Family Histories: T-Z

Family Histories


“Tauren,” “Thorensmeyer,” and “Taurensmeyer” are some of the original spellings of the Thoren name in the Schwalenberg Parish records. Born in the small village of Brakelsiek, about a half hour walk from Detmold, Lippe, Germany, Christian Thoren came to the United States with his parents and other relatives to Rock City, Illinois. In 1856, he married Katharina Rohrbach of Frankfurt am Main. They came to Eudora to farm in 1857, lived there several years, then moved to Johnson County before returning to Eudora in 1900. Their children, Marie Maypalene Margaretta (died as a child); Marie Amalia (died as a child); Emilie Christiana (married Friederich Gerstenberger); Heinrich “Henry” (married Minnie Kasier, born in Germany); Friedrich (married Emma Schmidt); Clotilda (married a Yeats); Sophia Lydia (married Pastor Edward Gruen); Conrad “William;” Katharine Caroline (married Christian Schurle); Louisa Marie (married Charles Gabriel); Georg August Gottlieb (married Mary Edelbrock); and Karl “Charles.” Violet (Gerstenberger) Fleming, Carrol Gerstenberger, and Lois (Gerstenberger) Neis are grandchildren of Emile Gerstenberger and also long-time members of the Eudora Area Historical Society. Fleming said at one time the Christian Thorens lived at 1001 Elm Street. Source: The Ancestors, Family, and Descendants of Johann Henrich Ludwig Thoren and Catharine Beckmeier from 1630 to 1984, by Elizabeth Haynes.

Before members of the Tornedon family came to the United States, their name was spelled “Darneden.” John Bernard Tornedon (born July 26, 1819) married Caroline Pauline Altenbernd Tornedon(born July 4, 1825 and died in 1888) in 1845 and are pictured in this photograph. They left Germany to keep their two older sons, August and Simon (“Sam”), out of the German army. Caroline’s brother, Conrad Altenbernd Sr., arranged for the trip to Eudora from Lippe Detmold, Germany, in 1869. It took two wagon trips from Kansas City to bring all their belongings. Their children were: August, Simon (“Sam”), Frederick, William, Henry, Lena, Herman, Frederika (married William Loesch), and Adolph. Two others were Caroline (“Lena”) (married Godfrey Reetz and had nine children), and Herman (married Elizabeth Haas). These two and their spouses are buried in Eudora. Many of the other children and their 735 descendants (in 1987) live in Lawrence, Tonganoxie, and Kansas City. Source: Tornedon Family Tree, Lola Mae Tornedon, Rural Route One, Linwood, Kansas

One of six children, William Jacob Trefz was born in Kirch-heim, Wittenberg, Germany, on July 11, 1856. He worked as a court stenographer, then came to the United States at age 16 with his father to avoid military training. He said, “I did not want to goose step to the militarism of my homeland.” His brothers stayed and became millers on the Rhine River. He first went to Newark, New Jersey, where a relative lived. Then he went to Pennsylvania to work as a baker. There he met Bertha Katrina Epple of Eudora who was visiting relatives. She was the first white woman born in Eudora, and her parents were original townsiters. They married April 3, 1878, in Pennsylvania and moved to Eudora where William worked as a baker. Later, he worked 35 years as a miller at the Durr Mill and the Bowersock Mill in Lawrence. When he worked in Lawrence, he would leave home at 6 a.m. to walk along the “cowpath” on the river banks two hours to get to work. At night, he started his trip at 6 p.m. and got home at 8 p.m. William and Bertha had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood: Regina (born 1880 who married at age 16 and moved to Denver); Carl (born 1882 who owned a variety store in Eudora); Will (born 1886 who operated a tin, plumbing, and electric shop and married Ida Grabski); Herman (born 1893 who took over Will’s shop); and George (born 1891). Bertha died in 1896 at age 35 of typhoid fever thought to have come from the family’s contaminated well. The Lutheran church refused to bury her, because everyone thought typhoid was contagious. Years later, a Trefz relative who stayed in Germany, Wilhelmine Kirchheim (Germany) wrote in German to “Nanele” Trefz, Eudora, December 20, 1908 a letter in possession of Pat (Trefz) Sherman, Warrensburg, Missouri. In it, she said: “How nice it would be if I could welcome you in my future home sometime. I would not let you leave again and wait. We might even find a colleague or friend of my spouse who would hold you, and make you turn your back on that awful America forever. That is my sincere desire, and it’s coming true would not just make me happy.” The Eudora newspaper carried a Kirchheim mention in 1922; in this instance, Robert Vetter and wife, of Kirchheim on the Necter, Wuertenberg, Germany, came to visit their uncle, William Trefz, in Eudora before going on to Kansas to make a new home. George, at age 16, was an apprentice telegraph operator under S.V. Carr for the Santa Fe Railroad. He was promoted to telegraph operator and also worked as a station agent, telegrapher, ticket agent, and at other positions in Kansas and Oklahoma. In 1917, he was drafted into the Army and worked at Camp Funston for a year, before being assigned to Fort Riley to ticket the baggage cars full of corpses due to the flu epidemic, he said. He returned to the Santa Fe Railroad, then in 1919, went to work for the Eudora State Bank. Later, he worked as a bookkeeper and teller at the Peoples State Bank in Lawrence for 15 years. He returned to the railroad as a general clerk and baggage clerk until his retirement in 1956. George also operated the first movie theater in Eudora at 700 Main Street. He sold the theater to Mr. Eldelbrock. Nettie Vicker introduced George to Nora, a housekeeper for the private home of Fred Harvey, of railroad dining fame. They married June 2, 1917, and had four children: (Fred, born October 29, 1919 who bought and operated Herman’s plumbing shop); Howard (born May 10, 1921 who worked at Lothholz Lumber until he was drafted and killed in the service at age 22 in 1943); Robert (born April 1, 1923 who worked at Sunflower Ordnance Works); and Wilfred (born December 24, 1927, who worked at Sunflower Ordnance Works, married Nell Powell, and had four daughters). Source: Bertha Trefz’s obituary (1896) and George Trefz in “Biographical Sketches,” prepared by Lauretta Trabant in Eudora Community Heritage (1977)

