‎James Smith Bush (1825-1889) was born 15 June 1825 in Rochester, Monroe County, New York, United States to Obadiah Newcomb Bush (1797-1851) and Harriet Smith (1800-1867) and died 11 November 1889 in Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York, United States of unspecified causes. He married Sarah Freeman (c1825-c1853) 1851 . He married Harriet Eleanor Fay (1829-1924) 24 February 1859 in Trinity Church, New York, United States. Ancestors are from the United States, the United Kingdom, England.

Reverend (June 15, 1825 – November 11, 1889) was an attorney and Episcopal priest and religious writer, and an ancestor of the Bush political family. He was the father of business magnate Samuel Prescott Bush, grandfather of US Senator Prescott Bush, great-grandfather of former US President George H. W. Bush and great-great-grandfather of the 43rd US President, George W. Bush.

James Smith Bush was born in Rochester, New York to Obadiah Newcomb Bush (1797-1851) and Harriet Smith (1800-1867).

Yale University

Bush entered Yale University in 1841, the first of what would become a long family tradition, as his grandson, Prescott Sheldon Bush, great-grandson, George H.W. Bush, great great-grandson, George W. Bush and great-great-great-granddaughter Barbara are all Yale alumni.

Bush supported the founding of Wolf's Head Society in 1883, known originally as The Third Society, along with over three hundred other Yale alumni, Charles Phelps Taft, Edwin Merritt, and Edward Phelps among them.

Bush took the bar in 1847 after law studies at The University of Rochester.

First marriage

His first wife, Sarah Freeman, lived in nearby Saratoga Springs. They married in 1851, but she died 18 months later during childbirth.

This prompted Bush to study divinity with the rector of the Episcopal church there. Ordained a deacon in 1855, he was appointed rector at the newly organized Grace Church in Orange, New Jersey. In 1860 he was an Episcopalian Clergyman living in Orange, Essex County, New Jersey.

Second marriage

On February 24, 1859, he married Harriet Eleanor Fay in Trinity Church, New York City. Fay was born in Savannah, Georgia.


Offspring of ‎James Smith Bush and Harriet Eleanor Fay (1829-1924)
Name Birth Death Joined with
James Freeman Bush (1860-1913) 15 June 1860 Essex County, New Jersey, United States September 1913
Samuel Prescott Bush (1863-1948) 4 October 1863 Brick Church, Orange, Essex County, New Jersey, United States 8 February 1948 University Hospital, Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, United States Florence Sheldon (1872-1920)
Martha Bell (1879-1950)

Harriet Montfort Bush (1871-)
Eleanor Howard Bush (1873-)


In 1865-1866, having been given a health sabbatical by his church, he traveled to San Francisco via the Straits of Magellan on the ironclad monitor USS Monadnock with Commodore John Rodgers (a parishioner of his), with international goodwill stops along the way. Officially, he was designated Commodore's Secretary, but was considered "acting chaplain", giving services on board and even conducting a shipboard wedding for a German American they encountered in Montevideo, an incident recounted by Bret Harte in his dispatches. Coincidentally, the fleet observed the punitive shelling of a defenseless Valparaiso, Chile by the Spanish Navy during the Chincha Islands War, after mediation efforts by Rodgers failed.

In 1867-1872 he was called to Grace Church (later Cathedral) in San Francisco, but troubled by family obligations, stayed only five years. His short stay, along with that of photographic roll film inventor Hannibal Goodwin, was to be satirized by Mark Twain in his weekly column in The Californian.

In 1872 he took a call from Church of the Ascension at West Brighton, Staten Island. In 1884, during a dispute over a church raffle (a gold watch was auctioned, which he considered gambling), he stepped down.

In 1883 he published a collection of sermons called More Words About the Bible, a response to his colleague Heber Newton's book Uses of the Bible. In 1885, his book Evidence of Faith was reviewed by The Literary World as "clear, simple, and unpretending", and summarized as an argument against supernatural explanations for God.[7] According to the same journal, both works fit into the broad church movement.[8] The Boston Advertiser called the latter work "the best statement of untrammeled spiritual thought" among recent books.

He retired from to Concord, Massachusetts, and in 1888 left the Episcopal Church altogether and became a Unitarian. The stress of this separation caused him health problems for the remainder of his life. He moved to Ithaca, New York.


James Smith Bush died on November 11 1889 in Ithaca, at the age of 64.

Footnotes (including sources)

‡ General


  Robin Patterson