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Bowles, Ada[line] Chartine (Burpee)
In her later years, Rev. Ada C. Bowles was, for a time, the preacher at East Gloucester Universalist Church. A native of Gloucester, she had known Lane during her childhood, and wrote about her memories of him in the local newspaper, describing, among other things, the circumstances of his physical handicap.
Ada C. Bowles was born Adaline Chartine Burpee, the daughter of David Burpee and Eliza Steele Parsons, on August 2, 1836 in Gloucester, Massachusetts. She became the third wife of Rev. Benjamin Franklin Bowles of Natick on November 5, 1858 when they were married in Gloucester by the Universalist minister W.R.G. Mellen, the brother-in-law of Mary Blood Mellen. The marriage made her a step-mother to three children (Charles, Margaret, and Henrietta) and over the next sixteen years she and her husband added three more to the family (Louisa, Frances, and Percy).
In 1853, at the age of seventeen, while a pupil at the Parsons School, Gloucester, Ada Bowles “rendered much assistance during the Winter term” to the teacher there, a fact that was noted in the annual school report by the Superintendent of Schools, John J. Babson. (1) She became an assistant teacher at the school the next year and continued in that position until 1856, meanwhile spending her leisure time in further study and writing newspaper articles. She began preaching in the summer of 1869, when she gave a sermon in Webster, Massachusetts, and was one of the few chosen to address the Universalist Centennial tent meeting held in Gloucester in 1870, attended also by Phebe Hanaford.
Ada C. Bowles was licensed to preach in Boston in 1871. Four years later she was ordained at the State Convention in Pennsylvania and acted as nonresident pastor of the First Universalist Church in Eastern Pennsylvania while her husband occupied the pulpit of the Church of the Restoration in Philadelphia. They later moved back to Massachusetts where she was minister at the East Gloucester Universalist Church in 1892, when her husband died.
Ada never stopped educating herself, and amassed enough knowledge on widely different subjects to be able to lecture on them, as when she gave a talk on ‘hydra’ at the Gloucester Universalist Church in 1883, and on ‘Women as Inventors’ at a meeting of the Woman’s Suffrage Association in 1899. One of her most popular talks on the lecture circuit was ‘Strong Minded Housekeeping,’ wherein she pleaded that women do their housework efficiently and with dispatch, leaving them time to devote their energy to social causes such as woman’s suffrage. She was active in various organizations, including the Woman’s Suffrage movement, corresponding with Julia Ward Howe, (2) and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, where she was in charge of the “department of scientific temperance.” (3) She was recording secretary and treasurer of the Woman’s Ministerial Conference for more then a decade, composing the words for a hymn titled ‘Rise Up! Rise Up! O Woman’ that was read at the congress in Chicago in 1893. She was an avid collector of biographical material on female ministers for the Columbian Exposition—for which she was an officer of the Woman’s Auxiliary Committee—that she hoped to eventually turn into a book. (4)
Rev. Ada C. Bowles published her memories of Lane in the local newspaper. She wrote: “As understood, his disablement was the result of eating, as a boy, of the poisonous weed, ‘Apple-of-Peru,’ so called in my childhood, and always associated with the tragedy of the artist’s life. Why called ‘Apple-of-Peru,’ is singular, as the plant was a native of the East Indies, and came to America from there, and is well known now as Thorn-apple (Datura Stramonium) from which children are still warned, in the name of the mischief which it brought upon Gloucester’s most famous artist.” And again, “Mr. Lane, as I remember him, when in my teens, he kindly volunteered to give me some instruction in painting, was a most interesting personage, giving to his art the devotion made perhaps all the more possible by reason of his crippled condition, which so confined him to the limited exercise permitted by crutches.” (5)
In 1893 she was pastor of the First Universalist Church in Pomona, California, and was referred to in the San Francisco Call as "The Famous Boston Divine." She died in 1928 in Weston, Massachusetts, and was buried next to her husband in Cambridge at the Mount Auburn Cemetery. Their graves are on Evergreen Path.
In 1870 the widow Elizabeth A. Galacar, Fitz H. Lane’s former housekeeper, was keeping house on Western Avenue near Stage Fort Park, at the foot of the Old Salem Path, for David Burpee, the father of Rev. Ada C. Bowles.
– Stephanie Buck (February, 2014)
(1) School Reports, 1839-1874, Cape Ann Museum.
(2) Helen D. Lyman Papers, 1882–1919, Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Harvard University Call No.: A-33.
(3) "An American Woman Who Has Dared to Preach," Harrisburg Telegraph, November 9, 1889.
(4) May Wright Sewall, ed., The World’s Congress of Representative Women, 1894.
(5) "Matters of Local History," Gloucester Daily Times, March 16, 1916.
Gloucester Daily Times
Memories of Lane
"Mr. Lane, as I remember him, when in my teens, he kindly volunteered to give me some instruction in painting." (1)
(1) Sarah Dunlap and Stephanie Buck. Fitz Henry Lane: Family and Friends. (Gloucester, MA: Church & Mason Publishing; in association with the Cape Ann Historical Museum, 2007), 116.