Oliver P. Kinsey, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Oliver P. Kinsey


In 1880, when Prof. Kinsey purchased a half-interest in the Northern Indiana Normal School, he was yet a young man, but had already shown exceptional aptitude for the profession of teaching, and had received an extensive and practical experience as a special instructor of English literature and mathematics in the National Normal School, of Lebanon, Ohio. In addition to this valuable qualification he bore the highest recommendations for personal integrity and practical sound sense and for ability as a business manager and executive. Feeling himself amply fitted for so responsible a position, Prof. Kinsey purchased a half-interest in this institution, and soon entered upon his task, but first visited Europe and studied the educational systems of Scotland, England, and the Continent. The school had grown beyond the physical ability of Mr. Brown to manage it properly, and many of the departments and other features of great importance needed such personal attention as he was unable to give. Prof. Kinsey, therefore, had a great task before him, one of secondary importance only to the original founding of the school itself. But bringing all his skill as a disciplinarian and his experience as a business man to bear on the condition of things as he found it, he skillfully and expeditiously placed all departments on a firmer and safer basis, re-arranged the courses of study, added several branches, drew a tighter rein on the young people under his care and proved by the better state of affairs in the institution that the confidence reposed in him by Prof. Brown had not been misplaced. The entire institution seemed to feel the influence of his efforts, and took on new life, growth and usefulness. Besides being professor of English literature he has served, since his first connection with the institution, as its practical business manager, and as such buys all supplies and transacts much of its necessary business. His scholarship is wide and varied, and is being constantly augmented by systematic study and investigation.

He is of Scotch-Irish descent, his name originally being McKinsey. His paternal ancestors crossed the Atlantic in Colonial times and settled in Pennsylvania. His mother's family, the Ridgways, were of English descent, and located in Pennsylvania with William Penn. Both families, the McKinseys and the Ridgways, were members of the Society of Friends, though, notwithstanding this fact, both contributed soldiers to aid the Colonies in their struggle for independence.

Richard Kinsey, grandfather of Prof. Kinsey, was a native of Chester County, Pennsylvania, but moved with his family to Harrison County, Ohio, in 1808, and there followed the occupation of farming. He was one of the pioneers in that portion of the State, cleared his farm of its forest coverings and lived thereon until 1851, when here moved to Fulton County, Illinois, where he finally passed from life after many years of honor and usefulness. Like all the people of his religious belief he was a strong anti-slavery man, and was prominently connected with the "underground railroad," and thus assisted many a runaway slave to reach Canada. His character was kind and strong, and his convictions were deeply rooted, and by him all his descendants were taught to love liberty and the institutions of freedom. He was twice married, and became the father of four children - Nancy, Daniel, Stephen, and Reese R.

The latter was born in Harrison County, Ohio, in 1818, and received a good education in a Quaker school at Smithfield, Ohio. He became proficient in mathematics, in which he excelled, and studied the higher branches, including surveying. When old enough he taught school, and his services were so appreciated, owing to his superior education and his general capacity, that he was paid two dollars per day for his labor in a country school, very high wages at that time. Upon reaching manhood he married Eliza, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Ridgway, and to them were born four children - Arminda, Sarah, Oliver P., and Clayton - all of whom were born in Harrison County. In the spring of 1851, in company with several other Kinsey families and several neighbors, he moved to Fulton County, Illinois, which locality had been visited six years before by Mr. Kinsey with a view of settling there eventually. In October, 1851, he caught a severe fever, and was attended by the old-school physicians of that day. They bled him profusely, and it is now believed, in the light of modern medical science, that this probably caused his death. He was a devout member of the Quaker church, and, owing to his superior education and unusual intellectual ability, was a prominent citizen, serving as township clerk, clerk of election boards, member of the county examining board and attracting much attention by his progressive methods of teaching and by his interest in the advancement of education. His untimely death was unfortunate and probably unnecessary.

Prof. Oliver P. Kinsey was born at Freeport, Ohio, in 1849, and was an infant when his parents moved to Illinois. After her husband's death his mother returned to Harrison County and made her home with her parents, and here Oliver P. was reared and educated at the Quaker schools and under the moral influence of the Quaker church. When sixteen years old he attended school one year at Highland Springs, Ohio, succeeding which he taught school in Guernsey, Belmont and Harrison Counties, Ohio, teaching his first term of three months when only seventeen years of age, and receiving one dollar and twenty cents per day. This school was situated ten miles from his home, and to it he walked every Monday morning and from it he walked every Friday night. He was entirely successful, both as an instructor and as a disciplinarian. The next year he walked eighteen miles to Cadiz, and endured a three days' examination and returned home on foot, having succeeded in securing his certificate as a teacher. He then taught school for eight months, and, though small for his age, succeeded in preserving good order and in advancing the scholars rapidly in their studies. It is related by Prof. Kinsey that while he was thus teaching there came up on horseback a stranger who, without dismounting, knocked at the door, and when the juvenile teacher responded said, "Sonny, run in and tell the teacher to come out." He was considerably surprised when informed that he was already in the presence of that august functionary.

In the fall of 1868 he entered the scientific course of the National Normal School at Lebanon, Ohio, and from which, two years later, he graduated. So favorably were his teachers impressed with his character and ability that they immediately tendered him the position of professor of English Literature in the institution. He was only nineteen years of age, but here at one bound he became a member of the faculty of one of the strongest normal schools in the United States. If satisfactory evidence were needed to prove his superior ability as a teacher, this appointment to such a high and responsible position would alone be sufficient. Thus early were his services appreciated and his future profession foreshadowed. But though teaching, he continued his studies in the school, taking up the classical course, having previously graduated from the scientific department, and the following year also graduated from the former course. He continued teaching in this school as professor of English literature and mathematics until 1880, when he resigned his position and, as previously stated, purchased an interest in the Northern Indiana Normal School, and has been busily engaged here ever since. He is a member of the Methodist Church, but is very broad and liberal in his religious views; he has held all the lay offices in the church. In politics is a Republican.

In 1876 he was united in marriage to Miss Sarah J., daughter of Jeremiah and Charlotte Porter, a lady of refinement and finished education, who served as professor of mathematics and geography in the Normal School at Lebanon, Ohio, for several years, and as principal of the Des Moines high school three years, resigning from the latter position the day of her marriage. She is now the matron of the Normal School, managing her department with prudence and success.

Source: Goodspeed Brothers. 1894. Pictorial and Biographical Record of La Porte, Porter, Lake and Starke Counties, Indiana. Chicago, Illinois: Goodspeed Brothers. 569 p.
Page(s) in Source: 81-84

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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