, Anna Keyes Powers, made” to the early history of this section of New Hampshire,” chapter Regent Mary Pease said.

About 30 people, including chapter members, town officials and local residents, gathered for the ceremony at the marker, which stands on Proctor Hill Road roughly 200 yards west of the intersection of Main Street, which is Route 122.

Among the highlights was Howe’s account of the history of the Powers family, which she collected through “extensive research,” Pease said.

The ceremonial unveiling of the marker, a handsome, dark-green tablet titled “Captain Peter Powers Homestead Site” and similar in appearance to other state highway markers, was carried out by Cynthia Robbins.

Chapter member Dorna Hamer, according to Pease, handled “the necessary, and vital, communication” with state highway officials.

Selectman David Petry, on behalf of the town, officially accepted the marker.

Pease, the chapter regent, presided over the dedication, explaining to visitors the objectives of the Daughters of the American Revolution organization: “To perpetuate the memory of those who contributed to the formation of our nation; to promote the development of an enlightened public; and to foster patriotic citizenship,” she said.

A brass marker set in a large stone marked the site some years ago, having been dedicated in 1909 in a ceremony believed to be similar to this one.

At some point, the marker was moved to Monument Square, where it has been on display on the town common ever since.

ABOUT THE CAPT. PETER POWERS FAMILY

Capt. Peter Powers, a descendant of a long line of noble ancestry, was born in December 1707 in Littleton, Mass., a son of Daniel and Elizabeth Whitcomb Powers.

In early 1728, Powers married 18-year-old Anna Keyes, and the two moved to Dunstable, N.H. Powers, in September 1730, started out for the Nissitisset wilderness (now Hollis) with axe and gun in hand, and a pack on his back, to fix his future residence in the then dense and unbroken forests where he had purchased about 37 acres of land.

Powers promptly began clearing a portion of his land. When he built a log cabin on the site, he thereby became the first permanent settler of Hollis.

In January 1731, Powers moved Anna and their two young children, Peter Jr. and Stephen, into the cabin.

Between November 1728, when Peter Jr. was born, and March 1750, Capt. and Anna Powers had 13 children.

During that time, Powers became a noted backwoodsman and colonial land surveyor. He was employed much of the time in laying out farms and townships, receiving his pay mostly in land.

Powers was 49 when he died in August 1757 of an unspecified fever.

Anna Powers was 90 when she died in September 1798.

Both are buried in the Congregational Church Cemetery, also known as the Old Churchyard Cemetery, on Monument Square.