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John Allen Fowle
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Birth: Apr. 4, 1826
Massachusetts, USA
Death: Apr. 4, 1916
Suffolk County
Massachusetts, USA

Son of George Makepeace Fowle and Margaret Lord Eaton.

First wife - Adeline Frances Gifford, to whom he was united in 1851. She died in 1860, leaving two children: John Allen Fowle, Jr., and Adeline Fowle Gifford.

Second wife - Elida Barker Rumsey (see bio sketch below).

John was educated in Boston, attending school for some time at the corner of Boylston and Washington Streets and at Northampton Academy. After completing his studies he entered the employ of Waterston, Pray & Co., with whom he remained for several years. In 1855 he went into business for himself, and so continued until the Civil War. John then joined the Marine Coast Guards, as aid to Commander Robert B. Forbes. This organization offered its services to the government but they were not accepted, as there was no law by which outside and independent organizations could be received as a body into the regular naval service. Through the influence of Commander Forbes, John was appointed to a position in the Navy Department at Washington. During his connection with the department he recommended some forty officers of the old Coast Guard for positions in the volunteer navy.

John's philanthropic work began as soon as he became a resident of Washington, and his appointment as chairman of the Navy Association for the Relief of Soldiers.

In July, 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run had taken place with the Union forces being beaten and humiliated. Many of the Union soldiers that had been captured were sent to Richmond where they would be housed in a horrific place soon to be known as Libby Prison. In the Fall of 1861, these men were sent back home in a prisoner exchange and had arrived in Washington, D. C. They stopped for a break in the shadow of the US Capital dome. The men were emaciated, sallow and depressed, even though they were glad to be back in the fold of the Union; the fervor of patriotism had gone from their breasts. A Navy Department clerk named John Allen Fowle, upon seeing the haggard group of men, went amongst them and asked if they would like to hear a song to brighten their spirits. He left and returned with Elida Rumsey and bade her to sing for the men. And sing she did. Elida first sang the Star Spangled Banner and her rendition of the Anthem aroused that dormant patriotic spirit that the soldiers had all but lost. They began to get to their feet and gather around Elida to listen to her strong, smooth voice. New strength was found in these men as they encircled her and those in the back who could not see cried out to those in front to build a stand for her. So Union knapsacks were thrown to the ground in a pile at her feet and she stepped up on them and once again, began to sing. The hearts of these men were filled with the memories of home and the sense of duty that had led them to where they currently stood. After Elida had finished singing and had stepped down from her "stage" and heard the loud and long appreciation she received from the soldiers, she too, had a new sense of duty. While she could not be a nurse, she could none-the-less give comfort to the soldiers by singing to them. It was this occasion, that caused the birth of "The Songbird of the North" and she committed herself to the service of caring for the Union soldier, no matter their rank or place in life. Elida sang to soldiers in hospitals and wards, in field hospitals and in Sunday services. Anytime she was called, she would answer. Along with her future husband John Allen Fowle and a Mrs. Walter Baker, Elida organized a free soldiers library on the Judiciary Square in Washington that was funded primarily by her giving concerts and appealing to libraries and newspapers in cities all over the North for books or periodicals. John and Elida also gathered food and supplies and would take them to the battle front to give out to the wounded, sick and dying. John and Elida, because of their work and their popularity with the troops, were allowed to be married in the US Capitol in the Hall of the House of Representatives. The wedding took place on March 1, 1863 in front of an audience of 4,000 soldiers and friends. After the ceremony, a call went up for the bride to sing "The Star Spangled Banner", which she did with much emotion while standing at the Speaker of the House's desk. The House Chaplin, Rev. J.W. Stockton, performed the service (some publications state that Rev. Alonzo Quint, pastor of the church which John Fowle attended in Jamaica Plain, and Chaplain of the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment performed the service). They were the only couple to ever be married there. The Soldier's Free Library was dedicated the same day. John and Elida first met in a hospital that President Abraham Lincoln was visiting and both became singers in the House of Representatives choir. John sang tenor and Elida sang soprano. John wrote several of the songs Elida sang to include "The Rebel Flags" and "The Dying Soldier Boy,", both of which were very popular and often requested.

After the war John and Elida moved to Massachusetts and engaged in the wool business, carrying on his operations both in New York and Boston. He resided in Brooklyn, New York, for some ten years, but in 1877 returned to Boston, and continued in business, living in in Dorchester. John was a member of the Dorchester Historical Society, the North Dorchester Improvement Society, and the Dorchester Republican Club. He was clerk of Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, New York, for three years, president of the Mutual Improvement Society of Pilgrim Church, of Dorchester.

John and Elida had the following children:
Florence Howard 1867 -
(m. William J. Parker, Jr.)
Edith Rumsey, 1869-1874
Edward Rumsey, 1872 -
James Walter 1878 - 3/13/1900

They also adopted two other children, both soldiers' orphans: Annie Geisenheiner, who died in New York, and was buried in Washington; and Jennie Ormsby. they also raised two emancipated slave children and did local civic work. In 1906 they donated their Civil War collection and mementos to the Dorchester Historical Society of which John was the secretary/treasurer.

A movie was made in 1913 entitled "Songbird of the North" and starred Anita Stewart as Elida Rumsey. The film plot, while similar to Elida's life during the war, was a work of fiction. John's character was that of "Fowle, a missionary" and another character played her love interest.
Family links: 
  Elida Barker Rumsey Fowle (1842 - 1919)
Forest Hills Cemetery and Crematory
Jamaica Plain
Suffolk County
Massachusetts, USA
Created by: Rick Lawrence
Record added: Sep 15, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 97142893
John Allen Fowle
Added by: Rick Lawrence
John Allen Fowle
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Jen Snoots
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In remembrance of your honored and moving contributions to our country and its fighting men. May you always be remembered....
- Rick Lawrence
 Added: Sep. 16, 2012

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