Sunday, August 25, 2013

Eliza (Knapp) Menke - Lived 102 years

Lived 102 years, 8 months, 17 days
Had 11 children, 5 died before her, 2 of those were infants
Survived by 6 children, 30 grandchildren 23 great-granchildren and 1 great-great grandchild 
Born May 15,1841 in Wurttemberg, Germany
Age 4 came to America
Age 26 married Henry Menke
Age 27 had her first child
Age 38 moved from Ohio to Nebraska
Age 45 had her last child
Age 74 widowed
Died  February 2, 1944 at the Anna Rohe nursing home in Lincoln.

How does someone live that long?!

Eliza's parents were Heinrich Knapp and Caroline Schukky.  She grew up in the area of Portsmouth, Ohio.  They were with a United Brethren church there, her parents are buried in St John's Lutheran Church cemetery.  She had brothers Frederick, Lewis, Henry, August and George and sisters Mary and Hannah.  Both of her sisters moved to Nebraska also and lived near her around Clatonia for several years.  Hannah married Conrad Smith and Mary married John Boggs. I've just interrupted myself writing this post by spending a couple of hours finding Mary & John Boggs in census records.  I haven't checked on her brothers, but that can wait, I want to get this finished.  I wonder how often she saw her parents after she moved to Nebraska.  They lived another 10 plus years after that.  How expensive was it to travel by train? 

Eliza married Henry Menke on January 13, 1867 in Portsmouth, Ohio and immediately became a mother to 4 children ages 2 to 11.  Henry & Eliza and their family traveled by boat on the Ohio river to Cincinnati and then took a train to Atchison, Kansas, then probably went by wagon to Clatonia, Nebraska in the spring of 1879.  If they homesteaded their land, there would have been nothing there when they arrived.  Nevertheless, it became her Tara.  She lived there well into her 90's.  As God as her witness, she never went hungry!  

She was known for her beautiful flower gardens, extensive vegetable gardens and orchards.  She had the first mechanical chick incubator and brooder and she was the earliest operator of a sorghum mill in her part of the country.  In her obituary it said "She led a life of feverish activity.  How she held up under the strain, doubtless puzzled many."

The Beatrice Times for Women, Feb. 16, 1944 included this poem in her obituary, "in the words of Rozelle Montgomery:
You are not dead - Life has but set you free!  
You have but passed beyond where we can see.  
For us who know you, dread of age is past!  
You took life, tiptoe, to the very last; 
It never lost for you it's lovely look; 
You kept your interest in its thrilling book; 
To you Death came no conqueror; 
in the end - you merely smiled to greet another friend" 

I have a picture of her, but I scanned it from a book and I probably can't post it here.  It's very grainy anyway, I don't know how to photoshop.  

So, what was her secret to long life?  Was it her strong faith?  Was it because she kept busy and was always interested in new things?  She must have had a low stress level.  At any rate, she kept breathing for 102 years!


  1. I think she lived that long b/c she worked hard, worked outdoors. Also, German people have very strong wills and it seems like she certainly did. I bet she never had a free moment with all those children, never took a vacation, never sat down for very long. Anyway, thanks for the post. A great read.

    1. Thanks, I appreciate the comment! It seems pretty lonely here sometimes, but it's all good. It's been great for re-evaluating my work and finding new things.

  2. Thank you for the follow on my blog, Laura . . . it's great to have you here. I have discovered I have Mattingly's in my family history. Adding that surname to the list!

  3. Thanks for reading Gini! We'll have to compare Mattingly's. If yours were from Marion County, KY, your probably my husband's cousin.