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Why I Read Old Newspapers – REALLY Old Newspapers!

One of my favorite ways to relieve stress is to immerse myself in newspaper searches for my ancestors. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately because work is especially stressful right now with no end in sight. I stopped reading the daily paper years ago and I certainly have no intention of resuming that habit any time soon. In today’s news climate?!? Talk about stress!

Today I learned of a great resource for  online newspapers thanks to my daily dose of genealogical wisdom from Genea-musings, which shared a link to The Ancestor Hunt. I learn a lot from other genealogists who so willingly share resources and information. Thank-you!

So wine glass in hand (the other way I relieve stress) I settled in for my favorite Friday night activity – scanning historic newspapers – but this time armed with a valuable new resource. The link on The Ancestor Hunt identifies online newspapers in each state and provides links to local libraries, some of which have free searchable databases. So in no time at all I was perusing the late 1800s, early 1900s papers from the counties in Iowa where my Kingsbury ancestors lived.

I found interesting facts about the Kingsbury family of Osage involving tax assessments, real estate transfers and Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury being chosen as a petit juror in 1888 and a grand juror in 1889. Nothing too earthshattering but I like to add bits and pieces of the family puzzle that way.

And I always enjoy the advertisements and interesting quotes and quips that make it just plain fun to read old newspapers. Like this one from the 1936 St. Ansgar Enterprise.

st-ansgar-funnyad-1936

My grandfather’s father, Wayland Briggs Kingsbury, was the only son born to Joseph and Hannah Kingsbury. His three sisters, all born in the mid 1800s on the newly pioneered plains of Iowa, were Mary, Ella and Emma. Much of what I know about those members of the Kingsbury family is because of a self-published family history written my Ella at the request of her daughter Lillian.

When people in the Kingsbury family talk about the family “blue book” they usually mean the genealogy compiled and published by my great uncle Forrest A. Kingsbury in 1958.

But this is my favorite “blue book” of Kingsbury family history

SaltoftheEarth.1.27.15

It’s my favorite because Ella describes her childhood and writes about the day-to-day things that she and her siblings did while growing up on the Iowa frontier in the mid- 1800s. It is such a treasure to know what the family was like; that her father was a good carpenter, that he they enjoyed singing together as a family, that they stopped farming and moved into town where her father started a hardware store in Oelwein and then West Union (or vice versa) before moving to Osage.

But the thing that always bothered me about Aunt Ella’s book was that she never talked about her own family. From what I can tell, she never had any children of her own. She was 36 when she married Frank Y Whitmore, a widower, in December 1893. From the US Census in 1900, I knew that the family included a 10-year old adopted daughter (identified as such) named Lillian, who was born in New York. Both of Lillian’s parents were born in Norway.

A few years ago I spent many futile hours trying to track down information on Lillian Whitmore. She was born in 1890, the same year as my grandfather, but I’ve never seen her name in any of his writings. I was reading The Orphan Train at the time so I wondered if that could be how Lillian came to live with Ella and Frank. But mostly I wondered if I could track down any of Lillian’s descendants so I could learn more about Aunt Ella. Maybe they have extra copies of Salt of the Earth. Maybe they have more family pictures. Maybe they have stories to share. Maybe they will read this and contact me.

Ella Kingsbury Whitmore also fascinates me because she lived in Monrovia, California. (But why did she move from Iowa to Monrovia?) Monrovia is in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, east of LA, but not too far from Alhambra and San Marino where Rick and I lived from 1985 to 1997. We looked at houses in Monrovia. Maybe I drove past the house Aunt Ella lived in and didn’t even know it. Maybe we almost made an offer on a house that was on her street! I definitely recognize the name of the street she lived on in 1940 – Wildrose Avenue.

So nearing the end of my search for the night I decided to browse the West Union Iowa papers for mid-November 1918.  A search for “Frank Whitmore” had turned up a few interesting articles, but a search for Lillian Whitmore came up blank. But just because you don’t get a hit doesn’t mean there’s not something there – you just have to decide how much time you’re willing to spend searching.

I knew from records on Ancestry.com that Frank Whitmore died in Monrovia, CA on November 10, 1918. Maybe if I got lucky I could find his obituary and learn more about his family. And sure enough on the front page of the West Union Argo Gazette from November 13, 1918 I found this:

 

frankwhitmore-obit-1918

The article also provided much needed detail about the timing of Frank Whitmore’s marriages, his career and his family. It confirmed that he was survived by his three children, his wife and an adopted daughter. But better than all that – the article provided Lillian Whitmore’s married name – Mrs. J.C. Stillion.

mrs-jcstillion-1918

My search didn’t end there, but this post will. Check back tomorrow for the rest of the story!

 

 

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Osage Treasures

Do you ever have one of those weeks when it seems like a month’s worth of things happened? That is how the past week was for me. I spent most of the week at the national meeting of land trusts in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but managed to squeeze in a quick trip to Osage, Iowa before it all began. I left Greensboro at 5:30 am on October 26th and by 10 am Central time, I was on my way to Osage – just over a two hour drive south of Minneapolis.

Other than taking about 20 minutes to get headed in the right direction once I left the Minneapolis Airport (freeways named Interstate 34W South confuse me – especially when I want to go South East!) it was smooth sailing for my 100 mile drive to Osage. Lots of farmland, which I love to see, but very different than North Carolina fields.  It was a gray, dreary day and the fields were bare. At one point as I drove along, I wondered why certain farmers had burned their fields. The landscape ahead looked just like the remnants of a field that had been managed by prescribed burning – a technique used to restore prairies and support new growth of fire dependent species. Upon closer examination, I realized that the black I mistook for char and ash was the color of the soil in Minnesota and Iowa – a far cry from North Carolina’s red clay!

