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Why I Read Old Newspapers – REALLY Old Newspapers!

One of my favorite ways to relieve stress is to immerse myself in newspaper searches for my ancestors. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately because work is especially stressful right now with no end in sight. I stopped reading the daily paper years ago and I certainly have no intention of resuming that habit any time soon. In today’s news climate?!? Talk about stress!

Today I learned of a great resource for  online newspapers thanks to my daily dose of genealogical wisdom from Genea-musings, which shared a link to The Ancestor Hunt. I learn a lot from other genealogists who so willingly share resources and information. Thank-you!

So wine glass in hand (the other way I relieve stress) I settled in for my favorite Friday night activity – scanning historic newspapers – but this time armed with a valuable new resource. The link on The Ancestor Hunt identifies online newspapers in each state and provides links to local libraries, some of which have free searchable databases. So in no time at all I was perusing the late 1800s, early 1900s papers from the counties in Iowa where my Kingsbury ancestors lived.

I found interesting facts about the Kingsbury family of Osage involving tax assessments, real estate transfers and Joseph Biscoe Kingsbury being chosen as a petit juror in 1888 and a grand juror in 1889. Nothing too earthshattering but I like to add bits and pieces of the family puzzle that way.

And I always enjoy the advertisements and interesting quotes and quips that make it just plain fun to read old newspapers. Like this one from the 1936 St. Ansgar Enterprise.

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My grandfather’s father, Wayland Briggs Kingsbury, was the only son born to Joseph and Hannah Kingsbury. His three sisters, all born in the mid 1800s on the newly pioneered plains of Iowa, were Mary, Ella and Emma. Much of what I know about those members of the Kingsbury family is because of a self-published family history written my Ella at the request of her daughter Lillian.

When people in the Kingsbury family talk about the family “blue book” they usually mean the genealogy compiled and published by my great uncle Forrest A. Kingsbury in 1958.

But this is my favorite “blue book” of Kingsbury family history

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It’s my favorite because Ella describes her childhood and writes about the day-to-day things that she and her siblings did while growing up on the Iowa frontier in the mid- 1800s. It is such a treasure to know what the family was like; that her father was a good carpenter, that he they enjoyed singing together as a family, that they stopped farming and moved into town where her father started a hardware store in Oelwein and then West Union (or vice versa) before moving to Osage.

But the thing that always bothered me about Aunt Ella’s book was that she never talked about her own family. From what I can tell, she never had any children of her own. She was 36 when she married Frank Y Whitmore, a widower, in December 1893. From the US Census in 1900, I knew that the family included a 10-year old adopted daughter (identified as such) named Lillian, who was born in New York. Both of Lillian’s parents were born in Norway.

A few years ago I spent many futile hours trying to track down information on Lillian Whitmore. She was born in 1890, the same year as my grandfather, but I’ve never seen her name in any of his writings. I was reading The Orphan Train at the time so I wondered if that could be how Lillian came to live with Ella and Frank. But mostly I wondered if I could track down any of Lillian’s descendants so I could learn more about Aunt Ella. Maybe they have extra copies of Salt of the Earth. Maybe they have more family pictures. Maybe they have stories to share. Maybe they will read this and contact me.

Ella Kingsbury Whitmore also fascinates me because she lived in Monrovia, California. (But why did she move from Iowa to Monrovia?) Monrovia is in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, east of LA, but not too far from Alhambra and San Marino where Rick and I lived from 1985 to 1997. We looked at houses in Monrovia. Maybe I drove past the house Aunt Ella lived in and didn’t even know it. Maybe we almost made an offer on a house that was on her street! I definitely recognize the name of the street she lived on in 1940 – Wildrose Avenue.

So nearing the end of my search for the night I decided to browse the West Union Iowa papers for mid-November 1918.  A search for “Frank Whitmore” had turned up a few interesting articles, but a search for Lillian Whitmore came up blank. But just because you don’t get a hit doesn’t mean there’s not something there – you just have to decide how much time you’re willing to spend searching.

I knew from records on Ancestry.com that Frank Whitmore died in Monrovia, CA on November 10, 1918. Maybe if I got lucky I could find his obituary and learn more about his family. And sure enough on the front page of the West Union Argo Gazette from November 13, 1918 I found this:

 

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The article also provided much needed detail about the timing of Frank Whitmore’s marriages, his career and his family. It confirmed that he was survived by his three children, his wife and an adopted daughter. But better than all that – the article provided Lillian Whitmore’s married name – Mrs. J.C. Stillion.

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My search didn’t end there, but this post will. Check back tomorrow for the rest of the story!

