Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


“Age is a quality of mind,” said Julia. “If years have left your dreams behind, if hope is cold, if you no longer look ahead, if your ambition’s fires are dead, then you are old.”

“But if from life you take the best, if in life you keep the zest, if love you hold, no matter how the years go by, no matter how the birthdays fly, you are not old.”

On Good Friday afternoon of 1939, services were held in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Glendale, California for this 83 year-old Keosauqua native, Julia Baldwin McKibbin.

The youngest of five children reaching adulthood born to pioneer parents, Julia entered this world on December 16, 1855. Six months later the family moved into a small house on a hill in Keosauqua that was always home to her, and which bore her name. The house is pictured in 1912 Picturesque Keosauqua and Vicinity, published by the Women’s Improvement Association. Although some may know this property, I cannot positively identify the house or location.

Julia Baldwin attended Keosauqua Public Schools, and graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant. She taught two years in the Washington Iowa Academy, and then married Dr. George McKibbin of Keosauqua.

After Dr. McKibbin died, Julia was Professor of Rhetoric and History at Iowa Wesleyan, but returned to Keosauqua to care for her aging parents. Several years later, both parents died and Julia taught a group of little girls. She returned to Iowa Wesleyan while her son attended his last two undergraduate years, and made a home for him until his marriage.

Julia wanted to be a missionary, but her family objected. She always took a keen interest in the work of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society. Taking her church membership with her each time she moved, she usually taught Sunday School, and sometimes had over one hundred adults in her Sunday morning classes. Her life was intertwined around her family, her church and Iowa Wesleyan College. In 1882 she became a member of the P.E.O. Sisterhood and continued active membership in several chapters until her death.

Travels took her to the Holy Land, Europe, and around the world where she made many lasting friendships that were carried through her life. As she became older, she wintered in warmer climates, but rarely returned to the same place, characteristic of her interest in new scenes. Strangely enough, wherever she went she found old Iowa friends as well as new ones. For example, she assisted in arranging for a dinner of former Iowa Wesleyan students and graduates in Los Angeles that was attended by more than 60 people!

Julia’s notebook was filled with excerpts of poetry and philosophy of the past. For example, she said “Who seeks from Heaven alone to save his soul, may keep the path but will not reach the goal. While he who walks in love may wander far, but God will bring him where the blessed are!”

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick