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Connecting Generations


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Lillian Stillion – Lorion Stillion and Aunt Ella Kingsbury Whitmore

Continuing from my post on Friday January 27, 2017, the search to find out about Aunt Ella and her adopted daughter Lillian Whitmore, soon yielded a bountiful harvest of news from the West Union Argo Gazette and the Fayette County Union.

Once I had Lillian Whitmore’s married name – STILLION – it didn’t take long to learn a bit more about her and to learn that she and her husband, Reverend Jasper Clyde Stillion, had one son, Lorion Stillion, born in 1915. This announcement appeared in the West Union Argo Gazette on August 18, 1915.lorionstillion-birth-wuag-18aug1915

I am always happy when someone I’m searching has an unusual name. When that happens a Google search often yields great results and I was not disappointed. This 1987 article from the L.A. Times suggests that  Lorion inherited some of his mother’s musical talent. It also suggests that Lorion and his wife Ardell did not have any children. Further searching indicates that sad conclusion is correct.

Filling in what I wanted to know about Aunt Ella’s life, I found this In Memoriam article in the June 10, 1948 issue of the Fayette County Union, written by her nephew Frank Kingsbury of Osage.

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Such a lovely tribute to a woman who was too modest to write of her own accomplishments in the family history she wrote in 1941 – Salt of the Earth.

The most surprising news of this article is that her daughter Lillian Stillion preceded her in death, by a couple of months. I haven’t searched for Lillian Stillion’s obituary so I’ll have to work on that in my next research session.

There were 59 “hits” in my search for First Name: Lillian; Last Name:Whitmore. From these articles I’ve gotten to know Aunt Ella’s adopted daughter. Let me share her story.

Lillian was an accomplished violinist at an early age. Her name even appeared in 1977 obituary for someone who mentioned her as his first violin teacher.

She grew up in West Union, Iowa  but attended Cedar Valley Seminary for one year,  graduating on June 8, 1910. She returned to West Union, with her grandmother Mrs. J.B. Kingsbury on June 14, 1910 (Hannah was visiting her daughters Mary in Fayette and Ella in West Union). On June 29, 1910, Lillian took a position as a stenographer at the State Bank of West Union. She worked there until September 1911 when she left to attend a ladies seminary in Mt. Carroll, Illinois. Probably this one.

When Lillian’s parents moved to California in 1912, she went with them. She graduated from Redlands College in Redlands California in June 1913. Many years later, her cousin Forrest Kingsbury, retired to Redlands College after his long career in the Psychology Department of University of Chicago. Another interesting coincidence!

Lillian Whitmore married Jasper Clyde Stillion sometime after June 1913 and before August  1915. Interestingly, the census for 1910 shows that Jasper Clyde Stillion was a science teacher at Cedar Valley Seminary so that must have been where their paths first crossed. He was a lodger in the home of  Mrs. Polly Holliday.

Jasper and Lillian spent most of their married life in California. Including some time at Biola (Bible Institute of Los Angeles) which was located at Hope and 6th Streets in downtown Los Angeles. Coincidentally, 65 years later, I worked at Arco Tower, within a block of the Bible Institute. The original Bible Institute building was demolished in 1988 after damage it sustained in a 1987 earthquake made it too costly to renovate. But the iconic “Jesus Saves” sign in 7-foot tall neon red letters that once graced the rooftop of its dormitory, remains atop the trendy Ace Hotel in downtown LA today.

Here’s a 2010 blog post about the history of the “Jesus Saves” sign.

I am  fascinating by what I call “overlapping ancestor tracks.” What are the odds that a girl who grew up in Richmond, Virginia would end up in Los Angeles 30 years later, living within a few miles of where her unknown cousin – Lorion Stillion – was living at the time. Or that a few years later, she would be house hunting in the same neighborhood where her great great aunt lived 50 years earlier? That’s crazy!

This is a 2015 picture of the house at 311 Wild Rose Avenue, Monrovia California. This was Aunt Ella’s address in the 1920, 1930 and 1940 census reports. I noticed in previous research that Aunt Ella took in boarders but I didn’t appreciate the significance of the ones listed in the 1940 census until yesterday – Jasper Stillion and his wife Lillian!