 

 

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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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A New Cousin – A New Friend

Through the family letter the five Kingsbury boys from Osage, Iowa managed to keep in touch for most of their adult lives even though they were spread across the country and rarely got to spend time together. Some of their children managed to keep in touch through the family letter for a few years after the five brothers passed away but by the late 1990s the family letter died out.

The oldest brother Forrest and the youngest brother Clark did not have children. The second oldest and the second youngest, Frank and Dean, had the most children. Frank had three: Josephine, Robert and Bruce and Dean had four: Joseph, George, Doris and Margaret (Peg). My grandfather Joseph was in the middle and had two sons, my father Bryant and my uncle Deane.

Through social media and modern technology, some of the second and third cousins have been in touch over the past few years but the connections are primarily within each direct line. I keep up with my cousins Peggy and Stacy and the grandchildren of Dean and Helen Kingsbury keep up with one another. In the past two to three years, as more of us have “found” each other on Facebook, the circle is expanding again. It makes me happy to think how happy that would make our grandparents.

Today offered a perfect example of the widening circle when I got to meet two of my second cousins, Marcia Moore and Gene Moore who both live in California. They are in Charlotte, NC for the high school graduation of Gene’s grandson (Marcia’s grand nephew) Dylan Vassily. So today, with portable scanner in tow, I drove to Charlotte to meet them. Carolyn, Gene’s daughter, was hosting a graduation party for Dylan and 16th birthday party for Alex, her younger son. Alex had to leave for a meeting at work before I remembered to take pictures, but here’s one of Marcia, Carolyn, Dylan and me (from left to right).Cousins.6.12.16

Okay – that’s a pretty amazing “widening of the family circle.” I’m still kicking my self for not getting a picture with Gene (Marcia’s brother) and Alex before they left.

So other than feeling completely “simpatico” with Marcia, right down to our matching colored tops (no we did not plan that) I got to scan a few photos that I know some of our other cousins will be happy to see.  I don’t usually link all of my blog posts to Facebook but since I’m not sure all of my extended Kingsbury cousins follow the blog, I’m making an exception today.

Here are two of my favorite pictures that Marcia had from her mother Josephine.

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Wayland Briggs Kingsbury Family – December 21, 1923

The back of the photo didn’t identify them by position but Marcia and I were pretty comfortable identifying the Kingsbury boys and we’re hoping Chris Pahud and some of his cousins will be able to help matching the wives in the back row with their husbands.

The three youngest children in the picture are the children of Orrin Dean Kingsbury and his wife, Helen Sheriff and they are Joseph and George in the front row (not sure of the order) and Doris being held by her father Orrin Dean.

The first row of adults is: Clark Kingsbury, the only son born to Wayland Kingsbury and his second wife Annie, Frank Kingsbury, Wayland Kingsbury, Annie May Walker Kingsbury, Forrest Kingsbury and Orrin Dean Kingsbury holding his daugher Doris.

The children in the back two rows are Josephine and her brothers Robert and Bruce. The very handsome and kind looking man in the back row (top left) is my grandfather Joseph Bush Kingsbury. In 1923 he was still four years away from meeting his wife, Katherine Gertrude Bryant.

Now I’m guessing at the women in the back row – from left to right I think they are Frank’s wife Anna Carter, Dean’s wife Helen Sheriff and Forrest’s wife Cornelia Hasselman. (Chris – help!)

And now, because I know this will bring much happiness to the grandchildren of Helen and Dean Kingsbury, here is one more that I scanned from Marcia’s collection. There was nothing on the back but we’re both pretty sure this is from a family visit to Osage that Dean and Helen made with their four children at a time when Clark and his wife Allie Cobb were also there.  But who is the woman between Annie and Clark? Maybe one of Wayland’s sisters? I think the picture was probably taken in the late 1930s. Clark and Allie were married in 1935. Helen and Dean’s youngest daughter, Peggy, was born in 1925 and their oldest child, Joseph, was born in 1918.

 

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Easy Blogging

One of the biggest hurdles to regular posting is deciding what to write about. I really have no excuse for not being able to do that. Every time I consult the stack of letters that my grandfather Joseph Bush Kingsbury contributed to the Kingsbury Family letter, I am reminded that I should start sharing his kernels of wisdom on a much more regular basis than I currently do.

Case in point. In 10 days I will meet my second cousin Marcia Moore for the first time. Her mother Josephine Kingsbury Moore was my grandfather’s niece. So without further ado, let’s see what Joe had to say about spending Thanksgiving in Iowa in 1966 with his beloved niece and her family.

