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"Historian and Hobbiest" and the Independent Order of Good Templars, 1895

This advertising cover was sent from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Greene, Maine sometime in the spring of 1895. In Figure 1, you can just make out the "UKE" of the circular date stamp (CDS), which has been covered with a single copy of a 1-cent stamp that is either US Scott Catalog #247 or #265 depending on the watermark. My guess is that the 1-cent stamp to the right was affixed and cancelled with the CDS and then the postal clerk realized that not enough postage was paid (the letter rate was 2-cents in 1895) and another 1-cent stamp was affixed to the envelope right over the CDS and cancelled with a circular cancellation mark.

The cover received a CDS on the front side when it arrived in Greene, Maine, but that was not where the addressee, "W.L. Mower, Esq.," lived at that time. He resided in Jay, Maine so the letter was forwarded to that town. There is a CDS on the back of the envelope (Figure 2), which I suspect is the one for Jay, but the town name is not legible.

In 1895, Walter Lindley Mower (Figure 3) was a 29-year-old grammar school teacher from Greene who was teaching in Jay, a small community about 26 miles north of Greene. According to the May 30, 1895, issue of The Lewiston Daily Sun, reporting on "Jay News":

The Grammar school closed Friday. W.L. Mower of Greene, the teacher, closes his labors here with this term, having taught the school for a year. Mr. Mower is a good teacher and was well liked.

Just a month earlier, The Portland Daily Press of April 26, 1895, reported that "W.L. Mower, Greene" was among the new members initiated into the Grand Lodge of Maine of the Good Templars, one of the many affiliates of the Independent Order of Good Templars (IOGT). The IOGT was a fraternal organization with Freemason-like regalia and rituals that promoted abstinence. Its membership grew rapidly after the Civil War, and it even formed its own political party - The Prohibition Party - in 1869.[i] My guess is that this envelope, which was sent by Benjamin F. Parker, Right Worthy Grand Secretary (RWGS), Independent Order of Good Templars, contained a congratulatory or welcome letter to Mr. Mower from the IGOT.

Walter took his membership in the IOGT seriously, attending the Supreme International Lodge convention in Boston in late June, early July 1895, according to the June 26, 1895, Sun-Journal of Lewiston. But the IGOT was not Walter's only passion. Indeed, Walter lived a rich and community-minded life as a teacher, insurance agent, and farmer.

His extracurricular activities were impressive. He served as a vice-president of the Androscoggin Teachers' Convention. He was an officer of the Androscoggin Grange. He took an interest in music, belonging to the Main Music Festival and signing in the choir of the Free Baptist Church of Greene for over 70 years. He served as the church clerk for more than 40 years. And he was an active member of the Stanton Bird Club.

He also was an avid historian publishing a history of the Mower family in 1923 and a 578-page history of Greene in 1938. For his efforts he received from the Institute of American Genealogy a certificate of "Merit in Genealogy in recognition of original research, and a meritorious contribution to the Archives of American Genealogy."

Born in 1866 in Greene, Walter died at age 88 in 1954. It's worth reading his entire obituary that ran in the November 29, 1954, issue of the Sun-Journal: 29 Nov 1954, 2 - Sun-Journal at He is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Greene Corner, Maine. His gravestone reads, "Walter L. Mower, Nov 23, 1866 - Nov. 27, 1954, Historian and Hobbiest." Walter was married - his wife Etta May passed away in 1928 - but he had no children.

The sender of this missive - Benjamin F. Parker (Figure 4) - had an equally rich life.[ii]

Benjamin was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania in 1839, a community in the northwestern part of the state. For reasons unknown but perhaps because his parents divorced in 1848, he moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin in 1853 to live with his uncle from whom he learned carpentry. In August 1861, he enlisted in the Second Wisconsin Infantry with the rank of Corporal. He served with distinction in several theaters of battle including First and Second Bull Run, Chattanooga, Mission Ridge, and Lookout Mountain. He mustered out September 1865 with the rank of First Lieutenant.

On his return to Wisconsin, he settled at Mauston (some 70 miles north of Madison), where his mother had moved at some stage, and sold furniture for a spell. While residing at Mauston he joined the Independent Order of Good Templars, and in 1873 was made Grand Secretary of Wisconsin, holding that position for 27 years. At the meeting of the Grand Lodge at Toronto in May 1885, he was named Right Worthy Grand Secretary of the World, the position from which he would send the letter to Walter Mower.

Benjamin also held a commission in the Wisconsin National Guard and formed a company at Mauston. In 1883 he was commissioned lieutenant-colonel and was called into service during the Spanish-American War with the Third Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. That unit served in Puerto Rico from April 28, 1898, through September 18, 1898.

By 1890, Benjmain was living in Milwaukee and continued his work with the Good Templars until his death at age 72 in 1912 in that city. He is buried at the Mauston-Oakwood Cemetery in Mauston. He was survived by his wife Lucille and daughter Adelaide.

Figure 1 - Front

Figure 2 - Back

Figure 3 - Walter L. Mower

Figure 4 - Benjamin F. Parker

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