Descendant seeks to capture the Spirit of Chrisney in new documentary

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By Don Steen ~ Staff Writer • reporter@psci.net

The great-great-great grandchild of John B. Chrisney paid a visit to their namesake community last week to reconnect with their heritage, and add some theatrical flair in the process. Kevin Chrisney, formerly of Southern California and currently a resident of Detroit, plans to make the Town of Chrisney the subject of an independent documentary along the lines of the 2018 film, “Monrovia, Indiana.” What began as something of a homecoming has led the 30-year-old Kevin Chrisney on quite a journey, unexpectedly crossing paths with the distant footsteps of a young Abe Lincoln and countless other characters from this corner of the country. 

Kevin’s father was a systems engineer, and that branch of the family is now rooted in the Los Angeles area. However, the Chrisneys retained the knowledge that somewhere in Indiana was a town that bore their name, owing to a particularly industrious immigrant from Alsace, France. 

“Chrisney, Indiana has been a mythological kind of place,” they said. “We always knew about JB Chrisney and the lineage. We always knew where Chrisney was. I have a couple letters from J.B. Chrisney from his general store. It’s always been a conversation.”

At one point in elementary school Kevin’s father even presented a Minuteman shirt from Chrisney Elementary, adding a closer connection to the family’s distant ancestral home. Still, Southern California is a long ways from Southern Indiana, and it would take more than a whim to push someone to take that trip. Whimsy with a dash of circumstance, however, is another story. 

Kevin’s education and career lies in the arts, specifically in directing, stage management, and more recently as a playwright. He currently works with Planet Ant Theater in Michigan, which specializes in improv comedy, musicals, and plays. It was at this theater that Chrisney wrote and directed the science fiction play, “Nerve” in 2022. 

While their career paths differed somewhat, Kevin and J.B. Chrisney both wound up authors. J.B. Chrisney published his lengthy tome on Spiritualism in 1896, spurred on by his desire to reconnect with lost loved ones. In a way, this current documentary project is not so different. 

Kevin recently lost an uncle, and the absence has been keenly felt in the family. 

“There’s been a lot of loss in the family,” they said. “A lot of reflection on our place in the world.”

Living in Detroit, “only” about a seven hour drive from the Chrisney Family’s ancestral home, Kevin decided to embark on a journey to the past. While the elder Chrisney looked to the spirit world for answers, Kevin would seek out those who now call Chrisney home and learn all that he could about the town and how it came to be.

Read more on this story in this week’s issue of the Spencer County Leader!

Featured Image: Kevin Chrisney, seen here, is on a journey to learn more about the Chrisney Family history and how the town of Chrisney came to be what it is today