The life & Ancestry of Mabel Isabel Dove
By J.R. Rothstein & Catherine Gibbs
Mabel Isabel Dove (1880-1957), was born June 13, 1880, the third of five children born to Dr. Solon Willet Dove (1850-1934) and Julia Adelia McClure (1854-1927) in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mabel’s maternal grandparents were Orrin McClure (1818-1894) and Elizabeth Patterson (1826-1868). Mabel’s paternal grandparents were Daniel Griffen Dove (1828-1910) and Ruth Elizabeth Beers (1832-1911).
I. Dr. Solon W. Dove & Julia Adelia McClure
Mabel’s paternal grandfather, Daniel Griffen Dove, no doubt played a role in Mabel’s imagination and I refer the reader to the history I drafted on this life written elsewhere for context. It is also from the story of Mabel’s grandfather, Daniel, that we can deduce a bit about John Willet Dove, Mabel’s father. John Willet, and his brother, Cyrus Arthur Dove, became wealthy, educated, and physicians. Dr. John W. Dove was said to have also conducted business and was socially and politically conservative. At some point in life, John Willet changed his name to Solon W., perhaps after the famous doctor of antiquity. On October 30, 1872, at the age of 17, John Willet married Julia Adelia McClure, also 17, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Julia was the daughter of Orrin McClure (1818-1894) and Elizabeth Patterson (1826-1868).
Julia Adelia had come from a tumultuous past and had many difficulties in her life, which she overcame. Julia’s mother, Elizabeth, had died in 1868 when she was only 13 years old. Her father, Orin, at age 19, drove cattle from Rutland, Vermont to Buffalo, New York and then later emigrated to Michigan where he was called a “blue bellied Yankee.” Orin later suffered a terrible accident, having fallen off a horse and buggy, and was never the same again. Orin ultimately died of “insanity” in 1894. Julia’s brother, George, had fought in the civil war for the union.
The family of Orin and Elizabeth had been split up when Elizabeth died and Julia’s sister, Charlotte, was sent to live with an aunt, Sarah McClure Rose and her husband Willard before being sent to live with another relative, Arthur McClure and wife Mattie of Rutland, Vermont. The author is under the impression that it was Elizabeth, who sang to her children, including Julia, the bedtime song, “run along home” which has been transmitted in the family for nearly two centuries. The rhyme, which Julia Adelia sang to her daughter Mabel, goes as follows: “Run along home, and jump into bed, close your eyes, and cover your head, the very same thing, I say unto you, you dream of me, and I’ll dream of you.” Song in general seems to have played a large roll in Julia Adelia’s upbringing and she and her siblings would sing together as they engaged in chores and she did the same thing when she raised her own children.
II. Mabel’s Early Years
Solon W. and Julia had five children in Kent Township, Grand Rapids, Michigan: (1) Arthur Cyrus Dove (1874-1933); (2) Mattie Elizabeth Dove (1877-1884); (3) Mabel Isabel Dove (1880-1957); (4) Solon W. Dove Jr. (1882-1883); and (5) Ruth Dove (1884-1884).
A poem written by Mabel Dove on mother’s day May 13, 1951 gives some insight into the ethos of the home that Julia Adelia created with Dr. Dove. The poem, entitled Memories of Mother, is as follows:
I’m thinking at the twilight hour
Of her, my mother dear
Of how we met for family prayer,
God’s sacred word to hear.
‘Twas there I learned of God’s Great power,
His wondrous love and care,
That follow me where e’er I go-
For God is everywhere.
She taught us too, the Jesus way
Of getting on with other,
And how he wants us to be true,
To treat them all as brothers.
I think how cheerfully she served
And cared for us each day –
For all she was, and meant to me,
Love’s tribute would I pay!
