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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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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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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.