Bethel, Maine

The Grover Family of Bethel, Maine

  The Grovers have lived in north-west Maine since the early 1700s. Edwin's father Nahum Wesley Grover started out on the family farm, then went to the Gould school in Bethel, Bowdoin and the Maine Theological Seminary. He and his wife Frances Mason, subsequently worked in Mantorville, Minnesota from 1868 to 1875. Edwin was their second son, born in 1870. The family moved back to Bethel, then to Topsham, ME, Colebrook, NH, and St. Johnsbury, VT. Mertie Laura Graham  was born in Colebrook, NH. She and Edwin went to High School at St. Johnsbury Academy. Edwin then attended Dartmouth College while Mertie Went to Mount Holyoke.

  Edwin enrolled at Harvard, but was disappointed with the choice of courses, requested his money back, and traveled to Europe from the Shetland Islands to England, France, Algeria, Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands, all on $ 350. On return, he started a small press with William Bartlett on Cornhill in Boston. He soon started working for Ginn and Company (Athenaeum Publishers). Meanwhile, Mertie had graduated from Mount Holyoke and Hartford Theological Seminary. She may have been one of the first women students. They married in 1900, then lived in Boston, but soon moved to Highland Park, IL. Edwin became editor at  Rand-McNally textbook division. Later he ran his own company and bought Prang's.

 

  Edwin had been intrigued by Emerson's notion of a Professor of Books. When Hamilton Holt was appointed President of Rollins College, Grover contacted him and traveled to Winter Park, and after some lengthy conversation, Edwin was appointed the Professor of Books.

 

  In Winter Park in 1926, his household included Edwin, Mertie, Edwin's sister Eulalie, famous author of children's books, Nan, Edwin's youngest sister who always was sickly, and Edwin's mother Frances. Frances died in 1929, Edwin's daughters Frances and Hester were away at school, while Graham, Edwin's youngest son, lived in the attic.

 

  In 1936, Mertie died after an automobile accident on Osceola Avenue, and in 1940, Graham died in a train accident. Eulalie and Nan died in the late 1950s, and Edwin died in 1965.

Grover Family Album

 Edwin's siblings were all very accomplished. Nan was always sickly, but she was a talented musician. I've always wondered what kind of music the Grovers enjoyed. Frances donated a collection of LP records to the Olin Library, but they must have been thrown out. The titles would have given a taste of what the Grovers liked.

 

  Nahum Grover died in 1925 in Oberlin, OH, and Frances Grover (Edwin's mother) followed him in 1929 in Winter Park. When his daughter Frances died in 1989, there were no Grovers left, and her belongings disappeared from the retirement home. Mertie Laura Graham Grover had her own accomplishments in Winter Park. She was active in the Congregational Church, the Winter Park Womans Club, and, together with Mrs. Stevens, the wife of the Congregational minister, she founded the            Welbourne Avenue Nursery for children of African-American mothers who worked in Winter Park. Many of Winter Park's prominent black citizens went to the Welbourne Avenue Nursery and Kindergarten. Mary Daniels, the current chair of the Welbourne board went there, and so did her children. It has gone through many transformations, and it is, still

today, a wonderful resource for early childhood education. Mertie also served as a tutor for children attending the Hannibal Square Grammar School. From a small lending library at the Welbourne Avenue Nursery, Edwin developed the Hannibal Square Library after Mertie's death. Even today, there is a lending library at the Welbourne Avenue Nursery. The Hannibal Square library became part of the Winter Park Public Library and was discontinued in 1979.

  His daughters Frances and Hester were dealing with severe financial problems after Edwin's death and in 1970, had to sell the house on Camellia and its contents to retire to a retirement home in Kissimmee. Frances was the last of the Grovers to die in 1989. There were no funds to engrave her death year on her headstone, until last year.

 

  Edwin Grover had an older brother Frederick. He was Professor of Botany at Oberlin College in Ohio. Frederick is thought to be the first College teacher in the USA to teach a course on Darwin's theory of evolution. Like Edwin, he was a community activist.

 

  Edwin's sister Eulalie, two years younger than Edwin, was a lifelong companion. Both Eulalie, and Nan lived with the Grovers in Highland Park, IL, and moved to Winter Park with them in 1926. In Chicago, at the Chicago Craftsman Guild, Eulalie wrote children's books The Sunbonnet Babies, and The Overall Boys with illustrations by BJ Corbett, a Minneapolis artist. The Sunbonnet Babies sold over 2 million copies. Eulalie often worked for Edwin as a secretary and typist until her death in 1958. Frances Grover, Edwin's daughter had been a teacher at the Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky. After Eulalie's death she returned to Winter Park and was Edwin's caregiver. By then, he was frail - he was 88 years old - his vision was failing, and Frances did much typing and reading for him, and taking him over to his beloved Mead Botanical Garden. Eulalie presented papers at the Animated Magazine on several occasions. Clifton Fadiman said, as a kid, he thought Eulalie's books were the greatest accomplishment of a writer ever, and he feels that it propelled him on a career in literary criticism.

       Ed Gfeller 2016

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