The Family Letter Blog

Connecting Generations

Leave a comment

Family Throwback Photo

A Bryant family photo in DC circa 1942.Back row (l-r) Theodora Preston, Elizabeth Preston Bryant (Lala),Herbert Sydney Bryant, Katherine Bryant Kingsbury (Kitty), Herbert Preston Bryant (served in the Army in WWII).
Front row: Preston Deane Kingsbury and Bryant Kingsbury with an unknown pet
Back row: Theodora Preston (Lala’s youngest sister) never married, Elizabeth Preston Bryant (Lala), Herbert Sydney Bryant (Bert), Katherine Gertrude Bryant Kingsbury (Kitty), & Herbert Preston Bryant (Herb), Kitty’s younger brother by five years (served in the Army in WWII).
Front row: Preston Deane Kingsbury and Bryant Kingsbury with an unknown pet

This house will be one of the stops on our Washington DC road trip this summer. It is either the house on Drummond Avenue in Chevy Chase that Joe, Kitty and the boys lived in for several years or the home of Kitty’s parents, Lala and Bert Bryant in the area now known as Manor Park – 304 Rittenhouse Street. Bert and Lala moved to that house when it was first built in 1919 and lived there until some time after Bert’s death in 1950. Shortly after that, Lala moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey where Herbert, her son was living and working on a newspaper.

For almost all of 1944, Kitty lived alone with the boys because Papa Joe was on assignment in Iran as Assistant to the Personnel Director of the US Financial Mission to Iran. My uncle Deane (younger than Bryant, my father by four years) has a great story about the FBI coming to the house to investigate reports of someone making a bomb. It was related to something my father was working on in the basement (probably not a bomb but knowing my father’s curiosity and scientific bent it might have been a bomb or maybe fireworks – it was definitely something explosive!)

Need Deane to fill in this story and others with more detail this summer.

Leave a comment

Salt of the Earth (cont.)

This is my second post about the book my great aunt Ella Kingsbury Whitmore wrote at her daughter’s request about her parents and siblings. I will exclude some portions of the book and at times will combine certain paragraphs (many of her paragraphs are only one sentence long!) but other than that, I will not edit her writing. I will occasionally insert a parenthetical comment or question, but for the most part I’ll close the post with my thoughts and observations about the portion of her book that I’ve transcribed and I’ll let her story speak for itself.

After explaining that her parents learned to read from Webster’s Spelling Book and giving a few examples of the maxims that were also contained in it such as:

“Labor makes us strong and healthy.”           

“Every person should wear a decent dress.”            

“Girls wear aprons to keep their frocks clean.”

Ella goes on to describe how her parents met and married. The following is from Salt of the Earth – starting on page 10:

Mother excelled in spelling and we might more easily refer to her than to Webster’s Dictionary, and with nearly the same assurance of aid. She had the privilege of one year of school in Worchester Mass., where she assisted in the home of a relative. She prized the opportunity and made the best of it. It was, however, a lonely year for her. Her shyness prevented her from making advances, and she made no young friends. Perhaps the memory of that lonely year, helped her become the gracious, friendly woman of later years.

One of the maxims of the Webster’s speller was evidently as appropriate as to young people of that time as it has been ever since (I have no idea what this means, so if anyone reading this does, please leave a comment!):

“Youth may be thoughtful, but it is not common.”

Mother in time became a teacher. The pay was extremely small, less than two dollars a week. She “boarded around” among the families of the neighborhood. Sometimes this was quite a pleasure and sometimes quite the contrary.

After years of helping on farms, and other years of apprentice work, to learn a trade, my father became a carpenter. While building a barn for Mr. Robinson, he met the stepdaughter of the home, Hannah Brown. He thought, as she sat in the Jamaica choir, that he had never seen so sweet a face. Her uncles, the Browns, were musicians, and played the violin and bass viol in the choir, in an age when it was not thought quite proper, by the more strict of the parish, to have such ungodly instruments in the meeting house.

I value an old hymn book of that day, Zion’s Harp, comprising the most approved spiritual hymns, with chaste and popular tunes.” Many of them are of such worth, that they continue to be found in most of our hymnals: “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord, Morning Light is Breaking, All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name, and Come Holy Spirit, Heavenly Dove.”

Then two of my father’s special favorites, by his favorite author, Lowell Mason: “My Faith Looks Up to Thee,” and “Thus Far the Lord hath Led Me On.”

Father was also very fond of the poems of Mrs. Hemans, such as “The Landing of the Pilgrims,” with its thrilling question and answer:

What sought they thus afar?

Bright jewels of the mine?

The wealth of seas, the spoils of war? – –

They sought a faith’s pure shrine.

Aye call it holy ground,

The spot where first they trod –

They have left unstained what they found,

Freedom to worship God.

From Felicia Dorothea Hemans work “The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England”

Ella continues her account of her parents marriage in the chapter entitled Teachable Twenties1847- 1857

One can picture the young Vermont couple, Joseph with his dark hair and eyes, tall, and thoughtfully serious, Hannah, short and plump, blue-eyed and earnest, as they grew interested in each other.

Her voice was a rich soprano, full and true through the years, such as is rare. His was bass, sweet, but not strong, and before many years, was but a whisper. His love of music was deep, and one can imagine them singing the old time hymn.

Together let us sweetly live,

I am bound for the land of Canaan;

Together let us sweetly die,

I am bound for the land of Canaan.

