The Family Letter Blog

Connecting Generations


Leave a comment

Family Throwback Photo

A Bryant family photo in DC circa 1942.Back row (l-r) Theodora Preston, Elizabeth Preston Bryant (Lala),Herbert Sydney Bryant, Katherine Bryant Kingsbury (Kitty), Herbert Preston Bryant (served in the Army in WWII).
Front row: Preston Deane Kingsbury and Bryant Kingsbury with an unknown pet
Back row: Theodora Preston (Lala’s youngest sister) never married, Elizabeth Preston Bryant (Lala), Herbert Sydney Bryant (Bert), Katherine Gertrude Bryant Kingsbury (Kitty), & Herbert Preston Bryant (Herb), Kitty’s younger brother by five years (served in the Army in WWII).
Front row: Preston Deane Kingsbury and Bryant Kingsbury with an unknown pet

This house will be one of the stops on our Washington DC road trip this summer. It is either the house on Drummond Avenue in Chevy Chase that Joe, Kitty and the boys lived in for several years or the home of Kitty’s parents, Lala and Bert Bryant in the area now known as Manor Park – 304 Rittenhouse Street. Bert and Lala moved to that house when it was first built in 1919 and lived there until some time after Bert’s death in 1950. Shortly after that, Lala moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey where Herbert, her son was living and working on a newspaper.

For almost all of 1944, Kitty lived alone with the boys because Papa Joe was on assignment in Iran as Assistant to the Personnel Director of the US Financial Mission to Iran. My uncle Deane (younger than Bryant, my father by four years) has a great story about the FBI coming to the house to investigate reports of someone making a bomb. It was related to something my father was working on in the basement (probably not a bomb but knowing my father’s curiosity and scientific bent it might have been a bomb or maybe fireworks – it was definitely something explosive!)

Need Deane to fill in this story and others with more detail this summer.

Advertisements


2 Comments

Life in Bloomington, Indiana

Joseph B Kingsbury moved to Bloomington, Indiana at the end of summer 1946 with his wife Kitty and their two boys, my father, Bryant Kingsbury who was 14 at the time of the move and Preston Deane Kingsbury who had just turned 10 in August that year. The family had lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland (just on the edge of Washington, DC) before the move and that was also where Kitty and the boys lived when JBK was in Tehran, Iran for most of 1944.  

The moved marked the beginning of JBK’s career as a professor of Government at Indiana University, returning to university teaching after many years in government service and working for a private consulting firm. In an early account from this time JBK writes: 

October 31, 1946 –We have been in Indiana 2 months. The country is charming, the weather has been beautiful and warm, the faculty and townspeople easy to get along with. The boys like school better than ever before and seem to have more friends than they did in Chevy Chase. I could be happier than ever before but Kitty seems determined not only to wreck herself, but to take us all with her.

 This is the first account in a file labelled “KBK” in my grandfather’s neat, distinctive print. The file is an inch thick with letters, both typed and handwritten, mostly from JBK documenting four years of Kitty’s drinking habits and bizarre behavior. There’s no benefit to blogging about the details, other than to say they provide a lot of insight into what my father and uncle lived through and leave me even more amazed than ever about my grandfather’s patience and resilience.  

I’ve read through most of JBK’s letters before but I always find something interesting that I missed the first time. Today’s tidbit comes from a letter in the KBK file dated May 17, 1949 in which JBK analyzes his behavior to evaluate the merit of Kitty’s claims that he is responsible for all of her unhappiness.  

I love it for his succinct but accurate description of the Kingsbury and Bush families. When I think about my Kingsbury and Bush ancestors who moved to Iowa in the early to mid- 1800s I tend to lump them together under the labels – religious, hard-working pioneers; strong, mid-western stock; salt of the earth. It’s interesting to read JBK’s perspective on the differences between the two families and his perspectives on self-analysis. 

I don’t know anything harder to do than see ourselves as others see us. Too much introspection is like a disease; I know, because I suffered with it between the ages of 12 and 30, and I have been trying ever since to get over it. But when we are in a cold war, with no referees and no rules, I had better examine myself as critically and objectively as possible and see if I am as right as I think I am. I have no illusions that I can see all my faults, but I shall make an honest attempt. This is my story and it is bound to be one-sided. If I bring you in, it is because it is impossible to leave you out. We are still husband and wife. I shall not go back into history any more than is necessary to explain the present situation. 

It would be foolish to deny that I am still influenced by my parents and early life. I am the product of two rather different families, the Kingsburys, Vermont and Iowa farmers; hard-working, thrifty, puritanical in their religion and morals, undemonstrative, but capable of genuine liking for and kindness to people. The Bush family were more sensitive, imaginative, humorous, and demonstrative, more intellectual in their interests but equally devout in their religion. I was brought up to believe God punished wrong-doing, and the Bible and the church were necessary to keep one straight. I was 25 years old and in graduate school before I had serious doubts that the Bible and the church had all the truth. Then I reacted rather bitterly against churches, but I guess I never lost my fundamental religious nature and never will.  

In my reaction against early piety and strictness, forbidden pleasures became very alluring: smoking, drinking, gambling, forbidden books, women, etc. That was the Prohibition era and the gay 20’s when many young people lost their inhibitions. I had a short and very unsatisfactory affair with a high school teacher in St. Louis – aside from that I was terribly innocent and ignorant of women and quite content to be a bachelor. When I met you, I was beginning to see that bachelors usually turned into queer, selfish, old-maidish persons, and I didn’t want to get that way. The thought that a girl as young, beautiful and sophisticated as you could be interested in me was exciting and flattering.

 Of the early days of their relationship he writes: 

I suffered tortures between the time I met you and the time I asked you to marry me – and milder hell from that time until we were married. My natural caution told me not to, and my study of Sociology told me we were too different to get along well. My newly awakened gambling spirit and my physical desires said “do it.” In the end I think my decision was rational. I convinced myself that I could get along with anyone and you were a very desirable creature.

I will always think of the first 5 years of our married life as happy ones. I was proud of your beauty, your social poise, your hospitality, your initiative, your hard common sense, and many other qualities. I thought it was a case of two quite different people supplementing each other’s lacks and proving that common likes, values and traits were not necessary to successful marriage. We did have some good times those first 5 years, and we were proud and happy when the first baby came.

 Hope I’ve left you wanting more – I just can’t get enough of my grandfather’s writing. I never knew Kitty, but from reading his letters, I get an image of what she was like.

 


Leave a comment

My Grandfather’s Love Letters

My grandfather was a college professor. He was 65 years old when I was born in 1955, but I enjoyed a 28 year relationship with him that profoundly influenced my life. The letters he left behind continue and deepen that relationship. I am so thankful for his written legacy.

I am taking the liberty of sharing a side of Joseph Bush Kingsbury that most of the world never knew. I’ve decide it is okay to do that. When I read his letters they are completely in line with the person I knew him to be and yet they reveal a side of him most people who knew him never got to see.

When my grandfather met his future wife he was 36 and she was 24. They married 11 months after they met. Thank goodness – or I wouldn’t be here! It’s kind of crazy (and a little selfish) when you think of things that way but I wouldn’t be here and you wouldn’t be reading this if those two people – who seem like such an unlikely pair in so many ways – hadn’t gotten married on January 4, 1928.

This letter was written about a month before their wedding when he was on assignment in Columbus, Ohio and she was living at home in Washington DC. I’m pretty sure she worked at the Library of Congress, which is so COOL!  (If you haven’t been to the Library of Congress it is one of those places that I think all Americans MUST visit. Right up there with Gettysburg – but for entirely different reasons.) He worked for a Chicago consulting firm, Griffenhagen and Associates, doing studies for state and local governments on personnel policies and salaries, usually in an effort to come up with a uniform salary structure that equalized compensation based on training and experience across many levels of government.

When I read my grandfather’s love letters to Kitty, it’s bittersweet. I know their relationship didn’t work out the way he wanted it to and they had many years of unhappiness. But when I read of his “head over heels” love for his young bride to be, I’m happy to know that he had these feelings.

I also like these letters because I get a bit of an idea what Kitty was like. I met her, but I have no memory of her. She died in December 1959 when I was 4 years old.

December 1927

Monday Night – Columbus, OH

Forgive me, darling, but I have another sentimental spell on, and I can’t go to bed without writing you again. Went to a romantic movie tonight (The Road to Romance – good too) – maybe that’s all that’s wrong, but I think it’s something deeper. Lately I’ve been so happy that it’s almost alarming. I’m likely to forget my dignity and do something childish most any time. I haven’t worried about anything for several weeks, and the world looks like a good place to live.

When I first knew you and we used to talk in a sophisticated way about love and marriage I said I thought marriage didn’t change anyone much. I’m beginning to think it does – at least the immediate prospect of it does. I may be kidding myself, but I think I am changing a little. For one thing – I can look back just a few months and see what a baby I’ve always been. I’ve just naturally thought of myself first and expected everybody to do things to please me, and if they didn’t I wouldn’t play. Probably you’ll have some occasions yet to remind me of this, but I’m beginning to grow up, at least.

Just think, a year ago I didn’t mean anything to you nor you to me! I don’t know yet why I fell in love with you – I certainly didn’t intend to. It was a rash thing to do, but having been cautious and deliberate all my life I enjoyed being reckless and I think it’s the wisest thing I ever did. As usual, I’m talking as though I did it all. As a matter of fact you just happened across my path and having seen you I was done for. For some unknown reason you chose to let me stay and now I’m your prisoner for life, and don’t want to be anything else.