The Vitt family, which has been extensively researched, can be traced to Wyhl, Germany, with the first recorded ancestor being Johann Jacob Vitt. In 1865, the U.S. Census listed the Vitt family of William (“Wilhelm”), 45, and wife, Maria Magdalena (Stegal Kummer), 48, and their children Charles, Landoline, William, and Joseph. Landolin Vitt, born July 5, 1845 in Wyhl, married Amanda Louisa (Deay), daughter of George and Catherine (Mock) Deay. Their children were Hattie, Myrtle, and Bernard. Other Vitt familes in the 1865 census were George Vitt, a miller, wife, Hannah, and children (Emil, Eliza, Louisa, Frank, Hannah, and Augustus) and Stephen Vitt, 48, and wife, Louisa, 47, who had children Louisa, Joseph, Nicholas, Catherine, Mary, and John. The U.S. census lists four Vitt families in Eudora Township in 1870. The families were headed by William, Ferdinand, Louisa, and Leo. Born in Baden, Germany, in 1818, Leo Vitt came from Alsace to the United States with his wife, Louisa (Held); son, Emile; and nephew, William Brecheisen, the son of Wilhelmina (Vitt) born in January 1, 1826 in Wyhl, in early 1851. According to Vitt Family Genealogy Forum on the Internet, the Vitts fled Baden following the failed Revolution of 1848. They settled in Elgin, Illinois. Louisa died giving birth to twins, leaving children Emil, Elizabeth (Springer), and Louisa (Eisenbarger), a surviving twin. Leo married Johanna (Sebastian) born in Alsace in 1855 in Elgin. They lived there until 1857, then moved to Olathe. There a short time, they moved to a farm southeast of Eudora (Northeast ¼ of Section 3, Township 14, Range 21E). The 1870 U.S. Census lists, besides Elizabeth and Louisa, Mary, Francis, August, and Amelia. Leo sold the farm to Anna Davenport in 1860, and was by then living in Lawrence. After a few years, Leo moved back to Eudora in 1866 where he worked in a mill and sold real estate until he died at age 65 in 1883. The Leo Vitt househouse he built, a small, unimposing stone structure with a frame addition, on West Sixth Street stood for over a hundred years and is shown in this photograph. This house sat just south of the Vitt Mills and had tall, narrow arched windows. The 1976 Douglas County Historic Building Survey includes a photograph of this house abandoned in 1974. The children of Leo and Johannah were Marie, Frank, Johannah (married John Gutsmithl), Amelia (“Emma”) (Neufstifter), Ephrosina (“Sena” who married George Seiwald), Augustus (married Anna Eder), Frank, and Paulina (died at age 14). Frank, who married Mary Schoenhofer on October 20, 1882 and had 11 children, and his invalid sister, Mary, were the only children who stayed in the Eudora area. Source: The Family History of Peter Brecheisen I (LaVerne Brecheisen, Charles Brecheisen Sr., and Mary Brecheisen Rodewald) (1979), 1880 U.S. Census, and the impressive (2001) Descendents of Johann Jocob Vitt, Which Includes Related Families of Eudora and Surrounding Communities edited by Sandra Deal, 433 Antares, Corpus Christi, Texas