Simple in their tastes and habits, their wedding was on the same order. Hannah’s sister Mary and husband accompanied them to the minister’s home, where they were united in holy bonds of matrimony. United indeed they were, to be as one, in thought and aim, for fifty-seven years on earth together.

Joseph aspired to wear, for the event, a tall silk hat. He purchased a fitting one, to be delivered in time. When he put it on, it dropped to his shoulders. So his one attempt at distinguished attire was doomed to failure! That affair was always enjoyed by us all, more than if he had been able to wear the hat.

The young couple started at once for the far west, going to Cherry Valley, Illinois, Joseph having some relatives in that locality. Their worldly possessions were a strong tool chest, filled with carpenter tools, a small trunk of Joseph’s make, containing his wardrobe, and a “big box” of Hannah’s store of clothes and bedding, and keepsakes.  She had two large silver spoons, and six silver teaspoons which she had earned and had engraved with her initials. They had youth and health, and habits of frugality and industry, and a good share of the rare quality, common sense.

They secured for a home a “car house,” shaped like a car (I assume she means a railroad car) containing two rooms, quite a contrast to the large colonial buildings in their native state. They soon made good friends, some of whom continued through their lifetime. Joseph worked at his trade, and they were prosperous enough to enable them to make a visit to Vermont, with the little Cherry Valley daughter, Mary.

A daguerreotype picture of them at that time shows three earnest, thoughtful faces. The young mother and little daughter have their dark hair parted over their broad foreheads, and smoothly combed over their ears, not very different from the style of the young people of today. Just a glimpse of a black broadcloth head-dress, a wonderful memory of my youth, with its perforated design, appears at the back of the coil of my mother’s hair. Their grave, serious faces are a decided contrast to many of the grinning portraits of our day.

After a good visit with the Vermont relatives and friends, they again hear the call of the west and return to their newer friends and interests.

As someone who did not inherit the musical ability of my ancestors (although many of my cousins did) I am struck by how much of Ella’s memories of her parents involve hymns and poetry they liked. She can recall her parents’ singing voices many years after their deaths. Singing and playing musical instruments must have been an important part of their lives.

You also know the next thing about this passage that grabs my attention – the daguerreotype that was made when Joseph and Hannah visited relatives in Vermont with their first child, Mary. Mary was born in Cherry Valley, Illinois in 1853 so the visit back to Vermont was probably a few years later in the mid-1850s, which is about ten years after the first daguerreotype appeared. What a treat it would be to find that daguerreotype!

1 Comment

Salt of the Earth by Ella Kingsbury Whitmore

Ella Kingsbury Whitmore (1857-1948) wrote this volume about her parent’s lives. I have one copy of the little blue book and would love to locate more. Since many of my cousins do not have copies I will provide the text over a series of posts on this blog.

Ella begins each chapter, by a reference to her parents’ age for that chapter. So chapter one begins with “Childhood and the ‘Tender Teens’ 1827 – 1847. I’ve transcribed pages 1-6 below.

There is no compulsory religion in our country, and yet, in the Declaration of Independence, in the Constitution of the United States, and of each of the states of the Union, in Presidential messages and proclamations, God is recognized.

Leaders of our nation, in government, in politics, in education and in philanthropy, are religious men and women.

The more thoughtful and wise of our people today realize the value to our country of those citizens who strive to maintain its real virtues. They are indeed as “salt in the earth.”

Having belonged to a plain pioneer family since 1857, and having been asked by my daughter to write for her some of my memories of the past, it is my pleasure to try to do so. If it should be of interest to more than our immediate family, well and good. The immediate family is now quite numerous, and are, so far as I know, worthy descendants of our ancestors.

My parents were both New Englanders, of English ancestry. Of their ancestors, a grandson, who enjoys looking up such matters, writes:

They are a set of ancestors anyone should be proud to own. I haven’t found a bad one in the lot. Lots of them are deacons (as is this grandson); a few were wealthy; most were plain, every-day farmer people, of some means, and big families, respected by their fellow citizens, and often holding public offices of importance. They were Massachusetts Bay Colony folks. Those who came over from England were all here before 1660. About all who were of suitable age at that time have a Revolutionary War record.

As this grandson, Dr. Forrest A. Kingsbury, of the faculty of Chicago University writes, “If one doesn’t pin much faith to heredity, it is at least interesting to know what kind of people our ancestors were and what kind of youthful training they gave their children, which in turn helped determine how their children were brought up to act and think.”

Among our ancestors is found the name of Deacon Samuel Chapin, whose statue, “The Puritan” by Saint Gaudens, is to be seen in Springfield Mass. The picture of this statue appears in the school histories of the present.

My father, Joseph B. Kingsbury, was born in Vermont in 1827, the year of the first railroad in the United States. This five-mile road, built to supply the granite for Bunker Hill monument. Our American independence was then but just over fifty years. My mother, Hannah Brown, was born in the same county, Windham, three years later, one hundred years ago. (This means Ella must have begun writing this family history in 1930.) Both were early deprived of a father’s care, father at the age of eleven, and mother at three. Neither had a careless or care-free childhood or youth. Both early learned the joys of accomplishment and the value of worthwhile things in life.

Very picturesque was the scenery of the Green Mountains of that vicinity. Fresh springs of water from the hillsides were among the pleasant after memories. Father could remember when, at two years of age, he fell into a spring and nearly drowned before his mother reached and rescued him. He probably learned a lesson of caution from that tragic experience. He never ceased to recall, however, the refreshment of drinking from such cool spring water. Through a long life, water was his favorite beverage, with milk a close second.

