By Jeff Blakley
James M. Powers is a name that appears often in the documentary records of the history of this area, along with Fred J. Powers. It will take another post to delve into who Fred Powers was, but he was not related to James M. Powers. There have been accounts written about the Miami Land & Development Company which claim that some of the officers of the company were from Oklahoma, so I decided to find out if that was true or not.
After doing some research on the Tatum brothers (Bethel B., Smiley M., Johnson R. and Judson H.), I discovered that they were from Bartow, Georgia. Strike them from the list – they were the owners of the Miami Land & Development Company. What about the officers? Well, on the plat of the lands that the Miami Land & Development Company owned in South Dade, James M. Powers was listed as the Secretary. I did some research on James M. Powers and bingo! – hit the jackpot. In 1910, James M. Powers, with his second wife, Sarah Lillian Runnells, were living in Ward 2 of Lawton, Comanche, Oklahoma. James Monroe Powers was, according to another public tree published on Ancestry.com, born on November 1, 1856 in Streator, LaSalle, Illinois. The tree says that he died on 1 February 1926 in Miami, but his gravestone in Henry, Illinois says 1925. By his first wife, Mary Cannon, he had three children: Edna, born in February, 1872; Ralph James, born in December, 1883; and Fred, born in December, 1886. By his second wife, Sarah Lillian Runnells, he had one daughter, Velma Ruth, born in 1907. She died in 1993.
In the 1900 census, James was living in Henry, Marshall, Illinois and was in the general merchandise business. He was widowed by this time and his daughter, Edna and sons, Ralph J. and Fred were living with him. The 1900 census says that James was born in November, 1855 in Illinois. On January 28, 1901, Powers suffered a major loss when a fire destroyed an entire city block, including the department store that he owned. The Henry News-Republican carried the story in its January 31 issue.
James M. Powers’ occupation, as listed in the 1910 census of Lawton, Oklahoma, was “real estate – general agent.” Lawton is located in southwestern Oklahoma. It was founded on August 6, 1901 and was named after Major Gen. Henry Ware Lawton. James and Lillian were the parents of one daughter, Velma Ruth. She was born on December 3, 1907 in Lawton, Comanche, Oklahoma, so James had left Marshall County, Illinois prior to 1907. I’d venture to guess that rather than rebuilding his business in Henry, he elected to move to a new place to start over.
James Powers was in Oklahoma to sell real estate and for no other reason. How he came to hook up with the Tatum brothers is a mystery. My guess is that James, being a real estate salesman, read about the land boom in Miami and came here to seek his fortune. He most likely became a Tatum Brothers Company employee after he arrived here.
On July 24, 1914, The Miami Herald reported that the Detroit Ice & Power Company had been organized in Detroit. The officers were Mr. Symmes, president; Mr. Tracy, vice-president and James M. and R. J. Powers, directors. R.J. was, no doubt, James’ son, Ralph J.
In 1917, James and Lillian were living on 11th St. west of Avenue T in Miami. He was the secretary-treasurer of the Miami Land & Development Company and his son, Fred W., was a salesman for the Tatum Brothers Company. He lived at the corner of Avenue T and 11th St. in Riverside Heights, which may have been the same house that his parents lived in. Fred’s brother, Ralph, is not shown.
In 1920, James was enumerated in Ward 8 of Atlanta, Georgia. His occupation was listed as “President – Publisher Manufacturer” and his wife was listed as a teacher. Their daughter, Velma, lived with them.
In 1922, he was back in Miami, along with his son, Ralph J. James and Lillian lived at 1658 S.W. 3rd St. and Ralph was in real estate on the Elser Pier. The Elser’s Pier was on the water at the foot of Flagler St. Fred is not listed.
In the 1923 City Directory, James M. Powers was listed as a salesman for the Everglades Land and Development Company, which is mentioned in this essay, which appeared in Tequesta in 1948. Evidently, there was a substantial turnover of employees at the Tatum Brothers Company, since the Secretary-Treasurer position only lasted for a few years for James Powers.
In the 1924 Miami City Directory, Jas M and Lillian R Powers were living at 1658 S.W. 3rd St. in Miami. He was still selling real estate. His daughter, Velma Ruth, a student (she was born in 1907 and was 17), was living with them. His son, Ralph J., was a principal in the firm of Powers & Young, “Dealers of Real Estate of the Higher Class – We Offer Guaranteed Investments.” They were located in suites 408-410 of the Calumet Building. Ralph and his wife lived at 344 N.E. 29th St. Ralph’s brother, Fred B., had died in 1920, as his widow, Blanche M., is shown as living in the rear of 327 N.E. 24th St., a short distance from her brother-in-law, Ralph.
James Monroe Powers died on 1 February 1925, at the age of 70. He is buried in the Henry Cemetery, in Henry, Illinois, along with his sons, Ralph and Fred.