Flora Jane Bush Kingsbury (1860-1900)

I know very little about my great grandmother, Flora Jane Bush Kingsbury. My grandfather was nine years old when she died on May 21, 1900. A recently discovered link to online copies of historic Osage, Iowa newpapers allowed me to learn a bit more about her. Sadly, I still do not know her cause of death. 

From news reports on Thursday May 18th, it seemed as though Flora Jane might recover, [1] which probably made her death, three days later, even harder on the family. The day before she died was a warm summer day with lots of sunshine and blue skies and temperatures in the 80s.[2]   The week before had been warm but with a good amount of rain and thunderstorms in northern Iowa.

Flora Jane Bush Kingsbury died at home on Monday evening, May 21, 1900 and was laid to rest on Wednesday afternoon, May 23rd.[3] There was no detail about her life and her accomplishments but this verse was printed in the paper along with the announcement of her death:


Only a spark of an ember,
Only a leaf of a tree,
Only the days we remember,
Only the days without thee.

Only the flower thou worest,
Only the book that we read,
Only that night in the forest,
Only the dream of the dead.

Only the trough that was broken,
Only the heart that is lonely,
Only the sigh and the token,
That sob in the saying of “only.”

I’ve never heard this verse before so I googled the phrase “only that night in the forest” and though I still didn’t find who wrote the poem, it was referenced in a 1890 periodical entitled Book Chats, as an example of “consumptive poetry” under the heading “How to Fail at Writing Poetry.”[4]  I assume Wayland Kingsbury, Flora’s husband, selected this verse. Did it have some significance to the two of them? It’s not a great poem, but I think it’s appropriate to choose “consumptive” verse when your wife of 18 years dies when she’s only 40 and you are consumed by grief.


Since her obituary doesn’t provide much insight into Flora Jane’s life, I consulted several news articles from the years preceding her death, to understand her better.  Flora was born in 1860 and was the third of five daughters born to Eliza Jane Moore and Reverend Alva Bush. (They also had one son, Albert Lincoln Bush born in 1864.) She was only two years old when her family moved from Fayette County Iowa to the frontier town of Osage in Mitchell County in 1862, when her father became one of the founders and first principal of Cedar Valley Seminary. Cedar Valley Seminary played a prominent role in the life of the town and the Bush and Kingsbury families.

Wayland B. Kingsbury moved from his home in Fayette County, Iowa in 1878 to attend Cedar Valley Seminary. He lived in the Bush family home, working his way through school by doing chores for the family and the school.His oldest son Forrest, who also attended CVS provided this account of Wayland’s time as CVS, on the occasion of the school’s 100th anniversary in 1969.


Forrest also included this transcription of one of his father’s first letters home:


The 25th wedding anniversary of Reverend Alva Bush and his wife Eliza Jane was celebrated at the Seminary Chapel on Monday April 22, 1878. The description of it took up almost a full column in  the Mitchell County Press the following week[6]. It was quite an affair with lots of school and town dignitaries and alumni giving speeches, singing, praying, playing music and this:

“Miss Flora Bush, to the utter surprise of her father and mother, then stepped before the assembly and read the following appropriate and beautiful poem:

A crown of glory – silver hairs –
  That grace my father’s brow:
No diadem a monarch wears,
No brilliants that his forehead bears,
   Eclipse your glory now.

O, reverent locks of shining gray,
   Long may your beauty shed
The sunlight of its gentle ray
Along my dim and doubtful way,
   A blessing on my head.

And when the breath of heaven’s own land
   Shall fan that blessed brow,
God grant that I may near thee stand
And smooth these locks with this same hand
   That loves to smooth them now.
                        A. B. – C. V. Sem, Feb., 1878

The next year in 1879, Flora graduated from CVS and participated in an elocution competition as part of the graduation ceremonies. It was actually a competition among the top five male and top five female students. Flora won second place for her recitation of “The Painter of Seville.” The quality of the copy is poor so I’ll transcribe what appeared in the Mitchell Valley Press on July 3, 1879:[7]

“The Painter of Seville,” by Miss Flora Bush, took the second prize for the ladies. Miss Bush certainly deserves a high compliment for the peculiar power and emphasis, which renders such selections entertaining, and she probably had the finest and most difficult recitation of the evening.”