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Aunt Ella’s house sold for $1,027,500 in 2015, so I doubt I’ll be moving in anytime soon but oh how I’d love to at least walk through it!

 

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Cedar Valley Seminary – Osage Iowa

When I visited Osage in October 2016, I spent about four hours in the Mitchell County Historical Society’s library.  I remember hearing that my great great grandfather Alva Bush, started Cedar Valley Seminary in Osage, Iowa. I also knew that my cousin Stacy had visited the Mitchell County Historical Museum many years ago when it was housed in the seminary building. I always thought it was interesting to have an ancestor who started a school, but I didn’t really understand the significance of it until I visited Osage.

First point of clarification – CVS was not a seminary as we now think of that term (a school for training religious leaders) but more like a junior college. It was started by the Cedar Valley Baptist Association at the request of the citizens of Osage, many of whom, were from New England. They wanted their children to have a good education and opportunities were limited, or perhaps nonexistent, in that part of the state. Alva Bush served as the school’s first principal when classes began in January 1863.  Cedar Valley Seminary was one of the first schools of its kind.  For some general information check https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedar_Valley_Seminary.

When Alva Bush moved his family to Osage in 1862 they lived in family quarters of the county jail. Classes met in the Mitchell County Courthouse for a few years until it was finally decided that Osage would be the county seat (instead of Mitchell). A new building was constructed for CVS and classes began meeting there in 1870. That building is still standing today thanks to the efforts of people who love history and fought hard to save it. Here’s a link to the Cedar Valley Seminary Foundation.

Here’s an account by Clara Bush Call of the Seminary’s early days that I found in the Library’s extensive collection of CVS memorabilia.

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Clara Bush Call – Personal Recollection of CVS Early Days – Reprinted in a 30th Anniversary Yearbook

One of my favorite finds was a file with letters from former CVS students on the occasion of the school’s 100th anniversary in 1963. In it was a letter from Forrest Alva Kingsbury that is copied below. There were also letters from JBK and his brother Dean as well as Frank Moore, Josephine Kingsbury’s father-in-law, who also attended CVS, as did his wife.

Here is Forrest’s letter describing his father’s experience at CVS in 1878.

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And here is the transcription of Wayland’s first card and letter home to his folks in West Union.

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It isn’t clear to me whether or not Wayland B. Kingsbury completed his studies at CVS. I never found his name in the list of graduating students, but I may have missed it. His wife Flora Bush was listed although at the moment, I don’t remember what year she graduated.

I do know that Wayland opened a hardware store in Osage, with his father and that two of Wayland’s sons, Frank and Dean, worked in the store with him from the early to mid- 1900s. Frank was the last Kingsbury to own and operate the family hardware store in Osage. But the building is still there and getting a face lift. I checked the address from a city directory. It is on Main Street not too far from the new location of the Cedar Valley Seminary building (which is around the corner on a side street.)

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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.”


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The Kingsbury Boys of Osage, Iowa

Kingsbury Boys

Back Row: Joseph Bush, Frank Wayland, Orrin Dean; Front Row: Forrest Alva & Clark Walker

Thanks to Chris Pahud for this great picture of the Kingsbury boys of Osage Iowa. He estimates the picture was from 1904 or 1905 and I would agree. Clark, the youngest, was born in November 1903 and to me he looks somewhere between 18 to 24 months in this picture, which would date the picture to 1905. I am struck by the differences in their features and also how much Orrin Dean reminds me of my uncle, Preston Deane. I think Frank has more of the Bush family features.


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The January 1928 Wedding of Kitty and Joe

EUREKA!!! I’ve found it!!!!

I tried to insert a link but it didn’t work. If it had, you would have been able to see the article from the January 8, 1928 Washington Post describing Kitty and Joe’s wedding. I will scan my .pdf and try to post it tomorrow.

The reason this is such an interesting article is that Kitty’s matron of honor was Mrs. George Sheriff – which happens to be Helen Sheriff’s maiden name. I think I remember that Helen’s father died when she was young so I’m wondering if George Sheriff may have been Helen’s brother?

