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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)

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Herbert Augustine Preston – Fired Again

Life in the late 1800s as a Washington DC newspaperman was no walk in the park. At least not for my gg grandfather Herbert A. Preston. Here is the text from an article that appeared in Helena Independent (probably picked up from a wire service) in March 1891 about his discharge from the Washington, DC office of the New York Herald.

Herbert A Preston, who was suddenly relieved the other day of control of the New York Herald’s Washington office, is one of the old men on the paper. For fifteen years, although Charles Nordhoff has been the head of the bureau here, Preston has borne the responsibility and ate at the news desk night after night. Why he was dropped no man knows. It is one of those things that happen on the Herald now and then to prove that it has an owner and perhaps to scare the men who are left into greater effort. The queerest thing about it is that the best men are the ones who are visited with sudden dismissal.

Preston made an especially good record during the sickness of President Garfield. The Herald all through the summer of 1881 surpassed all other papers in the fullness and accuracy of its reports of the wounded man’s condition. Most of this success was due to Preston’s acquaintance with a young drug clerk in the store where the president’s doctors sent their prescriptions.

Every night Preston knew what the physicians and surgeons had sent for and as a geologist constructs and restores an extinct species from a single stone, the Herald correspondent from the hieroglyphics of the medical men made up his story of the president’s condition. If ether was ordered he knew cutting was being done. If stimulants were sent for he knew the patient was worse; if no extraordinary drug was needed or none at all, the indications were hopeful. From such a slender thread of fact the Herald’s whole circumstantial story depended and a strong imagination made the daily account the best we had.

Herbert Augustine Preston died in May 1893. His obituary ended with a request that each newspaperman of the city contribute 50 cents so they could purchase a headstone for his grave. Although the obituary reported that his last mortal remains were laid to rest in a private ceremony at Mount Olivet Cemetery, he is actually buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Was he originally buried at Mount Olivet and then moved? Or was the newspaper mistaken?

According to the records of the Arlington National Cemetery, he, his wife, Annie McNabb Preston, who died in November 1930 and his daughter Theodora Preston, who died in October 1966, are buried there.

 

 

 


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“A Plump and Pleasing Person”

Herbert Augustine Preston was my great great grandfather. His third daughter and fifth child was Elizabeth Monica Preston who married Herbert Sydney Bryant in  1900. Their first child, Katherine Gertrude Bryant, was my father’s mother. Kitty was born in Washington DC in 1902.

The Bryant and Preston families were residents of Washington DC since the end of the Civil War. Members of both families held positions as government clerks, lawyers and journalists but the only one to have his caricature appear on the first page of a DC paper was Herbert Augustine Preston. (At least, he’s the only one I’ve found so far.)

hap-charicature-washingtoncritic-5-28-1885This picture appeared in the sixth column (above the fold!) on the front page of The Washington Critic  on May 28, 1885. The text of the article is transcribed below. It provides a timeline of HAP’s career and insights into his character and physical appearance.

The three line title of the article reads:

Our Press Gallery

One of the Most Enterprising of News-Gatherers

The Washington Correspondent of the “New York Herald,” Whose Varied and Industrious Career as a Journalist Covers Fully a Quarter of a Century

Mr. Herbert A. Preston is the regular correspondent of the New York Herald. He is in his forth-fifth year, a native of Charlestown, Mass., and has been connected with journalism for a quarter of a century. In Boston before the war he worked on the Herald and also on the Ledger, the latter a paper started once upon a time in opposition to the former. He served in the army for three years and was offered the position of war correspondent on the Cincinnati Commercial. This he declined and became one of the city staff of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

He came to this city in 1866 and became an attaché of the National Intelligence. In 1869 he went to the National Republican, and in 1870 he accepted a place in the Washington bureau of the New York Herald. In 1875 he took charge of the New York Sun bureau, but returned to the Herald in the fall of 1877 and has been its regular correspondent here ever since.

