George G. Rice – Early Citizen of Council Bluffs

George Gaby Rice was born September 22, 1819 in Enosburgh, Vermont. In 1839 George was admitted to the University of Vermont, but owing to lack of funds he had to leave school to earn money. He eventually obtained his degree in 1845. After teaching in Maryland for a few years he entered the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He graduated in 1850

By the end 1850 George was in Fairfield, Iowa. He was working for the American Home Missionary Society. The society’s objective was “to assist congregations that are unable to support the gospel ministry, and to send the gospel to the destitute within the United States.”

On November 6th, 1851 Reverend Rice left Fairfield for Kanesville, Iowa. It took him 10 days to make the journey. After dinner of venison and biscuits at the Bluff House he accepted an invitation to stay with the J. B. Ferguson family.

Reverend Rice soon purchased a house and began preaching up and down the Missouri Valley. In 1852 he traveled to St. Charles, Illinois where on May 26th he married Martha C. Durant.

Between his diary and his reports to the American Home Missionary Society we get an idea of life in early Council Bluffs. He writes about a murder that occurred in May 1853 and the subsequent hanging of the suspected killer. A devastating fire in November 1853 and the formation of the First Congregational Church. He also mentions his health, his garden, his preaching, his visitors and the weather.

During this time George and Martha started a family. Abbie was born in 1852, Frances was born in 1855 and George was born in 1858.

In 1858 the Rice family moved to Onawa, Iowa to try and start a congregation there. After only a year they left for Kansas Territory. He preached in and around Hiawatha, Kansas until returning to Council Bluffs in 1867.

Upon his return George continued to preach at the Congregational Church and area towns. His diary entries began to turn more and more toward the weather and his garden. His entry from May 31st, 1873:

“Planted corn on the 27th, 28th and 29th and on the 29th planted late potatoes on the 30th set out tomatoes. Set out sweet potatoes on the 24th and 27th. The season is late, wet and cold. Bought today of Mr. Newton a cow for $26. Have planted today lima beans and sowed four ounces of cabbage seed, one ounce “stone mason marble head” one ounce fildekraut and two ounces “large flat dutch”. Have now got my seeds all in the ground that I intend to plant unless it be turnips and late sweet corn.”

The last entry in the diary is April 3, 1899. George G. Rice spent the next 23 years in his various pursuits, all while being surrounded by his family.

Martha Rice died in 1904 at the age of 86. George G. Rice died in 1922 at the age of 103. They are buried in Fairview Cemetery

At the time of his death Reverend Rice left behind 3 children, 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.