Monday, December 16, 2013

European Adventure- Part 4

Here is the final installment of my European adventure. We arrived back in Amsterdam on Sept. 16 for our flight home on Sept. 19. Therefore, we had some time to do some more exploring. The weather was kind of chilly and damp but that did not deter us. At the left is the Anne Frank home. You cannot truly appreciate the cramped conditions in which they lived unless you actually go through that upper floor. It was a very sobering experience. 

My favorite pastime in Amsterdam was strolling along the canals. There are so many neat little shops and cafes along the way. I can't help but wonder how many cars they have to fish out of these canals! There isn't always a guard rail to stop you. There are flowers everywhere- on the bridges and in window boxes. 

I took this picture to show how some buildings are settling. You can see where one of the buildings is leaning forward. There were many places where either the left side or the right side is higher than its opposite. That probably makes opening a window alittle difficult!  

 The above picture is the Rijksmuseum which is the Netherlands' national museum. You could easily spend a day going through the exhibits. The highlight is the painting "Night Watch" by Rembrandt. I'm not a real artsy person, but you cannot help but be impressed by seeing  the actual  works of art that previously you had  seen only in pictures, videos, and history books.  One interesting sidelight of the museum is that entrance you can see in the picture. The two middle entrances are actually bike lanes that pass through the building. Apparently, the museum director attempted to have those lanes closed to bikes, but the bike "lobby" is so powerful in Amsterdam, it was kept open to bikes. If you could only see how many bikes there are, you could readily understand the power of the bike lobby! The city has a population of 800,000 people and there are 880,000 bikes! Yikes!

This last picture below was an amusing "find" for us. If you cannot read what is inscribed at the top of this structure, I repeated it in the picture's caption. The Latin phrase means "Wise men do not pee into the wind". Why does it say that, you may ask? This was a commercial building project in Amsterdam. The developer was having a lot of difficulties with the permit process. So, he submitted this phrase to the city fathers, who apparently, didn't pay much attention to what it meant and approved it! This was a way for the developer to get back at the city for making the process so difficult!
Homo Sapiens Non Urinat in Ventum

Well, the 19th came about and it was time to leave. We took a taxi out to Schiphol International Airport and it was soon off to Chicago on a nine hour flight. We arrived in Chicago around 1 PM and were to have a couple of hours before the connecting flight to Iowa. We got coffee and a newspaper to catch up on the news. I happened to look at the display of flights and noticed that our flight had been canceled along with many others. I will not get into the nitty, gritty of what transpired after that, but I was not a happy camper! My travel partner got to see an irritated side of me that he didn't know existed! We spent from about 2 PM until 8 PM that evening trying to figure out  connecting flights and getting accomodations for the night. The next morning, we were on a shuttle from our hotel in Schaumburg, IL back to the airport at 6:30 AM. Got to got through security! Finally after a short delay because the flight crew was late in arriving, we were off to  the Cedar Rapids airport and the end of a truly amazing trip.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

European Adventure- Part 3


In the map to the left, the green colored area is the state in which Erfweiler is located. In the map above, you can see where Erfweiler is in relation to Frankfurt and Stuttgart.

Inmy last post, we were in the Schell ancestral village of Erfweiler in Germany. We had enjoyed a great meal at a local eatery called the Jägerhof. The next morning, we were invited to Gerhard and Bärbel Zwick’s home for a typical German breakfast consisting of a variety of cheeses, thin-sliced meats, rolls, and coffee. After breakfast, Gerhard and Friedbert took us on a walking tour of Erfweiler. They pointed out some of the buildings and homes that would have been around when our ancestors plied the streets of Erfweiler back in the 18th and 19th centuries. They showed us the old school that Johann Schehl would have attended and the site of the old Catholic church that the family would have attended. We also got a little insight into Erfweiler during WWII. Since the town is very close to the French border, the Nazis ordered all villagers to evacuate for seven months after the war began in September of 1939. Near the end of the war when the Americans occupied the area, all the villagers in the upper old town had to evacuate so the Americans could set up camp there. Gerhard had a relative in Erfweiler who was killed after the villagers moved back in. He, unfortunately, came into contact with a grenade that had been left behind. Gerhard also had a relative who was killed during the D-Day invasion and another who was killed when German paratroopers tried to invade the island of Crete. We visited a town
Honoring town's war dead- there were two more plaques
cemetery with little hope of finding any tombstones of my ancestors. They do it a “little” differently in Germany. You lease a plot for between 15-25 years. After the lease is up and if no family member renews the lease, the plot can be re-used! What happens to the remains that were there, you say? Well, there are not many remains as they do not place coffins inside a liner. But if there are remains, they are just buried deeper! The headstone is removed and a new one is put in place. They even recycle the headstones. So, there are no headstones remaining for the dearly departed from long ago! We did find a Schehl gravesite but it was from a different line.