He recalled less happily the back breaking toil of gathering stones from the fields to build stone walls for fencing the orchards and hayfields. Sugar making and eating, from the maple trees, was one of the happy memories. Father would laughingly say that while he remembered back to the age of two, mother only recalled things that occurred after she was twelve. We children often asked them both to tell us about when they were little, and were delighted when they did tell us of their early childhood.

Mother told us of her mother as follows: After the early death of her husband, Orrin Brown, leaving the young wife with three little girls, Ellen, Mary and Hannah, the young mother went into families to do the family tailoring, an important part of each family’s needs. That was the day of large families and no ready-to-wear establishments and before the days of sewing machines. My mother learned much of such skill from her mother and in turn taught it to her daughters. By having a tailor cut the vest and trousers for my brother, I was able, with mother’s careful guidance, to finish and press the garments in sufficient good shape, when he was a trim young man, so that he offered no complaint of not being properly dressed.

Mother spent part of her childhood days with her Grandfather and Grandmother Cheney in Jamaica village. We have copies of the painted portraits of these quaintly-clad ancestors, she with a white cap, frilled about the face, he, a Revolutionary soldier, with white locks brushed from his broad brow, above his keen eyes. Mother recalled how he always stood behind his chair to pray at family worship.

Okay so we’re back to 2021 and I have the following thoughts about the lives of my great great grandparents Joseph and Hannah. One of my favorite books when I was growing up was Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Something about the pioneer life appealed to me. Learning that I am only a few generations removed from my own Kingsbury pioneers is exciting. In the coming pages, Ella will address what prompted her parents to move from Vermont to Illinois and then to Iowa, where the family eventually settled in Osage and what their “life on the prairie” was like.

Next, I can’t help but wonder what impact losing a father when they were young had on Joseph and Hannah. It seems that they learned to take care of themselves at an early age. Perhaps the loss that they each experienced helped them become very nurturing parents who raised a close-knit family.

And finally, but very important – where are those portraits of my fourth great grandparents that Ella describes? What a treat it would be to find them. Their names were Nathaniel Cheney (1758-1844) and Hannah Read (1764-1860). It makes sense that if Hannah Brown’s mother was working for other families she needed someone to take care of her three young daughters, so I suspect her parents spent a lot of time with the three little girls. But if you look at their ages, the grandfather who Hannah remembers standing behind his chair for family worship would have been 76 and his wife would have been 70 the year after Hannah’s father died.

Using I’ve come up with the following picture of Nathaniel and Mary Read Cheney’s tombstone:

I’ve also discovered the following account of Nathaniel Cheney’s Revolutionary War service, taken from the Daughters of the American Revolution application of Emma Berger Weeks:

Served as private and corporal under Captains Warren and Read, Col. Read and Rand, Mass troops; also mariner on the ship “Thorn.” He was born in Milford, Mass and died in Jamaica, Vermont.

And from my grandfather’s application to the Sons of the American Revolution we learn the following about Nathaniel Cheney’s Revolutionary War service:

Private, Capt. Abraham Batcheller’s Co., Col. Jonathan Holman’s regiment; service 18 days in December 1776; marched to Providence Rhode Island on an alarm.

Private, Capt. John Sparr’s Co., Col. Thomas Nixon’s 6th regiment; Continental Army pay accounts for service January 20, 1777 to December 31, 1779; also return of men in service on or before August 15, 1777, dated Camp near Peekskill, Feb 16, 1779; also, muster roll for May, 1779, dated Highlands; enlisted January 20, 1777; enlistment, 3 years.


The descriptions seem to be for two different people, so now, as usually happens, I’ve got more work to do than when I started this post.

1 Comment

A Great Time to Get Back to Blogging

Early in our current National Emergency that President Trump declared on Friday March 13, 2020 – I thought of the various hardships our ancestors endured. From the trying economic times of the Great Depression to rationing of basic food supplies during World War II, my grandparents dealt with difficulties that I’ve never experienced. We are in for interesting times ahead.

I’ve written before about letters that span more than 60 years that my paternal grandfather, Joseph Bush Kingsbury wrote. The round robin series of letters that circulated among members of the Kingsbury family was my inspiration for this blog’s name. More time at home means more time for me to review those letters, perhaps finding encouragement and hope.

One of the most trying episodes my grandfather experienced was on a trip to Germany in the summer of 1914 when World War I broke out. He was a student at George Washington University and travelled to Europe with two friends. I began transcribing his account of that time and putting it on this blog more than a year ago. Maybe I should get back to that because it not only provides a fascinating glimpse into world events, but also my grandfather’s response to a crisis.

Here is an excerpt from my grandfather’s letter of August 5, 1914, the day after England declared war on Germany. He and his friends had been arrested several times in the previous days on suspicion of being British spies. Whenever an officer arrested them, a crowd would gather and follow them through the streets. It sounds scary. The police would eventually release them when they understood from their papers that they were Americans, but that didn’t stop crowds from gathering and harassing them.

In this particular account my grandfather had been in a book store in Dresden when a crowd gathered outside but the owner and his son, who spoke English very well, protected him from the crowd. The shopkeeper also wrote a note in German for my grandfather to carry explaining that he was American and should not be bothered. At the end of the day, my grandfather captured his feelings about being stranded in Germany this way:

It is really funny how our hopes go from top to bottom several times a day. Sometimes we imagine we will be out of it in a week or so, perhaps there will be a special train for Americans to Scandinavia and the US will send ships to take us home. Next moment we can see no hope at all. Someone reports that the banks have stopped paying and we rush there to cash a check or two or three and find it is the same as ever. It is a world war, and we must take our chances just like everyone else. We shall try to learn German, keep well and healthy and make the best use possible of the time.

