Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sibling Saturday - Henry Menke Jr

Several of my direct ancestors' siblings never married or some did but didn't have children.  They have no direct descendants.  I want to give them their 15 minutes here once in a while on Sibling Saturdays.  

First Henry Menke Jr. Actually he was a half brother to my Great Grandfather Charles Albert Menke.  Henry's mother died near Portsmouth, Ohio when he was about 4.  I knew that Henry became a preacher, but I didn't know where he had gone after 1880 when he was 18 and still living in Clatonia.  

I thank Ancestry for having the Portsmouth Daily Times included in their newspaper database.  I also curse Ancestry for not having that database accessible through the Library Edition.  I’m not a subscriber, just a registered user at Ancestry.  Searching that database at home for the name MENKE gave me a few hits, but all I could see was a few lines of text and the date.  The date!  

The Portsmouth Public library, for a reasonable fee, was kind enough to send me the articles I was able to request because I had the date.  That’s how I found out what happened to Henry Menke, Jr.  (His brother, John Frederick, also had his name in the paper often and I also got a few articles about him!)

Learning that he died in Cassopolis, Michigan, I contacted the Cass District Library.  They sent me his obituary and 2 clippings from 3 different newspapers.  They also sent me a copy of the death register listing and small copy of a photo of the Presbyterian Church in Cassopolis.  Kudos to the people at the Cass District Library in Cassopolis! 

From the Cassopolis Vigilant, Sept. 5, 1912:  "He had been pastor of the Presbyterian church here for more than a year past, and was highly esteemed, not only by the members of his congregation but by the public generally for his scholarly attainments and earnest Christian character."

Census records show him in Carter County, Missouri in 1900 and Cherokee County, Iowa in 1910.  Has anyone else noticed that the celebrities on "Who Do You Think You Are?" all seem to follow the same script?  I mean every one of them says "I've learned that my X Great...", and "I'm curious to know..." and "I want to find out..." and "I'm hoping to...".  Of course the details change.  Well, here I go.  I'm curious to know where Henry went to school or seminary.  I want to find out where all he preached.  I'm hoping to score a photo of him! 

Henry never married.  He died unexpectedly September 2, 1912 at age 50 in his room in the Hotel Goodwin.  Official cause of death was peritonitis from gall bladder infection. Some time before that he had had surgery in the Presbyterian hospital in Chicago for appendicitis.  He had lived in Ohio, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and Michigan.  A preacher, not real estate novelist, who never had time for a wife --- (freely stolen from Billy Joel's Piano Man if it sounds familiar.)

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!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Henry Menke from Germany to Nebraska

That opening paragraph from a biography of my Great-great Grandfather, Henry Menke, 
is a pretty impressive introduction.  Just so it won't bug you, the cut off sentence there goes on to say "one of the representative agriculturists and stock-growers of Gage county..."  It's from the book "The History of Gage County, Nebraska", by Hugh J. Dobbs, published in 1918.  He was born in Hanover, Germany December 4, 1832 and died in Clatonia, Nebraska September 21, 1915.  I believe he came with his parents, but I have yet to determine who they were.  This book is one source I have.  I don't know how Mr. Dobbs got the information for his biography.  It says that "he was a youth at the time of the family immigration to America, his father having previously taken part in the revolutionary movement in Germany.  The family home was established in Ohio, where the parents passed the remainder of their lives, as sterling pioneers of the old Buckeye state."  Sure sounds like they died in Ohio, so there must be some record of them there. 

This may be his family from the 1860 Ward 11, Cincinnati, Hamilton Co., OH census:
Menke, Henry, age 32, Laborer, born Hanover
Menke, Mary, age 33, born Oldenburg
Menke, Lina, age 4, born Ohio  (Emma or Ellen)
Menke, Frederick, age 1 4/12, born Ohio
Wanstrole, Joseph, age 13, born Ohio  (no idea of any connection)

The second house away is a possible choice for his parents:
Menke, John H, age 62, born Hanover
Menke, Angeline, age 60, born Hanover
Menke, Louisa, age 18, Seamstress, born Hanover

Most likely they were not in America in 1850 and I haven't found John & Angeline in 1870. From the biography, Henry married "Miss Mary Niemeyer of Ohio, she having been born in Germany".  Henry and Mary had 4 children, Emma or Ellen (1856-1929), John Frederick (1859-1938), Henry Jr (1862-1912) and Lizzie (1865-1924).  Mary died in 1866.  I've heard there was a cholera epidemic in Cincinnati about that time.  I want to find her death record and burial.  In an obituary for Henry from the DeWitt TImes-News, Henry married Maria Neuhaus in 1856, doesn't say where, but it says he came to American in 1859 and settled at Harrison Furnass Scioto County, Ohio.  It also says they had 5 children.  No mention of his parents and his children are not listed. 

More information comes from the obituary of his son John Frederick Menke.  It says he was born in Hanover, Germany in 1859 and that he came to the US when six months of age.  His mother's name was Mary Niehaus and she died when he was seven years old - 1866.  An article from the Portsmouth Daily Times about John Frederick's grocery business says that he was born in Germany and they "landed in Baltimore, having been on the ocean for 11 weeks and 3 days".  With so much detail I would believe John Frederick was born in Germany, so do I have the wrong family in the 1860 census?  I'm not sure they were ever in Cincinnati.  They should have landed in Baltimore in about October 1859, but I have had no luck with passenger lists.