It would be Julia Adelia’ faith that would help guide her family through difficult times. It is also ironic that despite Dr. Dove, being a physician and homoeopathist, that he and his family would experience a great many illnesses, well beyond Dr. Dove’s ability to control, and which would result in the deaths of three of five of his children. The Dove family bible contain some insight into the plagues which would bring devastation unto the Dove’s house. The bible entries, likely inscribed by Dr. Dove himself, but possibly by Julia Adelia McClure, provide the following account:
Arthur C. Dove had whooping cough in February of 1879, had dys[entria] diarrhea in July of 1880. Was vaccinated in July of 1880. I had Koine Pox. Mattie G. had whooping cough in Feb. of 1879. I had Calark (sp) fever very severe in December 1878. Was vaccinated successfully in January of 1882. Arthur had measles moderately in the Spring of 1883. Mattie had measles very hard in the Spring of 1883. Mabel had measles in the Spring of 1883, and all had the meningitis the same Spring before they had the measles. Solon Jr. had boils all Spring and Summer until about the 12th of July when he had cholera, influenza and was sick about 1 week and died the 17th.
According to Dove family historian, Catherine Gibbs, “Mattie, Mabel and Solon had severe cerebral spinal meningitis. Only Mabel survived. She had weakness in hands and spine the rest of her life which she refused to accept. [Mabel employed all known scientific methods to strengthen herself and engaged in] swimming, [proto] yoga, health food, [a managed] diet, [and was influenced by the teachings of] Dr. Frank McCoy.”
Mabel was studious and a gifted student. From a young age, she was called to public service and public life. One of her earliest causes was the fight against alcohol consumption. The zeal in which Mabel displayed for the cause throughout her life has led the author, David Shepherd and Catherine Gibbs to speculate, with reasonable basis, that the abuse of alcohol was present in Mabel’s family of origins.
III. Arthur Cyrus Dove, The Rebel
Alcohol was believed to have been consumed and abused by Mabel’s rebellious older brother, Arthur Cyrus McClure. Arthur, Mabel’s older brother, was described as an unfocused wanderer. According to Catherine Gibbs, “Arthur Cyrus changed his name to Arthur McClure Dove.” He had married a woman, which research has revealed was named Florence Reeves, and then shortly thereafter divorced her. Arthur then married again to a second woman named Marie. The Dove family, and particularly Mabel, was so upset by the divorce, and particularly the choice of the second wife, that Mabel [and likely her parents] broke off communication with Arthur. Arthur’s lifestyle also seems to have been a contributing factor in this decision.
The second wife of Arthur was apparently a scandalous woman because she wore makeup, and drank alcohol both of which Mabel and her family found objectionable. Marie may have also been associated with the arts and may have been an unstable personality but this cannot be confirmed. According to Catherine Gibbs, “mother never forgave the divorce (which was totally unacceptable in that day) and cut him out of her life. His wife [Marie] wrote of his death [and that there had been a child. The letter had been discovered when Mabel’s daughter, Marjorie, had gone into her father’s study snooping and discovered the letter and its contents which described the child.] Mabel was heartbroken [regarding Arthur’s death] and took to her room for a whole day a night. How all four of us [Gibbs children] wish we could this child’s name – our cousin. . . . Arthur died November 4, 1933 in Naukin Township, Wayne County, Michigan, home address 9421 North Lawn, Detroit, Michigan of a cerebral hemorrhage.” Catherine Gibbs, Kim Depwitt, David Shepherd, Curtis Robertson, and the author, have spent significant time researching the life of Arthur, his wives, and have discovered no record of a child. Catherine Gibbs submitted DNA results prior to her death, to numerous databases, in the hopes that Arthur’s child would want to learn of his roots and had also submitted a DNA sample to the same database. However, as of this date, no child has been located.
IV. Mabel Participates In The Experiment of Female Higher Education
By the age of 17, Mabel had blossomed into a studious, principled, public service oriented teenager. Mabel developed a hostility to the consumption of alcohol and became a supporter of the temperance movement. Mabel, believing in fairness for woman, supported the suffrage movement and its goal for greater civil rights for the fair sex. Mabel was active in her church and took her biblical faith seriously. Mabel finished high school by age 16 having done much to cultivate her mind throughout her childhood.