On my drive down I called the Osage Cemetery because I wanted to make sure I had a map if I needed one to find the Kingsbury family grave site. The number for Osage Cemetery turned out to be City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce and the Visitor Information Center all rolled into one and the folks were as nice as could be. “Sure – if you come after 1:00 pm img_5152(we’re closed from noon to one for lunch) we’ll be happy to help you find what you’re looking for.”

My first amazing discovery of the day took place in City Hall when the city manager showed me a picture of Orrin Sage – a man from Massachusetts who is credited with “founding” Osage.  He may not have ever set foot in Osage, or anywhere else in Iowa for that matter, but he sent money and for that got a town named after him. A Brief History of Osage Iowa.   I wonder how many babies born in Osage in the late 1800s were named Orrin? I certainly know of one – the youngest son born to Wayland B. Kingsbury and his first wife, Flora Jane Bush, in 1892 – Orrin Dean Kingsbury. However, it’s also possible (and perhaps more likely) that Orrin Dean Kingsbury was named after his paternal grandmother’s father – Orrin Brown. But what an interesting way to name a town – first initial and last name of the town’s benefactor. There are not a lot of names that would work with!

My other amazing discoveries were made at the Mitchell County Historical Society which is now housed in the Cedar River Complex at 805 Sawyer Drive. The library volunteer – “Char” (short for Charlotte) – was very helpful – directing me to every box, drawer, file cabinet and shelf with anything related to Cedar Valley Seminary – and believe me – there was plenty to see.

Like many small historical societies, much of what is in the collection depends on what the locals have donated. There was a file draw with hanging file folders for families by last name. In the file for Kingsbury – only one document – the a memorial booklet for Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury, printed shortly after his funeral in 1909. It contained a summary of his life that he had written several years earlier, excerpts of the sermon given at his funeral and excerpts from letters sent by friends and family attesting to his sterling character. I took pictures of each page using my phone but I’m not sure you will be able to enlarge them. The cover (not shown) simply said  In Memoriam Joseph B. Kingsbury 1827-1909. img_5171

From the records of Cedar Valley Seminary I know that my grandfather, Joseph Bush Kingsbury was in the class of 1909. It would make sense that he started college that fall and given the time and expense of travel from Washington, DC to Iowa, he probably did not attend his grandfather’s funeral in September 1909. Here’s an excerpt from a letter that his older brother Forrest wrote to my grandfather that was reprinted in the In Memoriam pamphlet.

“He has gone to the reward of a long splendid, useful life, and for his sake, we are all glad, and cannot wish it otherwise. I am so glad Grandma feels as she does, and what a splendid example she is for us. Joe, how grand it must be to have a record to leave, such as Grandpa’s is, and how we wish ours may be so too. No one can ever tell how much we, and the world, owe to him. And I shall believe he will be surprised and gratified to know all that God has been able to do through him. I believe Grandma will seem closer to us now, because she will, in a sense take Grandpa’s place, as well as her own.

And here is an excerpt from the Sermon of Pastor L. T. Foreman, entitled The Triumphant Life from the text of Timothy 4:7-8.

“It was eminently true of Mr. Kingsbury that he had fought a good fight against sin and temptation, against the world, the flesh and the devil, against any and every form of evil. Right grandly in his quiet, sturdy way did he fight the good fight of faith.  He had endured hardship in early days as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

And more that that he was victorious. He lived a triumphant life. Today, an entire community in loving esteem joins in saying, “He fought a good fight.”

“I have kept the faith,” What a pity it is that so many lives are lost in doubt and unbelief. The joy of life has disappeared in the fog of doubt and in the bog of despair. Deacon Kingsbury was always true to his Christian faith and this was his joy and strength. As a neighbor recently said: “He was pure gold.” He loved his Savior, he loved his Bible, he loved his church and the fellowship of the people of God.”

In many of my grandfather’s writings he recalls the profound influence of his early Christian upbringing. His diary entries from his first year of college show that he was actively involved in Sunday School and prayer meetings. I think over time he became less active in church. I remember writing to him with questions about religion and faith, but I’ll save that for another post.  I will say that part of my decision to join a Presbyterian Church was influenced by that being the church denomination that my grandfather belonged to when he began taking an active role in his church in Bloomington, Indiana after he retired from Indiana University. Interesting that like my grandfather, I was baptized in a Baptist Church but later switched to Presbyterian.

I’ll close with the poetic part of the funeral sermon and will write about more of my Osage discoveries this weekend.

“Have you ever watched the glories of the sunset? It is exquisitely beautiful, it is heavenly with its blending of yellow, of purple, of red and gold. Only a divine artist could produce such a sunset, and the fingers of the Divine hands spreads it over the canvas of the western sky at the eventide. But a glorious sunset is a promise of a glorious morrow.

How beautiful is the sunset of this man of God; His career has been radiant with the golden deeds of helpful service. Only divine fingers could sketch out such a life.  . . .

The glories of the setting sun of life are but the promise of a brighter morrow in the everlasting sunshine of the favor of the King, when there will be no more sorrow, nor pain, nor sin, nor death.”