Henry married Eliza KNAPP January 13, 1867 in Scioto Co., Ohio.  They had 11 children:

Ann Caroline (1868-1946) married Louis Kloepper
John (1869-1869) 
Mary (1870-1889)
Matilda (1872-1969) married William H. Daubendiek
Katherina (1874-1943) married John H Wayman 
Eliza Jane (1877-1974) married Richard Kiene
Rosa (1879-1948) married Lewis Wayman
George Edward (1881-1941) married Kathryn Detmer
Nettie (1883-1962) married Franklin Steinmeyer
Lewis (1885-1885)
Charles Albert (1886-1965) - my Great Grandfather 

If he really used the name John twice, I think it's a good possibility that his father's name was John.  

In 1870, Henry and family are in Lawrence Co., Ohio.  By 1880 they had moved to Clatonia, Gage Co., Nebraska where he lived out his life.  The biography by Dodd says "He was a man of strong intellectuality, well fortified in his convictions concerning public policies, was a Republican in politics, and while he had no desire for official preferment he consented to serve for a number of years in the position of road overseer in his township. He was a most earnest and devout member of the German Methodist church, as is also his venerable widow, and he gave zealous and effective service as a local preacher of this denomination.  Ordering his life upon the highest plane of integrity and honor, he was essentially one of the world's productive workers during the course of a long and vigorous career"  He owned 160 acres in Section 33 of Clatonia township.  I'm looking forward to the Nebraska land patents records becoming available online at the Bureau of Land Management website since it takes a vacation day to go to a court house to do land records research.  Darn job.

It's interesting, the obit says "His funeral text and songs were arranged by him in advance." Those things must have been important to him.  This little clipping from the Clatonia Observer is kinda funny.  I'm sure he wasn't boasting, just letting it be known what he thought!

This is Henry's signature from his will.  I wish it was common practice for a person to divulge their personal history in their wills!  I also have the marriage certificate of Henry and Eliza.  So I need to find death records for the 1860's in Ohio.  Most of what I've seen seems to be from Catholic church records.  Also I want to find the passenger list hoping to find him listed with parents. Whenever I find a copy of the book "History of Gage County, Nebraska", I will put it in my old trunk in the attic.

Director Alexander Payne has just filmed a movie I'm anxious to see called "Nebraska". He's a fellow Nebraskan and I think the movie will be realistic in depicting Nebraska's people.  I am proud to be a 4th generation Nebraskan, proud to be interested in my family history and proud to be a descendant of Henry Menke.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Stone Binge

Recently, I passed my 8th anniversary as a member of  After creating the memorial pages for many of my family members, I went on a stone binge and visited their graves.  Cemeteries are quiet...peaceful...spiritual...emotional.  The place where a person's time on earth is duly noted.  Like the quote, "Some would say that a tombstone is just a rock.  I like to think of them as life's participation trophy."  If I have memories of the person whose name is carved in stone, it's not easy being there.  I miss them.  If I never knew the person, I guess you would say I'm filled with a sense of wonder.  I may know what they looked like from photos, but I wonder what they were like.  Different circumstances took everyone to their grave, and I think of their family as they stood there at the funeral.  Maybe they were shocked by a sudden death, or relieved at the ending of their loved ones suffering.  There is something about being right there that you feel in your heart and soul.  It's a matter of respect.  I can't explain it to anyone who doesn't have an interest in their family history.

1884 - My Great-Great Grandfather, David A. Roscoe died, making his the earliest death of my ancestors in Nebraska. I went to the Oak Grove Cemetery in DeWitt, Nebraska in 1996 and found the ROSCOE family graves.  There were 4 - David and his wife Mary shared one, and their sons Cecil and Ervin, who for some reason had 2.

I've been to 35 of my direct line ancestors graves in cemeteries in Nebraska, Kentucky and Illinois.  Even more family members in Texas and Kansas.  Someday I'd like to get to my Great Aunt Laura Kyle's grave in Carman, Manitoba, Canada.  My photo request there has never been taken.  Since I was going to cemeteries anyway, I signed up as a volunteer at to fulfill photo requests for others.   That has become a way of taking road trips around the state. Whenever I'm going out of town (or even out of state), I take along a photo request list for that area in case I have time.  Sometimes the cemetery photo requests are the purpose for my road trip and determine the destination.  People are happy to get a photo of a grave they can't travel to, and I just enjoy the drive!  Just did that this weekend with my sister.  We went to Carhenge and went on a 4 cemetery stone binge. 

Haven't we all found tombstones with a wrong date or name?  In the movie "The Shootist", John Wayne's character J B Books ordered his own tombstone, unheard of in 1901.  It was simple - just his name and birth date.  I'm sure those dates were correct since they came "straight from the horses mouth".  I know of a couple of my relatives tombstones that have incorrect dates or no death date.  That's the nice thing about preordering tombstones today.  It should help future family history researchers, especially when much more information is there than just a name and dates.

When a rural cemetery isn't mowed, I won't walk around in tall grass.  I have yet to run into a snake, but I know that day will come.  It's nearly impossible to walk around a cemetery looking for a name and not occasionally step in a hole.  I've stepped in several and been lucky that I haven't sprained an ankle.   One day I fell into one up to my knee, grateful I didn't get hurt.  Later that same day, I saw a skunk about 10 feet in front of me.  I slowly walked in the opposite direction keeping my eye on the skunk and I watched him go down in to a hole.  The thought had never occurred to me before what might be IN a hole!  All the more reason to watch out!!