Mabel wanted to attend university and options for higher education for woman during the era were limited. Mabel ultimately settled on Chattanooga Normal University for woman and was one of 43 students for the 1897 commencing class of Chattanooga Normal University. By 1896, the entire Dove family had relocated to Chattanooga, Tennessee from Michigan possibly to accommodate Mabel and her desire to pursue higher education. It is likely that from the perspective of Dr. Dove and Julia, Mabel was the most promising of the two remaining children. The following photos were taken during her time at university:
Mabel graduated university within three years and was designated as the class valedictorian. Mabel’s speech, given at her commencement on May 24, 1900, was published in local newspapers, and was very well received at the time. It has been studied by generations of her descendants.
It is unknown what Mabel did after graduation but it is possible that she taught in local schools. After graduation, Mabel lived with her family in a very expensive and large home near the university. Mabel and her father, who had become a well-known physician, socialized among the social elite of the city.
V. Mabel Meets The Love Of Her Life
It was during this time period that Mabel met Bernard Gibbs, a divinity student at the University of Chattanooga, who had a part time job as a milkman to pay for expenses.
One day, while on his route delivering milk, which Bernard did on a horse and carriage, he met Mabel Isabel Dove. Bernard courted Mabel in the traditional Victorian manner. Bound by Victorian and conservative Christian norms, Bernard sent Mabel love letters and took advantage of the milk route to encounter Mabel. The couple fell very much in love with one another. Bernard was likely taken with the strong willed, principled, and talented valedictorian of Normal University, who shared her deep passion and love of the gospel. Mabel was likely taken with the handsome orator who spoke of justice and of creating a utopian world.
A surviving poem by Mabel gives some insight into their courtship.
I cherished Renaissance, a memory fond – you say?
Well here is one: – A man, a mid, a dreamy summer’s day.
A ride beyond the city’s heart, with kindly chaperone,
A winding mountain road, a jest, a match of merry time.
A halt beside a sparkling stream, a hunt for flowerets care,
A knightly man, a laughing maid, a wild rose in her hair.
A dainty lunch, then chaperone doth dose, both take a nap,
The while, with book of poesy, the man and maid chat.
A story told, the birds overheard ecstatic music make
As they hold behold eyes meet, hands clasp, lips-sh! Chaperone’s awake!
Despite their great affection to one another, oral history, suggests that Mabel’s family was not as initially enthusiastic about the match as she. The family preferred that Mabel select someone from their class and sphere of society. Nevertheless, the couple overcame whatever obstacles were presented and, according to Catherine Gibbs, married on Bernard’s birthday, December 5, 1904. Mabel’s family and friends would tease Mabel for the rest of her life for ‘marrying down’ and for falling in love with the milkman. Upon their marriage, Mabel, seeing how important the cause of Methodism was to Bernard, agreed to join his Church, despite her deep ties to the Congregationalist Church which one of her ancestors had help found.
Mabel, being the daughter of Dr. Dove, brought political and economic resources to Bernard’s ministry. Dr. Dove liquidated his holdings in Michigan and Tennessee and then purchased some land out in Oakland, California and also provided a home for Mabel and her Bernard. Dr. Dove also helped Bernard get his first job. On the weekends, the couple would travel north to Dr. Dove’s estate where, as a gentleman rancher, he had horses and fruit trees.
VI. Mabel Raises Her Children & Takes On The Role Of A Minister’s Wife
At the beginning of her marriage, Mabel followed her husband from location to location but frequently returned to Anaheim, California to tend to her parents with her two young children. At the homestead or in any other location which Mabel found herself, Mabel developed a highly structured and disciplined regime. She managed her children, her husband, and at the same time kept up the appearances and obligations of a minister’s wife. Despite the tremendous pressure that Mabel felt, she was very affectionate towards her children, often writing them love letters and poems in their honor.
