This is the third of six blog posts about Universalist ministers who are buried in Bradford County.
Myra Kingsbury (1847-1898)
Myra Kingsbury was born on Dec. 5, 1847, in Sheshequin. She was the second of three daughters of Lemuel and Sally Osborn. Her father was the youngest child of Sheshequin Universalist stalwart Joseph Kingsbury, and the only one who spent his entire life Sheshequin.
Myra Kingsbury attended the State Normal School at Mansfield – a teacher’s college which became Mansfield University. She graduated in the early 1860s. Little is known about how she spent the next fifteen years, other than that she lived with her parents in Sheshequin. It’s possible that she taught school, but no occupation is listed for her in the 1870 census.
The Rev. Dr. William Taylor, minister of the Towanda Universalist church from 1879 of 1882 encouraged Myra Kingsbury to preach and perhaps directed her studies for the ministry. We have found no evidence that she attended a seminary; she was licensed as a “lay preacher” in 1880.
Kingsbury preached her first sermon in the Towanda church in 1879. By early 1880 she had earned a reputation as “an able and pleasant speaker.”
When the minister at Sheshequin resigned in the spring of 1880, Myra Kingsbury was engaged to fill the pulpit. A daughter was born that fall to church members Lloyd and Lucy Fish, and they named her “Myra Kingsbury Fish.”
In December, 1880, to the great disappointment of her friends in Sheshequin, Kingsbury accepted a call to the congregation in Williston, Vermont.
In September, 1881, Kingsbury returned home to Sheshequin to be ordained. The event was described in detail in the Elmira Advertiser and in the Bradford Republican. Brief notices of her ordination also appeared in newspapers across the country, including papers in South Dakota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Minnesota.
The article in the Republican noted:
“A goodly number of friendly neighbors had gathered at the old church in Sheshequin to witness the solemn ceremonies which should set apart a modest and gifted maiden to the work of a public ministry. Loving hands had brought their beautiful offerings of flowers and arranged them with exquisite taste about the high, old-fashioned pulpit. A platform was erected in front of the pulpit, and the services took place amidst a perfect bower of magnificent flowering plants. The gallery, which ran around three sides of the auditorium, was ornamented with wreaths and festoons of evergreens. In the rear of the platform was an arch, bearing the words ‘The Lord Is Good To All,’ and ‘Welcome Friends.’…”
She returned to Williston and served there until 1889. Her name frequently appeared in local newpapers, and the many articles indicated that she was well-loved and respected by her parishioners.
From Williston she moved a short distance to Morrisville, Vermont, where she served until 1891. In 1890 she became very ill, but recovered. Reports of her health appeared in the local newspaper almost daily during her illness.
In 1891 she took charge of a church in Belfast, Maine, where she remained for four years. Her health deteriorating, probably due to tuberculosis, she returned home to Sheshequin in December, 1895.
She could not bear being idle, however, and she accepted short-term preaching engagements in Athens and Sheshequin in 1896. She considered taking charge of the congregation in Mansfield, where her friend the Rev. Emma Eliza Bailey had served, but by May, 1897, she was too sick to work.
Myra Kingsbury preached for last time in June, 1897, at the Pennsylvania Universalist Convention meeting in Reading, Pa. She died on July 11, 1898, and was buried in Sheshequin with her family.
A portrait of a Myra and her sister Alice as children, by folk artist Susan Waters, hangs in the Tioga Point Museum in Athens.