Thursday, April 28, 2016
"My Jolly Chickadee by Agnes S.J. Powers. From the papers of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, courtesy of Schlesinger Library"My Jolly Chickadee by Agnes S.J. Powers. From the papers of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, courtesy of Schlesinger Library

Poet and postmaster Agnes Jones was born on May 30, 1890, to Thomas and Anna Jones in Georgetown, Maine, and later settled in the nearby hamlet of Robinhood Village after her marriage to Carroll Powers in 1918. Agnes served as school teacher, postmaster (which she preferred to postmistress), and lay preacher during her long life, but perhaps may be remembered most especially for her vivid religious poems.

Agnes began to write poetry when she was still very small, and in 1909 became a correspondent for the Bath Independent. She enjoyed crafting rhymes that encompassed stories of nature intertwined with biblical quotations and images.

From the papers of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryFrom the papers of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, courtesy of Schlesinger LibraryShe used the birds and small animals that frequented her backyard feeders as inspiration for her sermons while serving as a lay preacher, in both Robinhood Village and Georgetown, during the winter. In 1941, Powers wrote to her friend Rebecca Reyher to describe the car-full of people who drove out to find the fish-hawk nest she had mentioned that day in church.

Her poem, “In the Church-Yard,” which was published by the Boston Transcript in 1930, Powers used the imagery of small woodland creatures keeping those at rest in the cemetery company:

Sometimes at eventide when whippoorwills sing sweetly clear their song of love and hope,
And frogs pipe forth their twilight melodies from meadows that lie down the southern slope,
I like to walk down with slow and thoughtful step, when one bright star is shining in the west,
Within the church-yard where in grassy beds my loved ones’ tired hearts are finding rest…
And after I have said goodnight to them and turned away beneath the dim starlight,
I like to leave that little rabbit there to keep them company throughout the night.

In 1954, Agnes Powers' husband Carroll, who had been a fisherman his entire life, drowned at sea; he had never learned to swim.

Agnes wrote “Memories of a Fisherman” to celebrate his life and to mourn his passing:

It seemed a cruel thing, not to be borne, when death came to him on that cold, gray night
With not a human ear to hear his cry and not an eye to see his desperate plight;
But they who have lived through the knifing thoughts of pounding waves and ruthless, sucking tide
Have come at last to see the Hand of God that never really left his helpless side.

Letter from the papers of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, courtesy of   Schlesinger LibraryLetter from the papers of Rebecca Hourwich Reyher, courtesy of Schlesinger Library

Agnes Powers died on October 23, 1964. Her friend, Rebecca Reyher, told the story of Agnes’s life in “My Friend: Agnes Powers—Who Lived and Died in an Obscure Village in Maine.”

Agnes Powers is still remembered in her small hamlet of Robinhood Village, Maine. The Old Rigging Shop Studio has unveiled a permanent exhibition titled, “First Lady of Robinhood,” honoring her life as postmaster, poet, and preacher.

Author: 
Cat Holbrook