After the tour, it was time to return to Gerhard’s home for lunch. They had said the night before that we were going to have a “special” lunch on Sunday and then they started chuckling. That was of some concern to me; why the chuckling without explanation? Well, we got to the lunch after our tour. There was a large platter of sausages and brats, bread and rolls, a large bowl of sauerkraut (which was of special concern to me), and then a large sausage-like piece of meat on a large plate. It was probably about 4-5 inches round and maybe about a foot long. They said it was somewhat unique to this Pfälz region of Germany and it was called saumagen, which didn’t mean much to me. So, they sliced it and gave each of us a piece. I dug in and it was quite delicious. It was only after that that they explained that saumagen meant “sow’s stomach”! It seems that they stuff a sow’s stomach with a mixture of pork, potatoes, and seasonings; it resembles a meatloaf. The sow’s stomach is merely the casing for this large sausage. It really was quite good, but I don’t think that’s one thing I will soon try to make at home for (what should be) obvious reasons. After lunch, Gerhard and Bärbel took
Climbing around Alt Dahn ruins
From highest tower of Alt Dahn
to us to the neighboring town of Dahn. High on a hill overlooking the entire valley is an old castle called Alt Dahn. It is now a state park. It’s a pretty good hike up to the remains of the old castle from the parking lot. It was kind of misty that afternoon but you could see for a long way up there. After returning to Erfweiler, it was time to head back to Stuttgart with Friedbert and Gudrun. They dropped us off at our hotel and said they would come by in the morning and take us to the main train station downtown.

The next morning, we said our goodbyes and left for Amsterdam for our last German rail experience. Everything went well, except we had not made reservations so we wound up standing (with others) for part of the trip until many disembarked along the way. In Köln (Cologne) I had another encounter with German culture that I’m not used to. We had a little time to wait in Köln while waiting for our connection. I went downstairs to use the restroom. I was not expecting a couple of older women to be in there cleaning urinals while the area was being used! So, I just pretended to be German and went about my business “seemingly” unperplexed! Our connection to Amsterdam soon arrived and we were off to our final European destination before heading home. The next post will cover our last couple of days in Amsterdam and our unexpected confusion at Chicago’s O”Hare!

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 4, 2013

European Adventure- Part 2

Fabian, Gudrun, & Friedbert Schehl
When I left off last time, we were enroute by Eurail from Nürnberg back to Stuttgart. Upon arrival in Stuttgart, we headed back to the Hansa Hotel which is the same place we had stayed at the first time in Stuttgart. It’s not far from the train station, it’s in a quiet neighborhood, and it’s inexpensive! I called our cousin, Friedbert Schehl, who lives only eight blocks from our hotel. I had found Friedbert in my genealogy search and this would be our first face-to-face meeting. By the way, he is our seventh cousin. Our common ancestor is a sixth great grandfather. We were to go to Friedbert’s apartment for dinner that evening. He came and picked us up and I have to say, his English was not bad! At least, we were able to pretty much understand him. His English is a lot better than any German I knew. He had invited his son, Fabian, over to join us and act as translator, if needed. His wife, Gudrun, was preparing kasespätzle for dinner. It’s like a cheese and noodle casserole and was very good. Friedbert and my travel partner hit it off very good; both are big Bob Dylan fans! After a lot of talk and filling in details of our lives, it was time to head back to the Hansa. Tomorrow would be VERY exciting. Friedbert and Gudrun were going to drive us two hours to the west to Erfweiler, the Schell/Schehl ancestral village.
Schloss Solitude

