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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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Forrest Alva Kingsbury

Over the next few weeks I’ll compile what I know about the five sons of Wayland Briggs Kingsbury who were born in Iowa between 1883 and 1903.  The first four were born to Wayland and his first wife, Flora Bush, who died in 1900. Wayland remarried Annie Walker and they had one son together – Clark Kingsbury.

The oldest son, Forrest Alva Kingsbury was born on August 8, 1883 in Oelwein, Iowa and died on August 22, 1972. His obituary from the Redlands Daily Facts has a good account of his education, which included a Masters in Psychology and Philosophy from Yale University. I wish the picture quality were better because I would love to know what he looked like. From his draft registration for World War I, he is described as tall with brown hair and brown eyes.

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Forrest married Cornelia Hasselman, of Pella Iowa in 1911. They never had children. By 1920, they were living in Chicago, which is where he got his PhD in Psychology. He joined the faculty of the University of Chicago and taught there until he retired in 1948. Here’s an interesting clipping I found that suggests Forrest was a very practical academician. This appeared in the Reading, PA newspaper in July 1923.

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After retiring from University of Chicago in 1948, Forrest and Cornelia moved to Redlands, California. He was a visiting professor of Psychology at Redlands University for four years. In a nod to the Kingsbury family’s New England roots, he and Cornelia were the first people to move into “Plymouth Village” retirement community in Redlands.

Cornelia, who was born on August 5, 1887, survived Forrest by almost eight years, dying when she was 93 years old on August 15, 1980.

Here is Joseph B Kingsbury’s account of traveling with his brother Clark and sister-in-law Allie to attend Forrest’s funeral.

On August 23, I had a telephone call from Redlands telling of Forrest’s death. I had been prepared for the news by a letter from Cornelia a few days before. A call from Clark and Allie said that if I could come down to El Paso, we could drive to Redlands for the funeral so I caught a plane here and flew via Chicago and San Antonio to El Paso. The next morning we left in Allie’s Cadillac and drove 740 miles via Tucson, Phoenix and Blythe, CA reaching Redlands before dark. We called at Plymouth Village and were told that Cornelia had gone to bed, but she was not asleep, and we talked to her a few minutes before going to our motel. The funeral Saturday morning was simple and in good taste. The room was full of people from the village, the university and the church; and the remarks by the Baptist minister were thoughtful and moving.  We rode with Cornelia to the mausoleum where there was a short service, and then to the village for lunch. In the afternoon we had a good visit with Cornelia, and she rode with us over to San Bernardino to look for some Mrs. Sees candy.

We drove back to El Paso on Sunday, detouring through Palm Springs and Sun City Arizona to see how the rich people retire. I suppose we were driving through hot country, but Allie’s car was cool and comfortable and both of them are excellent drivers. Next day, Clark took me on a sight seeing trip – across the river to Juarez, a walk through his plant, north along the mountain range and across close to a 6000 ft peak, to Las Cruces, New Mexico with lunch at La Posta, a famous old restaurant where I had my first Mexican food. In the evening we had dinner with friends of  Clark and Allie at the Lancers Club. Next day I caught a plane at 7:45, reached Chicago at 10:15 and was home before 4 pm.

The loss of my oldest brother makes me feel a little more alone, and more grateful for my one remaining brother, my in-laws, nieces and nephews and of course my sons and their families. I was glad to get better acquainted with Clark and Allie, and to see their beautiful home in El Paso.

Shortly after returning from Forrest’s funeral, JBK made another visit to Clark and Allie and joined them on a 10 day driving tour through the south, visiting for his first time, the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

JBK’s diary from his first year at George Washington University (1911) recounts a trip he made that December to New York City where he met his brother Forrest, who must have been at Yale at that time. JBK was also listed as living with Forrest and Cornelia in the 1920 census for Chicago, which is where JBK got his PhD in Political Science.

LincolnsTomb.24Mar1924I’ll close with a tidbit about JBK’s travels with his oldest brother Forrest. This was from an Illinois newspaper on March 28, 1924 – a date that has no particular significance that I can determine. This would have been when JBK was teaching at Washington University in St. Louis and Forrest was teaching at the University of Chicago. Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln’s Tomb is located, is about a two hour drive northeast of St. Louis and about a three hour drive southwest of Chicago.