During the negotiations for the treaty of Washington the Herald was the medium through which a number of important state secrets were made public, to the great annoyance of President Grant who thought someone was conspiring to defeat the chief ambition of his Administration, and openly charged Mr. Preston with aiding the conspiracy. This caused the proprietor of the paper to “fire him out,” as it were.  During the last Irish famine Mr. Preston exerted himself in collecting funds in this city to aid the sufferers, and secured nearly $6,000.

Like most of the older newspaper men, continued indulgence in the luxuries of life have made him a plump and pleasing person. He is fond of conversation and devoted to bon mots, which he handles in a style that greatly resembles that of Senator William M. Evarts. Mr. Preston carries about with him a somewhat sparsely settled beard and moustache of a reddish hue.

He makes no pretensions to phenomenal gifts as a writer, and cares only to be esteemed as having “a nose for the news.” He is certainly so esteemed. Facts, rather than rhetoric, constitute his forte.

Mr. Preston is ably seconded in the discharge of his laborious duties by the intelligent assistance of Mr. Patrick Diggins, who commenced his journalistic career on the Herald with the elder Bennett in 1835, when the paper was started. Mr. Diggins is a permanent fixture attached to the Herald’s real estate.

…   …   …   …

So  if you’re like me and don’t remember learning about the Treaty of Washington, it establish a precedent in international law about the role of “neutral” countries. Under the Treaty (which was signed in 1871 despite my grandfather’s alleged efforts to defeat it) the United States received $15 million from Great Britain for damage and losses caused by Confederate cruisers built in Liverpool during the civil war. These ships, largely the Alabama, caused significant damage to the US Merchant Marine during the Civil War. The US sought compensation from Great Britain for these losses in 1869 and Senator Charles Sumner originally sought $2 billion or the annexation of Canada! The Treaty of Washington settled these and other claims. I’m reading about this now, in issues of the New York Herald from 1871 to see just what my gg grandfather did to get President Grant so riled up.

Is it possible my great great grandfather tried to defeat that Treaty? Pretty cool that Grant specifically identified him although I doubt he thought so when he was losing his job! Herbert A. Preston was from Massachusetts and fought for the Union for three years, so I don’t have any reason to believe he was a southern sympathizer.

Hamilton Fish, Grant’s Secretary of State, was a key player in the negotiations that began in early 1871 when Sir John Rose came to Washington DC to sort out differences between the two countries involving the Northwest boundary dispute.  The US agreed to enter into discussion with Great Britain, provided their scope was broadened to include the Alabama claims that had not yet been resolved.

Perhaps there was something about the process that HAP found newsworthy. Or perhaps President Grant just didn’t like him. We may never know but I love when my genealogy research broadens my general knowledge of history and world affairs.


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Bryant Family of Washington DC

Originally written in February 2016; Updated March 29, 2019

My father Bryant Kingsbury was born on May 30, 1932 in Bethesda, Maryland. His first name is his mother’s maiden name. His brother, born four years later, was given another family name as his first name – Preston- but has always gone by his middle name – Deane.

My grandmother, Katherine Gertrude Bryant, was the only daughter and first child of Herbert Sydney Bryant and Elizabeth Monica Preston. Kitty, as she was known, was born on October 27, 1902 in Washington DC. Her father Herbert Sydney Bryant was the youngest son of Levi Jesse Bryant and Ellen Sarah Salley. Although Levi and Ellen met and married in Wisconsin, they started their family in Washington, DC where they moved at the end of the American Civil War.

I’ve written about Levi Jesse Bryant losing his arm in the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1862. In September 2015 I visited the Chancellorsville Battlefield and with the help of a very knowledgeable ranger, was able to find the spot on the battle field where the Wisconsin 3rd Infantry came under intense fire on the last day of the battle. According to the ranger, that was most likely where Levi was wounded.

Levi and Ellen had four children – all born in Washington DC. Arthur Levi Bryant (1870-1933); Charles Fardon Bryant (1872-1923); Grace Bryant (Eynon) (1876 – 1943) and Herbert Sydney Bryant (1878-1950). After mustering out of the Union Army in August 1862, Levi worked for the US War Department for several years. He also was a member of the fourth graduating class of the Law Department of National University in May 1875. His oldest son Arthur also became a lawyer.

In 1893, Arthur Bryant married Lizzie Habel, who’s mother was born in Germany and immigrated to New York just before Lizzie was born. Lizzie and her mother moved to Washington DC to live with Lizzie’s uncle Dr.George M. Kober after her father died. The 1910 census shows Lizzie, her husband Arthur and her mother, living with Dr. Kober. Dr. Kober was Dean of the Medical School at Georgetown University.

ArthurBryant.LizzieHabel.marriage.evestar.5.18.1893Here is their marriage announcement from the Washington Evening Star – May 18, 1893. Arthur and Lizzie took a long honeymoon and went to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Arthur and Lizzie never had children. He died in 1933 and Lizzie lived the next 30 years as a widow, dying in April 1963.  From some family correspondence I know that she had a sizable estate some of which passed to my father and uncle because their mother (Lizzie and Arthur’s niece) had died in 1959 so they inherited what had been left to her.

I haven’t been able to learn much about Charles Fardon Bryant. He was only 48 years old when he died and there was only a brief mention of his passing in the Washington newspapers.  Charles was a business man of some sort and I suspect he married well. Isabella Byrne, his wife, is sometimes mentioned in the Washington Post and Evening Star society pages. They had one son, Charles Byrn Bryant, born in 1900. He went to the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1919 to study engineering .

HerbertBryant.ElizabethPreson.marriage.evestar.9.10.1900Levi and Ellen’s two youngest children, Grace and Herbert, married within a month of each other in 1900.  Herbert married Elizabeth Monica Preston on Saturday September 8, 1900 at Epiphany Church, an Episcopal church in Washington DC. It seems they had a small ceremony. The church has survived the passage of time and never ending building boom in Washington DC and is currently located at 1317 G Street NW, just a couple of blocks east of the White House. I’ve submitted an email to the church to see if they have a record of Herbert and Elizabeth’s wedding.

GraceBryant.WilliamEynon.marriage.evestar.10.3.1900On October 2nd, Grace Bryant married William John Eynon at All Soul’s Unitarian church located at the corner of L and 14th Streets NW. The church building today at 1500 Harvard Street was constructed in 1923. The church congregation dates back to the early days of Washington DC. This ceremony got a bit more press. I was surprised to read that Grace was escorted by her brother Arthur Bryant. Why not her father Levi? Then I remembered that Levi’s obituary in 1920 mentioned that he was one of the District’s oldest residents and that he had been paralyzed for the last 20 years of his life. Perhaps Levi wasn’t physically able to walk his daughter down the aisle.

I’ll focus a bit more on each of these Bryant family members in preparation for an upcoming visit to Washington DC in June 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Two Missing Children of Herbert and Annie Preston

Herbert Augustine Preston and his wife Annie Elizabeth McNabb (my great, great grandparents) married in Washington DC on 19 October 1869. I know they had seven children because in the 1920 census, Annie reports she had seven children but only five were still alive.  Hmmm… I found birth records for some of them but not all. I also found a short article in the Washington Evening Star about the death of their first-born daughter Mary Gertrude, who died of typhoid fever in 1878. But all of my searches over the past year were only coming up with six children – five girls and one boy.

This often happens when children are born and die between census years. This is why the 1920 census account of number of children born/number of children living is very helpful. It’s a lot easier to find something if you know what you’re looking for – or at least that what you’re looking for exists, even if you don’t know quite what it is.

The recent snowstorm kept me indoors and home from work for a few days so I had lots of time for my favorite genealogical activity -reading old newspapers. I also had access to the digitized version of the Washington Evening Star available from the Washington DC public library. The $20 I paid for a library card when I was there a few years ago was a great investment.

Since I had that rare commodity, time, I browsed through each of the  16,000+ records for “Preston.” Within an hour I found this bit of news from the Evening Star published on December 29, 1876:

EveStar.29Dec1876.sondied.