I didn’t have as much luck when I Googled “Painter of Seville” as when I found the verse in Flora’s obituary but I did learn that it was common in the late 1800s for schools to use recitation and elocution as part of the curriculum. On Google Books I found several catalogues of recitation verses, including a reference to “The Painter of Seville” in the index, but I’ve yet to find the full verse. 

Cedar Valley Seminary was a school ahead of its time; women were admitted from its inception in 1869. CVS was essentially a junior college, providing a course of study that would be useful in your trade or business, (i.e. shorthand and double entry accounting if your time at CVS was the end of your formal education) but also college prep courses, (i.e. Greek, Latin and advanced mathematics, if you were going to college.) I know that my grandfather attended CVS for at least a year before he began college at George Washington University. I think all of his brothers also attended CVS. Here’s the earliest Mitchell County Press reference to the Institution.

This is my grandfather Joseph Bush Kingsbury around 1909 when he attended Cedar Valley Seminary. Quite serious looking don’t you think? And maybe a little sad, but I never thought of him as a sad person. Perhaps because I knew him in his later years, I detect his kind and sensitive nature even in this early picture.


Ah yes, pictures. It would be so nice to have a picture of Flora Jane Bush Kingsbury.


[1] Mitchell County Press, May 18, 1900, p.3, col.3; image copy, Digital Archives of the Osage Public Library (http://osage.advantage-preservation.com:accessed May 21, 2017)

[2] Mitchell County Press, May 22, 1900, p.8, col.7; image copy, Digital Archives of the Osage Public Library (http://osage.advantage-preservation.com:accessed May 21, 2017)

[3] Mitchell County Press, May 25, 1900, p. 3, col.1; image copy, Digital Archives of the Osage Public Library(http://osage.advantage-preservation.com:accessed May 21, 2017)

[6]  “Silver Wedding – Grand Affair – The Silver Bill Thoroughly Vindicated,” The Mitchell County

Press, 2 May 1878, p.2, col.1; image copy, Digital Archives of the Osage Public Library (http://osage.advantage-preservation.com:accessed May 21, 2017)

[7] The Mitchell County Press, 3 July 1879, p.3, col.6; image copy, Digital Archives of the Osage Public Library (http://osage.advantage-preservation.com:accessed May 21, 2017)



Time to Shift Gears to Genealogy

April was fun but – hey it’s May! Thus ends my focus on poetry and a transition to a very busy month of genealogy research.
I was thrilled to find out about a year ago that the National Genealogical Conference was going to be in Raleigh in May 2017.

From the count down on their web page, you can see that the fun begins in less than a week! (Assuming you can read the numbers in those tiny blue rectangles at the top of the image above.) My first NGS national conference seems so long ago and my attendance was combined with a visit to my home town of Richmond, VA to spend time with my mother so my attention was divided. You can read about it here.

I remember being completely overwhelmed by the number of course options and being exhausted at the end of each day. Sensory overload – knowledge overload; it was almost too much. I was just getting started in genealogy back then, so I think I will have a much better handle on which courses to take and what I want to get out of the conference. I am super excited!

But even before next week’s immersion into the NGS national conference (I’ll be staying in Raleigh for Wednesday and Thursday nights and will have nothing to distract me from complete genealogy immersion!) I have a road trip to Richmond, VA (to visit my mother) this Friday. And there is always a county courthouse or cemetery somewhere along the way between my home in Greensboro NC and home town of Richmond, VA, that I’ve yet to explore.

This Friday’s target is the courthouse in Charlotte County, VA just over the NC border on Highway 15. It is likely to be the place where my “probable but yet to be confirmed” Revolutionary War ancestor William John Hubbard, married Nancy Jones on either September 1st or 9th, 1783. There’s no doubt that a William Hubbard, born in Goochland VA fought in the Revolutionary War and was shot in the leg in the Battle of Germantown. I’ve seen his pension files as well as those of his widow Letitia Hubbard (nee Letitia Frances) and several applications to the Sons of the Revolution that document his war time service.

The question yet to be confirmed (by me anyway) is whether that William Hubbard (also known as “Peg Leg Billy” after his leg was amputated a few years after the war because it just wouldn’t heal) was the father of Henry Hubbard, born in Halifax County, VA in about 1799. My connections to Henry Hubbard are pretty solid so I just need to make sure I’m connecting the right dots to get back to Peg Leg Billy.

Because really – who doesn’t want to have an ancestor named Peg Leg Billy, who fought under Patrick Henry (my favorite Patriot!) and Nathaneal Greene (my next favorite Patriot because he forced that pesky Lord Cornwallis out of the Carolinas!) It is easy to make the connection between any number of trees on Ancestry.com but if you look at them closely things don’t line up properly. And if you look very closely, you’ll find even more things you hadn’t thought were issues that you might need to resolve. And that’s why I love genealogy – it’s a never ending challenge.

For instance – compiled marriage indices for Virginia marriages are the source for a marriage between Nancy Jones and William Hubbard and that relationship is documented as fact on several records on Ancestry.com. But when I looked more closely at the index – it seems that the man Nancy Jones married in Charlotte County in September of 1783 was NOT William Hubbard but Hubbard or Hubard (first name) Williams (last name)! And sure enough – there is another Revolutionary War Patriot named Hubbard Williams who enlisted in VA and is buried in Kentucky. So now I’m wondering if William Hubbard’s wife was Nancy or another woman, perhaps Elizabeth Guthrey.

Obviously Hubbard Williams isn’t the father of Henry Hubbard, but the real question for me is to find out the name of William Hubbard’s wife (or wives) the dates of their marriage and whether or not they had a son named Henry who I know to be my great great grandfather. Lots of dots to connect – lots and lots of dots!

Charlotte County VA – here I come. But please make it easy because I will only have an hour or two for this research on my way to Richmond on Friday morning!

Day 10 – NaPoWriMo 2017 – A Portrait Poem

Grandfather Kingsbury

The smell of fresh pipe tobacco lingered after he was gone
But memories of our time together lingered longer.

Long walks after dinner – sometimes talking, mostly walking.
Afternoons at the big dining room table that never hosted family dinners
Playing Russian Bank – a form of double solitaire.
Alone together.

Visits to my third grade class to tell of his world travels.
Feeling so special as my classmates sat in rapt attention
listening to stories of his life in Thailand.
Water buffalo and beautiful dancers in golden crowns with wrists so supple that fingers bending backward could almost touch their wrists.

When my grandfather visited, I was important – someone who mattered.
Not just at school but at home.

When my grandfather visited, his son stopped drinking for a while.
My parents stopped fighting for a while.
We were a ‘normal’ family for a while.

My grandfather was my portal to the world.
With his stories and his support
I got to see the world
and realized that my world was not all there was.

With his quiet voice and thoughtful, measured speech
He taught me to listen.

With his never-ending encouragement and example
He taught me to seek adventure.

With his patience and kindness
He taught me compassion.

With his unfailing belief in my abilities,
He taught me to believe in myself.

Oh, how I’d like to take an after dinner walk with him now.
Slowly walking, quietly talking.
Or play a game of Russian Bank at my dining room table
(that has hosted many family dinners.)
Alone together again.

