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From his column Past to Present

past-to-present-09-13-1Seth Glidden developed a successful construction business in Lowell, Mass., that employed up to forty men, so he surely thought hard about the decision to move west. Still, in 1885, he moved his family, including three sons and a daughter, to California.

His career—real estate and construction—flourished, first in Pasadena, then on Catalina Island, where by 1900 he was constructing “the Glidden flats,” a section of bungalows that he leased to vacationers. He was considered a pioneer developer of Avalon, Catalina Island’s only city.[i]

The year after the Gliddens came to Pasadena, the family of Phineas F. Bresee settled into the Methodist parsonage there, remaining for four years. The Gliddens were Congregationalists in New England and remained so in California.

Still, the two families forged connections. The Los Angeles Herald reported in 1890 that Miss Bertha Bresee hosted a party for the Delta Gamma and Sigma Chi fraternities (connected to the University of Southern California). Guests included Ada Glidden and Paul Bresee, Bertha’s brother.[ii]

Six years later, on October 20, 1896, the Bresees converged on the Glidden’s Pasadena home where Phineas presided at Paul and Ada’s wedding.[iii] It was a fortuitous marriage, not only for the couple but for Nazarenes.

Paul Bresee was a medical doctor whose office was located in the home. Within three years, the household also included his parents, sister Sue, and grandmother Susan Bresee, who died in 1902. The family circle grew when baby Horace was born in 1904. An only child, he brought energy and exuberance and made it a three-generation household again—the type of home Paul had been raised in.[iv] Phineas wrote sermons at a desk in the home, occasionally chiding Horace for the noise he made.[v]

Ada contributed to the rich family life surrounding the elderly Bresees and was close to Sue, who lived with Paul and Ada until 1927. A mutual friend described Ada and Sue as “closer than many sisters.”[vi] Ada united with the Church of the Nazarene in 1897, some months after her wedding. When she did, she embraced the Nazarenes fully—locally and globally. She launched Los Angeles First Church’s missionary society and headed it for 32 years. She was church board secretary for 32 years and supervised the Sunday schools for 37 years.

Her influence widened. She served two years as district treasurer, became district secretary in 1917, and filled the position for 29 years. Proctor Knott described her minutes as “masterpieces of precision and detail.” Moreover, “the youngest licensed minister [received] the same courteous attention to his problems as the presiding general superintendent…. To rich and poor, young and old, educated or uneducated she was the same.”[vii] The signature of “Mrs. Paul Bresee” appeared on hundreds of ordination credentials.

She served on the denomination’s General Board and as a Pasadena College trustee. She brought her solid credentials to developing the district and general missionary society, now Nazarene Missions International.

In 1914, she began box work on behalf of missionaries—gathering and shipping supplies and clothing. In 1915, she was elected to the Woman’s General Missionary Council, serving continuously until she died, much of that time as its executive vice-president. In 1920, she organized her district missionary society, also heading that until her death.

The Woman’s Missionary Society in the early Church of the Nazarene was a partnership between clergy women and lay women. Rev. Susan Fitkin of Brooklyn, N.Y., represented one side of this partnership. Ada represented the other. They were collaborators, working in tandem through correspondence, meetings, and conventions. In 1927, Bresee and Fitkin visited the Nazarene work in Africa, then spoke to churches and missionary societies in England and Scotland. They traveled together again in 1937, this time to the West Indies and Argentina. Their reports were published in The Other Sheep magazine.

Each year, Ada wrote at least one long letter to every Nazarene missionary family in the field. She once remarked that she wrote 4,500 letters one particular year, mostly in the church’s service.[viii]

She died on November 29, 1946. More than 700 people attended her funeral, including 30 missionaries and 52 ministers. Her sister-in-law, Sue, had died earlier that year. Paul Bresee lived until 1959. All are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles, a few feet from Paul’s parents.

Stan Ingersol is a Church historian and manager of the Nazarene Archives.


[i] J. M. Guinn, A History of California and an Extended History of Its Southern coast Counties, Volume 2 (1907): 2239-2240.

[ii] “The Bresee Reception,” Los Angeles Herald (June 1, 1890). The guests also included “Dr. Parker, of Pasadena,” who became Bertha Bresee’s husband.

[iii] See the “Social Notes” column in the Los Angeles Herald (October 22, 1896).

[iv] Extended households were common. Phineas Bresee’s parents moved into his Methodist parsonage in Red Oak, Iowa, in 1873 or 1874 and remained with Phineas and Maria from then on, moving with them from parsonage to parsonage. Phineas’ nephew, Fred Cowley, was also part of the household for several years.

[v] Carl O. Bangs, Phineas Bresee: Pastor to the People (2013), p. 195.

[vi] J. Proctor Knott, “Mrs. Paul Bresee,” Southern California District Challenger (Jan. 1947): 1.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Obituary, “Mrs. Paul Bresee,” Herald of Holiness (Dec. 30, 1946).

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