From his letter dated 28 November 1966 JBK recounts his recent visit to Fort Dodge, Iowa where he spent Thanksgiving with his mother (his step-mother actually because his father remarried a few years after JBK’s mother died when he was 10), brother Clark, Josephine, Edson and their family. Clark Kingsbury is the youngest of the Kingsbury boys and the only son born to Wayland Briggs Kingsbury and his second wife Annie May Carter. Josephine is the daughter of JBK’s next older brother Frank Kingsbury.

First let’s see who was there and how they got there. JBK’s letters often describe modes of transportation in great detail:

“I arrived in Fort Dodge Tuesday evening after a six hour train trip to Chicago, a long taxi ride to O’Hare Airport, and a two-hour flight on Ozark Airlines. Jo and Edson were at the airport to meet me, and with them Marcia, home from Cambridge, Mass., and Dick, from Reno. Next morning Jo took me to the Friendship Haven Health Center, and we found mother sitting in her wheel chair at work on a big and complicated jig-saw puzzle, looking very fresh and pretty. I came back after lunch and had another visit with her.

That evening (Wednesday) about 10:30, I left with Dick and Gene in Edson’s Cadillac, for Des Moines (about 90 miles) and a few minutes after midnight we met Clark at the airport. We were back in our hotel in Fort Dodge and in bed by 2 am, and rested and ready when Edson called for us at 9:30 Thanksgiving morning. At 10:30 we started the celebration with a breakfast of waffles, bacon, sausages served by Marcia, Dick and their mother.”

Let’s learn a little more about the family gathered round that Thanksgiving table 50 years ago:

“I suppose in this age of packaged and frozen foods, an old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner is doomed to disappear, and it will be a pity; but Josephine revived the old traditions. There were nine of us around a big, beautiful table, and the food was like it used to taste in the old days. Gene and his pretty wife Sue were there, and 9-month old Caroline furnished the amusement. She reminded me of Peggy Ann at that age, and like Peggy, she is a good poser for photographs. Dick and Gene took pictures of her sitting in her great-great grandmother’s lap.”

Many relatives have commented on my grandfather’s letter writing skills. I think this next paragraph illustrates the point. I don’t know any of the people he describes (but I’m about to meet some of them in 10 days!) yet I feel like I know them by his descriptions. His mother had moved into the retirement home in Fort Dodge from her home in Charles City not too long before his visit.

“I was delighted with mother’s appearance; her face is smooth and her color healthy and good, and mentally she is still alert and young. She follows every conversation and is an interesting talker. It was a great satisfaction to me to see her again after seven years, and to get reacquainted with my niece and her family. Jo is a strikingly pretty woman (I still think of her as a girl) with white hair and a fine complexion, and we all know her sweet disposition. Edson is a good-looking man who looks to be at his prime. Dick is a tall, blond, young man, whose hair is beginning to thin. He is on the serious side, very thoughtful, reliable, and interesting to talk to. He works in the Nevada State Highway Department, and takes courses in the state University in Reno. Gene is a tall, handsome boy with dark hair, who works in the Post Office, but hopes to move to Syracuse and continue university work there. He met Sue at Iowa City, and it is easy to see why he decided to get married. Marcia is assisting a Sociologist at Harvard, auditing some courses, and planning to get an advanced degree in Sociology. She is a pretty girl, and ‘modern’ in the best sense of the word  – – very much alive to what is going on, but not one of the disillusioned and alienated generation. I hope she can get acquainted with Doris and Peg and their families; I am sure they would all be congenial. For some reason, Marcia reminds me of Peg.”

Thankfully, I know that Chris Pahud (another second cousin of mine) really enjoys these letters and is a big fan of JBK’s writing style. Once I get started, it is hard for me to stop. I can’t tell you how many hours I spend reading my grandfather’s letters. And since Chris is a musician I know he will appreciate this last tidbit when JBK describes his trip home to Bloomington Indiana.

“I got on the Lake Central plane at Chicago at 8:15, but before we reached Danville, Ill., the pilot announced that Terre Haute and Bloomington were closed down by fog, so I ended my flight at Indianapolis and Lake Central paid for a taxi ride to Bloomington (50 miles). The only other Bloomington passenger was a girl in a light colored jacket and trousers carrying a violin case. She had left London that morning and was to meet her husband, a music student at IU.  We met him at the hotel in Bloomington and rode out to their apartment together, and I discovered that he was a Turk, and that they had lived in Ankara last year, so we parted with promises to see each other again. He is studying viola under Sir William Primrose, said to be the greatest viola player in the world.”

It helps understand JBK’s interest in meeting a Turk if you know that about ten years before this he taught at the American University in Turkey for a year. My uncle Dean and JBK’s wife Kitty, who died in 1959, were with him.  More fodder for another blog  post on another day. I promise not to keep you waiting so long for the next installment of JBK’s insights.