© Kalen Kingsbury 2017

Prompt for Day 10

Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that is a portrait of someone important to you. It doesn’t need to focus so much on what a person looks (or looked) like, as what they are or were. If you need inspiration, here’s one of my favorite portrait poems.

joseph-kingsbury (2)


Day Three – NaPoWriMo – An Elegy

Here’s today’s prompt:

And now for our (optional) prompt! Today I’d like to challenge you to write an elegy – a poem that mourns or honors someone dead or something gone by. And I’d like to ask you to center the elegy on an unusual fact about the person or thing being mourned. For example, if you are writing an elegy about your grandfather, perhaps the poem could be centered around a signature phrase of his. (My own grandfather used to justify whatever he was doing by saying, “well, I can’t sing or dance, and it’s too wet to plow,” which baffled me considerably as a child). Or perhaps your Aunt Lily always unconsciously whistled between her teeth while engaged in her daily battle with the crossword puzzle. These types of details paradoxically breathe life into an elegy, making the mourned person real for the reader.

(from http://www.napowrimo.net)

This one is a little tricky since I’m writing an elegy for someone I never met – my husband’s great grandmother who immigrated to western Pennsylvania from Italy in 1897. Custode Iacobucci was 16 years old when she made the journey from her home in the mountains of Abruzzo, Italy with her older sister Rosalia. Two older brothers were already in Pennsylvania, another followed later that year.

Within two years she was married and began a family. By 1912, when her husband deserted her,  she had nine children. She never remarried. Four of her six sons became pharmacists. Many of her grandchildren and great grandchildren are teachers, doctors and lawyers. Children who never knew her have what they have – and are what they are – because of her courage and determination.


Elegy for Custode

How can I mourn what I do not know?
I mourn the not knowing.

I mourn the empty places and missing faces,
the mystery and missing family history.
The stories I never heard.
The legends I never learned.

I mourn the hardship of your life
The loves you lost – your heartache and pain.

But in the mourning I celebrate the legacy you left behind.
A legacy of strength, courage and determination.

Of the home you left when just a girl,
of hillside caverns, grazing sheep
in the shadow of Maiella.

The innocence you lost, the price you paid.
The child you lost, the sons you raised.

The many nights you wept alone
then faced the morning cold as stone.

I mourn the secrets locked within your hidden smile.
of ancient strega ways and secret spells.

I mourn the times you ached to be soft
but life made you hard – harder than you ever wanted to be.

For never taking less than you deserved
Undeterred, resolute warrior for those you loved.

I celebrate the broken pieces of your heart,
scattered among the gifts you’ll never see.
The wisdom and the strength you left behind
in those of yours who share their lives with me.

© 2017 Kalen Kingsbury





30 Days Until NAPOWRIMO Begins

I have not been very good about regular posting to this blog since most of my work appears on one of my family history blogs Trovando Famiglia or  The Family Letter Blog – which is really frustrating because this is the blog on which I have the most “followers.”

But in about a month that will change as I participate – for my third year! – in National Poetry Writing Month. Although I’m sure that March is a “Na- something month,” it’s nice to have a break after February’s Family History Writing Month before gearing up for another monthly writing challenge.

But in the spirit of getting ready for National Poetry Writing Month and as a tie-in to my true passion, which is family history, here are two poems that were published in old newspapers. I don’t know about you – but I think it might be nice if today’s newspapers started publishing more poetry and uplifting stories – instead of the gloom and doom “news” we get nowadays.

That’s why I read old newspapers – and honestly – you’d be surprised how many common themes seem to repeat from days gone by. That’s about as close to politics as I’m going get – I like to keep my social media presence apolitical.

So here’s a poem written by my great great grandmother Annie McNabb Preston, published in the Washington Post on March 25, 1894, just a few months short of the first anniversary of her husband’s death.

Love’s Resurrection

Butterflies on wing, up-soaring in mellow June,

And worn on hilltops, sun-kissed with hope of day –

Moonlight upon waves with rhythm of tender tune –

A rainbow in evening sky, tinted by sunset ray,

Or rose with heart of light and pink of opening leaf;

Or fields of waving grain, or wheat in golden sheaf;

Or ships in sail, to prosperous havens sent –

These are life, with love and heart’s content.

