Exhibit - The Kedzie Family and their Presence at MSU
The arrival of Robert Kedzie and his family to the campus of M.A.C. in February 1863 led to many generations of the Kedzie family being involved with MSU in some capacity. Just to name a few, some of his descendants were either students on campus, taught classes, held high administration positions, or went on to teach at other universities. Below are several biographies of the Kedzie Family and how they were involved with the university. (Please note: This is not a complete genealogy. Most of the dates provided were found in either obituaries or Ancestry Library Edition.)
Robert Clark Kedzie
1823 – 1902
Husband to Harriet Eliza Fairchild
Robert Clark Kedzie was born to William and Margaret Kedzie on January 28, 1823, in Delhi, New York and moved to Michigan in 1826 with his family. Graduating from Oberlin College in 1846, he was in charge of the Rochester Academy, Michigan, for the next two years. Kedzie married Mary J. Knowlton of Franklin, Ohio on March 11, 1848 in Portage, Ohio but within a year, died during childbirth. After her death, Kedzie moved to Ann Arbor to study medicine at the University of Michigan Medical College. He married Harriet Fairchild on May 20, 1850 in Brownhelm, Ohio. After Robert finished his medical degree in 1851, the couple moved to Kalamazoo and then Vermontville, Michigan, where Harriet kept house and Robert practiced medicine until the outbreak of the Civil War.
Robert Kedzie and the Civil War
On January 23, 1862, Kedzie, at the age of 37, was commissioned as an officer in Company S of the 12th Michigan Infantry and appointed as an assistant surgeon. He was captured by Confederate forces at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862, and was compelled to care for wounded Confederate soldiers in addition to the Union wounded. After a few days, the Confederate surgeons brokered a deal to release the captive Union surgeons so they could return to Union lines and treat their wounded. After returning to his camp, Kedzie soon became very ill with dysentery. He was promoted to full surgeon on April 25, 1862, after the acting surgeon, Dr. George L. Brunschweiler, was forced to resign because he was consistently too drunk to carry out his duties. By this time, Kedzie was already aboard a hospital steamboat, the City of Memphis, traveling towards Cincinnati. He soon regained his health and caught back up with his regiment in Jackson, Tennessee, around June 21. Kedzie submitted his resignation in late September, citing poor physical health. Though his health soon bounced back, commanders accepted his resignation on October 8, 1862, and was mustered out.
Robert Kedzie Arrives at M.A.C.
Kedzie’s bouts with ill health led him to abandon his medical practice and accept the position of Professor of Chemistry at Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C.) in February 1863. During his forty years at M.A.C., Kedzie served in a number of influential positions, such as a Congressional Representative in the Michigan House (1867), president of the Michigan Medical Society (1874), the Michigan State Board of Health (1877-1881), the American Public Health Association (1882), as well as the Society for the Promotion of Agricultural Science (1887-1889). In 1898, M.A.C. conferred upon him a Doctor of Science degree and the University of Michigan awarded him a Doctorate of Law in 1901.
Robert Kedzie’s Consumer Contributions
Kedzie’s work as a public health official and consumer advocate included securing the passage of an act that established a state food and dairy commission, of which he was appointed as its first analyst. He also helped pass a law to inspect the chemical contents of commercial fertilizers. Upon discovering the hazards of arsenic-laced pigments used in wallpaper and other items, he fought to make such pigments illegal. Kedzie was an early advocate of growing sugar beets in Michigan. His agricultural experiments and public relations work on behalf of Michigan’s fledgling beet companies earned him reputation as the "father” of Michigan’s beet sugar industry.
Kedzie retired from his position as head of the M.A.C. Department of Chemistry in 1902 and his son Frank took over the position. Robert C. Kedzie continued to work at the college as a chemist and teacher until his death on November 7, 1902.