My second cousin Chris Pahud has mentioned that his grandfather – Orrin Dean Kingsbury married Helen Sheriff who had dated my grandfather Joe at some point before Dean got to DC. So I’m wondering if Mr. and Mrs. George Sheriff were in Kitty and Joe’s wedding because they were friends of Joe or Kitty.  It seems a strange coincidence. I’m also curious why Dean was not in the wedding given how close he and Joe were to each other.  Joe’s best man was his youngest brother – Clark Kingsbury.

Anyway – I’m still looking for Kitty’s picture but I am so glad that I finally found the announcement. It turns out that I’ve found most of my historical information about the Bryant and Preston families in the Washington Evening Star, which is described as Washington’s “local paper” but this announcement was in the Washington Post.

January 8th was the Sunday following Joe and Kitty’s Wednesday evening ceremony.


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Hannah Brown Kingsbury – A Lifter, never a Leaner – Week #5 – 52 Ancestor Challenge

With Winter Storm Juno bearing down on New England, it seems like a good time to write about my great great grandmother Hannah Brown who was born in Vermont in 1830. (Even though it is a week early for Challenge #5) No doubt she had her fair share of plowing through snow during her childhood in Vermont and perhaps plowing of a different sort when she and her husband Joseph Kingsbury began their life as pioneers in the Midwest; first in Illinois in 1852 and five years later in Fayette County, Iowa where they secured a quarter section of land, built a log cabin and began farming.

Hannah was the youngest of three girls born to Orrin Brown and Mary Read Cheney. Her father died when she was only 3 years old and her mother remarried a few years later. Mary and her second husband had four sons (Clark, John, William and Nathaniel) and one daughter Lucy Ann. The 1850 census for Jamaica, Vermont shows 19 year –old Hannah Brown living with her mother, step-father and half siblings.

Hannah met her husband Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury while he was building a barn for her stepfather. Hannah and Joseph married on October 4, 1852 and they moved west that same year. Their first child, Mary Lucinda, was born in Cherry Valley Illinois in1853. In 1857 they moved to Iowa and began life on the prairie where their next three children were born, Fannie Ella (1857), Wayland Briggs (1859) and Emma Brown (1861).

SaltoftheEarth.1.27.15I have a book written by Hannah’s daughter Ella Kingsbury Whitmore entitled Salt of the Earth. She published the book in 1944 in Monrovia California and dedicates it to the descendants of Joseph B. and Hannah Brown Kingsbury. She wrote the book at the request of her daughter to capture some of her memories of life in the Midwest. It describes her childhood growing up in Iowa and provides a detailed account of daily routines – everything from making soap and candles, making and washing clothes, and the importance of music and religion to her family.

On page 12 Ella writes of her parents when they were young:

“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.”

Their wedding was a simple ceremony at the minister’s home with Hannah’s older sister Mary and her husband as witnesses.  The young couple left for Cherry Valley, Illinois where they had relatives, as soon as they married.They carried all of their worldly possessions, “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. They had youth and health, and habits of frugality and industry, and a good share of the rare quality, common sense.

After a few years in Illinois, the family visited Vermont with their first child, Mary Lucinda.

“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 young people today.”

From the story of Joseph’s tall silk wedding hat dropping to his shoulders when he put it on, and the reference to Hannah and her daughter’s “broad foreheads,” I think it’s a safe bet that my “bulgy Kingsbury brow” as my husband lovingly calls it, might actually have come from the Browns and not the Kingsbury side of the family.

In 1881, Joseph and Hannah sold the farm and moved into the town of Oelwein, which was a new railroad town. They eventually moved to Osage and Joseph worked with his son Wayland in the family hardware store. The hardware store in Osage stayed in the Kingsbury family until the mid-1950s, with Wayland’s second son Frank as the final owner.

Hannah and Joseph stayed with Wayland and his four sons after the death of Wayland’s first wife, Flora Jane Bush in 1900. Ella writes:

“Father and mother willingly gave up their quiet home and went to that of the desolated family. They were glad that they were wanted, and could still be useful. When the children were told that grandpa and grandma were coming to stay with them, and they would all be careful and try not to tire them, Joseph said gently, ‘We will be quiet, we are used to walking on tiptoe.’ And what little Joe said, was sure to be acceptable to his small brother Dean.”