We left midday for Erfweiler. Just outside of Stuttgart is a place called Schloss Solitude; it was a palace built by a noble as his hunting lodge. Some lodge, huh? Next it was on to one of those famous autobahns. We were traveling along at about 85 mph and cars were zipping by us. After crossing the Rhine, we entered an area that had many vineyards. We actually took a little side trip and crossed the French border to the town of Wissembourg. It’s another very charming medieval-style village. Gudrun went into a bakery and got a loaf of French bread and we just walked around town looking at the sites while tearing off pieces of bread! After spending about an hour, it was time to head off to Erfweiler, a mere fifteen minutes away.
House in Wissembourg


Erfweiler is a very small village of about 1,200 people. I would call it a bedroom community as most people work outside of town. There are only small businesses in town. We went directly to the home of Gerhard and Bärbel Zwick. Gerhard is the first person I was able to contact in Erfweiler over the internet. And it so happens that he was a boyhood friend of Friedbert’s. They had grown up together in Erfweiler. It was Gerhard who put me in contact with Friedbert.
Gerhard & Bärbel Zwick
Gerhard has a doctorate in chemistry and actually works in Karlsruhe, about an hour away. They live there during the week and are in Erfweiler for weekends. Gerhard speaks very good English because his job takes him all over the world and English is a common language for businessmen in Europe. We weren’t at the house very long before Friedbert and Gerhard took me on a hike through forests and up to the top of some rock formations that overlook Erfweiler. These forests had been their playground in childhood. The next day when we took a walking tour of Erfweiler and, today, on the forest hike, it was an indescribable feeling walking the same streets, hiking the same roads, and seeing some of the same buildings that my ancestors had seen. This would definitely be the highlight of my trip. Once we got back to Gerhard’s house, we had a little rest...a glass of beer and
Friedbert & Me above Erfweiler

Forest going to overlook
Gerhard showed me some of the photos of the town that he had on his computer. After about an hour, it was getting to be dinner time. Steve M had gone to our guest room located down on the main street in town. We all walked down town to get him and then go the a wonderful little German restaurant in town called the Jägerhof. I decided to get adventurous again and have something I had only heard of but had never had....sauerbraten. I was not disappointed! I decided this is something I would attempt to make back home (and I did!) That evening was so much fun. It was fun sitting back and
Jägerhof Restaurant
listening to the two families chat back and forth in German. I had no idea what they were saying but it was so much fun just listening. And they were so kind as to stop ever so often and include us in some English conversation. We wound up being there very late.....actually the waitress had left for the night and the proprietor (a friend of Gerhard’s) allowed us to stick around. There were more drinks to be had and I had the chance to experience something else for the first time.....I had never had schnapps! Finally, it was time to head back to the guest room and get some much needed sleep. Tomorrow would be Sunday and time to head back to Stuttgart before making our final train trip back to Amsterdam and our flight home. That will be in my next post.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

European Adventure- Part 1

At my house just before leaving
As I mentioned in my last post, I had made a trip to the Netherlands and Germany. I traveled with a friend with whom I had taught at East High in Waterloo. Steve Moravec was also in the history department there and is an experienced traveler to Europe. He is working on his family’s genealogy and had always been after me to make the journey and visit some of my ancestral “homes”. He finally convinced me to go when he offered to be a “travel guide”. That sold me on the idea! 

We left from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on September 3 and arrived in Amsterdam about 9 hours later.
Bikes, bikes, bikes and more bikes!
We stayed in Amsterdam for three days. What a city it is! I simply could not believe the number of bicycles! They are everywhere and at all hours. The picture above is a three-level parking area for bikes. My favorite pastime  was walking along the canals. I did not realize how many they have. You can find so many quaint little shops and cafes along them.

