Research trip journal, day 2

2014.05.19 Monday

2014.05.20 Tuesday

I arrived in Jewell, Kansas at 10 p.m. after a fruitful day on the road. I started fairly early in Hannibal, Missouri.

Hannibal, Missouri from Lovers' Leap
After a quick shower and repacking the car from my overnight, I drove to "Lover's Leap" just a mile south of the downtown. The promontory rises between the highway to Louisiana, Missouri (yes, it's confusing) and the Mississippi River.

The location affords a superb panorama of the town, the broadly flowing river, the train tracks along it, and long views up and down the river. I bypassed a tour of the Mark Twain Cavern, a bit further down the highway and more clearly a promoter's dream.

After breakfast in the Becky Thatcher Dinette, I took County Road M northwest to Palmyra, which parallels the old train tracks almost all the way. Then in Palmyra, which no longer has its train depot, the tracks almost double back and head southwest toward joined U.S. Highways 24 and 36. From the point that the tracks near the highway, both routes run closely parallel until well past the middle of the state.

Perhaps the most interesting town mid-state is Macon, Missouri. The town was the crossing point of two major railway lines: the Hannibal-St. Joseph Railway (which I was following) and the Wabash Railroad. The town boasted an Episcopalian military school for boys, the Blees Academy and several commercial buildings erected by the founder of the academy. Today, the academy grounds are home to the county historical society and its museum.

I arrived in St. Joseph by 2 p.m. and stopped first at the historical society. Unfortunately, urban renewal and freeway development have obliterated most of historic St. Joseph, particularly so for Warehouse Row. In the area of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Streets bounded by Edmund Street and Faraon Street were storefronts of many outfitters for the pioneers who were heading west into Kansas. The representative at the historical society recommended a sister site that provides many photos and detail of early St. Joseph. The most important remnant from the 1870s is St. Joseph Cathedral, quite some distance away from downtown and on a hill above it. I popped into the parish office and asked about sacramental registers of pioneer priests. They provided two contacts who might have the information I need: the Chancery office of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas (913.721.1570) and the Chancery of the Salina Diocese (785.827.8146).

Still on the hunt for family information, I drove to Atchison, Kansas. My grandfather Henry Deneke (1878-1960) had studied at St. Benedict's College, as reported in the 1897 Beloit Gazette. I had no certainty that he had studied as a collegiate or prep-school boy, nor did I know if he had graduated. I first asked the Registrar to send me a transcript of his record, if it still existed. I then went to the library and its archive, and reviewed academic catalogs for the years 1893 through 1901. I found there a full record of four years in study at St. Benedict College. He is documented in the "Catalog of Students" in the years 1892-93, 1893-94, 1895-96, and 1896-97. (There was no school held in 1894-95, due to smallpox epidemic in Atchison.) He majored in Ecclesiastical Studies and received Premium awards in 1893, 1896, and 1897.

A week later, the St. Benedict Registrar told me that no transcripts are available prior to about 1905.

On the road again by 5 p.m., I angled northwest back to U.S. Highway 36. At a stop to fill my tank, I asked if anyone knew how to reach Frankfort. One couple volunteered that they had just passed through, on their way from Lindsborg, and gave me very good directions. Great-aunt Theresa Deneke had married Francis Marksman of Frankfort in 1917. Two of their sons—longtime "confirmed" bachelors—had visited Beloit for every funeral and often in summers even without a family event to draw them. I knew very little more than their regularly seen faces.

Annunciation Catholic church, Frankfort, Kansas (2014)
In Frankfort, I found Annunciation Catholic Church very quickly—the town is so small. While framing the third photograph, a priest stepped out of the main door. I called out to him, "Well hello! Everything's ready except for your pose!" He raised his hand in a wave. Perfect! I went to him and introduced myself. We spoke a bit, and he said, "Do you know where the Marksmans live? Right over there is Jim's house, just beyond your van. And Bill lives just two houses down."

I knocked on Jim's door, introduced myself, and Jim went in to call his brother and ask him to stop by. The boys are twins, but not identical. They have never known which is the elder, but it matters little in their family. They were the last two of eight children. The three of us spoke for almost an hour, and it was fun to hear each of them take their turn, gently waiting for the other to finish a story before the other brother started another topic. With an occasional prod toward memories of their family, they produced information that few in the Deneke family know.
  • Their Catholic faith is very important. Jim, who has COPD, was diagnosed with acute pneumonia in April. He wanted at first to put off hospitalization until after Holy Week, but his doctor told him it was a choice between living and dying. He was released from the hospital on Good Friday, and he was happy to be able to go to the Saturday evening services as well as Easter Sunday Mass.
  • Bill is well traveled. He has been to France twice, Italy four times, to Caribbean cruises several times. He listed many other countries that he's visited, in addition to trips in the U.S. to see family and friends in almost every state.
  • Both worked for a railroad company, maintaining the track in a large region. Jim's COPD may be partially the result of this work. On cold days, laying track required heating the rail to allow it to expand to the expected length on hot days. To do this, they soaked an asbestos rope with tar, laid it along the rail segment, and lit the rope to warm the rail. Then they could lay it in and bolt it in place. Jim worked often using this technique, not recognizing the danger or realizing the accumulated results.
  • Neither has married, but Jim had a "lady friend" in St. Joseph who he visited often over several years. When he visited, he would sleep downstairs while she had her bedroom upstairs.
We spoke until the afternoon shadows lengthened. I said goodby and got on the road again. As sunset approached, I reached Marysville. I've eaten at Penny's Diner before, and this was another opportunity for a well-prepared and inexpensive meal. (I've since heard that a bowling alley now has better food and a broader menu than Penny's.) I drove the last 95 miles through the darkening Kansas prairie, ever increasing the number of bugs splattered on the windshield as my high beams split the night.

2014.05.21 Wednesday

2014.05.22 Thursday

2014.05.23 Friday

2014.05.24 Saturday

2014.05.25 Sunday

2014.05.26 Monday

2014.05.27 Tuesday

2014.05.28 Wednesday

2014.05.29 Thursday

2014.05.30 Friday

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