Augusta Julia (Haelsig), born February 23, 1844, in Clausnitz, Kingdom of Saxony, married Carl Vogelsang of Margersdorf, Germany, on February 8, 1863. In July of 1865, they came straight to Eudora from Germany. In 1869, they moved to Fredonia and lived there until 1882. They returned to Eudora. However, the 1880 census shows “Augustina” living with her brother, Lebrecht, and her three daughters without Carl. Their children were Mary, Clara, and Lizzie. Source: Augusta Vogelsang’s obituary (1907)

Franz Paul Vogl, born in Germeinde Maut, Landgericht, Wolfstein, Germany, in April 1826 married wife, Barbara (Schmidt), age 23 before they came to the United States in 1854. They stayed in New York City, New Jersey (two years), and in Chicago before settling in Eudora in May 1858 where Franz initially was a liveryman. They had 10 children (including Robert, Matilda, Frank, Catharina, Francisca, Joseph, Otto, and Alfred). Katie (who later married John Brueggan and had Mary, Matilda, Frances, Robert, Fred, Otto, and Mrs. Mike Seiwald), was born in 1859 in Eudora. The family lived on Church Street and attended Holy Family Church. Franz Vogl died in 1907. Source: 1860 U.S. Census, 1880 U.S. Census, Franz Vogl’s obituary (1907), and Katie Brueggan’s obituary (1927)

The Votaw family came to Eudora in 1905 to farm. Oscar Votaw married Elizabeth (Allsup) on February 8, 1867. Son Ralph, born in Iowa, married Ethel (Westerhouse) and they made their home on farm three miles south and one half mile east of Eudora with their four children: Eva (Lancaster), Lela (Morley), Vernon, and Dorothy (Baldwin). George, another son of Oscar and Elizabeth who was born in Oskaloosa, Iowa, married Della Davis on October 17, 1915, and they raised their family in Hesper. Daughter Marian (Freeman) remembered that the five girls and two boys in the family milked cows, and stored the milk and butter in the well to keep them cold. In the summer, the children picked potatoes to earn money for school clothes. They were paid four cents a hundred after they were sorted and would earn up to $3 a day. They walked to the school that was one-half mile away. Their mother baked bread every day that they ate with butter and sugar sprinkled on top. In the early 1940s, the family moved to a farm southwest of Lawrence. Source: Marian Votaw Freeman in Douglas County, Kansas , Family Histories 1991-1992, Vol. 1 by Carol Buhler Francis; Eudora Enterprise (March 22, 1967); Eudora Enterprise (February 21, 1968)

John Weaver, the son of Henry and Nancy (Hill), was born in Columbiana County, Ohio, December 31, 1848. He came at age 17 to Eudora where he worked on the farm in the summer and taught in the winter for three years. He then moved to Saline County and returned to Douglas County. His first purchase was 160 acres. He kept buying until he owned 600 acres. He started growing corn and wheat, later switching to potatoes. He was a charter member of the Potato Growers and Co-operative Dealers Association and got a patent on a potato sorter. In 1892, the Santa Fe Railroad put a station on his farm and named if after him. That same year Weaver opened a general store near his residence, which he sold in 1899. He also was station agent for the Santa Fe from 1891 to 1899. He married Australia (Speaks), daughter of William Speaks, an early settler of Salina, on December 31, 1877. Their children were Cornelius, William, Jennie, Homer and Hallie (twins), Lucile Mat, and Helen. Weaver was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the I.O.O.F. The area known as Weaver Bottoms was named after the Weaver family where the family built the imposing house pictured. Weaver moved to Baldwin in 1899 so that his children could attend high school and Baker University. Henry owned 1,300 acres of land in this area, was a Whig, and died in 1893 at the age of 81. Source: History of the State of Kansas (1883) by William Cutler