Butterflies with broken wing, in autumn, prone,

And moon on hills, clouded and banked in gray;

Silence of water, where neither star nor moon

On dancing wavelets in silver luster play –

Or storms at eventide, without rift of sky;

Or fields upturned, where failing harvests die;

Or ships gone down, in pebbly shallows led-

These are life without love, when hearts are dead.

Oh love! oh, deathless love! oh, love beyond the grave!

Live you where flowers smile through the enshrouding sod;

Comes there from pulse-less breast, to death a slave,

A language of light and joy and peace and God!

I greet you, budding rose, in faith’s dear sunshine grown,

And hear in thee a voice that speaks to soul alone,

Saying, “I love thee, heart of my heart; bear on, mine own,

Till love hath joined us twain, up there, as one!”

Uhmm.. . yeah  – I think she really loved her husband. I love the beautiful imagery but overall I think this is a very sad poem – or perhaps – bittersweet is a better way to describe it. Or hope-filled in the knowledge that they would be “joined us twain, up there as one” but even that rings of sadness.

On lighter note – in honor of March – a poem published in the New Castle News on March 29, 1969, written by Nicholas V. George, my husband’s great uncle. Nick immigrated from Italy in 1904 when he was 8 years old. He began working in New Castle PA at a young age, leaving school after 6th grade, but as his daughter wrote in a recent email

You would have loved my father … everyone did … I always say that he only went thru sixth grade but was the smartest man I ever knew … taught me everything I know … he was a great role model … taught me about life thru his actions … was so proud of me that I was an A+ student, which made me try that much harder …

My husband didn’t know much about his Italian side of the family until 2013 when a DNA test led us to a cousin in New Castle, PA and the rest – as they say – is history – FAMILY HISTORY – the best kind. Here’s a poem from great uncle Nick.




Summer Family Fun Begins

It’s not even summer (sure feels like it though!) and my genealogy adventures have begun. Yesterday I visited a suburb of Charlotte, NC to meet two of my second cousins – Marcia Moore and her brother Gene Moore. They were in town from California because Gene’s grandson is graduating from high school Tuesday night.

Here’s a picture of three generations of the Kingsbury family – Marcia and I are the bookends for Dylan Vassily and his mother, Carolyn Moore Vassily. Moore is the married name of Marcia and Gene’s mother, Josephine Kingsbury Moore, the first child born to Frank and Anna Kingsbury.Kingsburys.3 generations.6.12.16 Here’s a link if you want to read more about our visit and see some of the family photos Marcia brought to share with me. Yes – it’s a bit uncanny that Marcia and I are wearing tops of the same color. I am so glad I finally got to meet her. I can’t wait to collaborate on family stories with her.

If there’s anyone out there wondering if it is worth it to create a family history blog – I can assure you – the answer is YES!!! Marcia contacted me because she discovered my blog “The Family Letter Blog” when she was searching for information on the Kingsbury family.  Be sure to include categories and tags and you might be surprised what you’ll discover.



Meeting a Kingsbury Cousin in 10 Days!

Never underestimate the power of social media and blogging to connect you to your relatives. About six weeks ago I got an email from Marcia Moore who discovered The Family Letter Blog in a Google search for the Kingsbury Family.

Marcia lives in California and I recognized her name as Josephine Kingsbury Moore’s daughter. I’ve spent a lot of time reading my grandfather Kingsbury’s contribution to the family letter that made its way across the country for decades during the mid-1900s. It was the primary way that the five Kingsbury brothers who had grown up in Osage Iowa at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century kept in touch with each other once they’d moved away and started families of their own.

Josephine’s father Frank Kingsbury was the brother who stayed in Iowa and worked in the family hardware store with his father, Wayland Briggs Kingsbury. Here’s a brief article from the Omaha World Herald from June 3, 1951 announcing the sale of the hardware store in Osage. I have a much better one from the Osage, IA paper with a picture of Frank that I’ll add as soon as I find it.