If you find your hopes going from “top to bottom” several times a day – maybe you can heed Joseph Kingsbury’s good advice.

Leave a comment

The Bryant Family of Washington DC

Levi Jesse Bryant and his wife Ellen Sarah Salley had four children – three boys and one girl. In order they were Arthur Levi Bryant (1870-1933); Charles Fardon Bryant (1872-1923); Grace Bryant (1876-1943) and Herbert Sydney Bryant (1878-1950). The only one I have a picture of is Herbert Sydney Bryant, my great grandfather. He died before I was born but I have a feeling I would have enjoyed getting to know him.

Levi was a government clerk in the War Department for most of his career. When he died in 1920, he was identified as one of the oldest residents of the District of Columbia. He was a member of the Burnside Post No. 8 of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. After the civil war, men from both the Union and Confederate armies formed social groups with fellow veterans, each named for a famous general. From what I could learn about Burnside Post No. 8, its members often marched in Memorial Day parades, participated in civic and patriotic activities, such as dedicating the Washington Monument and commemorating Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The organization also provided for its members in need.

Soon after the war, and when he was just starting his family, Levi attended law school, graduating in 1875 as a member of the 4th graduating class of National University. I don’t think he was in private practice for very long , since all census reports indicate his profession as a government clerk rather than a lawyer. I remember being surprised when I learned that I wasn’t the first in my family to attend law school. Levi was ahead of me by 110 years!

Sometime between 1870 and 1880, Levi built a sizeable home (or perhaps a row of homes) on Q Street, NW, just a little north of DuPont Circle. In the late 1800s this area was a far cry from the bustling commercial and residential center it is today but true to his pioneering spirit, Levi settled there and raised his family as the City grew in his direction. The addresses were 1817 and 1819 Q Street, NW.

Levi and Ellen Bryant’s Children

Arthur Levi Bryant was a patent attorney in Washington DC. He and his wife, Lizzie Habel, never had children. Arthur worked for the patent firm, Cushman, Bryant, Darby and Cushman and from his 1907 passport application we learn that he was 5’8″ with a high forehead, oval face, brown hair and blue eyes. He and Lizzie Habel married in 1897 and lived at 1819 Q Street (next door to his parents) for their entire married life. When Lizzie died in 1963 (outliving Arthur by 30 years) her estate was valued at $1 million. Most of her specific bequests were to her siblings and their children but a portion of her estate passed to the descendants of Arthur’s siblings, which included my father and his brother, who received their mother’s share.

Charles Fardon Bryant was a business man of some sort although he also worked as a government clerk. His most interesting mention in the DC papers was for his enlistment in Company H of the regiment of men from Washington DC who fought in the Spanish American War. This war only lasted from April to August of 1898 but in keeping with our family tradition, he gave a very detailed report of his expedition in a letter home. His mother shared it with the Evening Star and it appeared in the newspaper in August 1898. It just might appear in a later post here so stay tuned!

Charles married Isabella Byrn whose father was a patent lawyer and well-known member of the DC Bar. He was also active in real estate and built what sounds like a beautiful home near the Capitol in 1894. Charles and Isabella were married there in October 1899.

Sadly, the Byrn home on B Street is no longer standing.

Charles and Isabella had one son, Charles Byrn Bryant. From the address for him in Lizzie Bryant’s will written in 1955, he was living in Chicago. Charles died in 1923 and there was only a brief mention of his death in the Washington newspapers.

The only girl born to Levi and Ellen was Grace Bryant who was born in 1876. She married William John Eynon in September 1900 and they lived in Washington DC where William had a very successful career in the printing industry. He often appeared in the newspaper for his leadership role in that industry as well as other civic and philanthropic endeavors including the Board of Trade, which was the equivalent of what we know as the Chamber of Commerce.

Grace and John had three children, although their firstborn son, William John Eynon, Jr. died at ten months in July 1902. Their next son, Lee Edward Eynon was born in 1903 and died in 1965 and their daughter, Dorothy Bryant Eynon was born in 1905 and died in 1969. The children born to Grace and William Eynon, offer the best chance of finding relatives with pictures of our common ancestors. If any of you happen to be reading this, please get in touch.

I’ll close this post by listing the names of the descendants of Levi and Ellen Bryant’s children who are my third or fourth cousins. Charles Byrn Bryant, born in 19–; Lee Edward Eynon, whose children with Dorothy Von Bayer include William A. Eynon (1927-2001); Lee Ellen Eynon (1929-2011) who married Erik Gregory Nordholm; and Roberta C Eynon (1935 – 2005) who married David Walton Mayo. Sadly, Lee and his wife Dorothy divorced shortly after Roberta was born – some time between 1936 and 1940.

Leave a comment

Levi Bryant and Ellen Sally – Our Great Great Grandparents

Our Bryant family in Washington DC begins with two transplants from the Midwest. After their marriage in Wisconsin on January 6, 1868, Levi and Ellen moved to DC. We find them in the Census for 1870, living in Ward 1 of in the City of Washington DC with Levi’s mother Betsy and his younger brother David. Their first son, Arthur Levi Bryant, born in January 1870, is an infant in the home. They appear together in every census from that one through 1910, though in their later years, they lived with their daughter Grace.