Harriet Eliza Fairchild Kedzie
1828 – 1891
Wife to Robert Clark Kedzie
Born May 31, 1828, Harriet Elizabeth “Eliza” Fairchild, was a native of Oberlin, Ohio. Fairchild attended Oberlin College at the same time as Robert Kedzie, graduating with a degree from the Ladies Department in 1847. She went on to teach at Rochester Academy from 1847 to 1849. She and Robert were married on May 20, 1850 in Brownhelm, Ohio. After Robert finished his medical degree in 1851, the couple moved to Kalamazoo and then Vermontville, Michigan, where Harriet kept house and Robert practiced medicine until the outbreak of the Civil War. They had three children together, William Knowlton, Robert Fairchild, and Frank Stewart. Harriet and the children moved to Oberlin during the war while Robert was away.
Harriet moved with her husband to M.A.C. in 1863 when he became professor of chemistry and lived on campus for twenty-nine years. In 1891, Harriet died at the age of sixty-three from heart failure.
George Thompson Fairchild
Sister to Harriet Fairchild Kedzie
Harriet Kedzie was also an older sister to George Thompson Fairchild, who was professor of English literature at M.A.C. from 1866 to 1879. He also was the university’s first appointed librarian from 1872 to 1879. He later became President of Kansas State Agricultural College from 1879 to 1897. Fairchild Theatre is named in his honor.
William Knowlton Kedzie
1851 – 1880
First Son to Robert Kedzie
Graduated M.A.C. 1870
Harriet and Robert’s son, William Knowlton, was born in 1851 and was a graduate of M.A.C. in 1870. From 1870 to 1873, William was his father’s assistant in chemistry. In 1873, he left to spend a year at the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale. For five years, he was at Kansas State Agricultural College from 1874 to 1878 and later, Oberlin College in 1878. On July 25, 1876, William married Ella M. Gale and had a daughter and a son. Unfortunately, William died at the age of twenty-eight from “inflammation of the brain” in April 1880.
Ella Marie Gale Kedzie
1856 – 1935
Wife to William Knowlton Kedzie
Born in 1856 in Pavilion, Illinois, Ella moved with her family to Manhattan, Kansas where her father was a pastor of the Baptist Church and an instructor at Kansas State Agricultural College. She later graduated from this institution. She married William Knowlton Kedzie on July 27, 1876. From 1876 to 1877, Ella was a Professor of Drawing at Kansas State Agricultural College. She gave birth to her daughter, Ella Pearl, in 1877 and her son, William Roscoe, in 1879.
After the death of her husband in 1880, Ella and her children moved to Olivet, Michigan where she became head of the art department at Olivet College, where she remained for eight years. After the death of her mother-in-law in 1891, Robert Kedzie invited her and his grandchildren to move in with him on Faculty Row. Ella became a faculty member at M.A.C. in the art department and opened her own art studio in Lansing in 1897. She died September 14, 1935 at the age of seventy-nine.
Robert Fairchild Kedzie
1852 – 1882
Second son to Robert Kedzie
Graduated M.A.C. 1871
Robert F. Kedzie was born in Vermontville, Michigan on December 2, 1852. He graduated from M.A.C. in 1873. After his brother, William, left the position as assistant in chemistry, Robert worked under his father from 1873 to 1880. In 1880, he resigned from his position to take a job as a chemistry professor at the newly founded Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College. On December 28, 1881, Robert married Nellie Sawyer. Unfortunately, not even two months after his wedding, Robert F. Kedzie died from malaria on February 13, 1882.
Nellie Sawyer Kedzie
1858 – 1956
Wife to Robert Fairchild Kedzie
Born on August 2, 1858 near Madison, Maine, Nellie lived there until the age of eleven when her family moved to live on a farm in Kansas. She earned her B.A. from Kansas State Agricultural College at the age of eighteen and then spent the next five years teaching. Just after Christmas in 1881, she married Robert Fairchild Kedzie, but unfortunately, two months later, Robert died from malaria. A year later, Nellie was hired to be Kansas State College of Agriculture’s first woman professor. She had the task of developing the new department of domestic economy, along with teaching all of the courses. With the help of the college president, her late husband’s uncle and her father-in-law, she built the program from the ground up.
For the next fifteen years, Nellie’s department grew and she became the unofficial dean of women. Later, she left to join the founding faculty at Bradley Polytechnic Institute in Peoria, Illinois. To reflect her contributions at Kansas State, the college named a building, Kedzie Hall, after her.
Nellie taught at Bradley from 1897 until 1901 when she resigned to marry Howard Murray Jones. The couple later moved to Kalamazoo and then settled on a farm in Wisconsin. From her experience living on the farm and domestic household, Nellie wrote an advice column for “The Country Gentlewoman”, a feature in the farm magazine, The Country Gentleman. In the column, Nellie wrote it as a factious letter to her niece, Janet, and signed it as “Aunt Nellie.”
Nellie Sawyer Kedzie Jones died at the age of ninety-seven on April 19, 1956.
Frank Stewart Kedzie
1857 – 1935
Third son to Robert Kedzie
Graduated M.A.C. 1877
Frank Stewart Kedzie was born May 12, 1857, in Vermontville, Michigan. Over the course of his long career at the M.A.C., Kedzie acquired an intimate knowledge of the institution's history. He attended M.A.C. and graduated in 1877 with a B.S. in Agriculture. Subsequently, he studied medicine with a Lansing physician. In 1880, when Frank's brother, Robert, resigned as assistant in chemistry, Frank returned to M.A.C. and assumed the position under his father. He began lecturing, and became affectionately known to his students as "Uncle Frank.” In 1902, following his father's retirement, Frank was appointed head of the Chemistry department.
In 1916, Kedzie was appointed president of M.A.C. During his term, Kedzie continued to teach on an abbreviated schedule. He also began to promote numerous alumni activities. Significant among these was the development of private financial support for the construction of new campus buildings, including the Ransom E. Olds Hall of Engineering (1916), the Union Building (1924), and Beaumont Tower (1929).
Frank Kedzie after being M.A.C. President
In 1921, Kedzie resigned as president. The College had not witnessed the anticipated post-war growth in enrollment. It was believed that a new curriculum developed to suit changing educational needs and demands (and new leadership to implement it) was needed. In that same year, 1921, the Division of Applied Science was created, to which Kedzie was appointed dean. From 1925 to 1927, Kedzie concurrently served as dean and chairman of the Committee on Historical Materials. Upon Kedzie's resignation as dean in 1927, he was offered the new position of College Historian.
Kedzie was dissatisfied with Beal's "History of the Michigan Agricultural College" (1915) and had plans to rewrite it. President Butterfield was also anxious for a history of the College to be written for the upcoming 75th anniversary of M.A.C. Accordingly, Kedzie put forth a great deal of effort collecting historical information from alumni about their college experiences, and had written, over the years, various short essays to friends on matters related to College history and traditions.
Unfortunately, Frank Kedzie's history was not to be completed. Due to a conflict of opinion with MSC President Robert Shaw, he was dismissed from the position of College Historian and the post was dissolved by the State Board of Agriculture in 1932. Frank died three years later, on January 5, 1935, leaving a $50,000 bequest to the college for the purchase of chemistry books.
Aside from his college affairs, Frank played an active role in the development of the Michigan sugar-beet industry, as did his father. He published in many magazines on both historical and agricultural related topics.
Frank married Kate Marvin of Lansing, an accomplished music teacher, in 1885. Though the couple had no children, they raised many animals being especially fond of thoroughbred horses and pedigreed dogs.
Kate Marvin Kedzie
1862 – 1934
Wife to Frank Kedzie
Born on March 3, 1862, Kate Marvin lived in Jackson and moved to the Lansing area at the age of five. She studied music at an early age and went to Detroit to attend the Detroit Female seminary, where she continued her music education. She married Frank S. Kedzie on December 30, 1885 in Plymouth church and it was described as the “social event of 1885.” Kate and Frank didn’t have any children, but they raised many animals being especially fond of thoroughbred horses and pedigreed dogs.
A professional musician, teacher, pianist and accompanist, Kate Marvin’s career was closely associated with the progress music made in Lansing. She taught continuously, from 1882 to 1918, save a year or two spent studying abroad. It was in the Kedzie residence on March 21, 1894 the Matinee Musical Society was formed. This group wanted to perform, but they also brought different leading, musical artists to the Lansing Area, such as the Philharmonic music course, the Ukrainian chorus, John McCormack, and violinist Huberman. Now known as the Lansing Matinee Musicale, Inc., the group still continues to educate and bring musical talent to the Lansing area.