On Saturday, September 7 it was time to use our first Eurail pass trip to go to Stuttgart. Our Eurail pass was good for five trips and we used every one of them. What a system! On all five of our trips, we got to our destination on the minute we were supposed to have arrived! I got my first introduction to German food at an outdoor restaurant in Stuttgart. It was time to experiment, so I chose an entree called schweinebraten and it was simply delicious. It was so good that I looked for a recipe and made it when I returned home! It was terrific again if I may say so!

On Monday, September 9, we headed out to an old medieval town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber. For a couple of old history teachers, this was quite the place. As you can see in these pictures, it has maintained its medieval charm quite well. Being medieval, the town was surrounded by a high protective wall. You can walk atop it nearly the entire length around the town- it’s about a 2-mile walk and this picture below shows the covered walkway on
Atop the wall
 top of the wall. More good food here-- I chose some schnitzel this time!

When Wednesday rolled around, it was time to board the train to Nürnberg, or Nuremberg as we know it. After finding a hotel, we took a stroll around the old part of town and came upon a Pizza Hut. That really sounded good so we ducked in and had some Italian for a change. The next day we toured the Nazi Documentation Center; they have done an excellent job in telling the story of the rise of the Nazi Party without pushing any agenda. The stories and displays pretty much lead you to the obvious conclusions. It’s good to have this kind of place lest we forget; as a matter of fact, there were several German army personnel taking the tour at the time we were there. I wonder if it is a requirement? We were able to walk
Zeppelin Field
over to Zeppelin Field where the large Nazi rallies were held and you can actually walk up to the reviewing platform that Hitler would have stood upon while reviewing the thousands of troops lined up before him. It was really a somewhat eerie feeling to be there. Again, a couple of old history teachers just really ate it up! We also visited the Albrecht Dürer museum which happens to be the home in which he lived in Nürnberg. He was a famous artist.
Dürer home

On Friday, September 13, we left for Stuttgart on our third Eurail trip-- two to go! I’ll continue the trip in the next post. If you happen to follow my other blog “Schell Seekers”, you will find this exact same posting there.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Frederick Happekotte- Adventurer

Before I get to Frederick’s story, I just wanted to mention that I took a little “sabbatical” from posting in September. I was on a trip to the Netherlands and Germany where I got to meet an eighth cousin on the Schell side in Stuttgart, Germany. He and his wife then took us to visit the Schell ancestral home of Erfweiler, Germany. I will have a post about that trip later.

I am skipping the generation with Bernard “Barney” Happekotte and will return to him in the near future. Some new information has recently come to light about Frederick Happekotte, who was Bernard’s father. And this is very exciting news in deed! Frederick Happekotte is my third great grandfather. He was born in Germany on 12 Aug 1821. There may be some question at this point as to where in Germany he was born, but it seems to have been in the Essen area. On May 17/18, 1847, Frederick left Germany and was a part of a German colony in Guatemala. The colony was started in the early 1840s. I do know exactly when Frederick entered the United States. That happened on June 4, 1850 when he, wife Christina, nee Kreitz, and their infant son, John Frederick, entered the port of New Orleans on the ship John Bell. From there, they made their way up the Mississippi to Quincy, IL. Their infant son died in Quincy on 28 Jun 1850. So, this Happekotte family arrived in Quincy sometime between  the 4th and 28th of June. Another son, Mathias, was born about 14 Aug 1850 but only survived until the August 31, 1850.

Here is the exciting development. I was contacted by Jóse Francisco Monterroso back in early August of this year. He had come across this blog and saw the Kreitz connection. He is a direct descendant of Petrus (Pedro) Kreitz who was the brother of Christina Kreitz and was also in Guatemala.  It seems as though Christina was previously married to a Carl Stütggen. This was new information for me. He drowned in Guatemala trying to cross a swollen river on horseback. Then, Christina married my third great grandfather, Frederick Happekotte in Guatemala on May 2, 1848. This was another really exciting piece of the puzzle to obtain. I am indebted to Mr. Monterroso who supplied me with a marriage document for Christina and Frederick. Christina and Frederick went on to have four other children in Quincy: Fidel in 1852, Isabel in 1853, Bernard Frederick in 1854, and Maria Catherine Isabella in 1856. Only Bernard Frederick, my second great grandfather survived. None of the other children seemed to have survived past one year of age. Maria Catherine Isabella is a question because I have no death date for her. I can only imagine the pain that Christina felt in her life. She lost her first husband and, at least,  four of her six children in infancy.