Levi captured my attention years ago because of his service in the United States Army during the American Civil War. He enlisted in the Wisconsin 3rd Infantry, Company C at the beginning of the war and saw a lot of action before he was seriously wounded on May 3, 1863 in the Battle of Chancellorsville. Levi holds the distinction of appearing in the most unusual genealogy source I’ve used to date – “The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War.” His name appears in a Table on page 638 with details about 85 cases of recovery after amputation at the shoulder.

This source confirms the information in the family bible – that “Levi lost an arm at Chancellorsville” and provides more detail about that injury. He suffered a comminuted shot fracture of the left humerus involving the shoulder joint, which means that the shot damaged the shoulder and left the bones in his arm mere fragments, impossible to mend. Five days later, on May 8, 1863, at a hospital in Washington DC, his left arm was amputated at the shoulder. Levi was discharged on August 8, 1863 and received an invalid pension from the U.S. government for the rest of his life.

I imagine it would have been difficult to return to farming with only one arm, but it was not too hard for Levi to meet and marry a young bride. I don’t think Ellen and Levi knew each other before he left for the war because she would have only been 15 years old when he enlisted in 1861 and they lived in different parts of Wisconsin at the time. But the fact that they married in Janesville in 1868, suggests that Levi returned to Wisconsin with his mother after her time caring for him in DC after his amputation.

Ellen and Levi came from very different backgrounds. Levi was from a large pioneering family – nine brothers and sisters. Ellen only had one younger brother. Levi’s family moved around the Midwest before settling in Wisconsin but Ellen was born there, most likely in Janesville and had never been more than 35 miles from her birth place when she moved to Washington DC with her new husband. Levi’s family were farmers. Ellen’s father was a tailor and her mother was a laundress and seamstress. One thing Ellen and Levi have in common is that their fathers died when they were both in their teens; Ellen was probably younger than 14 when her father died and Levi was 16.

I haven’t taken Ellen’s family back any further than her parents. Her mother Cordelia Davis was born in New York in 1828 and moved to Wisconsin with her family when she was a girl. Ellen’s father was born in Ireland (probably Dublin around 1821) and immigrated to the US in the early 1840s.

I haven’t found a marriage record for Cordelia and Thomas but there’s an index to his naturalization record indicating he became a naturalized citizen in 1845 in Janesville, Wisconsin. The index card doesn’t provide much information but the fact that he is located in Janesville and that the Janesville Gazette has several ads like the one below suggest that this is the record for Ellen’s father. I suspect his name was originally spelled Salley but more often changed to Sally. In later census reports, Ellen lists Ireland as the place of birth of her father.

Several ads like this one place Thomas Sally in Janesville Wisconsin in the mid 1840s. Ellen was born there in 1846.

After a series of ads like the one above that appeared in the Janesville Gazette in the mid to late 1840s, the newspaper records end. The family next appears in the federal census for 1850 in Monroe, Wisconsin. Monroe is 35 miles west of Janesville. The family was still in Monroe in 1855 as shown on the Wisconsin State Census and Thomas was still a tailor. But something happened to Thomas by 1860 when we find Cordelia Salley living in Monroe with her children Ellen and John and no mention of Thomas. Although I haven’t found a death record, Cordelia identifies herself as a widow in later census reports so I suspect Thomas died sometime between 1855 and 1860.

Our Irish 3G grandfather remains a bit of a mystery but his presence in our family tree is one source for our Irish DNA. From the 1860 census report we learn that Cordelia did washing and sewing to support her family. She never remarried and spent the rest of her life living with her son John in Monroe until his death in 1901. I get the impression that Ellen wasn’t leaving much behind when she married and moved to Washington DC. Although from Cordelia’s probate records from 1906, we learn that she owned a house and that Ellen was her only heir.

Next post we’ll learn a bit more about Ellen and Levi’s life in DC, including his jobs, their children and their social activities.

Leave a comment

Family History Road Trip

peggyandme.3.21.19I saw my cousin Peggy Kingsbury Rice last week on my annual visit to Charlottesville, VA for the Virginia Festival of the Book – a five day book festival with an amazing variety of authors and topics. It was our second visit in two years. Peggy’s father Deane is my father’s younger brother. Even though we didn’t grow up together and have almost a ten year age difference, when we get together the conversation flows easily and the family connections shine through.

Peggy and I have been talking about taking a family history road trip to Washington DC and have settled on the perfect time to do it. Peggy’s parents, Deane and Nancy will be visiting her the first week of June. They fly in and out of Washington DC so we’re planning a day trip around DC that will highlight places that are significant to our family history.

My father, Bryant Kingsbury (1932-2007) was four years older than his brother Preston Deane Bryant. Their parents were Joseph Bush Kingsbury (1890-1983) and Katherine Gertrude Bryant (1902-1959). Joe and Kitty met in Washington DC at a party in December 1926. From his letters to her in the year preceeding their marriage on 4 January 1928, it’s obvious he was smitten.

Although Joe Kingsbury often travelled for work and took an assignment out of the country near the end of World War II, Kitty and the boys stayed put in Washington DC until the family moved to Bloomington Indiana in 1948, when Joe joined the faculty of Indiana University. Kitty had grown up in Washington DC and there were strong connections to DC on both sides of her family.