Louis Clark Plant
1870 – 1966
Husband to Ella Pearl Kedzie
Born on November 4, 1870, Louis Plant earned his doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1897. He married Ella Pearl Kedzie in her grandfather’s house on December 19, 1900. Plant also earned his M.S. degree from the University of Chicago in 1904. Before coming to M.A.C., Plant was a professor at the University of Montana from 1907 to 1913. In 1913, Plant became the head of the M.A.C. mathematics department and held that position till 1939 when he retired. Even though he was retired, he did return as the acting director in 1942 to 1943. Professor Plant received the MSU Centennial Award in 1955. A resident of East Lansing for fifty-three years, he died November 12, 1966 at the age of ninety-six.
Ella Pearl Kedzie Plant
1877 – 1970
Granddaughter to Robert Kedzie
Graduated M.A.C. 1898
Ella Pearl Kedzie was born in 1877 in Manhattan, Kansas. After the death of her father in 1880, she, her mother, and brother moved to Olivet, Michigan where her mother was head of the art department at Olivet College. She graduated from Olivet Preparatory School and attended Olive College from 1894 to 1895. Later, she and her family moved to M.A.C. to live her with grandfather, Robert Kedzie at No. 5 Faculty Row. She attended M.A.C. and as the high honor student for the Women’s Couse, she gave a commencement address entitled, “The Realm of Women” when she graduated in 1898. After graduation, she attended Wellesley College for graduate work in English Literature. On December 19, 1900, she married Louis Clark Plant inside her grandfather’s home on Faculty Row. She and Louis had two children together, a son and daughter. Ella Pearl lived to the age of ninety-three, dying September 25, 1970.
William Roscoe Kedzie
1879 – 1940
Grandson to Robert Kedzie
Graduated M.A.C. 1899
William Roscoe Kedzie, always called Roscoe, was born in Oberlin, Ohio on May 10, 1879. After the death of his father, he traveled with his mother and sister to Olivet, Michigan, where his mother was head of the Art Department at Olivet College. After the death of his grandmother, he and his family moved in with his grandfather, Robert Kedzie, on Faculty Row at M.A.C. At the age of 13, Roscoe published his own newspaper on campus, The Eagle. It started out as just a tiny 2.5 by 3.5 inches double sided piece of paper and grew into a larger newspaper, even selling ad space for 1₵ a line. Roscoe reported on the news and gossip of campus. He charged 1₵ a week or ₵25 for six months for a subscription. Unfortunately, he had to cease publishing The Eagle because he needed to focus on his educational studies.
Roscoe graduated from M.A.C. in 1899 and received his B.S. of divinity degree from Oberlin College in 1902 and his doctor of divinity from Olivet College in 1922. He married Ida Elsie Barton on August 31, 1897 and together they had three children. Roscoe served in pastorates at Vicksburg, Pontiac, St. Johns, and Glen Ellyn, Illinois. He served as pastor of the First Congregation church in Cleveland, Ohio for ten years. For seven years, he served as secretary of the Congregation Foundation for Education in Chicago. After retiring, he and his wife moved to Eaton Rapids, Michigan to live on a farm. His wife died on November 8, 1936. Sometime between 1937 and 1940, Roscoe married his second wife, Elsie Dean of Cleveland. On September 16, 1940, Roscoe suffered a heart attack and died outside in his garden.
Margaret Louise Plant Thorp
1904 – 1996
Great-granddaughter to Robert Kedzie
Graduated MSC 1925
Born on December 20, 1904, Margaret Louise Plant was the daughter of Louis and Ella Plant. She graduated from MSC in 1925 with her B.S. and graduated from the University of Chicago with her M.S. degree in Home Economics. She then taught nutrition at the University of Illinois from 1927 to 1932. In 1931, she married Frank Thorp, Jr. Together, they had a son and a daughter. After the death of her husband, Margaret went back to school and received her M.S. degree in Library Science from Western Michigan University. From 1961 to 1975, Margaret followed in the steps of her great-great-uncle George Fairchild and worked as MSU’s medical librarian. After her retirement, she hiked various mountains around the world. She died March 20, 1996 in Akron, Ohio.
