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Portrait of the Goldberg Family, 1934. WHS Image ID 47063

Dr. Edward A. Bass Family on Porch, ca. 1895 WHI 47063

Edward A. Bass Biography

Edward Alpheus Bass was born September 24, 1860, in Cedar County, Iowa. His father, Isaac W. Bass, a farmer from Vermont, had arrived in Iowa in 1854. The family moved back to Vermont on the death of Isaac's father in 1867, and lived there until 1873. It was in that year that the family moved to a farm in the town of Sumpter, Sauk County, Wisconsin; Mrs. Bass' mother, sister and brother had previously settled there.

Edward attended school in the Sauk Prairie area and graduated from Lodi High School. He attended Bennett College of Eclectic Medicine and Surgery in Chicago, and is reported in college publications to have graduated in 1884. He established a practice in Burnett Junction, Wisconsin, described as a "railroad post town," that same year. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul and the Chicago & North Western Railways crossed at the junction, and Dr. Bass may have been employed there as a railway surgeon. In December 1884 Edward Bass married Ada Mae Burlingame of the Town of West Point, Columbia County. Ada was two years younger than her husband and had also attended Lodi High School.

Ada and Edward lived in Burnett Junction for three years, and moved to Montello in 1887. Dr. Bass began his Montello practice from an office in the home of Dr. Horace J. Pratt.

Dr. Bass delivered his daughter, Everetta, on August 14, 1889, and duly entered the event in the birth records at the Marquette County Court House. Her name honored her maternal uncle Everett Burlingame. Dr. Bass' son, Edward Cary Bass, was born July 4, 1894. He was named for Dr. Bass' uncle Edward Cary Bass, a prominent Methodist Episcopal minister who served for a time as Principal Elder in Providence, Rhode Island. "Uncle Cary" was an alumnus of the University of Vermont and was a very successful fundraiser for that institution in the early 20th century. He made two trips to Wisconsin, spending time at the Montello home of his nephew and serving as guest preacher in the local M.E. Church. The Rev. Bass made his second visit when he was on his way to California to speak with alumni there on behalf of the University of Vermont.

During his years in Montello, Dr. Bass served as village health officer and director of the school. He was active in the Republican Party, known then for its progressive ideology. He was a delegate to the state Republican convention on several occasions and also attended the national convention. He was particularly involved in the 1896 elections and was rewarded with the position of Montello Postmaster in 1897, a job that paid $1,000 per year. He continued as postmaster until he became disabled in 1912. During that time, the Montello Post Office instituted Rural Free Delivery and Dr. Bass oversaw the establishment of four rural routes and tested the candidates for the mail carrier positions. He also served as railway surgeon for a segment of the Wisconsin Central Railway.

Dr. Bass was descended from a long-established New England family. An ancestor, Samuel Bass, arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony from England in 1631. Samuel's son John Bass married Ruth Alden, daughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. John and Priscilla's courtship is commemorated in Longfellow's ironically titled poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish. Dr. Bass stayed in touch with his New England relatives and brought the family genealogy up to date. He published a chart outlining the history of the Bass family in America which was printed in Montello by Miss Lucy Kaufmann of the local newspaper; the chart is in the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library and other institutions.

Dr. and Mrs. Bass traveled widely, occasionally separately, to visit friends, attend meetings and conventions, and occasional plays in Chicago. They made two extended visits to the World's Columbian Exposition (World's Fair) in Chicago in 1893, being present for the closing ceremonies. Dr. Bass is reported to have taken several dozen photographs at the exposition, but none of those prints or negatives have been found.

Ada Bass was a fixture in Montello social circles. She hosted literary clubs, musical evenings, and poetry readings in the Bass home. She was on the committee that established the Montello Public Library. She was an amateur painter and performed in a number of musical productions at the local opera house. The Basses entertained W. Forest Lardner, an actor of some national reputation and experience on Broadway, for several extended visits during which he directed and performed in several plays with local talent.

Ada was active in several organizations, holding leadership positions in the Montello Chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Portage Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Wisconsin War Mothers. Her work in the woman's suffrage movement is mentioned in Women's Suffrage in Wisconsin: Part I: Records of the Wisconsin Woman's Suffrage Association 1892-1925.

Dr. Bass became disabled in 1912 and died in 1916. After his death, Ada divided her time between Montello and the homes of her son and daughter. She died in 1957. Edward and Ada Bass are buried in Garden Bluff Cemetery in the town of West Point, not far from Ada's childhood home. Simple headstones of Montello granite mark their graves.

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