| print this
H. brought the message to Ebby T. who brought the message
to Bill W.)
telling Rowland H. that he could never regain his position
in society, Dr. Carl Jung the renowned Swiss psychiatrist
was asked, "Is there no exceptions?" "Yes," replied Dr.
Jung, "there is. Exceptions to cases such as yours have
been occurring since early times. Here and there, once in
a while, alcoholics have had what are called vital spiritual
experiences." He went on to describe a spiritual experience
as "To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to
be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements.
Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding
forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one
side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives
begin to dominate them" (pages 26/27 in the "Big Book" Alcoholics
doctor admitted his failure in bringing about this psychic
change and dashed water on Rowland's hope that his past
strong religious convictions could alone bring on a "vital
father Rowland Gibson H. (the H. family tree has an unbroken
chain of "Rowlands" dating back to 1763 with alternate ones
named "Rowland Gibson H.") was superintendent of the Congregational
Sabbath School for twenty-five years. The comments in the
"Big Book" coupled with the apparent religious upbringing
in his father's home would lead us to the conclusion that
a belief in God was an ingrained value in Rowland's life.
His mother's father, a Yale graduate, was a man of the cloth.
At the time of his death (12/20/1945) Rowland was a vestryman
in Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City and a member
of St. Peter's-by-the-Sea, Narragansett, R.I. AA students
will identify Calvary Episcopal with Rev. Sam Shoemaker
and the Oxford Group which served as a spiritual support
group in Bill W.'s and other early sober alcoholics lives.
According to Lois W., Rowland was an "ardent Oxford Grouper
until his death." (In 1938, the Oxford Group changed its
name to Moral Re-Armament or MRA). There is no mention in
any of three detailed and lengthy obituaries of his affiliation
with either the Oxford Group or MRA. The Rev. Sam Shoemaker,
one of the founders of the Oxford Group in the U.S., broke
with the Movement in 1941, a full four years before Rowland's
death. During the late thirties and early forties, many
Groupers distanced themselves from the misunderstood views
of Frank Buchman, the principle founder of the Movement.
While they may have fled from the Group, it is difficult
to believe they abandoned its teaching of Absolute Love,
Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, and Absolute Unselfishness;
nor the practice of self-evaluation, confession, restitution,
guidance from God and working with others. The Oxford Group
teachings and practices were not distant from AA's Twelve
H. family of Rhode Island was a paragon of respectability,
governmental dedication, industrial leadership and family
values. Their roots in Rhode Island reach back over 350
years as early settlers of the colony. Rowland was the 10th
generation of H.'s in Rhode Island. His forebearers were
large landowners, manufacturers, men of learning in literature
and science who left their imprint on America as achievers,
leaders and philanthropists. It was into this vivid family
backround that Rowland H. was born 10/29/1881; two years
after Dr. Bob and fourteen years before Bill W.
grew up in wealth, respectability and in a family that placed
great value on human relations. His grandfather of the same
name was known as the "Father of the American Alkali Industry."
Unlike robber barons of his day, Grandfather Rowland had
great respect for the dignity of his employees. At the family
Woolen Mills in Rhode Island, he introduced one of the first
employee profit sharing programs in America. After the purchase
of a lead mine in Missouri in 1874 he found the miners living
in "ignorance, wretchedness, squalor and drunkenness." He
shortened the work week, built decent housing and started
a school. He wrote, "Place a people face-to-face with vast
labors, lower the physical tone by an enervating climate,
let them find by experience that the labors are too great
for their powers; and listless, slipshod habits result with
whisky as a relief from trouble." In 1875, this enlightened
statement must have been considered liberal and radical
by his fellow industrialists.
grandmother Margaret is credited with introducing one of
the first kindergartens to America. His Aunt Caroline was
at the turn of the century President of Wellesley College
and father Rowland Gibson was President of Peace Dale Manufacturing,
Peace Dale, RI, and Vice-President of Solvay Process Co.,
to manhood in an exciting and active environment filled
with people who were making things happen was an education
of its own. The H. family had its cluster of estates in
Peace Dale. There was Oakwood, built in 1954 by grandfather
Rowland; Holly House, where young Rowland lived from age
11; Aunt Helen's home, the Acorns, where 1941 Pulitzer Prize
winning poet Leonard Bacon grew to adulthood; and Scallop
Shell, home of Aunt Caroline upon her return from Wellesley.
attended Fay School in Southboro, Mass., and Taft School
in Watertown, CT. The well-to-do customarily sent their
young men to prep school for an education directed toward
college and for training in moral disciplines and social
to Yale in 1899, Rowland received a Bachelor-of-Arts degree
with the class of 1903. At Yale he was called "Ike", "Roy"
and "Rowley". He sang in the Freshman and Varsity Glee Club
as well as the chapel choir.
choice of Yale was a break from his father's and grandfather
Rowland's tradition of Brown University. His mother's father
and their side of the family including such relatives as
Eli Whitney of cotton gin fame, were Yale attendees.
today's vernacular it could be said Rowland was born and
raised with a silver spoon in his mouth. Yet while coming
from a lofty station in life, he was by several accounts
not aloof from his fellow man.
years following Yale were spent learning the family business.
Peace Dale Manufacturing Company was the base industry from
which the family fortune sprang. The Woolen Mill was in
the family's ownership from 1802 to 1918. During the Civil
War, it was a major producer of army blankets. At the mill,
Rowland started out in the woolsorting department. By the
time Rowland entered the milling business, it was in its
waning years in the North. On the death of his father, the
mill was sold to the Stevens Company and the manufacturing
was eventually relocated in North Carolina.
family had many investments and businesses far more interesting
and exciting than the wool mill. One such business was Semet-Solvay,
the nations leading producer of Coke and Coke ovens. It's
sister company, Solvay Process Company, produced soda ash,
caustic soda, calcium chloride, amonia, and soda bicarbonate.
The latter was sold exclusively to Church and Dwight of
"Arm & Hammer" brand fame. Rowland worked first for Semet-Solvay
in Chicago but in 1906 he was transferred to Syracuse.
3rd Annual Yale Class of 1903 Reunion Book made a special
note that Rowland had an appendectomy in 1906 and spent
the summer recuperating in Peace Dale. Hardly worthy of
note today, but in 1906 any abdominal surgery was a major
his recuperation, he returned to Peace Dale Manufacturing
as Secretary-Treasurer. Working up the business ladder as
son-of-the-owner is much more rapid than as the normal aspiring
employee. Not intending to distract from Rowland's ability
as a business manager, he did have doors of opportunity
open more quickly because he was a H. of Rhode Island. Life
in the business world could be adjusted to accomodate his
desired lifestyle which is the reverse of most struggling
winter of 1909-10 was spent travelling in the west. Upon
return he married Helen, a graduate of Briar Cliff and the
daughter of a Chicago banker. He was just short of 29 when
the marriage took place in October 1910. They spent the
next few months abroad. The H. family was involved in local,
state and national politics. It came as part of being a
H. that Rowland became active in the Republican Party. He
attended the exciting Republican National Convention as
a delegatee in 1912. The convention re-nominated President
William H. Taft. From 1914 to 1916 he served in the Rhode
Island State Senate.
World War I got underway, Rowland became a civilian member
of the Ordnance Department. Later he resigned to accept
a commission as Captain in the Army's Chemical Warfare Service.
and Rowland had four children: Caroline (1913), Rowland
Gibson (1917), Peter (1918) and Charles W.B. (1920).
Rowland's father died in 1918 neither he nor younger brother
Thomas wanted to manage the day to day operation of the
several companies the H. family controlled.
Dale Manufacturing was sold 7/1/1918, to the Stevens Company.
Semet-Solvay Company and the Solvay Process Company joined
with three other chemical companies 12/17/1920, to create
Allied Chemical and Dye Corporation (now Allied Signal,
an 18 billion dollar corporation). Rowland was a member
of the board of directors from Allied's inception until
his death. He also served for many years on the board of
Interlake Iron Corporation, another H. family holding. Any
problem Rowland had with alcohol did not lead to his dismissal
from either board. However, with the H. family so deeply
invested in the corporations, the antics of the drinker
can be explained away and covered up. "There is corporate
socially prominant families of the 1920's and 30's were
mum on family problems; especially were they guarded about
moral weakness in their ranks. In that day, many considered
alcoholics to be morally weak. The onset of Rowland's problem
with alcohol is difficult to fix. There are some events
that would lead us to believe it could have been as early
his father died, why did not Rowland take over the operating
helm? He was 37 and had held several positions within the
corporations. Brother Thomas was 26 and only three years
out of college. Thomas, not Rowland, became the one to administer
the estate, a responsibility of great entrustment.
is a brief mention of Rowland being President of Solvay
Securities (likely another H. family holding) from 1918-1921.
His obituary shows that 1920 to 1927 he was a member of
Lee Higginson & Company, a New York investment banking firm.
The record shows he resigned Lee Higginson in 1927 to travel
in Africa, an adventure generally reserved for the royal
and rich of that time.
know that in 1931 he was under the care and treatment of
Dr. Carl Jung in Zurich, Switzerland. On page 26 of the
"Big Book" we find this insight into Rowland's battle with
alcohol: "For years he had floundered from one sanitarium
to another. He had consulted the best known American psychiatrists."
This statement leads us to believe that several years prior
to 1931 Rowland and his family recognized he had an alcohol
problem. Ebbt T., who carried the message to Bill W. had
this to say about Rowland: "I was very much impressed by
his drinking career, which consisted of prolonged sprees
where he travelled all over the country."
1927 to 1935 period is vague and sketchy. Yet in reading
accounts of Rowland's life as reported in Yale Class Reunion
Books and his obituary, one is left with the feeling they
go to great effort to explain Rowland's absence from Wall
published account of that eight year period is a mixture
of health problems and private ventures away from Peace
Dale and New York City. While in Africa, he contracted a
tropical disease and in 1928 he traveled to the west coast
for his health. In 1929 he bought a ranch in New Mexico.
Upon discovery of high grade clay on the ranch, he organized
in 1931-32 the La Luz Clay Products Company to produce floor
and roof tile. In 1932 he took up residence in Vermont.
Between 1932 and 1936 he divided his time between Vermont
and New Mexico. There is no mention of his travel to Zurich
in 1931 nor the "about one year" in Dr. Jung's care as mentioned
in Bill W.'s January 1963 letter to the doctor.
writes to Dr. Jung: "Mr. H. joined the Oxford Groups, an
evangelical movement then at the height of its success in
Europe.... Returning to New York, he became very active
with "O.G." here, then led by an Episcopal Clergyman Dr.
1934, Rowland was at his home in Shaftsbury, VT., 15 miles
south of Manchester. It was during this stay in Shaftsbury
that he learned through two other Groupers of Ebby T.'s
possible six months sentence to Windsor Prison for repeated
drunkeness. The two Groupers were Shep C. and Cebra G. whose
father was the judge before whom Ebby was to appear. In
Bennington, Rowland and Cebra G. intervened at the hearing
and asked that Ebby be bound over to Rowland.
Judge agreed and Rowland took Ebby to his home in Shaftsbury
and later on to New York City where Ebby stayed with Shep
C. Of the first meeting with Rowland, Ebby said, "...he
was a good guy. The first day he came to see me he helped
me clean up the place."
carrying the message to Bill W. is well known but little
is known about Rowland's personal sharing with Bill.
Thomsen in his book "Bill W." reports that Bill could never
recollect if it was Ebby or Rowland who gave him William
James' "The Varieties of Religious Experience". A likely
scenario is that Rowland gave the book to Ebby who in turn
gave it to Bill.
also reveals that Grace McC., Rowland H., Ebby and others
would join with Bill around a little table in the rear of
Stewarts Cafeteria for coffee and sharing after their O.G.
absence of comment by Bill, Lois, Ebby and other early A.A.
members about Rowland joining AA would lead us to conclude
he didn't. Lois writes in "Lois Remembers", "...he remained
an ardent Oxford Grouper until his death in 1945." Lois
goes on to mention that Cebra G. later joined AA in Paris.
Rowland's perspective there was no compelling reason to
join AA. After all, by the time the "Big Book" was published
he had been sober eight years. His sobriety is evidenced
(page 26, "Big Book"), "But this man still lives and is
a free man. He does not need a bodyguard nor is he confined.
He can go anywhere on this earth where other free men may
go without disaster, provided he remained willing to maintain
a certain simple attitude."
1935 Rowland returned to Wall Street as general partner
in Tailer & Robinson, a brokerage firm; 1938-39 he was associated
with Lockwood greene Engineers Inc.; 1940-41 Rowland was
an independent consultant. This later job position is often
a resume explanation for periods of unemployment. In 1941,
Rowland became Executive Vice- President of Bristol Manufacturing
of Waterburg, CT. Bristol (now Bristol Babcock of Watertown,
CT.) is a leading manufacturer of industrial measuring and
at his office desk on Thursday 12/20/1945, Rowland suddenly
died of a coronary occlusion. At the time of his death he
and his wife Helen resided on Park Avenue in New York City
but held a legal residence in Peace Dale, R.I.
past few years had been filled with sadness. Rowland Gibson,
his oldest son and a Captain in the Army, was killed in
1941. Peter, his second son, a navy pilot, deliberately
flew his plane into a screen of American flax while pursuing
a Japanese kamikaze plane. Peter was first reported missing
in action March 1945 and later confirmed killed in action.
the contributions Rowland and his famous family made in
industry and through philanthropic activities, none has
had a more far reaching impact as his inselfish effort in
sobering up one Ebby T. If not the first, certainly one
of the earliest Twelfth Step calls. It opened the door to
millions of hopeless alcoholics.
Ron Ray, 9/24/92, from Bowling Green, KY