So there was the missing child who also turns out to be the first son born to Herbert and Annie. From the gap in their children’s births (between Annie Beatrice born in 1872 and James David born in 1876), I surmised that the missing child was born around 1874. Unfortunately, this article doesn’t tell us much other than “little son” – not even his name, age or cause of death. But with a death date, the records on Ancestry.com soon generated a “hint” from the Washington DC death and burial records for a Herbert Preston who died on December 28, 1876 at age 2. My guess is that his name was Herbert A. Preston, Jr.

As for the death of their first born child, Mary Gertrude, born in 1871, who also was born and died between census years, I found this article from the Washington Evening Star on June 1, 1878.

EveStar.deathofDaug.3Jun1878

It seems that Mary Gertrude was at her grandfather’s house to avoid infecting the rest of the Preston children. I do wonder what is meant by “their interesting daughter.” I’ve seen various weddings described as “interesting” but I wonder what that means when used to describe a seven year old?

The Preston family of Washington DC has certainly captured my attention lately so you can expect to see more posts about them over the next few weeks.

 


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Jim D. Preston – First Superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery

For the most part, I find the lives of my ordinary relatives just as fascinating, if not more so, than those few branches in our family tree that contain more noteworthy relatives. The best part about having a “famous” relative is that it’s much easier to find news articles about him.

There’s no shortage of articles about my great grand uncle James David Preston, born in Washington, DC on August 2, 1876, the only son of Annie McNabb Preston and Herbert Augustine Preston. (They had seven children, but only one boy.)

HAP.obit.snip.4May1893A Union Civil War Veteran, Herbert Augustine Preston settled in Washington, DC after the war and was the Washington correspondent for the New York Herald. He died in 1893 leaving a widow with six daughters and one son. A description of his funeral services at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Washington, DC appeared in the Washington Evening Star on May 4, 1893.

After working as a cub reporter, James David “Jim” Preston began working in the Senate press gallery in the mid- 1890s. I saw one article that said he started as the Senate doorman and that made sense because it also seemed that his formal schooling ended in 7th grade.

The news of his election as the superintendent of the Senate Press gallery momentarily overshadowed President McKinley during his inaugural ball in 1897.

EveningStar.25Nov1912In 1912, Jim suggested that the Capitol Rotunda be used for the Inaugural Ball. Alas, he was overruled when President Woodrow Wilson cancelled the inaugural ball in 1913 because he thought inaugural balls were too expensive.

You’d think I would have heard about a relative who held such a prominent position in Washington DC but I did not learn about Jim Preston until I began doing family history research. His older sister Elizabeth was my great-grandmother (although I never knew her) and her only daughter, Katherine Gertrude Bryant married my grandfather, Joseph Bush Kingsbury, in 1928.

My grandfather spent many years working in Washington DC so he surely knew that his wife’s uncle was the superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery but it was never a story I heard. Ironically, Jim Preston and my grandmother both died in 1959.

Uncle Jim is good for a few more posts but for tonight I will end with an excerpt from his obituary in the Washington Evening Star. He died in Washington, DC on January 28, 1955 after a lingering illness. At that time his only son, Edward Herbert Preston was working for a publishing house in New York City and shortly after Jim’s death, he moved his mother to New York.

Obit.snip.1959Given my current fascination with researching family history, I’ve got a soft spot for Uncle Jim – more for his work as Senate Librarian than for his role as Superintendent of the Senate Press Gallery.

Can you imagine going to work one day and finding documents written by George Washington – in his own hand! Documents that were believed to be lost?

And then to be committed enough that you would go to England to learn about document preservation!

So here’s the thing I’m really wondering about tonight. If Jim Preston owned a portrait of his father Herbert Preston, as shown in this article from the Evening Star in 1955 when he finally retired, and Jim only had one son who never married, where it this portrait of Herbert A. Preston now?

Retirement.Snip.1955

I know from a condolence note that Edward Preston wrote to my grandfather in January 1960 after Kitty’s death in December 1959, that Edward moved his mother from Washington DC to New York. I also know from Jim Preston’s obituary that he was buried in New York. I think Jim’s wife Mary died within a few years of moving to New York and is also buried there.

But what became of Edward Herbert Bryant, their only son, and the family’s belongings? I’d love to hear from anyone who might have ideas about how to track down the portrait.