The Wolffs of Burg-Reuland Part 2: How It All Started Again

Genealogy isn’t for the faint of heart. You run in circles.  You run into brick walls.  You dive head first down rabbit holes.

But there’s just something about it that I can’t quit.  And I’m sure a lot of you would understand exactly what I’m talking about.

This summer Michelle was looking into Burg-Reuland and found a source that said the last castle manager was named Johann Georg Franziskus Wolf. A Wolf in the same town as our Wolffs? And our Joannes Karl Wolff (Theresia Wolff Konzen’s father) had a son named Franz Georg Wolff… Franz Georg Wolff was born in 1797 in Burg-Reuland, but the timeline didn’t work for him to be THE Johann Georg Franziskus so it seemed like there was a good chance our Wolffs were related to him.

Soon Michelle found that Johann Georg Franziskus Wolf was also Joannis Francisci Georgis Wolff (the spelling of the name depends on the language used in records – Luxembourgish, German, French, Latin, etc.), the father of our Joannes Karl Wolff. And Joannis Francisci Georgis Wolff (JFG Wolff) was the castle admin of Burg-Reuland while the French Revolution was occurring.

Burg-Reuland Castle (from https://reuland-ouren.eu/)

How did JFG Wolff come to be the admin of Reuland Castle? The last lord of Reuland was Ferdinand von Berghes until 1736 when he died without issue. After that Reuland Castle was publicly auctioned and managed. Johann Wilhelm Lupus bought the castle, but in 1749 he froze to death in a snowstorm (yes, you read that right). On 19 May 1750, Johann Wilhelm Lupus’s daughter Anna Clara Elizabetha Lupus married JGF Wolff in Beaufort, Luxembourg. JFG Wolff was a bailiff, court judge, and lay judge in Beaufort. He took over as the castle admin after their marriage. On 6 Sep 1751, Anna Clara Elizabetha Lupus Wolff died during childbirth. We couldn’t find any record of the child.

JFG Wolff later married Maria Regina Teresia Massu (MRT Massu) – we have yet to find their marriage record – and they had 12 children together. Their children are:

  • Maria Carola Antonetta Wolff born 13 Jun 1754 in Burg-Reuland
  • Joannes Josephus Petrus Wolff born 21 May 1755 in Burg-Reuland
  • Joannes Karl Wolff born 9 Aug 1756 in Burg-Reuland
  • Maria Angela Wolff born 9 Nov 1757 in Burg-Reuland
  • Joannes Henricus Wolff born 13 Oct 1758 in Burg-Reuland
  • Antonius Wolff born 27 Mar 1760 in Burg-Reuland
  • Maria Theresia Wolff born 11 Apr 1761 in Burg-Reuland
  • Anna Maria Wolff born 22 Jun 1762 in Burg-Reuland
  • Maria Catharina Josepha Wolff born 18 Jul 1763 in Burg-Reuland
  • Joannes Baptista Wolff born 17 Jul 1764 in Burg-Reuland
  • Damianus Emmericus Haztardus Wolff born 2 Feb 1766 in Burg-Reuland
  • Franciscus Carolus Antonius Wolff born 13 Jun 1767 in Burg-Reuland

JGF Wolff married for a third time in 1787 to Catherine Böly in Kruchten, Germany.

Some sources claim that JFG Wolff was the final admin of Reuland Castle, but it actually seems like his son Joannes Karl Wolff actually was the final admin. According to “History of Burg Reuland, part 2: From the 15th to 18th Centuries” by W. Wittrock and K. D. Klauser, Joannes Karl Wolff was named as bidder of the castle in 1779. They also state that Joannes Karl Wolff was the last admin of the castle until he fled to Trier, Germany, in 1794 before the French arrived. This is the same story about the admin fleeing that has been attributed to JFG Wolff before. I’m leaning toward Joannes Karl being the final castle admin because this history cites source documents (which I currently cannot access online) and I haven’t seen any source documents cited for the JFG version.

P.S. Michelle says I make it all sound so simple 😆 So just a heads up, in reality this was a very tangled web.

I’m Back!

My last post was about the Wolff family and that’s actually where I’ve picked things up again. And by “I”, I mean Michelle and I. Ha and mostly it’s all Michelle’s fault. I never meant to spend so much time away from genealogy, but life happens. And this summer Michelle decided to suck me right back into it all. So it’s all her fault, but in the best way.

