Elias Gove,
Prince of Peace

County Building
Courtesy of
the Auburn Public Library
Files of the Lewiston Journal



Elias Gove the Most Picturesque Man in Maine

A sketch of the Long and Interesting Life of the "Prince Immanuel, and Prince of Peace."


A Well Known Lewiston and Auburn Character - His Harmless, Mania, His Characteristics, and His Death on Wednesday, 21 March 1894.

The most picturesque man in Maine died in Auburn, Maine, Tuesday night.

It was Elias Gove, the self-termed Immanuel, Prince of Peace, whose strange garb and peculiar but harmless and kindly idiosyncracy has marked him among men for these twenty years and more.

Few people who ever came to Lewiston have failed to catch a glimpse of him. His long, gray beard, reaching half way to his waist, his gleaming eye, his tall, erect figure, the air of dignity and sternness, the shawl or cape or rob over his shoulders, the white high hat or broad-brimmed Quaker hat, the tan in summer, the white umbrella in all seasons the business-like method to his wandering - all were characteristics. No special religious gathering, up to within a year or so, was without his attention and attendance. Few places of business failed to receive his frequent calls upon them. He was continually in public places and was as mush talked of as frequently described and as well known to the descriptive newspaper press as any man of his type in New England.

He died just as the big bell of the Androscoggin mill in Lewiston, Maine.

Was String Midnight.

His death had been expected for several days but he had a wonderful bold on life. He has said for years that he would never die and this resolution has tendered to prolong his days, but like all men he was mortal.

He appeared to suffer no pain in his last hours. Before the bells of midnight had struck he was breathing as before. When they ceased the end of the life of this strange misguided man had come.

Mr. Gove died at the Riverside House on North Main Street, Auburn, Maine, where he had been living for neatly two years. He suffered a slight shock of paralysis while sitting in the office of the Elm House, a few weeks ago, and had to be assisted to his room at the Riverside, He has been seen in the streets only once or twice since. During these weeks he remained in bed the greater part of the time. He has seemed pleased to see those who have called upon him and has discoursed with much of his old-tim vigor. His death was probably due to old age.

The only habit of his which would tend to shorten his days was in regard to diet. It has seemed at times that he tried to see upon how small an amount of food he could live. At one time when boarding in Lewiston, Maine, he had a whim that he would board himself, buying and cooking his own food. He has frequently remarked that it cost him less than 30 cents a week for food during that period. A small quantity of skim milk was a favorite dish with him.

As near as can be learned Mr. Gove's age was 85 years. His age was a matter about which he refused to be interviewed. Mr. Gove was always willing to talk of his father and mother and brothers and sisters. When these and his early home were mentioned it seemed to touch a very tender spot in his heart. He would, in the brief time he could be held to the subject, discourse affectionately about his family when gathered under the parental roof in Readfield.

FRom Mr. Gove and different sources it is learned that he was born in Readfield, Maine. His father's name was Elias Gove, and he came to Readfield from New Hampshire. He was a farmer and carried on a large farm in Readfield. According to Mr. Gove there were nine children in his father;s family, five sons and four daughters and he remarked the other day that he was the only survivor. It is stated, however, by a distant relatives that he has a brother and a sister living. Mr. Gove lived in Readfield and worked on his father's farm until he grew to manhood. In those early days of his life he was accounted a very energetic and capable young man on the farm.


It has been Mr. Gove's boast in recent years that when a young man be could go into the field on his father's farm and do more work than any two men in that town. During his stay in Readfield, he was somewhat eccentric, being possessed of the same mania as in recent years, though in so mild a form as to attract but littler notice. One of his firdt speeches in public was at Kent's Hill, while yet a young man. AN entertainment of some kind was being given in the village and Mr. Gove was in attendance, having a seat in the gallery. Suddenly, another part of the program, Mr. Gove rose and addressed the audience, in one of his characteristic speeches, in which he proclaimed himself to be Immanuel, the Prince of Peace. His remarks made quite a sensation. He was heard in public frequently after that..

After leaving Readfield, Mr. Gove went to Turner, Maine, where he married Miss Betsey Bradford, daughter of Asa Bradford Esq, the richest man in Turner and known far and wide as the banker of Turner, Maine. In those days he (Mr. Bradford) was one of th erichest men in the county. Mr. & Mrs Gove lived together more than a score of years on a little farm, near the Asa Bradford homestead, about 2.5 miles from South Turner village. They has a son who died soon after reaching his majority. We are told that Mr. and Mrs Gove separated soon after the death of this son, Mrs. Gove going back to her father's home. The separation was due to Mr. Gove's peculiar insanity which made it impossible for his wife to live with him. Mr. Gove was placed under guardianship many years ago, and before his wife dies, Job Prince, father of the late Hon. Rufus Prince, was his guardian for years and upon his death the trust was transferred to Rufus Prince. W B. Beals, esq of Turner has been guardian since the death of Rufus Prince.