Those are the people and places I’ll be blogging about over the next ten weeks in preparation for our visit in early June. When I refer to “our great great grandfather” I am including in the term “our” my two cousins Peggy Kingsbury Rice and Stacy Kingsbury Christiansen and me, so I’ll be citing the relationship to ancestors counting from “our” generation. Kitty is our grandmother, Papa Joe (aka Joseph Bush Kingsbury) is our grandfather. Kitty’s mother and father (Elizabeth Monica Preston and Herbert Sydney Bryant) are “our” great grandparents; their parents are our great great grandparents (sometimes listed as 2G grandparents) and so on.

We know a lot about our Kingsbury-Bush ancestry because of the “Blue Book” created by our great uncle Forrest Alva Kingsbury in 1958. In it, he captures the American ancestry of the Kingsbury and Bush families beginning with Joseph Kingsbury who came from England in 1637 and settled in Dedham, Massachusetts.

Forrest Kingsbury (1883-1972) was the oldest son of Wayland Kingsbury and Flora Jane Bush. He grew up in Osage, Iowa with three younger full brothers, Frank, Joe and Dean and one younger half brother, Clark. Flora Jane Bush Kingsbury died in 1900 and Wayland remarried Annie May Walker in 1902. All of the boys shared great love and affection for their new mother.

Forrest was a professor of psychology and taught for a number of years at the University of Chicago before moving to Redlands California where he taught at the University of Redlands from 1948 to 1952. Redlands is in San Bernadino County, east of Los Angeles. Forrest and his wife, Cornelia Hasselman (1887-1980) never had children but what a wonderful legacy he left for his nieces and nephews and their descendants.

We learned very little about our grandmother Katherine Gertrude Bryant growing up. Kitty died in 1959, when I was only four years old. Peggy and Stacy were not born until the 1960s. Contributing to the lack of information about her is that Kitty struggled for most of her adult life with alcohol addiction. This undoubtedly meant that many of the stories her sons might have remembered about her were too painful to share. I know this because I have a collection of my grandfather’s contemporaneous writings that provide a very detailed and sad account of how their lives were affected by her drinking.

So without dwelling on her illness and the effect it had on her family, I’ll start with what I know about Kitty’s side of the family, beginning with her paternal grandfather Levi Jesse Bryant (1839-1920). Fortunately there is a family genealogy, much like the one Forrest created for the Kingsbury Bush family about the Bryant family. It was published in 1938 and is entitled Charles Smith and Rachel Amy Bryant: Their Ancestors and Descendants. The author, Tenney Smith, was writing about the ancestors and descendants of his parents and by extension, at least on his mother’s side of the family, our Bryant ancestors as well. His mother Rachel Amy Bryant was the older sister of our great great grandfather Levi Jesse Bryant.

It can be dangerous to rely on previously published family histories without evaluating the data, but it offers a shortcut that I’m willing to take in this instance, to know a little more about our Bryant family. Several of our early Bryant ancestors were in Massachusetts as early as the Kingsbury family but living in Plymouth and Duxbury, which are south and a little east of Dedham.

Our first Bryant ancestor to arrive in America was Stephen Bryant who came to Plymouth, Massachusetts from Essex, England as a young man. The exact date of his arrival is uncertain but from the references to him in the records of Plymouth it seems he arrived sometime around 1632. He was on a list of Plymouth men able to bear arms in 1643, married Abigail Shaw in 1646 and became a freeman in 1651.

Fast forward a 150 years and we find Prince Bryant and his wife Rebecca Everett living in Springfield, Massachusetts. Rebecca came to Massachusetts from Northern Ireland with her parents when she was 13 years old. She is the source for some of our Irish DNA although we get another dose from the Preston side of Kitty’s family. Rebecca and Prince Bryant married in Springfield in 1798 and left for Monroe County, Illinois in 1800. Their second son, Jesse Bryant, our 3G grandfather, was born there on 8 Mar 1802.

Jesse Bryant married Betsey Williams on 18 Jun 1826 in Monroe County, Illinois. Betsey was the daughter of Zopher Williams and Ama Ludington who came to Illinois in 1815 from Tioga County, New York. Jesse bought land from his father’s estate and built a stone house near Waterloo, Illinois, where most of his children, including our great great grandfather Levi Jesse Bryant were born. The house was still occupied in 1935 when Tenney Smith researched his family genealogy.

In 1844, Jesse and Betsey loaded their eight children into covered wagons and moved to southern Missouri. There they encountered “malarial fever and insects beyond endurance” (p.46) and one of their younger daughters, Electa Elizabeth, died at the age of three in October 1845. The family loaded the wagons again, traversed the state of Illinois from south to north, and stopped briefly in Argyle, Wisconsin, where Betsey’s family was living at the time. They journeyed west to Jackson County, Iowa where they lived for a couple of years before returning to Moscow, Wisconsin, where their last child, a boy named David Zopher Bryant, was born in December 1847. Moscow is about 15 miles north of Argyle, Wisconsin, which means that Jesse’s and Betsey’s children grew up in close proximity to their maternal grandparents.

Jesse Bryant died on 21 Sep 1853. From this point on, the family stayed put (at least for a time) in Wisconsin. That’s how Levi Jesse Bryant, who was 14 when his father died, came to enlist in the Wisconsin 3rd Infantry at the outbreak of the Civil War, which is where we’ll pick up the story in my next post. His older brother John Prince Bryant also fought for Wisconsin (Company B of the 18th Infantry) during the civil war. He died in Corinth, Mississippi on 3 October 1862.

One of the reasons I enjoy genealogy is because I like to imagine what our ancestors were like. It is very difficult to find enough information in most sources to form a good picture of their personalities but Tenney Smith does a great job describing his grandmother Betsey Williams Bryant, who was born in Candor, New York in 1807 and left for Illinois, “an almost untracked wilderness,” (p.53) when she was just eight years old. She is our 3G grandmother. Of her, he writes:

“She was a worthy daughter of an honored mother. She is remembered as an old lady with full, round, pink cheeks and a halo of white hair. Her placid face beamed with loving kindness. It was a face that attracted children at sight. They liked to be with her. That face did not come from having led a sheltered carefree life. It came from having lived a life of unselfish devotion in the service of others and the care of children.” (p. 53)

Betsey’s final days were spent as a pioneer. She joined her youngest son, David Zopher Bryant when he travelled west to Clay County, Nebraska, where they each took up a homestead. “They had a house on the line between their homesteads and lived together in one house. There the end came to the long and eventful life that had been hers. She was found sitting in her rocking chair , with her knitting in her lap. Just fallen to sleep, without pain or suffering.” (p.54)

Leave a comment

August 5, 1914 – England Declares War on Germany

England actually declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914 but my grandfather didn’t learn of it until he saw the newspapers the next day. I’m always amazed when I realize that it was almost three years before the US joined her Allies – Britain, France and Russia – and sent troops to Europe under General Pershing. Here’s a link if you’re interested in learning more about why England declared war on Germany.

Went out before breakfast and read in an extra paper that England has declared war against Germany. That makes things much more serious for us. We must not say anymore that we speak English, must say only “Amerikaner”. People are tearing off signs “On parlais francais” and “English spoken here” which some stores advertise on their windows, and even chiseling them out of the walls. I went in to a book store to look for a book in English, some fellow went out and told a policeman and he walked in to catch the Englishman. I had to get all my papers out again, but the proprietor of the store and his son, who spoke English well, stood up for me and wouldn’t let the officer take me. They told me to stay inside until the crowd went away, and the old man wrote a card in German saying: “This gentleman, who has already been arrested by the police, is an American, and has applied for his passport at the American Consulate” so I could show that if I were arrested again before I got my passport. They were awfully good to me in that store, and I am going to write to them after the war is over. The young fellow even offered to go with me to the Consulate, but I got there alright by myself and even got my passport.

Met Basset just outside coming for his – we had decided to travel alone that day to escape attention. We went down to the Grand Hotel and introduced ourselves to Chris Heurich and his wife. They were as glad to see us as though we had been old friends and old Mr. Heurich, thinking we were worried or scared, tried his best to inspire us with confidence, and did. He offered to help us with money or anything else, and made us promise to come round once a day at least. I never met nicer people than Mr. & Mrs. Heurich and Mrs. Heruich’s sister, Miss Keyser, also from Washington. They have lots of money but are just plain, good people, the most respected of all the 128 Americans in the Grand Hotel. Mr. Heurich is about 60 and looks German and talks rather brokenly.

It is really funny how our hopes go from top to bottom several times a day. Sometimes we imagine we will be out of it in a week or so, perhaps there will be a special train for Americans to Scandinavia and the US will send ships to take us home. Next moment we can see no hope at all. Someone reports that the banks have stopped paying and we rush there to cash a check or two or three and find it is the same as ever. It is a world war, and we must take our chances just like everyone else. We shall try to learn German, keep as well and healthy and make the best use possible of the time.

Leave a comment

August 4, 1914 – Arrested Again

This is a transcription of my grandfather’s account of his time in Germany at the outbreak of WWI. At this point, he has been in Germany for one week and has visited Berlin, Dresden and Nuremberg. His plans for travelling throughout Europe for three weeks were interrupted by the war and he and two travel companions (fellow students at George Washington University) are stranded in Nuremberg Germany because the trains were dedicated to the war effort and moving troops to the front.

What would you do if you were a college student in Europe for the summer and this happened to you? My first thought would be to return to America but that was not an option because the shipping lines were no longer running between the United States and Germany, even if he could have returned to a port city.

Interesting aside – my grandfather and his friends were probably on the last passenger trip of SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. When the war began it was converted to an auxiliary cruiser and sank off the coast of Africa in the Battle of Rio de Oro on August 26, 1914.

We made our daily trip to the consulate. There was no war news of any interest, but the consulate was full of Americans, and we stopped to talk to some of them. Most of them are at the Grand Hotel, among them Alexander H. Revell of Chicago, Chris Heurich the Washington brewer, Mr. Huntington, related to the late Southern Pacific president, and president of the National Geographic Society. They all expect to stay awhile, and all were filling out applications for passports, which the consul has been authorized to issue. We sat in a park to talk things over and decided there was nothing to do but wait. The uncertainty of things is the worst experience – whatever we do is guess work; we don’t know whether to cash all the cheques we can before the banks stop paying (which we expect) or get just enough for present needs, so not to have a lot of worthless paper to change if we should leave Germany suddenly. We decided to get it only as we needed it and that proved to be the right thing to do.

Looks like the boys were stranded in good company. Later in the story, you will learn that meeting these other Americans was a fortuitous event. Christian Heurich was a German immigrant who started the Heurich Brewing company in Washington DC. It was originally located near Dupont Circle but later expanded to a larger facility in Foggy Bottom, which is now the site of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Christian Heurich’s mansion located on New Hampshire Avenue near Dupont Circle in DC has been converted to a museum and is open for tours – Thursday through Saturday. (Reservations are recommended). It is also used for beer tastings and other special events. I definitely want to plan my next trip to DC around an event there.  Here’s a link.