Westerhouse (Westerhaus)
Annie Holcum, born in Anover, Germany, September 9, 1828, came to the United States at the age of 23 with her parents. They settled in St. Louis, Missouri , and when she was 25, she married Peter Westerhouse (1829-1876). They made their home in Lexington, Missouri, and while there “they experienced the hardships of the Civil War,” according to Annie’s obituary. When the war ended, they came to the Captain’s Creek area (½ miles east on north side of the road to Olathe or 900 Road) about seven miles southeast of Eudora. They may have tried residing in Nebraska before they came to Eudora. Once here, they worshipped at the Captain’s Creek German Methodist Church. Their children were Henry, Mary, Amelia, Emma, Edward, William, Aurelia, and Amos Sr. Two of the daughters died in their early teens. Peter died in 1875. Two years later (another account says 1887), Annie married Henry Eggas (also spelled Eggard) who had been married several times before. Eggas was born in Hanover, Germany, and came to the United States at age 20. After spending time in New York, St. Louis (six months), and Iowa (four years), he moved to Eudora in 1855. Most of the Westerhouse children stayed in the Eudora area. In the early 1900s, for example Henry and Catherine (“Katie”) Westerhaus rented a 640-acre farm with three houses in Weaver from William Roberts, according to Ermal (Westerhouse) Whaley in 1985. Later, Henry’s sons, Charles (who married Alice (Musick and had sons Raymond and Harold) and Henry Edward (who married Margie Wilson and had Ermal, Lucille, and Carl), helped him farm the acreage. Edward raised his family in the Hesper area, and his son, Elmer, farmed one and three-fourths miles south of Hesper. Amos Sr., who married Sophia Meyer, built several of Eudora’s outerlying concrete bridges and his initials still can be read on them. Their children were twins Allen and Alvin, Oscar, Ethel, and Amos Jr. The children of Amos Jr. and Leoti (Milburn) were Arlene (Lawson), Maxine and her twin, Eugene, who married Dorothy (Willard). Annie Eggard died November 29, 1916, at the house of her daughter, Mary Clark, in Eudora. She had 15 grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren at the time. Source: Kay (Lawson) Spitzli, Peggy (Westerhouse) Claggett, Ermal (Westerhouse) Whaley, Annie Eggard’s obituary, Henry Eggas’ obituary (1908), and family records of Sandi (Wise) Westerhouse

At 27, Nicholas Weil, born 1826 in Gugemheim, near Dueringen, Alsace, came to this country. He chopped wood in New York his first winter. Then he married Anna Marie Boehner (born December 25, 1832 in Stackenforf, Bavaria, Germany) in Burlington, Iowa, and worked as a bartender. The family came to Paola in 1859, then moved a year later one mile east of Clearfield. Nicholas served in the Civil War in Company D-5 for three years in Arkansas. After discharge, the family moved nine miles south of Eudora and built a log cabin home. By 1877, they had a two-story, five-room, frame house in which they lived until 1910 when they moved into Eudora. Their children were Charles, Nicholas, Anna Mary, Sarah Louise, Hannah, Catherine, George, and John. The Weils were members of the Clearfield Evangelical Church since 1864. Nicholas died in 1915; Anna in 1925. Source: Norma Jardon in Douglas County, Kansas, Family Histories 1991-1992, Vol. 1 by Carol Buhler Francis; Anna (Boehner) Weil’s obituary (1925)

Herman Wichman and his wife, Marie (Schumacher), came to Eudora from Germany. Marie’s sister, Amanda, married George Kaegi. The Wichmans also were first cousins to the Knake family. Some of Marie’s nine children, including son John, went to live with Amanda after Marie died in childbirth. Source: Echoes 11, Number 8 (August 1988), published by the Eudora Nursing Center

Born in Saratoga, New York, August 7, 1830 (son of Thomas Wilber and Sarah A. Townsend), Charles Wilbur moved to Albany, New York, in 1853 where for 15 years he was engaged in the flour, coal and wood business. In 1858, he came to Hesper and settled on a farm in Section 19 containing 240 acres. Charles married Charlotte, daughter of John Pemberton and Clarissa Henry, in Albany, New York, on February 28, 1854. They had at least 10 children: Emily (born December 12, 1854); Thomas (born October 1, 1856); Clara (born March 22, 1858); John (born December 22, 1859); Elias (born July 28, 1862 and died January 31, 1863); Charles (born December 5, 1863 and died November 15, 1866); Charlotte (born December 7, 1866); Mary (born December 2, 1867 and died April 16, 1874); Samuel (born September 14, 1870); and Elizabeth (born January 13, 1883). The Wilburs were members of the Society of Friends. Source: History of the State of Kansas (1883) by William Cutler

The Ziesenis name has several spelling differences, often with a double “s” ending. Five Ziesenis men came to Eudora, and, at least three were relatives. The first, Ernest Ziesenis, was one of the original town settlers, but it is not known if he was a relative to the others. The only mention of him was going to hunt buffalo in Salina in the fall of 1858.