Frank Thorp, Jr.
1900 – 1955
Married to Margaret Louise Plant
Frank Thorp, Jr. was born on October 15, 1900 in Panora, Iowa. He attended Iowa State College and received his D.V.M. degree in 1926. He later received is M.A. in 1927 from Virginia State College and his Ph.D. in 1936 from the University of Illinois. He first taught at M.S.C. from 1927 to 1928 as an instructor in Bacteriology. Before he returned to M.S.C. a second time, he taught at the University of Illinois and Colorado State. He was a 2nd Lieutenant with the U.S. Army Reserve Veterinary Corps from 1926 to 1936. He married Margaret Louise Plant on June 17, 1931. Together, they had two children. Frank and his family returned to East Lansing where Frank worked as a research specialist in animal pathology. Unfortunately, Frank passed away suddenly on September 9, 1955 in Denver, Colorado while he and his family were on vacation.
Frederic B. Dutton
1906 – 1995
Husband to Faith Kedzie
Frederic Dutton was born on Christmas Eve, 1906 in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended Oberlin College and received his A.B. in 1928 and M.A. in 1932. He later received his Ph.D. in 1937 from Western Reserve University. Before arriving at MSC, Dutton taught chemistry at Olivet College, Yale University, and Baldwin-Wallace College. When Dutton arrived at MSC in 1947 and until his retirement in 1976, he held several job titles and positions, moving his way up in the university system. He was originally hired as an associate chemistry professor in chemistry, then moved up to professor and director of the MSU Science and Mathematics Teaching Center. He became programming director for Pre-College Education in Science Division.
He kept moving on up when he became a professor and the planning chairman of Lyman BriggsCollege. With the opening of Lyman Briggs College, he began its first dean. From there, he was a professor and consultant to the Provost Office, and also acting Ombudsman. He retired in 1976 from the University. He died on August 10, 1995.
Extended Kedzie Family Members
Along with Robert Kedzie's immediate family, several of his nieces and nephews also came to Michigan to attend M.A.C. This is turn led to some great-nieces and nephews to attend as well. The names listed below are the ones that were easily identifiable as being related to Robert Kedzie.
Catherine E. Steele Gillis
1848 – 1923
Daughter of Samuel F. and Elizabeth M. Kedzie Steele
Niece to Robert Clark Kedzie
Married Theodore S. Gillis
Attended M.A.C. from 1870-1871
Catherine, nickname Kittie, was one of the first ten women admitted to M.A.C. She stayed at the residence of her uncle, Professor Robert Kedzie. She left M.A.C. and married Corporal Theodore S. Gillis on March 13, 1872. Theodore fought in the Civil War and served with Company E, Illinois 83rd Infantry Regiment. They lived in Illinois, Iowa, Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida. The census records list their occupations as farmers. They had nine children.
George Edward Kedzie
1851 – 1931
Son of George H. and Harriet A. Smith Kedzie
Nephew to Robert Clark Kedzie
Married Martha A. Knapp
Graduated M.A.C. 1873
Donald Hixson Kedzie
George was a mining and geological engineer, working in places such as Mexico, New Mexico, Texas, and California. He had four children.
1857 – 1915
Son of Adam S. and Henrietta G. Hixson Kedzie
Nephew to Robert Clark Kedzie
Graduated M.A.C. 1876
Donald was an editor and proprietor of “Country Paper” and later the postmaster in Lordsburg, New Mexico where he lived. He had a disease in one of his knees and sought various treatments with little success. On December 26, 1892, Donald had said leg amputated.
Donelson Kedzie Hitchcock
1862 – 1928
Son of Henry H. and Mary P. Kedzie Hitchcock
Nephew to Robert Clark Kedzie
Attended M.A.C. from 1880-1882
After leaving M.A.C., Donelson moved around the country and worked different jobs. Census records show us that he worked as a farmer in Indiana, ranchman in Wyoming, and millwright in New York.