Long before my current interest in family history I wanted to meet Josephine. Somehow I knew that my grandfather thought very highly of her and since she was living in Carson City Nevada when I was living in southern California it seemed reasonable to think we might get together. For the brief time in the mid-1990s that I was in the family letter loop we even talked about the possibility of a family reunion. Maybe some day.

So even though I didn’t get to meet Josephine, I’m happy that I will get to meet her daughter Marcia when she visits Charlotte NC for her great nephew’s high school graduation next weekend.

You can see what my grandfather wrote about his niece Josephine and her family when he spent Thanksgiving in Osage Iowa 50 years ago by checking today’s post on The Family Letter Blog.


Happy Birthday Bryant Kingsbury

If he were alive, my father would be 84 years old today. I recently discovered I had some pictures of him as a child and they are quite adorable. The caption on the following picture indicates it was taken at Brice House in Annapolis Maryland when my father was two years old.


Brice House

The Wikipedia entry for Brice House indicates it was used for faculty housing for St. John’s college. I wonder if my grandfather ever lived there? Probably not, but he certainly taught at St. Johns for at least four years during the early part of his marriage.

My father at 10, 11 and 14 months. The lower right picture is one of the most handsome pictures of my grandfather I have ever seen. I know he loved to swim in the ocean.

In the methodical organized way one might expect of a college professor, my grandfather captured the milestones of his first-born son. My father was born in Bethesda, Maryland on May 30, 1932. His father was a professor at St. John’s College in Annapolis Maryland so I’m guessing that Kitty was living with her parents when it came time to deliver. Her parents, Herbert and Elizabeth Bryant,were long time residents of the District of Columbia – 435 Rittenhouse Street, NW.

My father spent his early years in Washington DC. The family moved to Bloomington Indiana in the late 1940s when my grandfather accepted a position on the faculty at Indiana University. My father was active in Boy Scouts and enjoyed photography and spelunking.

I attribute much of my l0ve of nature to my father’s influence. We spent many weekends camping and fishing. He taught me about birds and plants but more than anything specific it was just an appreciation for spending time outdoors. In his later years my father lived close to the coast  – first on the Northern Neck of VA and then on the Currituck Sound in North Carolina. He was always happy near the coast and I know he loved his time in the Navy, especially when he sailed from Bremerton, Washington to Mayport, Florida on the Franklin Delano Roosevelt aircraft carrier. It was too large to fit through the Panama Canal, which is why it sailed around Cape Horn.

Thank-you to my Genealogy Guardian Angel!

Before I was “into” genealogy, I had a few family photos that I was happy to have but didn’t think that much about. This weekend I realized how much I treasure those photos.

I’m still struggling to figure out how to arrange and organize my old family photos but at a minimum I try to keep them in one location (safe archival box) until I can create an index and store them in a “safe” permanent home. Ideally in frames on my walls – but I feel I need to organize them first. I need to know what I have before I can arrange them on a gallery wall.

So here’s a story that will make my genealogy friends cringe. I got a new scanner in March, just before my husband and I made a trip to visit one of his new-found cousins who we hadn’t met before. Dominic Renzi is 85 and lives in New Jersey. His step-mother was Lena George – my husband’s great aunt – who married Nick Renzi when Dominic was ten years old. So Dominic has lots of George family history and we got lots of good stories during our visit and scanned many of the photos that line the walls of his apartment.


√ – Checked

This past weekend I went to Richmond, VA to celebrate Mother’s Day with my 82-year old mother and help her clear out her shed. Her younger brother (who is actually 3 years younger than me and was adopted by my grandparents when I was 4) joined us for dinner on Saturday. Earlier in the week I called to ask if he had any family photos that he could bring for me to scan – he thought he might.

On Saturday when we talked to arrange the details for dinner, Ken thought the only pictures he had were “my” pictures that I had given him to scan a few years ago.  He said a lot of them were from Nana’s 80th birthday party and some of my baby pictures.“My pictures???” I was puzzled. I didn’t remember giving Ken any pictures to scan. Continue reading