Ella recalls her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary as a grand celebration held at the home of Mrs. N.J. Berger. Grandchildren played violin and piano and recited verses. Their children and friends shared stories of Joseph and Hannah’s life together. There was a picture taken in the yard with 34 people in it (sadly, not reproduced in the book) and the next day 24 family members went to the photography studio for a more formal picture (also, not reproduced).

Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury died in September 1909, a month before their 57th anniversary and Hannah later moved to the home of her son Wayland and his second wife, Annie Walker Kingsbury. On August 24, 1914, Hannah wrote to her daughter Ella, then living in California:

“I am settled with Wayland and Annie again, with no prospect of unsettling, and I am satisfied. Shall try to be cheerful and agreeable and useful, as far as I am able.” After describing her day at church she continues: “Dean received a letter from a girlfriend in Washington, with a clipping containing a whole lot of names of Americans that were stranded in Europe, and Joe’s was among them, as also the two friends that were with him. They were in Nuremberg. We have to keep satisfied with ‘watchful waiting’ for awhile, probably. Oh, the cruelty and meanness of such a war.”

Hannah died when she was 84 and her daughter Ella describes her as brave and helpful to the end. In one of my favorite lines in the book she writes of her mother:

“No self-pity, no whining, no grumbling, do I recall. Trustful and true to the last. To her it was humiliating to be a leaner. A lifter was her habitual character.”

Good advice – the world could use more lifters!


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50th Wedding Anniversary Poem for Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury and Hannah Brown Kingsbury – October 1902

This poem is from the book Salt of the Earth by Ella Kingsbury Whitmore on the occasion of her parents’ 50th Wedding anniversary. It was written by one of their granddaughters.

Just fifty years ago today,
‘Mongst Vermont hills so far away,
In a little quiet eastern town,
Occurred the things I’ve written down.

Perhaps you’ve heard the tale before –
Perhaps you’ve heard it o’er and o’er;
But it ne’er before was writ in verse
So listen, please, it might be worse.

October four, in fifty-two,
The sky was not a lovely blue,
At early morn the rain came down,
On the wedding day of Hannah Brown.

The stalwart youth who won her heart,
And Hannah, lived some miles apart,
But he was young, and strong, and full of life
And went through the rain to take his wife.

Up the big long hills he drove along –
His heart was full of joyful song,
For today he and the young school teacher
Had planned to go and see the preacher.

So what cared he for mud or rain?
He soon would see her face again
And side by side, through life, from now,
He’d always have a smiling “frau.”

And she was young, and fair, and sweet,
As any girl you’d chance to meet,
If you would travel far and wide,
Up many a mountain’s rugged side.

From her country home to Londonderry,
Where lived the young man Joe Kingsbury,
Over the mountains she had come,
To teach the youngsters near his home.

As long as the old world turns around,
Just such cases will be found.
He learned to love, and wooed and won,
The shy and pretty Hannah Brown.

So now he planned to take his wife,
And go out west, begin a life,
In far away big Illinois,
Of which he dreamed, since but a boy.
The wedding gown was fine and new,
It was light gray-it was not blue
There’s a joke about the bridegroom’s hat-
Maybe he will tell you that.

No wedding grand was in their plans-
A quiet marriage, by a man
They both knew well was kind and good,
Jamaica’s preacher, Elder Wood.

As eve drew on, the sky did lighten,
And stars came out, their way to brighten,
As on they went, these loving two,
With sister and her husband true.

The knot was tied, and good and strong-
Has not come loose through all the long
And busy years passed through since then,
Through years now counting five times ten.

Some days perchance were dark and dreary,
And oftentimes they both were weary;
But through hard times they came at length,
Each strengthened by the other’s strength.

And now around them in their home,
Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren come;
Each one’s heart is full of love,
Each one trusting God above

Will send his blessings, rich in store,
For long years prolonged many more.
So here are congratulations hearty!
At this anniversary party.

Three cheers for Grandpa and Grandma Kingsbury,
For Jamaica Town, and Londonderry!