Another Ziesenis, this one, August, was born November 23, 1829 in Hanover, Germany. His parents died while he was young, and he apprenticed as a cabinet maker for four years. Drafted in the German army, he refused to enlist and left for New York and then Chicago. He then worked in Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1853 to 1855. After working as a carpenter with General Kearney's expedition to Nebraska, he returned to Chicago. He came to Eudora from Chicago in 1857. A carpenter, he was elected a councilman in 1859 and an election judge in 1860. The 1873 map of Eudora spells his name "Zeisinis," showing him owning 59 ½ acres in northwest Eudora, 11 city lots, and six blocks in southwest Eudora. He and his wife, Johana or Johanne (Franken), who was born in Westphalia, Tecklenburg, in 1853 and came to Chicago at two years of age, had eight children and were buried in Eudora.

Frederick Ziesenis, born May 19, 1840 in Dedensen, Hanover, Germany, came to the United States with his parents and settled in Plymouth, Wisconsin. He married Caroline (Mueller), born July 1, 1848 at Cornwall-on-the-Hudson in New York, in Town Rhine, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, in 1886. They came to Eudora in 1889 from Port Washington, Wisconsin. Frederick attended St. Paul’s Church as did his brother Henry, who also emigrated, and August Ziesenis, another relative who came to Eudora before the brothers. Caroline attended Holy Family Catholic Church. Thirteen children were born to this union, nine of whom grew lived past childhood: Gustave, Mary (married Charles Sommer), Louise (married William Timmermeyer), Anna (married John Sommer), Henry, Kathryn, Emma (married Ralph Beal), Adelia (married William Zimmerman), Fred, and Leonard (who died young). August Ziesenis (born November 12, 1868), the son of Frederick and Caroline, married Caroline Durst, a German, in Pittsfield, Illinois. He apprenticed with the largest harness maker in Lawrence for four years, then bought the Coate Harness Shop at 715 Main Street. In front of his store Gus placed a full-sized, dapple-gray wooden horse to display harnesses and saddles. He turned to shoe repairing when tractors replaced horses and moved his shop first across the street. From the Ziesenis family history, is this account: “Gus and Carrie had four children: Erna, Hilda, Lota, and Arno. For 14 years, Gus, besides owning his own business, also served at the Eudora postmaster. His father, Frederick, a tailor by trade, established his business at 730 Main Street on the south side of the business. Charles Schurict, a shoemaker, operated out of the north side. When Schuricht decided to retire in 1917, Henry Ziesenis, Frederick’s brother, bought and moved the building to the 800 block of Elm Street. The building was later razed. Frederick moved his shop across the street to the American House and retired in 1920. Many suits by Eudora men were made by Henry, and Eudora women made quilts from samples they got at “Tailor” Ziesenis. The Ziesenis family lived at 726 Elm Street. Fred died in 1925; Caroline died in 1923.

Ziesenis homeHenry, born 1842, served in the war between Austria and Germany and Prussia before coming to the United States in 1866. He came to Eudora in 1866 and opened the Ziesenis Harness Shop and Tannery at the northwest corner of Eighth Street and Main Street. He sold the business in 1887 to William Coates. He married Louisa Lefmann (born in Jamestown, Missouri, in 1849) in 1872. They had four children: Lena, William, Tillie, and Emma and lived at 802 Elm Street, seen here in this photograph. Source: The Fred Ziesenis Family by Lauretta Trabant and Frederick Ziesenis and Other Ziesenis Relatives by Janett Ziesenis Seacat and Rachelle Ziesenis, (April 1989); photo of Henry Ziesenis house donated to Eudora Area Historical Society; Johanne (Franken) Ziesenis’s obituary (1918); Caroline (Mueller) Ziesenis’ obituary (February 15, 1923); and Louise Ziesenis’s obituary

Josef Zillner, was born in Bavaria and married Ann (Mueller), also born in Bavaria. They shipped to Baltimore in 1875 on the North German-Lloyd Line. Their children in one listing were Marie (Sommer), Therese, and Josef, born February 13, 1875, who worked at W.G. Rice’s blacksmith shop in Prairie Center to get the money for his own smithy. Anna (Zillner) Rothberger, who may have been a relation or not, was born June 7, 1857, and was from Neiderbaren, Germany. Source: Kenneth E. Madl records and Douglas Co., KS Alien Registration Index

Copyright 2015. Cindy Higgins. Where the Wakarusa Meets the Kaw: A History of Eudora, Kansas. Eudora, KS: Author.