In the afternoon we started out to look for a bath. The place we had seen advertised had closed down their pool, so we went around to the YMCA (Christliches Verein Junge Manner). They had no swimming pool, but the porter who spoke fine English, having lived in England a year, took us all over the building and told us a great deal about it. The building is a beauty, 5 years old, cost two million marks. The membership is only 50 pfennigs (12 cents) a month and it is for young men who need it, if they can’t afford the membership fee someone pays it for them.

The rooms in the YMCA were very nice and almost as cheap as where we were, but we didn’t think it would be of enough advantage to move. We talked with one of the secretaries who expected to go next day to fight the Russians, and many of the other secretaries had already gone. The assembly hall was quite a large room with a gallery and pipe organ, but instead of chairs or seats they had tables so people could eat and drink while they were at meeting.

We had a dandy shower bath with soap, towel and individual dressing room at one of the city baths right in the wall, for 10pf ( 2 ½ cents). They have several of these baths around town, another thing America could very well adopt. I think we would use them more than the average German does too. Bruce L’s friend Kramer says you can tell the day of the week in a crowd of Germans by the smell. This was the first real bath we had had since landing, and we felt like new. Started to walk around the wall, eating apples, came to a place where the farmers were bringing their horses to turn them over to the army. We stopped a second to watch and an officer came right up to us and we were arrested again. He took us in a laundry on the bank of the river to get away from the crowd and asked us the usual questions, then led us to another building, and through several more to shake off the crowd. But they saw us when we came out on the street and followed yelling “spion” It made the officer angry but he couldn’t make them back down. He told them we were Americans and not English, but they wouldn’t believe it. We crossed a little foot bridge across the river and a man at the other end blocked the way after us so the kids couldn’t follow, but another crowd collected on the other side. He took us to a different station this time and we had a harder time proving our identity. Finally we showed him on a little map where we had been taken before and he called them up. As soon as he had described us they told him we were alright and he begged our pardon, and let us go, but we couldn’t enjoy the sights much that afternoon, try as we would. We were not the only ones to go through such experiences; we heard of lots of Americans who were arrested almost every day, and they complained to the Consul, so he got the burgemeister to issue an order to arrest strangers only on the strongest suspicions, and made it a misdemeanor for anyone to follow an officer with a prisoner. After that we weren’t annoyed much.

Leave a comment

August 3, 1914 – Second Day in Nuremberg – We decide to “raise” moustaches to seem more German!

Fine warm day. Chocolate, rolls, butter and honey in our hotel. (This much I might ditto fifteen times, until August 17th). We walked around town and finally found the American consulate. Mr. Winans, the consul, arrived only three weeks ago from Seville, Spain, so is new to the job. Very friendly and reassuring. He told us that Nuremberg is the safest and cheapest place in Germany to be, as the Bavarian Government has guaranteed the food supply for a month. In Switzerland prices are going up, and the Swiss are anxious to get rid of the tourists. He advised us to stay here and not to worry for the present, which we will do.

Nuremberg is the oldest city in Germany. It still looks like a medieval town. An old wall, built about 1350, with a ditch fifty feet wide and fifty deep still circles the old part of the city, cut through by several gates or “thors.” Almost all the houses are quaint, with high steep roofs and oriel windows. The streets are narrower and more crooked than Boston, and every turn brings you upon more picturesque sights. We did not enjoy it much today, though, — there was too much else on our minds. Once as we stood waiting for a car to go to the Tiergarten (Zoo) an officer came up and marched us to police headquarters. The Chief immediately recognized Jim, begged our pardon, and after talking with us a little and giving us some good advice, some of which we got, let us go. We didn’t attract much attention this time but it is uncomfortable to feel that you are watched all the time. The officer that arrested us was nice, every time we met him after that he smiled and acted a little embarrassed. We decided to raise moustaches so we will look more like the Germans. The Kaiser says a man isn’t a man if he can’t raise a moustache. We are going to prove that we are.

After the second arrest Jim decided he would stay in the room, so he did, while Basset and I went out to the Tiergarten and had a nice restful afternoon, watched the animals and heard a good concert. That was the last concert, as the musicians were all going to war. Nuremberg has a fine zoo, and the keepers are all regular animal trainers. They play with their animals so it is like going to a circus. Once when we went out there the polar bear keeper saw that we had a camera so he climbed to the top of the rocks behind the bear’s pool, held up a piece of bread, and the bears climbed out of the water, up the rocks, and sat up and begged for the bread, while we took their picture. The seal keeper made his seals climb up the rocks and dive off for us, and the lion keeper brought out a little lion cub and let one of us hold it while we took a picture. In the evening we went to see a moving picture show (there are only about 4 in Nuremberg, — can you see how a city of 300,000 can be so backward?) and got our minds off the war for a while. Between films they threw on the screen pictures of Emperor Franz Josef, the German generals, and finally, — the Kaiser – there wasn’t a sound. I guess they think it is a sin to applaud in a movie show. Afterward we went down to one of the bridges across the Pegnitz. It was a beautiful but strange sight. You could easily imagine that it was 500 years ago instead of the present, to see the moon shining on those queer old houses, hanging out over the river, the odd shaped roofs, towers, steeples standing out against the night sky.



Source: Transferred from de.wikipedia to Commons
Author: The original uploader was Keichwa at German Wikipedia