This structure helped Mabel in the arduous circumstance of being separated from her husband for extended periods of time as he preached. In one letter written to Bernard on February 24, 1927, Mabel captures this separation as follows:
Got your splendid letters of 18th some days before. Dear Heart, the way is surely hard but faint not. I feel as you do – you must not come unless your place is secure. Better separation for a time than bitterness discouragement and starvation. I could not stand it if I not rushed along, too busy to think by day, too tired at night to stay awake and brood. John said, “Won’t it be just wonderful when we have out daddy back? How deeply we all echoed that!
As a mother, this disciplined nature would direct Mabel to develop a daily routine for both for herself and children which included wholegrains and exercise. Mabel would wake her children daily shortly after dawn. Mabel would usher them out of the home outside where she would make them do calisthenics, even if it was cold outside. Because Mabel was militant in her pursuit of healthy eating, and fitness, having been heavily influenced by the Kellog movement of natural eating, she zealously pursued these practices to her children’s bewilderment. Elsewhere, before bed each night, after she had a shampoo, Mabel would comb her long hair exactly a hundred strokes. Mabel would then then clean the brush out and save the hair to make pillows.
Mabel was an avid writer of poetry and a master of verse. She would use this skill set to assist her husband in his ministerial capacities writing poetry and letters to congregants that may have lost a loved one and otherwise assisted her husband in his sermons. After Mabel’s mother, Julia Adelia, died in 1927, her father, Dr. Dove, remarried a woman named Helen. A poem written by Mabel about her mother, Julia Adelia, gives the reader a sense of Mabel’s style. Mabel poem, entitled “In Mother’s Garden” is as follows:
I walked in my Mother’s garden,
Sore bereft, at the close of the day.
And my heart was heavy and pained with grief-
God had summoned the gardener away!
But the flowers still bloomed in the beauty,
Bright visions of color and form.
So fragile their petals might fall at a touch,
Or fade at the breath of a storm.
My heart questioned why, in its sorrow,
Must this being of brightness and worth
Thus vanish in pain from our presence away,
Yet frail flowers adorn still the earth.
Came the answer; “As on earth, so in Heaven,
There is need for hearts, loving and true,
As she and her flowers spread comfort and cheer
She in Heaven gives sweet service too.
“My heart then felt solace and comfort
As I thought she was now free from pain,
And yet serving the Master with gladness and love,
Please God, I would follow her train!
When Mabel’s father, Dr. Dove, died, no will was to be found among his papers. Oral and written history indicates that Mabel was disappointment and was suspicious towards Dr. Dove’s second wife, Helen, regarding the circumstances of the disposition of Dr. Dove’s estate and wealth—specifically the large silver mines which Dr. Dove owned in California. Some of these papers can be reviewed in the Dove family archive.
Bernard And Mabel Maintain Their Love Throughout Their Marriage & Raise Close Children
The Gibbs children spoke about the great love and respect that existed between Bernard and Mabel, two traits which defined their marriage. Bernard and Mabel would buy one another gifts and often engage in romantic gestures. And sometimes, they would play pranks on one another. In one instance, Catherine Gibbs recalls that Bernard would place a brown paper bag on the kitchen table, which he first had blown up. Knowing that Bernard often placed gifts for her in such bags, Mabel would approach the bag and assume it was another gift for her, but when she would open it, the bag was empty. She would cry out “Bernard!” in a tone of “how could you,” but it was all very playful. In Victorian society, it was not acceptable for spouses to show affection in front of children. But Catherine recalls seeing them once embracing in the hallway, so loving and tender and gentle with one another.
It was no doubt Mabel’s deep love for Bernard that permitted her, throughout Bernard’s life, and throughout their mission, to stand by husband’s side. Mabel, despite not sharing all of Bernard’s unusual views, supported his ministry while loving, honoring and respecting her husband. Mabel followed Bernard through difficult times. The couple suffered financially, from loss of prestige, and by Bernard receiving threats against him and his family because of his activism. Throughout it all, despite her privileged background, Mabel was never afraid to roll up her sleeves and do what needed to be done for God and the church. Their shared commitment to a life of public service was a cornerstone of their marriage. Their similar temperaments meant that they fit very well together. This preserved their romance into old age, and as Mabel’s writings indicate, even beyond Bernard’s death.
