Falmouth Historical Society to Award First Historian Award

June 8th at the First Congregational Church...
Dr, William M. Fowler, Jr. (Courtesy photo)

FALMOUTH, MA – The Falmouth Historical Society will award its first Katharine Lee Bates Historian Award to William M. Fowler Jr., Ph.D. at a special event on Saturday, June 8, from 11 am-noon at the First Congregational Church on Main Street in Falmouth.

The program is presented in concert with the Masons’ Marine Lodge A.F. & A.M. in Falmouth which is bringing the historic Masonic Bible that was used during George Washington’s inauguration on April 30, 1789, in New York. The Bible was brought from New York City.

Among his many accomplishments, Fowler is a distinguished professor of history, emeritus, at Northeastern University in Boston and former director of the Massachusetts Historical Society. As the author of “American Crisis: George Washington and the Dangerous Two Years After Yorktown, 1781-1783,” he also has his own connection to the first president. Before receiving the award, Fowler will give a presentation about Washington during this critical period in history.

The Katharine Lee Bates Historian Award, named after the community’s iconic, beloved daughter and author of “America the Beautiful”, honors educators, authors and chroniclers whose historical scholarship has enriched their communities, their states and their country.

“This award is more than a tribute to a gifted woman who is near and dear to our hearts,” said Tamsen George, president of the society’s board of directors. “It is our way of honoring historians at a time when historical scholarship is being undermined because history and other humanities programs are being minimalized by academic institutions.”

“It is very difficult to learn from history if it is not being taught or studied,” observed Mark Schmidt, executive director of the 119-year-old society which now functions on Main Street as the Museums on the Green. “This is one way we are standing up to be counted,” Schmidt added.

“I hold the [Falmouth] Society in the highest regard … as an example for all of us who seek to understand the history of our communities and nation,” Fowler stated.

Katharine Lee Bates was born on August 12, 1859 and lived in Falmouth for about 12 years. She grew into a prolific writer, scholar, social activist and educator who ultimately became professor of English literature at Wellesley College.

Although she was not a historian in the strict sense of the word, Bates’s poem “America the Beautiful” endures as a part of this nation’s historical and cultural heritage, Schmidt maintained. Her view of the vast, scenic countryside from the top of Colorado’s 14,000-foot Pike’s Peak during the summer of 1893 inspired Bates to pen the poem which was later set to music and is now widely acclaimed as America’s hymn.

Bates, however, remained close to Falmouth. She frequently vacationed on Cape Cod, and she is buried in Falmouth’s Oak Grove Cemetery. A life-size statue of Bates stands beside the village’s public library.

Ironically, she will be remembered again on June 8 in the same Congregational church where her father, William Bates, served as the minister until his death a month after Katharine was born.

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