Getting back into genealogy has reminded me of who I really am. If you know what I mean. You know something’s been missing in your life, but you just can’t figure out why you don’t feel like yourself. Genealogy isn’t everything (ha!), but the person I am when I’m doing genealogy feels 100% percent like ME.

So stay tuned for another post coming soon. Michelle and I just have to unravel some threads to decide which story to tell and where to start with it.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Bailey

The Wolffs of Burg-Reuland

Theresa Wolff and Peter Konzen married on 6 Feb 1815 in Kruchten, Germany.

We’ve been busy looking for Theresa Wolff’s birth in Reuland, Luxembourg, because Kruchten church records show she was born in Reuland.  We haven’t been successful in finding the Wolff family in Reuland, Luxembourg.  When hunting for information on Reuland, Michelle came across Burg-Reuland, Belgium.  Burg-Reuland is very close to the current border of Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.

Michelle ordered some microfilms for Burg-Reuland and after digging through them we found Theresa Wolff’s birth and the birth of some of her siblings: Anna Maria, Nicholas Carolus Mathaus, and Petrus.

film-0613920-wolffs-1-_001

Maria Theresia Wolff’s birth and baptism record

Theresa Wolff was born Maria Theresia Wolff in Burg-Reuland on 20 Feb 1789 to Joannes Caroli Wolff of Reuland and Margaretha Schmidt of Kruchten. According to her baptism record, her parents were married in Burg-Reuland. Theresa’s father Carl signed his name on the baptism record so he was at least able to write his name.

Her brother Nicolaus Carolus Mathaus Wolff was born in Burg-Reuland on 6 Dec 1790 to Jois Caroli Wolff and Margaretha Schmidt.

Theresa’s brother Petrus Wolff was born in Burg-Reuland on 6 Dec 1792 to Caroli Wolff and Maria Catharina Schmitz.

Her sister Anna Maria Wolff was born in Burg-Reuland on 17 Dec 1794 to Caroli Wolff and Margaretha Schmitz.

We’re still looking for a microfilm with Carl Wolff and Margaretha Schmidt’s marriage on it and for films with their births.

John Charles Konzen – One of Chickasaw County’s Bright Boys

My great uncle Karl told me years ago that his father John Charles Konzen (my great grandfather) had gone to business college in Cedar Rapids and that he had taught at the college afterward.  I’ve never been able to find any information about him going there or teaching until Michelle found out that old New Hampton newspapers were going to be online.  For some reason, I thought I had heard that these papers no longer existed (maybe I just told myself that to feel better about never making it to the archives in Iowa to look at the papers on microfilm – who knows).

The newspapers are a treasure trove of John Charles (and his siblings)!  And yes, they talk about him going to college in Cedar Rapids.  According to the 19 Dec 1889 edition of the New Hampton Courier, John Charles was traveling to Cedar Rapids for school.

John Charles Konzen of Jacksonville started Monday for Cedar Rapids to attend school in that goodly city of railroads and business enterprise - 19 Dec 1889 - New Hampton Courier copy

“J. C. Konzen of Jacksonville started Monday for Cedar Rapids to attend school in that goodly city of railroads and business enterprise.  J. C. is a student and thinker, and will make every hour of his stay in Cedar Rapids, sixty minutes of application to study or legitimate rest.”

The 27 Mar 1890 issue of the Courier says “J. C. Konzen is making this vicinity a short visit.  He reports good success at the Cedar Rapids Business College, to which he will return in the near future.”  On 8 Jan 1891 the New Hampton Courier reports that John Charles will be attending school in another town.

John Charles Konzen, who has been attending school at Cedar Rapids now goes to Cedar Falls to school - 01081891 - New Hampton Courier copy

“J. C. Konzen, who has been attending school at Cedar Rapids for the past year, spent the holidays at home with his friends.  He goes now to Cedar Falls to school.  J. C. will reach a first class place in his chosen work, if steady industry will accomplish it.”

I had never heard of John Charles attending school anywhere but Cedar Rapids, so unfortunately I do not know the reasons behind it.  In the 3 Sep 1891 issue of the Courier, John Charles is heading westward to teach in Kansas.

John Charles Konzen was in town last week, he has been attending school in Cedar Rapids and now goes to Emporia Kansas to teach - 09031891 - New Hampton Courier copy

“J. C. Konzen was in town last week, he has been attending school in Cedar Rapids and now goes to Emporia Kansas to teach.  He intends to make his way through college.  J. C. is a worthy young man and we predict will make his mark in the world.”

