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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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Kingsbury Family Mecca – Osage Iowa

A week from tomorrow I’ll be making my first visit to Osage, Iowa. I don’t travel much for business anymore but once a year there is a national meeting of Land Trusts and this year it is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It starts on Thursday October 27th but when I realized how close Minneapolis is to Iowa, I planned an extra day to visit the Kingsbury family mecca. I’ve always thought of Iowa as a square state somewhere in the middle of the country, but I never knew that Osage was in northern Iowa and just a two hour drive from Minneapolis.

I’d love to hear from relatives who’ve made the visit. It seems the key landmark – the Administrative Building of Cedar Valley Seminary – founded by our ancestor Reverend Alva Bush in the late 1860s  – is no longer the site of the Mitchell County Historical Society. In fact, the building may not even be open since its recent move to a new location.Check it out!

But I am excited just to visit the hometown of one of the two most influential people in my life. I was blessed to be extremely close to my father’s father – Joseph Bush Kingsbury and my mother’s mother – Alice Louise Powell (my Nana).  It was the perfect combination – a college professor who spent many years in foreign service and fueled my intellectual curiosity and academic pursuits and a strong Southern woman who instilled my love of home, family and cooking.  I am so happy to be the product of two people of such seemingly different backgrounds. Yet the ways in which my two very different grandparents were the same – are striking.

My grandmother, who was forced to quit school after ninth grade to help support her family during the Depression and my grandfather who earned his PhD in Political Science from the University of Chicago just a few years earlier, were great admirers of each other. So I am the product of two very different worlds and grateful for both. My grandmother’s motto was – “A day when you don’t learn something is a day wasted” and despite her 9th grade education and my law degree – I can count on one hand the number of times I was ever able to beat her in a game of Scrabble.

But, as usual, I digress. Next Wednesday, October 26th, I’ll be taking a day trip to Osage, Iowa so I’m hoping to hear from any relatives who’ve made the trek before me of what I should try to see/do in the short time I’m there. I’m spending the night at a bed and breakfast on Main Street in Osage – the City of Maples. It should be a great time for a visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Where has the summer gone?!?

I have not done a very good job of keeping up with a regular posting schedule on this blog. I blame it on summer time mode. Having a teacher spouse who gets the summer off tends to make me a bit more relaxed about getting things done from late June to mid-August. Now that we’re gearing up for the start of another school year, I’m focused on how to get back on track.

First things first. I’m in the planning stages of a short trip to the Kingsbury Family mecca – Osage, Iowa. I have a meeting in Minneapolis, MN from Thursday Oct 27th – 31st, but I’m planning to fly out on Wednesday October 26th and drive to Osage before the meeting starts. For others who lack a good sense of the geography in the middle of the country, it turns out that Minneapolis is only a 2.5 hour drive from Osage, Iowa.  I’m soliciting advice on where to go and what to see and would certainly like to connect with any extended Kingsbury relatives in the area. I know that Cedar Valley Seminary is a must see and of course the cemetery where Wayland, Flora Jane and Annie May are buried. But what else?

Though I haven’t been blogging about the Kingsbury family history, I’ve certainly been spending lots of time sharpening my genealogy research skills.  In mid-July I took a week-long course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh learning more about how to research Italian genealogy records. Closer to home I’ve taken a couple of day-long courses in Genes and Genealogy – specifically, how to interpret DNA results. It is simply amazing how much information is available. I know that a lot of adoptees use the DNA testing services in hopes of finding biological parents and siblings. Used in concert with available documentary evidence, it can help establish connections with earlier generations that you might not have known about. But for the most part, every time I look at the list of people with whom I share DNA, I end up more confused. Even when the person has a family tree posted on ancestry (surprisingly not very often) and even if the tree is not locked (locked trees frustrate me) I usually cannot work my way back through the branches of a DNA match’s family tree and mine to find the source of the common branch. ARRGHHh…. Frustrating!!!

In his writings, Joseph Bush Kingsbury, my grandfather, describes himself and his Osage, Iowa relatives, as reserved, staid and proper. He attributed much of the Kingsbury personality to the pioneer experience and to the significant role that religion, particularly the Baptist faith, played in their upbringing. He often remarked (favorably) on the more gregarious and fun-loving nature of people he met around the world, including members of my southern family. As a young man he worried about being pious and prudish but most of all, he didn’t want to be close-minded, a trait he ascribed to many of his Iowa family members.

One topic that comes up a lot in the courses on genetic genealogy is something that is often called a “non-paternal event.” This happens when someone thought to be one’s biological father, is not. Instructors are quick to point out that “misattributed paternal event” would be a better term. Obviously if a person is born there has been a paternal event – it’s just that the correct pater is not always identified. This is why using DNA evidence in combination with traditional research methods can result in some interesting findings.