Mabel and Bernard had a strong sense of humor and it was something adopted by their children. Mabel’s two younger children, John and Catherine were born when Mabel was 42 and 44 respectively providing a large age gap between her two other children. Once John and Catherine overheard two parishioners observing the large age gap between the two older siblings and the two younger children. The younger children responded, perhaps intending to create a scandal, that “the older siblings are from Rev. Gibbs first marriage” The two would attempt to tell the truth with the intent to deceive. Due to the large age gap, Marge helped deliver Catherine and also helped raise her younger siblings.
Mabel also took an active interest in her children’s dating life and tried to break up relationships which she felt were bad for their children. For example, Mabel broke up a relationship which Catherine had with a local West Virginia boy prior to her moving to Chicago to attend Northwestern. Mabel also broke up a relationship that her daughter Julia had with a Jewish man—who Julia claimed was the love of her life—and for which Julia never forgave her mother.
VII. The Last Years
In 1942, after Bernard retired from the ministry, the couple was forced to into a small apartment stationed above Tony Carony’s grocery store in Morgantown, West Virginia. During this period, because Reverend Gibbs had no stipend from the church, to stay out of poverty, Mabel worked as a house mother at a sorority at the university and located across from the Wesley Methodist Church. Bernard went to work as a shoe salesman at Morrison Shoe Store.
Marge married Jim Shepherd shortly after which Jim went oversees to serve in World War Two. Marge moved into Bernard and Mabel’s home with her young son, David Wendell Shepherd. David was partially raised by and with Mabel and often felt as if he was the fifth Gibbs child.
After the war, Marge, Mabel and Jim pulled their savings, including some money left from Bernard after his death, and put a down payment on the house at 225 Euclid Ave in Morgantown West, Virginia. David Shepherd, Mabel’s grandson, recalls going with his mother, Marjorie Gibbs Shepherd, and grandmother to look at the house. David recalls Marge and Mabel cleaning the home, moving the dining room table into the property and otherwise preparing to make it a home.
David recalls that as Mabel aged, her health deteriorated and she had many strokes, and over time became more and more confined to her bedroom on the second floor. It was hard for Mabel to move and she couldn’t go up or downstairs easily. Marge honored her mother and would take food up to her and otherwise took good care of Mabel. Despite this, Mabel and Marge had enough energy and zeal to defend baby David against the social ills of society. Together, the women would review magazine advertisements and pull out all of the advertisements for alcohol and cigars and destroy them. This was done to ensure that young David was not exposed to any ill influences and the evils of addiction to which other family members had succumbed. Mabel was a very religious woman and her daughter Marjorie once remarked that Mabel “would do anything that would help get her into heaven.” And towards that end, Mabel spent the last years of her life doing everything in her power to ensure that she, and her children, would be in heaven with her.
Mabel Isabel Dove died on March 9, 1957, in Morgantown, West Virginia, when she was 76 years old. She was buried in East Oak Grove Cemetery in Morgantown, Monongalia County, West Virginia.
- Ruth is a descendant of Daniel Beers (1726-1801), who fought with 2nd Massachusetts Regulars in the American Revolution under John Bailey; Cornelius Dykeman (1707-1783), who was accused of being hostile to the cause of independence during the American Revolution evolution because he criticized the new Continental currency; Daniel Tourner, an original Dutch settler of Harlem, New York; numerous founding settlers of both Hartford, and Norwalk, Connecticut, including Ralph Keeler (1613 -1672), an ancestor of many prominent individuals in American history. ↑
- No biographical research has been obtained on Dr. Solon Dove. The obituary of his brother, however, Cyrus Dove provides that “Cyrus J. Dove, who is a native of Connecticut, born in Stamford, Fairfield County, December 15, 1853. His parents, Daniel and Ruth (Beers) Dove, were natives also of the Nutmeg State, and the father was a man of means.” ↑
- No record has been found to date to confirm that Dr. Solon W. attended medical school. A record, however, for his brother does exist. ↑