Searching for what happened to ‘Bad’ Peter

Sometime this summer, I noticed that both Mathias Konzen and his brother John Konzen (my great great grandfather) had sons named Peter.  Mathias’s son was Peter Henry Konzen (1857-1935) and John’s son was Peter H Konzen (1872-?).  At the time, I dismissed this as not very weird at all since I’ve seen much stranger things in the Konzen’s genealogy.

One day, I skimmed some news articles on Ancestry about Peter H Konzen and I didn’t really read the full extent of them, but I saw that his wife was granted a divorce from him.  That still wasn’t anywhere near weird enough for me to look deeper into Peter H Konzen’s history.  Around this time period, I found some great information on Peter Henry Konzen’s life (at this website  It turns out that Mathias’s son Peter Henry seems to have been an all-around good guy, he was a lawyer, mayor, and judge.

Soon after this, Paula found a bunch of newspaper articles on Peter H Konzen who was also a lawyer.  And we discovered that John’s son Peter H wasn’t an all-around good guy like his cousin Peter Henry.  In fact, Peter Henry was probably very glad that he moved to Minnesota from Chickasaw County, Iowa, and I bet he wanted to change his name a time or two.  Peter H was the ultimate bad Peter.  As my great aunt Kay Konzen Anderson says, “he was always a schemer.”

According to a newspaper article that Paula found, bad Peter “a real estate dealer and justice of peace at New Hampton, started for Chicago Sept. 26 [,1903] and has not been heard of since.”  On October 15, 1903, the Evening Gazette published an article entitled “Was Iowan Murdered by Chicago Thugs?”  The article states “Chicago, Oct. 15 – Murdered for the purposes of robbery is believed to have been the fate of P. H. Konzen, a wealthy justice of the peace of New Hampton, Iowa, who disappeared on his way to this city during Centennial week.  The police were asked today to solve the mystery surrounding his disappearance.  Konzen, who is 35 years of age, left his home September 29, and came to Chicago to attend the centennial celebration, after which he intended to sell here a large piece of land in South Dakota.  His friends believed that he made the sale and received in payment a large amount of money, for which he was held up and probably murdered.”

The Elgin Echo reported on Nov. 12, 1903, in a piece called “Lost in Chicago” that “Five weeks after the disappearance of P. H. Konzen from New Hampton a trace was secured last week.  One was from Chamberlain, S. D., reporting the deposit of a deed to lands in Brule Co., S. D., which deed was sent from Chicago, Ill., Sept. 29th, 1903.  Another trace was from letters found on Adams street bridge in Chicago on the morning of Sept. 29th.  This came in a letter from Valparaiso, Ind.  This shows that Mr. Konzen did go to Chicago as he intended to do when he left home; but Chicago is a pretty large hole in which to hunt a lost man.”

Right now you’re probably wondering why we call him bad Peter…

In the Jan. 21, 1904, issue of The Nashua Reporter it was written that “A telegram to a party here brought the news of the safety of P.H. Konzen but does not give the location of the man nor any facts relative to his disappearance.  We are glad he is found and hope there will be some reasonable explanation of the seeming cruel abandonment of a loving wife and chidren.  We always liked P.H. Konzen and still persist in the belief that this last matter will be explained.”

The Nashua Reporter reported in the Feb. 18, 1904, issue that “W.L. Darrow accompanied Mrs. P.H. Konzen to Marshalltown Sunday where Mrs. Konzen was notified she would meet her husband and fix up their business matters.  For some reason Mr. Konzen failed to keep the appointment but informed them that he would be there very soon.  Both Mr. D. and Mrs. K. are still, at this writing, in Marshalltown and but little is known about the matter at this time.  Later: A telephone message from Mr. Darrow informs us that he has met Konzen and will be home Thursday.  No facts as to any settlement of business has yet been received.”

In an article entitled “Konzen a Wife Deserter” The Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette reports “New Hampton, Iowa, Feb. 19 [,1904] – A meeting between Mrs. P. H. Konzen and her husband, the New Hampton business man, who left here on September 29, and who was for a time thought to be dead, took place a few days ago at Marshalltown.  [It] now develops that Mr. Konzen has been at Vaiparaiso, Indiana, at school ever since he left here.  He shaved off his mustache and entered the school under the name of Carl Meyer and all of the evidence which tended to show that he might have been killed was manufactured by him and it was through the alleged transfer of Dakota land that his brother John discovered his whereabouts.  The details of the meeting between husband and wife are not known.  It is sufficient to say that Mr. Konzen refused to be reconciled to live with his wife, that he transferred his property here to her and that she will have the custody of the children.  The curtain now goes down on this affair.”

According to the Dec. 21, 1905, issue of the Nashua Reporter, Elizabeth Leichtman Konzen was granted a divorce from P.H. Konzen.

It seems hard to imagine how a 31 year old man could pass himself off as a student – or why he’d want to do so – but that’s just bad Peter for you.  Last month, I visited my great aunt Kay Konzen Anderson and I asked her about the Konzen side of her family because I’ve never heard any stories about my great grandfather’s family.  Kay told me that she didn’t know that her dad had a brother named Peter until she was about ten years old and she asked her mother about the man in a picture that they had in her house.  Her mother (Ella Kuske Konzen) told her that he was John Charles’s brother Peter and since John Charles no longer considered Peter his brother, he wouldn’t talk about him.  Then Ella told Kay this story of Peter (which contradicts the newspaper accounts a bit).

According to Kay, bad Peter’s wife Elizabeth Leichtman Konzen (her brother Casper was married to bad Peter’s sister Mary) was waiting at the hospital for Peter to pick her up after the birth of their last child and he never showed up.  When she got home, he’d left a note saying he didn’t want to be married anymore and that he’d set up an account of money for her so she wouldn’t have to work and he’d disappeared.  My interpretation of this and the newspaper accounts is that Peter probably “left for Chicago” soon after the birth of their last child (their daughter Bessie was born Aug 4, 1903 and he disappeared in September 1903).  Then when Peter was found he told Elizabeth he didn’t want to be married anymore and gave her money when they met in Marshalltown or she got the money from him when they divorced.

Then, according to my aunt Kay, Peter ran off with a nun (maybe she was a teacher at the school he was attending during his disappearance)!  But, he refused to marry her and they lived together for a while.  Then he married again and lived in Wisconsin and he had some more kids and up and left his wife one day when his kids were teenagers.  Before Kay told me about bad Peter, I didn’t know that he married a second time and I haven’t, yet, been able to find Peter and his second family.  I really have no trace of him after his divorce was granted in 1905.
Kay told me that she’d found out about bad Peter’s second family one day when one of his daughters (my guess is that it was Mamie) was in a nursing home in Minneapolis and she called Kay and asked her to come see her.  Kay went to visit the woman (who was her first cousin) and she said when she walked into her room there was a picture of Kay’s dad (John Charles) on the woman’s dresser.  This threw Kay off, but the woman said that her mother had destroyed all of their pictures of bad Peter so she had no pictures of her father.  She asked Kay to tell her about Peter, but Kay didn’t know much about him since her dad wouldn’t talk about him.  After she told Kay about bad Peter’s second family, she showed her pictures of the second family and apparently one of bad Peter’s sons looked almost exactly like my grandfather Kermit Konzen.
Unfortunately, we don’t know how bad Peter’s story ends, but hopefully one day I’ll find out – if for no other reason than because I can’t keep myself from trying to solve a mystery.

Catherine Konzen Meyer

Catherine Konzen’s birth and baptism record.

We believe Catherine Konzen Meyer to be the daughter of Nicolas Konzen and Anne Marie Dockendorf.  We’re hoping to find information linking Nicholas Konzen to our other Konzens (Theodore Konzen and Catherine Scholer’s descendants) somehow.

The Mystery of Angela Susanna Konzen

Peter Hansen & Angela Susanna Konzen’s Marriage Application – Angela is listed as Susanna Konzen on her marriage application, but, as far as we know, that’s the only time she didn’t go by Angela.

According to Vernon Auderer’s book on the Konzens, Angela Susanna was born in Rollingen, Germany (this is actually Ralingen, Germany) and her husband Peter Hansen was born in Oberbettingen, Germany.  Since Vernon wrote that all of the Konzens (Theodore, John, Catherine, and Angela Susanna) were probably from Rollingen, I’m guessing that Vernon came to this conclusion because Catherine’s gravestone says that she was born in Rollingen, so he must have assumed that they were all from there.  That was a great assumption at the time, but now we’ve proved that Theodore, John, Mathias, and Margaretha were from Kruchten, Germany.

I ordered a microfilm of Ralingen parish records and in it I found a lot of Kons/Konz/Konzens.  There was a Nicolas Konzen who had daughters named Susanna (born Jan. 27, 1819), Angela (Feb. 1, 1825), and Catherine (Feb. 6, 1830).  Nicolas and his wife Anne Marie Dockendorf also had five sons, Wilhelm (Jan. 29, 1821), Theodore (Nov. 13, 1822), Nicolas (Oct. 1, 1827), Christopher (Aug. 9, 1832), and Henry (Feb. 8, 1835).

Our Angela Susanna was born, according to Vernon, in February of 1822 (various census records state that she was born in 1820, 1824, 1823, and February of 1822).  However, at this time giving accurate dates of birth (or really an information) to census takers wasn’t as important as it is today.  Also, Angela Susanna and her family probably had a thick German accent which probably made it hard to understand any information they gave the census taker.  So it’s hard to tell if Angela Susanna would be Angela or Susanna of Ralingen, but my guess is that she was Angela since she was born on Feb. 1, 1825.

This is based on the fact that there is a census record stating she was born in February and none of the censuses I’ve found her in state that she was born before 1820.  I’d expect to see that if Angela had been born in 1819.  We’re not sure why she would’ve gone by Susanna (especially if that was her sister’s name) on her marriage record, but maybe she started using Susanna as her middle name after her sister Susanna died (if she did die young or before Angela).  Maybe we’ll know someday.

Angela Konzen’s birth

I’ve also written a letter to Ralingen asking for a copy of their family book, hopefully we’ll hear back from them soon.  It also seems very likely that the Ralingen family of Konzens are related to our Kruchten/Lellig Konzens because the names Theodore and Wilhelm are also names of some people in our family during that time period.  And because what are the chances of two (or more) different Konzen families arriving in the same county in Iowa at around the same time?  It really seems that they have to be related somehow…

*Note – after more research we realized that we are 99.9% certain that Angela Susanna Konzen is not the daughter of Nicolas Konzen & Anne Maria Dockendorf of Ralingen.  We don’t know if Angela Susanna is or is not a Konzen (yes, there’s been a little debate about that), but we have been unable – so far – to find a family for her.

The Luxembourg Konzens

Since finding the Konzens in Lellig, Luxembourg, the three of us have only come up with more questions about the Konzens.  Such as are Catherine and Angela Susanna the children of Peter’s brother Wilhelm (born 1797)?  If so, where were they born and who was their mother and when did they come to the US?  We haven’t been able to find any records of their immigration (other than estimates that they gave census makers).

I’ll explain more about the Angela Susanna and Catherine mystery in my next posts, but I wrote a letter to the Catholic churches in Lellig and Herborn, Luxembourg, asking for more information about the Konzens and their descendants and ancestors.  I haven’t received a response from either of them, yet, but I’m still hopeful.  I’ve also ordered in a bunch more microfilms of records (civil and parish) in Lellig and Herborn in hopes of finding Angela Susanna and Catherine or Wilhelm and his family.  So far (and I have a bunch of films to still look through) we’ve only found some random Konzens and Kons – and they could be related, but since the records we’ve found them in don’t give any details about them except their name and the date of the event (birth, marriage, or death).

However, we have found some more information on Elisabeth Konzen (daughter of Theodore Konzen & Catherine Scholer and sister of Peter Konzen).  Paula – who is the queen of web searches – found a link for Elisabeth on a German genealogy site  There’s a family tree entered for Elisabeth on the site and it says that she married Matthias Michels, had eight kids, and then died in Trierweiler, Germany.  The site continues to list descendants of most of Elisabeth’s children.  I’ll be adding this to the blog’s family tree (once I finish with our Konzens) and hopefully we’ll make contact with Elisabeth’s descendants one day.

I’ve ordered microfilms of parish records for Trierweiler in hopes of finding more information on the Konzens – even if it’s just records for Elisabeth’s kids and their families.