A week later on 10 Sep 1891 the Courier reports that John Charles is in Emporia and “has taken charge of the penmanship department of Parker’s Business College.”  On 21 Jan 1892, John Charles is quoted in the New Hampton Courier as saying “‘I am getting along nicely with my school and am well pleased with the country.'”

John Charles Konzen one of Chickasaw county's brightest boys who is seeking his fortune in the West writes us from Emporia Kansas - 01211892 - New Hampton Courier

“J. C. Konzen, one of Chickasaw county’s bright boys, who is seeking his fortune in the West, writes us from Emporia, Kansas, where he is now located, and he says, ‘I am getting along nicely with my school and am well pleased with the country.’  We are glad to hear of his success.”

In the 16 Jun 1892 issue the Courier states that John Charles has returned him from Emporia.  The New Hampton Courier doesn’t have much information on John Charles’s whereabouts or activities.  On 7 Nov 1895 the Courier reports that John Charles has been living in Fort Pierre, South Dakota, and he is going to Cedar Rapids for a college course.

John Charles Konzen - JC Konzen, of Ft Pierre, SD, was in town the first of the week shaking hands with friends and relatives here. He goes from here to Cedar Rapids - 11071895 - New Hampton Courier copy

“J. C. Konzen, of Ft. Pierre, S. D., was in town the first of the week shaking hands with friends and relatives here.  He goes from here to Cedar Rapids, where he will take a course in the college of that city.  He is a fine, steady young man and is preparing himself for active business and we wish him success.”

Almost three years later on 23 Jun 1898 the New Hampton Courier says “Mr. Konzen has been in Ft. Pierre for some time and has made a fine reputation as a business man.”

John Charles Konzen - JC Konzen, of Ft Pierre, South Dakota came down to attend the weddign of his sister and will remain for a few weeks - 06231898 - New Hampton Courier copy

“J. C. Konzen, of Ft. Pierre, South Dakota came down to attend the wedding of his sister and will remain for a few weeks.  Mr. Konzen has been in Ft. Pierre for some time and has made a fine reputation as a business man.  He is one of many young men who have gone out from this county and started in business and made a success, but he had a good capital to start with for habits of industry, sobriety and frugality make a splendid capital for a young man and such are sure to succeed.”

So from the New Hampton Courier articles, I now know he did teach at a college, just maybe not at Cedar Rapids Business College.  After 1898, there’s not much more information about John Charles, but in 1903 he is living in Montevideo, Minnesota.  John Charles lived out the rest of his life in Montevideo, where he owned a successful furniture store.  He met my great grandmother Ella Kuske – a teacher – and they married on 20 Jan 1914 in Olivia, Minnesota.  The couple had three children: Kermit, Kathryn, and Karl.

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Ella holding Karl, Kathryn, Kermit, and John Charles.  Circa 1923.

The family survived Ella’s bout of Scarlet Fever and the Great Depression together.  In the 1940 census, John Charles was 70 years old and he had worked 60 hours in the week prior to the census.  He had worked 52 weeks in 1939, but he earned $0 in income during 1939.  The census did note that he’d earned some non-cash income, but it’s hard to imagine that amounting to much.

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John Charles, Kathryn, Ella, and Karl on Karl’s final furlough before he shipped out to Europe.  This is most likely the final photo taken of John Charles because he died soon afterward.

John Charles and Ella lived a very happy life together until he died of a heart attack on 17 Nov 1942 at his home in Montevideo.

Konzen Family Books

Hi everyone!  I’ve been working on some Konzen family books.  One book is on the Angela Susanna Konzen & Peter Hansen family and one book is Peter Konzen & Theresa Wolff’s descendants – Theodore, Mathias, John, and Margaretha.  I am looking for more information, stories, and photographs for the books.  If you have anything you’d like to submit for the books, you can email them to me at konzengenealogy at hotmail.com.

Living people will be included in the books, but their birth dates and places will not be included.  I’ll post more information on the books throughout the process.  If you are interested in one of these books please let me know (and tell me which one) by commenting on this post or emailing me.  This will help give me an idea of how I’ll need to have the books printed and bound.  Please pass the word to relatives about the books and let them know to contact me with family information and any stories or photographs they would like included in the books.

I’m excited about this and I hope everyone else is, too!

Also, please let me know if you see any errors in the family trees on this blog and I will make the changes to them and carry those changes forward to the books.

 

What if Our Name was Schmitz Oberst?

Sometimes you come across something that changes everything in your family tree.

I could’ve been a Schmitz Oberst instead of a Konzen (can you even imagine it?).  But, thanks to Wilhelmus Schmitz Oberst & Elisabetha Konzen, I am a Konzen.  They are the reason why many of you are Konzens, too.  I recently found out about Wilhelmus & Elisabetha from a comment by Chip Kalb and through a book he pointed me toward.

Chip’s latest hint was about my Konzen line in Herborn, Luxembourg.  My cousins and I have tried to trace our Konzens back past Theodore Konzen of Herborn, but we couldn’t find anything to connect him to any Konzens in the Herborn records microfilmed by Family Search.  I was afraid that we were never going to be able to trace our Konzen line further back and I wanted more.

I followed Chip’s information to a new relative, Robert Grosch.  Robert and I are sixth cousins once removed – his sixth great grandfather Nicolaus Konzen is my fifth great grandfather – and he wrote a book with Jean-Claude Muller called “Familienbuch und Häuserchronik der Ortschaften Herborn, Mompach, Givenich und Pfaffenberg” (translation: “Family Book and House Chronicles of towns Herborn, Mompach, Givenich and Pfaffenberg”).  This book is a great resource and it traces the Konzen family tree back three generations further than what I had before.

The furthest generation of Konzens we’d found was Theodore Konzen & Catharina Scholer (the parents of Elizabeth who moved to Trierweiler, Peter who moved to Kruchten, and Wilhelm who moved to Olingen).  According to the Herborn book, Theodore was the youngest of 10 children born to Nicolaus Konzen* and Maria-Catharina Meyers or Storck.

Nicolaus Konzen was the younger of 2 children born to Wilhelmus Schmitz Oberst and Elisabetha Konzen.  Yes, Schmitz Oberst.  And no, Nicolaus was not illegitimate.  As the eldest child, Elisabetha had the right to remain in the Konzen family house after her marriage to Wilhelmus.  According to Robert, the couple remained in the Konzen family house and during this time period the parish priest used house names as surnames.  So that is why Wilhelmus and his children had the Konzen last name in records.  After Elisabetha’s death Wilhelmus still lived in the Konzen house and had the Konzen last name.  He married Maria Lauers and had 7 more children with the last name Konzen.  Just to confuse things, of course!

Elisabetha Konzen was the eldest of Nicolaus Konzen & Susanna’s 13 children.  After Susanna’s death Nicolaus married Anna Lauers and they had 4 children together.

So the family tree looks like:

1st generation:  Nicolaus Konzen & Susanna

2nd generation:  Elisabetha Konzen & Wilhelmus Schmitz Oberst

3rd generation:  Nicolaus Konzen & Maria-Catharina Meyers or Storck

4th generation:  Theodore Konzen & Catharina Scholer

5th generation:  Peter Konzen & Theresa Wolff

The book organizes families by houses and it has a photo of the Kounzen house in Herborn.  It also has a map of Herborn that shows the location of the Kounzen house.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 11.21.19 PM

The Kounzen house in Herborn (photo from Google Maps)

If you’re interested in purchasing Robert Grosch & Jean-Claude Muller’s book “Familienbuch und Häuserchronik der Ortschaften Herborn, Mompach, Givenich und Pfaffenberg,” I can pass Robert’s contact information on to you.  You can email me at konzengenealogy at hotmail.com or comment on this post with your email address.

*In Herborn, our Konzens used various spellings of Konzen, so I will stick with the current spelling for continuity.  According to the Herborn book, it was Kuntzen in 1680, and Kontzen in 1900.  Other spellings are Conzen, Contzen, and Kounzen.

 

 

The Mysterious Angela Susanna Konzen

For those of you, who have not read the blog post “The Mystery of Angela Susanna Konzen,” you’re not missing much because we still have more questions than answers about her.  One of Angela Susanna’s descendants and I each took DNA tests a few years ago in an attempt to solve the mystery of whether or not Angela Susanna is a relative of my Konzens.  I was sure we were going to be DNA matches for each other, even if we were distant ones.  Unfortunately, Paula and I came back with no matches to each other.  It was a disappointing day and we haven’t gotten any new leads on Angela Susanna through DNA.

I just happened to look at my last post on Angela Susanna and I realized that a note I thought I added to that post years ago is not there.  So I apologize for that.  If you read that blog post, you might know that I thought Angela Susanna had to be a sister of Catherine Konzen if she wasn’t related to our Konzens.  I just couldn’t grasp the idea that there might actually be a lot of Konzens running around out there.  I live in a city without any other Konzens so I grew up thinking that Konzens were rare (and wonderful).  Now I know about so many other Konzen families and I realized that Konzens are not common, but they also are not as scarce as I once thought.

I wanted to let everyone that read “The Mystery of Angela Susanna Konzen” know that after more research, we are 99.9% certain that Angela Susanna Konzen is not the daughter of Nicolas Konzen & Anne Marie Dockendorf of Ralingen, Germany.  There is even a little bit of question about whether Angela Susanna is even a Konzen.  Right now, Angela Susanna remains a mystery because we have not been able to find a Konzen family for her.

Emma Konzen Smith

While visiting with my great aunt Kay this summer, I looked through a very old photo album that belonged to my great grandmother Ella Kuske Konzen.  In the pages of the photo album, I found a photo of Emma Konzen Smith, her husband William Smith, and their five daughters.

My auntie Kay has always told me that Emma was her dad John Charles Konzen’s favorite sister and one of her earliest memories is of her family visiting Emma in Chicago.  Kay says she thought Emma’s daughters were movie stars because they were so pretty and fashionable.

Emma Konzen & her husband William Smith with their daughters Hazel, Beulah, Anastasia, Emma, and Alice (I don't know which daughter is which in the photo) in Chicago circa the 1920s.

Emma Konzen & her husband William Smith with their daughters Hazel, Beulah, Anastasia, Emma, and Alice (I don’t know which daughter is which in the photo) in Chicago. Circa the 1920s.

I thought I’d share this photo of Emma, William, and their family with all of you.  Enjoy.

Murder in Mission, Texas

Joseph William Konzen was born in Nov 1858 in Lawler, Chickasaw, Iowa, USA, to the son of Johan Mathias Konzen (1818-1900) and Sophia Conrad (1832-1905).  We don’t know very much about Joe – he wasn’t in the paper all the time like Harold or Bad Peter.  It doesn’t seem that Joe ever married, but he lived in Chickasaw County for most of his life.

In the 1880 census, he is 22 years old and living with his parents and siblings.  His occupation is listed as “at home” and since his father was a farmer at the time, Joe probably worked on the farm with his father and younger brother John. Joe is living with his parents, his sister Mary, and his brother-in-law James in the 1900 census.  At that time he was working as a piano dealer.  There are also mentions in the Nashua Reporter of Joe having a store in the early 1900s.

The Nashua Reporter November 19, 1908.

The Nashua Reporter on November 19, 1908.

Joe sold pianos for a while. In the 29 Nov 1908 edition of the Nashua Reporter, “J. W. Konzen put a nice new piano into the Albert Wolff home one day last week.”  In 1910, the census lists Joe as living as a boarder in New Hampton.  He’s in the same profession, listed this time as a traveling piano salesman.  He was self-employed, but he was out of work for 25 weeks in 1909.

The Nashua Reporter on May, 1909

The Nashua Reporter on May 29, 1913.

In the 29 May 1913 issue of the Nashua Reporter it says that J.W. Konzen sold some land to D.A. Weaklin for $1 and “valuable consideration.” Joe lived in New Hampton in the 1915 census, and real estate was listed as his occupation.  Joe earned $1,000 from his real estate work in 1914, which would be about $24,000 today.

For a couple of years, Joe seemed to just disappear off the family tree after the 1915 census. We didn’t really have any idea where to look for him, but then Michelle found some articles on him. And we learned that Joe moved to Mission, Hidalgo, Texas, around 1916. He farmed for at least part of his time there.

On 18 Mar 1920, the Dyersville Commercial published an article entitled “J. W. Konzen Died in Texas.”  The article said “J. W. Konzen, a former New Hampton business man, who was operating a truck farm near Mission, Texas, died at that place last Saturday. He was found dead in bed. He was for several years engaged in the merchandise business and real estate business at New Hampton. P. H. Konzen of Hallock, Minn., a brother has gone to Mission to attend the funeral. It will be held at Mission.”

The Dyersville Commercial on March 18, 1920.

Joe died 12 Mar 1920 in Mission, Hidalgo, Texas.  However, the first Dyersville article didn’t tell the full story.  A second article published in the Dyersville Commercial on 22 Apr 1920 was titled “See Foul Play in Joe Konzen’s Death: Was Shot in Back through Window in Dark of Evening.  Intimated that He Feared His Partner was After Him – Operated a Farm in Texas.”

The Dyersville Commerical edition published on 22 Apr 1920.

The Dyersville Commercial on April 22, 1920.

The article stated, “It now develops [sic] that Joe Konzen, of Chickasaw county, mention of whose mysterious seat at Mission, Texas, was made in the Commercial several weeks ago, met death by foul play.  The Lawler Dispatch in an account of the affair says: ‘Atty. P. H. Konzen of Hallock [sic], Minn., spent several days of last week visiting with his sisters, Mrs. Buchholz and Mrs. Wheeler and old Lawler friends.  He was enroute home from Mission, Texas, where he had been to attend the funeral of his brother, J. W. Konzen.

‘The body had been embalmed and rested at the home of friends, Dr. and Mrs. Stidger.  Funeral services were held at their home and he was buried at Mission.  Mr. Konzen tells us that his brother, Joe as we all know him, is suppose to have been killed by his partner, a Missourian named Hacker, who is now bound over to the Grand Jury for trial in September.  The morning of March 13th, Dr. Stidger saw a light shining from a lamp through the window of the Konzen shack and went to investigate.  Joe had fallen forward, shot in the back of the head by some person outside the window.  There was [sic] no evidence of a struggle, not even the chair being tipped.  Several witnesses were found who had heard a shot at about 8 o’clock of the evening before and apparently Joe had sat down to ear and smoke as his pipe and newspaper indicated.  During the week previous Joe had remarked to two men in different conversations, that he felt that Hacker was after him and he planned to sever the partnership relations as soon as the cabbages were marketed.  Prices were high and Hacker, an extremely ignorant man seemed to think, making a way with Joe would leave him with the proceeds of the whole crop.

‘That the killing was premeditated is recognized now from remarks Hacker made in the presence of others in which he reviled the Mexicans (although his wife is a Mexican) and when Joe would defend them as being peaceful in and around Mission, he would say, “They’ll get you yet.” A few weeks ago five cottages, among them Mr. Konzen’s were burned and suspicion pointed strongly to Hacker.  About two weeks ago, Joe had two horses stolen and previously a set of harness and he had remarked to close friends that he could not help believing Hacker knew of their whereabouts [sic].  So far as known the two men had never quarreled or had disputes over their business affairs and friends her know that Joe had a peaceable, non-quarrelsome [sic] disposition.  His tragic death is much regretted by many friends and it is hoped that the man who so treacherously murdered him may be brought to justice.'”

Joe Konzen's death certificate

Joe Konzen’s death certificate.

According to his death certificate, Joe died “from a shotgun wound in right side of head – (Homicidal).”  I’ve tried to find out what happened to Hacker – from what I’ve been able to find in census records, it seems that his name is William Hacker.  I haven’t found him in the Texas convict ledgers in Ancestry.com so it doesn’t look like he served time for Joe’s murder.  I’ve been unable to find any newspaper articles to confirm if he was indicted or stood trial.  Hacker died on 8 Jan 1925 in Mission.

Kermit Konzen: 100 Years

Kermit at 1 1/2 years old

Kermit at 1 1/2 years old

Today would have been my grandpa Konzen’s 100th birthday.  He’s been dead for 20 years, but today our family is celebrating him.  My grandpa Kermit John Konzen was born on 27 Jun 1915 in Montevideo, Chippewa, Minnesota, to John Charles Konzen and Ella Pauline Kuske.  Kermit was John and Ella’s first child and at the time of his birth John was 45 years old and Ella was 25 years old.

After his birth, Kermit didn’t seem to thrive and he almost died before his first birthday.  A wet nurse was hired for him, but he didn’t get better and instead he turned brown and wrinkly.  They discovered that the wet nurse didn’t have enough milk for him and she was adding water to it before giving it to the family.  They found another wet nurse and my grandpa started to get better.  My great grandma would be push him in the baby buggy and people would look in to see the baby and be startled by how bad he looked. Kermit’s younger sister Kay was born in 1920 and his younger brother Karl was born in 1922.

John owned a furniture store in Montevideo and he was one of the wealthiest men in town until the Depression.  My grandpa was the only one of his siblings old enough to remember how their life was before the Depression.  During his childhood, his mother Ella nearly died from scarlet fever, but she survived and endured a long recovery.

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My grandparents Yvonne Sumner and Kermit Konzen circa 1939.

Kermit went to work for Red Owl grocery store in Montevideo and that’s how he met my grandma Yvonne Marcella Sumner.  She worked at an attorney’s office on the same street as the Red Owl and she would walk by the grocery store to and from work.  My great aunt Kay says Kermit was a little shy, but he always found a reason to wash the windows of the store when Yvonne would be walking down the street.  Yvonne was from the nearby town of Dawson. They fell in love and eloped in the fall of 1939.  For their honeymoon, they drove to Yellowstone National Park together.

Martha Elstad Gustavson, Sheldon Sumner, Olga Elstad Sumner, Virginia Sumner Coats holding Karol Konzen, Karl Konzen, Yvonne Sumner Konzen, Ella Kuske Konzen, John Konzen, and Kermit Konzen  in 1940.

Martha Elstad Gustavson, Sheldon Sumner, Olga Elstad Sumner, Virginia Sumner Coats holding Karol Konzen, Karl Konzen, Yvonne Sumner Konzen, Ella Kuske Konzen, John Konzen, and Kermit Konzen on August 25, 1940 in Minnesota.

My grandparents moved to Wheaton, Minnesota, after their honeymoon and Kermit worked as a manager at a grocery store.  My aunt Karol was born in Big Stone, Minnesota, and my aunt Karen was born in Douglas, Minnesota.  They lived in Alexandria for a little bit and then my grandparents moved to Billings, Montana, and Kermit worked at Sawyer’s grocery store.

Soon afterward, Kermit and Yvonne moved farther west to Bozeman, Montana, where Kermit worked at Sawyer’s.  Their son John (named after his grandfather) was born in Bozeman. The family moved back to Billings and the rest of their nine children – yes, nine – were born there:  David, Janet, Janice, Konstance, Kathy, and Randall.  Kermit started working at the Carter Oil refinery – now the Exxon Oil refinery.  He was an operator and eventually he became the chief operator.

Kermit working at the oil refinery in the 1970s.

Kermit (left) working at the oil refinery in the 1970s.

My grandpa had always been fascinated by the Battle of the Little Bighorn, American Indians, and Montana.  My great aunt Kay says that when he was a kid he’d tell his friends that the portrait of an American Indian chief hanging in their stairway was his father.  When my mom was a child he took his kids to the battlefield and he’d tell the tale of the battle in full detail.  After he retired, my grandpa was able to pursue his passion for history.

Grandpa called himself an “interested student” of General George Armstrong Custer.  He worked on the 1984 and 1985 archaeological digs at the Battle of the Little Bighorn site, he helped create a map of historical interest points for the Billings Gazette, he was interviewed by Time magazine about the battle, and he collected artifacts and memorabilia.  Spending time at his home was like visiting a museum.  I don’t know anybody else whose grandparents had arrowheads, bullets, and a piece of hardtack (the less desirable version of a saltine cracker) on the wall in their stairway.

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Kermit Konzen, on the far left, with some fellow historians.

Grandpa always seemed so full of life so it’s hard for me to remember that he’s been dead for so long.  When I was a baby, he had a stroke while visiting his sister in Minnesota.  Eventually the doctors discovered he had a brain tumor as large as a medium-sized lemon.  They removed the brain tumor, but they couldn’t get every piece of it.  Grandpa had to learn to talk and walk again, but it couldn’t keep him down for long and he always had plenty of time for his grandchildren.

He died about 7 years later on 5 Mar 1995, less than 4 months before his 80th birthday.  I’m thankful every day for having 7 years with him.  We spread his ashes – and later my grandmother’s – in an area he loved near the Rosebud Creek Battlefield where Crook’s Battle was fought days before the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

It’s because of my grandpa that I love genealogy.  He was a great man and a wonderful father and grandfather.  He lives on in all of his family.  It’s fitting that the 139th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of the Little Bighorn is happening on his birthday.  I’ll be there enjoying it.  Happy Birthday, Grandpa.