Writing is so unsatisfactory. If you were here I would hold you so tight and kiss you till I made you promise never to let me go.

                                                                                                                Your lover


Leave a comment

Celebrating my Father’s Birthday

I’ve gotten so far behind on posts on my personal blog that I posted about my father’s birthday there but here’s a link for you to read about it.

Interesting tidbit about my father’s name. He has no middle name even though he spent most of his life using the initials BBK. Growing up, everyone in my family called him K.B. – not sure why except that those were his “Navy initials” last name first.  On his birth certificate his name is Bryant Kingsbury. The middle name he often used, Bush, was his father’s middle name. So now for the interesting tidbit.

According to my father, who apparently knew that he did not have a middle name even though he used one, the reason he began using Bush as his middle name is because when he was born, a friend of the family dedicated a book to him and she used the name – Bryant Bush Kingsbury.

“And that’s how I got Bush as a middle name.”

TitlePage.Murder in Maryland.1932

When my father was born, his parents were good friends with another professor at St Johns College and his wife. The professor’s name was Ford Brown and his wife was Zenith Brown who had some success as a mystery writer using the pen name Leslie Ford. One of her novels, Murder in Maryland, was dedicated to my father.

 

Leslie Ford was born Zenith Jones (nee Brown) in 1889 in Smith River, Calif., where her father was a missionary among the Indians, and spent her earliest years in a papoose, raised among the Indians to whom her father ministered. She studied to be a journalist and started freelancing in 1928. She wrote her first novel, Footsteps on the Stairs in 1931 and her last, Trial for Ambush, in 1962. In-between, she wrote more than 60 mysteries, created two major crime series (as Leslie Ford and David Frome), and was a foreign correspondent in the European and Pacific Theaters.

from: http://bookscribbles.blogspot.com/2012/07/leslie-fords-fall-from-grace.html

Thanks to my very thoughtful husband, I have one of Leslie Ford’s books. When he heard the story I just recounted (from my father, I had never heard it before) he ordered the book on line. Maybe I’ll even read it one day!


1 Comment

Precious Photo Memories

Here are a few pictures of Joseph Bush Kingsbury that I am sure other Kingsbury family members would like to see. You can read more about how I recently discovered them here.

This has to be one of the cutest baby pictures I’ve ever seen!

JBK.1890

I wonder if there are photos like this for each of the Kingsbury boys born to Wayland Briggs Kingsbury? This picture was probably taken in late 1890 or early 1891 since Joseph Bush Kingsbury was born on June 23, 1890.

Chris Pahud and I have shared our fascination with JBK’s first-hand account of being a student in Germany the summer that World War I broke out, but it was almost 5 years later when JBK was serving in the Army in the Medical Corps at a field hospital in France. When this picture was taken.

JBK.WW1

And here is Joe and Kitty’s wedding picture taken in January 1928. I’ve seen very few pictures of JBK at this age (37) when he was just beginning his career as a political science professor. Notice the Kingsbury chin dimple, a feature that JBK asked about when he got word that his youngest son Preston Deane was born in Osage, Iowa in August 1936.

JBK.KGB.wedding.1928


Leave a comment

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Kitty and Joe Kingsbury’s 1928 Wedding Announcement

A bit of cutting and pasting and a legible version of the 1928 wedding announcement of Kitty and Joe’s wedding appears at the following link.  I know there’s a way to get the image to appear on the screen, rather than requiring you to click on the link to read it, but what that way is escapes me at the moment and my real job beckons.

announcement.kk.2.6.15-02062015132028

I’ll have to find the letter but in some of Kitty’s and Joe’s pre-wedding correspondence it seemed that Joe was having trouble coming up with enough groomsmen to match how many attendants Kitty originally wanted in the wedding (a problem modern brides can relate to). That is why I was surprised to learn that there was only a maid of honor (Kitty’s friend Gretchen Campbell) and a matron of honor – Mrs. George Sherriff (Lois).  George Sherriff is the brother of Helen Sherriff who married Joe Kingsbury’s brother Dean in 1917. Although it is possible, it would seem an odd coincidence that Kitty Bryant was friends with Lois independently of Joe’s connection to the Sherriff family.  Maybe the Sherriff and Bryant families – both long-time Washington DC residents – knew each other and maybe that was how Joe met Kitty.

I’ve also learned from this announcement that Kitty’s younger brother Herbert (5 years her junior) might have attended college in Madison Wisconsin, since that is listed as his residence. I know he was a journalist but in all census reports I’ve reviewed, he is living in the Washington DC home of his parents, Bert and Lala.

It seems unlikely that if there were other bridesmaids they wouldn’t be named in the article so I am really curious now to find out about the connection between the Sherriff and Bryant families and how the other  ushers – Frank Danforth and Henry Wheeler (of Newport Rhode Island) were connected to Kitty and Joe. As usual, new discoveries yield new mysteries, but that’s what makes it fun.