In recent years Mr. Gove has been living on money coming from his wife's estate. SOme say that she made provisions for his support before her death, while others affirm that no such provisions was made but that the wife died without making a will and being without issue, the property fell to her husband, from whom these had been no divorce. This, however, is of little importance. It is a matter of congratulation that the poor man had money enough to keep him in his declining years.

Mr. Gove was not a success as a farmer. He would leave everything in the busiest times, to attend a religious convention or religious meeting of any kind. He made it a point to attend all the religious meeting of his town and of the adjoining towns. It was his custom, too, to hail people as they passed his home in order to discuss with them some of his strange theories.


A Journal reporter interviewed Mr. Gove at the Riverside House a few days before his death but with rather poor success. SOme of the facts given in the foregoing were learned at this time. He said that when a young man working on his father's farm his blood became heated beyond measure and he was unable to do hard work after that for three years. He said that his mother was the best woman that ever lived. She was a model housekeeper and lived his father had the best farm in town. He said that when he came to Turner much of the land was covered with heavy pine timber and that his farm of 80 acres had one of the best springs on it in the country. The spring, he said, was there now and anybody could make $500 a year selling the water from it. His father's farm contained about 140 acres, and a good part of it was under cultivation. In his early days he said that he was a Methodist. Mr. Gove had a wide acquaintance with many of the clergymen and missionaries of his early days.


How old are you, Mr. Gove? was one of the questions asked.


I won't tell you, was the answer, with emphasis. It's nobody's business how old I am.


Afterwards the reporter learned that this question had often been asked him with much the same result.


Mr. Gove's Personal Characteristics

They are of interest. He would talk at times lucidly on any topic except his clothes, his age or his mania. When calmed by talk of early days he was all right. Touch him up with a remark, Why don't you dress like other people? and he was off again. In politics he was an ardent Blain man and after Mr. Blaine's defeat, he refused ever again to eat at the table of the Lincoln House where he was then boarding. He devoted much of his time to three arguments: 1st, that the railroad locomotives were eating up all the air; 2nd, that the use of fertilizers was responsible for all human decay and disease; 3rd, that as extra sun and a couple of moons, to start in when the present luminaries went to bed would save big money to the world in the way of illumination. The sun that he proposed was to rise in the south and set in the North.He put in much harmless endeavor toward raising $50,000,000 or thereabout for a bank and certain well-known gentlemen have, at various times, subscribed small sums ranging from $1,000,000 to $10,000,000 for that purpose. He was a frequent correspondent of Queen Victoria, the Tsar of Russia, Mr. Blaine, Grover Cleaveland and George Francis Train.


He personally invited "Mrs. Victoria" as he called her, over to visit him and he made a subscription for that purpose for which we personally know that a certain Lisbon street shoe dealer is held in the sum of $640,000. Mr. Gove mania was built upon a stupendous financial system. Much of his agrement degenerated into cash. He handled, in his mind, some of money that would stagger the Rothschilde. Several years ago he came into possession of a suit of red broadcloth cut with Prince Albert coat and flowing trousers. This with a new white felt hay with a wide white band made for him the most resplendent costume that he ever enjoyed. He was always chastic and careful in language, even in disposition, easily excited, but always keeping within bounds. He was of noble personal appearance with a pallor to his face. He was very kindly at heart and harmed no one. Of late years he was very free from molestation upon the streets. He must have been of the most rugged constitution for he has undoubtedly been insufficiently clad of late - a mater of his own choice.


In his death a strange life ends, but who of you can say the assumption of acceticism, the pure personal life, the joy in his dementia, the sense of superiority in Christian ways that were the lot of this man of clouded brain were not as happy a lot as yours?


Certainly, said a well-known clergy-man who stood at Mr. Gove's bedside on Wednesday morning, he now sees, face to face.


Sources

:
  • Lewiston Evening Journal, Wednesday 31 March 1894, obit of Elias Gove
  • WLAM Radio Address by Ralph Skinner, Oct. 8, 1969 "Elias Gove, Prince of Peace"

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