Willard Smith Kedzie
1862 – 1951
Son of George H. and Harriet A. Smith Kedzie
Nephew to Robert Clark Kedzie
Graduated M.A.C. 1883
Willard was an accountant and longtime resident of Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Rosamond Harriet Kedzie
1884 – 1965
Daughter of George E. and Martha A. Knapp Kedzie
Graduated M.A.C. 1906 An instructor of Domestic Arts at M.A.C. from 1908 to 1910.
After leaving M.A.C., Rosamond moved around the country and worked different jobs. She lived in Iowa, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, and California. Her occupation was listed as either a teacher or a nurse.
Margaret Adella Kedzie Perkins
1889 – 1965
Daughter of George E. and Martha A. Knapp Kedzie
Married Charles Holden Perkins
Graduated M.A.C. 1911
According to the census records, it appears that Margaret lived in Michigan and California. The only occupation listed for her was a teacher.
Malcolm Knapp Kedzie
1888 – 1971
Son of George E. and Martha A. Knapp Kedzie
Married Katherine Gill
Attended M.A.C. from 1906 – 1911
It appears that Malcolm graduated from M.A.C., but instead left college early to move to Libby, Montana where he stayed until his death. During that time, he worked as a forester, a draftsman for a surveyor office, and as a postmaster.
salute is set. December 19, 1965. Lansing State Journal. www.newspapers.com
Ancestry Library Edition. www.ancestrylibrary.com
Beal, W.J. 1915. History of the Michigan Agricultural College and Biographical Sketches of Trustees and Professors.
Agricultural College: East Lansing.
Catalogue of Officers and Graduates, 1857-1911. Michigan Agricultural College. East Lansing, Michigan. 1911.
Delgado, Jeanne Hunnicutt. 1973. “Nellie Kedzie Jone’s advice to farm women: Letters from Wisconsin, 1912-1916.” Wisconsin Magazine of History
, pgs. 3-27. Genealogy, Box 1, Folder 3, Kedzie Family Papers, C. 244. Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.
[Donald H. Kedzie leg amputated]. (1893, January 13). The Eagle
, 3(90), 2. Serial 249, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.
Dutton, Faith Kedzie. 1982. A boy’s view of Michigan Agricultural College in the 1890’s
. Folder 1, Faith Kedzie Dutton collection, c. 522, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.
Dutton, Frederic B., n.d., Box 1519, Folder 59, Media Communication records, UA 8.1.1, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.
Ella Kedzie Plant succumbs at 93. September 27, 1970. Lansing State Journal. www.newspapers.com
Former teacher at M.S.C. dies. September 14, 1935. Lansing State Journal
Genealogy, n.d., Box 1, Folder 3, Kedzie Family Papers, 244, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.
Kedzie, A.S., & F.S. 1882. Kedzies and their relatives.
Grand Haven, MI: Herald Power Print. Box 2, Folder 2, Kedzie Family Papers, 244, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.
Kedzie, Dr. William R. Obituary. September 27, 1940. Lansing State Journal. www.newspapers.com
Plant, Mrs. Pearl (Kedzie) obituary. September 27, 1970. Lansing State Journal. www.newspapers.com
Professor emeritus dies as 96. November 12, 1966. Lansing State Journal. www.newspapers.com
Shadduck, Hugh Allen. 1929. The life of Robert Clark Kedzie
. East Lansing, Michigan State College. Box F.D., Folder 1, Hugh Allen Shadduck collection, UA 10.3.87, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.
Stokley, James. July 1978. Professor Kedzie and the Poisonous Wall Paper from Michigan. Futures, Serial 316, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan.
Thorp, Margaret (Plant) obituary. March 24, 1996. Lansing State Journal
W.R. Kedzie dies in Eaton Rapids. September 29, 1940. Lansing State Journal. www.newspapers.com
Exhibit written by Jennie Russell, March 2019, updated March 2020; updated October 2021
Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections