Rufus James Stovell 1873-1954 ‘A man of firm convictions’

Mr. Stovell was born on March 18,1873 he was adopted at a very early age by his grandparents, who were ex-slaves. He attended public and private schools until he was in his early teens, when he was apprenticed as a mason. His ambition was to be a teacher and toward that end he attended night school at the Bermuda Collegiate Institute.

In 1986, Mr. Stovell’s dream became a reality after he passed the local teacher’s examinations. His first appointment was as Head Master of Southampton Glebe School. Rufus married Gertrude Susan Smith and of that union came seven children. In 1902 Mr. Stovell decided to branch out on his own, pioneering public education in the North Shore area when he established ‘The North Village School in a church hall. Within three weeks, he had eighty scholars. He taught the usual subjects reading, writing and arithmetic including Religious Education. As was the custom of the day, teachers like Rufus Stovell established and led a number of small schools. Students had to pay fees which paid the rent and teachers wages. In 1919 he joined forces with fellow educators Edith and Matilda Crawford and Adele Tucker after a brief meeting at a colleagues funeral in The Pembroke Parish Council Grave site adjacent to St. John’s Anglican Church yard to form Bermuda’s first trade union ‘The Bermuda Union of Teachers’.

In 1924,Rufus Stovell’s North Village School was amalgamated with two other Pembroke schools led by the Crawford’s the new school was named ‘The Central School’. In 1927 he succeeded Adele Tucker as Principle of Paget Glebe School. after forty years of service in education Mr. Stovell retired from teaching.

Rufus was a stanch A.M.E. church member and rose through the ranks to become a Superintendent of the Sunday School before becoming a local preacher in 1910. In 1913, he was ordained by Bishop Derek and appointed pastor of the Allen Temple A.M.E. Church in Somerset. He had the distinction of having been the Pastor of all the A.M.E. churches in Bermuda except for St. Paul. He put his all into the church and as Pastor of Vernon Temple, he led the membership in a fundraising drive that paid off the entire mortgage. He also helped to establish a 100 member male voice choir that staged concerts throughout Bermuda.

Rufus Stovell was a member of the Abercorn Lodge#123 and the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (Alexandrina1026). He received many accolades for his work in church and education. Rev. Rufus J Stovell died in 1954 leaving a legacy as a outstanding Teacher, Principle and Preacher.

Submitted Bermudian Heritage Museum remembering Bermuda’s Great Black Personalities By Joy Wilson-Tucker