James Smith Bush

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Reverend James Smith Bush
Born(1825-06-15)June 15, 1825
DiedNovember 11, 1889(1889-11-11) (aged 64)
Other namesJames Smith
Spouse(s)Sarah Freeman
Harriet Eleanor Fay
Children4, including Samuel Prescott Bush
Parent(s) Obadiah Bush
Harriet Smith
Relatives George H. W. Bush
George W. Bush
See Bush family
Edward Delafield Smith

James Smith Bush (June 15, 1825 – November 11, 1889) was an American attorney, Episcopal priest, religious writer, and an ancestor of the Bush political family. He was the father of business magnate Samuel Prescott Bush, grandfather of former U.S. Senator Prescott Bush, great-grandfather of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush and great-great-grandfather of former Texas Governor and President George W. Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.



James Smith Bush was born in Rochester, New York, to Obadiah Newcomb Bush and Harriet Smith (1800–1867). In 1851, his father returned from the California Gold Rush after two years in order to reclaim his family and bring them west. He died aboard a ship on his return voyage and was presumably buried at sea. [1]

Yale College

Bush entered Yale College in 1841 (class of 1844), the first of what would become a long family tradition, [2] as his grandsons Prescott Sheldon Bush and James Bush, great-grandsons George H. W. Bush, Prescott Sheldon Bush, Jr., [3] Jonathan Bush and William H. T. Bush, great great-grandson George W. Bush, and great-great-great-granddaughter Barbara are all Yale alumni. He is accounted among the over 300 Yale alumni and faculty who supported in 1883 the founding of Wolf's Head Society. After Yale, he returned to Rochester and studied law, joining the bar in 1847. [4] [5]

First marriage

His first wife, Sarah Freeman, lived in 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.

Second marriage

On February 24, 1859, he married Harriet Eleanor [Fay], daughter of Samuel Howard and Susan [Shellman] Fay, at Trinity Church, New York City. Fay was born in Savannah, Georgia. Her father is the sixth generation removed to John Fay, immigrant patriarch, born in England abt. 1648, embarking on May 30, 1656, at Gravesend on the ship Speedwell, and arrived in Boston June 27, 1656. [6]


  1. James Freeman, b. June 15, 1860, Essex Co., NJ
  2. Samuel Prescott, b. October 4, 1863, Orange., NJ
  3. Harold Montfort, b. November 14, 1871, Dansville, NY
  4. Eleanor Howard, b. November 7, 1873, Staten Island, NY
Samuel was named after Harriet Fay's grandfather, Samuel Prescott Phillips Fay.


In 1865–66, having been given a health sabbatical by his church, [7] he traveled to San Francisco via the Straits of Magellan on the ironclad monitor USS Monadnock with Commodore John Rodgers (a parishioner of his [7] ), with international goodwill stops along the way. Officially, he was designated Commodore's Secretary, [8] but was considered "acting chaplain", [7] giving services on board and even conducting a shipboard wedding for a German American they encountered in Montevideo, an incident Bush recounted in dispatches he wrote for The Overland Monthly. [9] Coincidentally, the fleet observed the punitive shelling of a defenseless Valparaíso, Chile by the Spanish Navy during the Chincha Islands War, after mediation efforts by Rodgers failed. [7]

In 1867–1872, Bush was called to Grace Church (later Cathedral) in San Francisco, but troubled by family obligations, only stayed 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. [10]

In 1872, Bush 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 [11] ), he stepped down. [12]

In 1883, Bush published a collection of sermons called More Words About the Bible, a response to his colleague Heber Newton's book Right and Wrong 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. [13] According to the same journal, both works fit into the broad church movement. [14] The Boston Advertiser called the latter work "the best statement of untrammeled spiritual thought" among recent books. [15]

Bush retired 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 where he died suddenly while raking leaves in 1889.

Published works



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  1. Aikman, David (2004). A Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush (1st ed.). Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group. p.  17. ISBN   9781418516390.
  2. Bush, George W. (2014). 41: A Portrait of My Father . London: Ebury Publishing. p.  10. ISBN   9780553447781. OCLC   883645289.
  3. "Yale Daily News - Cross Campus - Prescott S. Bush Jr. '44 dies at 87". Archived from the original on 2010-06-28. Retrieved 2010-06-27., retrieved 6/27/10
  4. Phelps Association membership directory, 2006
  5. "The Bush Family". smokershistory.com. Archived from the original on 5 March 2021. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  6. Vital Records of Southborough, Massachusetts, To the End of the Year 1849. Worcester, Massachusetts: Franklin P. Rice. 1903.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Charles Edgar Clark (1917). My Fifty Years in the Navy. Little, Brown and Company. p.  129.
  8. "For the Pacific Coast: Departure of the Vanderbilt and the Monadnock". The New York Times . October 25, 1865. Retrieved 2008-01-06.
  9. James S. Bush (1869). The Cruise of the "Monadnock". The Overland Monthly.
  10. Years of Grace, Part I: Chapel to "Cathedral" - gracecathedral.org - Retrieved January 8, 2007 Archived October 6, 2002, at the Wayback Machine
  11. "Resigned Because of a Raffle". The New York Times . December 30, 1883. Retrieved 2008-01-06. The Rev. James S. Bush has resigned as Pastor of the Church of the Ascension, at West Brighton. A short time ago a fair was held in the church, when a gold watch was put up for chances and won by Erastus Brooks. The Rev. Mr. Bush was opposed to the raffle, which he considered gambling. There was considerable feeling in the church on account of the Pastor's wishes not being respected.
  12. "A Pastor Chides His Flock; The Rev. Mr. Bush's Farewell Sermon at West Brighton". The New York Times . January 28, 1884. Retrieved 2008-01-06. Peace now prevails in the Church of the Ascension at West Brighton, Staten Island, and raffles and such things may hold sway without let or hindrance. The Rector, the Rev. James S. Bush, who opposed the employing of games of chance to raise money for the church, has severed ...
  13. The Evidence of Faith. The Literary World. 1885.
  14. News and Notes. The Literary World. 1889.
  15. Books of Religion (advertising). King's Chapel Sermons. Houghton Mifflin. 1891. p.  6. As quoted by publisher.