Most of the time, it is very difficult to determine where the misattributed parental event has occurred – probably somewhere too far back to identify. In my three years of genealogical research I’ve yet to find an unknown sibling or even an unknown cousin but I did get an interesting inquiry recently on my Ancestry.com account.

“I am S.P. but was born as Dennis Lee Bill in March 1947. I grew up in Story City, Iowa and through DNA have been able to locate 3 aunts that are still living in Charles City, Iowa. I have a brother that lives in WI and a sister in Houston. My mother Edith M Bill died in 2006 and is buried in Genoa, Illinois. They were all happy to have me join the family. On my birth certificate the father was unknown but it appears that my father may have had Kingsbury roots and lived in a small town near Charles City. Thanks for any assistance.”

I am not sure what led to his conclusion that his biological father may have had Kingsbury roots but his message certainly got my attention. “Hmmm… which one of my Kingsbury ancestors wasn’t as reserved, staid and proper as Granddaddy would have us believe?” I’ve got to admit that “misattributed paternal events” tend to get my genealogical wheels spinning. It’s like solving a puzzle – a real life “who done it” mystery.

In a subsequent email, S.P. wrote that he was trying to get in touch with a Laurel Kingsbury, who has an Ancestry.com account but isn’t active anymore. He thinks she may be a second or third cousin. So if anyone reading this has any tips or advice that might help connect S.P. with his biological father’s family – please share what you know and I will relay it to him.

Keep in mind that the Kingsbury roots could someone without Kingsbury as a last name – i.e. a Kingsbury daughter married a Smith and had three boys and a girl. One of those three boys or any of their sons (also named Smith) could be the biological father. Likewise, when that daughter named Smith marries Harry Brown, any of their sons (all Browns) could be the biological father. So the Kingsbury roots could date back  to the mid-1800s and may be really, really difficult to identify.

According to Ancestry.com, S.P. and are likely to be 4th to 6th cousins. Here’s what the our DNA match page looks like:

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A Man Ahead of His Time – My GG Grandfather Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury (1827 – 1909)

My grandfather’s aunt Ella Kingsbury Whitmore wrote a book about her family’s life as pioneers entitled Salt of the Earth. It’s the Kingsbury family’s personal  Little House on the Prairie and recounts the events from Joseph and Hannah’s marriage in Vermont in 1850 to their life in the Midwest, first in Illinois and then in Iowa. If you check this blog often, you’ll get bits and pieces of that story from time to time.

Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury was a carpenter and he met his wife Hannah Brown when he was building a barn for her step-father John Robinson in Jamaica, Vermont.  Hannah’s father Orrin Brown died when she was young and her mother remarried. The headline picture on this blog is of the Kingsbury family of Osage Iowa – Joseph and Hannah seated in front of their four children – Emma, Wayland, Ella and Mary. It was probably taken in the late 1880s.

The family’s strong abiding faith in God and love of family shine through Aunt Ella’s account of daily life in the Kingsbury home. My grandfather, Joseph Bush Kingsbury (JBK) described his religious upbringing as something he never questioned until much later in life.  His father Wayland married a minister’s daughter (Flora Jane Bush, whose father Reverend Alva Bush founded Cedar Valley Seminary in Osage, Iowa) so JBK and his brothers  had a strong religious upbringing. JBK’s diary from his time as a college student at George Washington University (1910- 1915) has numerous accounts of Sunday School meetings and other church related activities, in addition to his job as a stenographer and clerk in the Department of Agriculture.

JBK 1970My grandfather was 65 when I was born and he was a college professor at Indiana University.  I could talk to him about anything and he was a strong influence in all of my academic pursuits. Near the end of his life (he died in 1983 at age 92) I remember asking him about his belief in God and his religious views.  We had never talked about that but I always thought of him as “religious.” I was surprised by his reluctance to talk about his faith.  He said something like – “I think I’m just about ready to talk about that,” but it was a conversation we never had.

Somehow his reluctance to tell me about his faith journey made a stronger impression on me than if he had said, “Yes there is a God, Jesus is His son and you should believe that.” Coming from him, I probably would have. I think JBK understood the benefit of someone struggling with their own ambivalence in matters of faith and finding their way without accepting what they were told they should believe.  I think he was right about that.

I have digressed from my original intent in writing this post, which was to illustrate the progressive views of my very religious GG grandfather Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury but in doing so, I’ve shared the even more important and progressive views of his namesake, my grandfather.

So as for the views of Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury – his daughter Ella writes:

“Father was not only deeply interested in the abolition of slavery and of the liquor traffic, but also in woman suffrage. He thought his daughters were as capable as his son of expressing their convictions on matters of local or general interest. Their ‘in-laws’ were equally forward looking and progressive.”  (From p.55 of Salt of the Earth by Ella Kingsbury Whitmore)

I’m proud to be from a long line of progressive men.