I am also very indebted to Christine Cano who wrote a book about the Kreitz family. Most of the information on the Kreitz family in Guatemala came from her source. She has also painstakingly reconstructed a timeline for the Kreitz family and their Guatemalan experience based upon the new information provided by Mr. Monterroso. This is an ongoing research project as we search for more corroborating evidence. Somethings may never be proven, but Ms. Cano has put together a very convincing and likely story for the Kreitz family in Guatemala which includes our Frederick and Christina Happekotte. 

I am also indebted to Mike Happekotte for providing much of the early Happekotte history. He had obtained information from Frank Habekotte who lives in the Netherlands. Some of that early history now must be substantiated with some documentation. That will be an ongoing quest. 
Pictured: Frederick and Christina Kreitz Happekotte (seated), standing are Miss Bergsneider (family friend) and Bernard (son)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Robert E Shepherd

Sad to say, but what I remember most about great grandpa Shepherd was that he was a quiet man. I only saw him whenever we made the trip to Quincy and that was not that often. So, I never really got to know him. My grandma, Edna (his daughter) never really said much and how I wish I had been inquisitive enough to have asked questions back then. I find this is often the genealogist’s lament!

Robert Elmore Shepherd was born in La Grange, Missouri on November 28 , 1880 to parents, William H Shepherd and Nancy A Jenkins. Robert and Mary E Davis were married on August 27, 1902 in La Grange, Missouri. They would eventually have seven children, four of which we had never heard of before I began doing this digging! Charles Henry was born in 1903, Edna Louise (my grandmother) was born in 1904, and Mabel Amelia was born in 1906. The other four children all died very

young. Mildred was born and died in 1908. Norma Estelle was born in 1909 and died at the age of four. Robert Russell was born and died in 1919 and Mary Elma lived for five days in 1920. I didn’t know of these other siblings until Cindy and I discovered their common tombstone in Marks Cemetery in La Grange. That was quite a shock as I don’t remember of Grandma ever speaking of other siblings.

Grandpa and Grandma Shepherd had taken in a young child named Russell Mansperger and raised him from a young age until he died of drowning in a Quincy swimming pool. That is something I remember Grandma definitely spoke of....especially when she was telling us kids to stay away from the river when we lived by it in Sherwood Park!

According to Mom’s notes, he and grandma had worked at a button factory in Muscatine, Iowa. If that is true, I am thinking that may have been before they were married as traveling to Muscatine from La Grange after they had a family would have been difficult in the early 1900s. It would have to have been the very late 1890s when they were in their late teens.

Grandpa Shepherd seemed to have been very handy. Mom said

he was an excellent furniture maker. But mostly he seems to have been a painter. This photo to the right shows him painting the grape arbor at their home in 1929. He retired in 1952 from the Quincy school system as a maintenance man; the family had moved to Quincy, Illinois about 1918. He had been a member of the painters’ union.

Robert passed away in Quincy at the age of 86 on November 11, 1967. I wish I had gotten to know more about him. I cannot imagine the pain of losing four children in addition to Russell, who was just the same as a son to them. And great grandma died fifteen years before him. Mom had written a story in her notes about the time that  great grandma, grandma (Edna), and her sister, Aunt Belle  went to visit relatives in Kentucky. They were gone about two weeks and after they returned, great grandpa got down on his knees and begged her, “Don’t ever leave me alone that long again!” I can only imagine that when she was gone for good, that had to be devastating to him. Maybe that’s why I remember him most as a very quiet man.

Monday, July 1, 2013

John F Happekotte- Patriarch of a Wonderful Family

John Frank Happekotte was my maternal great grandfather. He was born in Quincy, Illinois on January 27, 1879 to Bernard Happekotte and Elizabeth Jasper. John married Mary (Mae) Walford on April 12, 1899. He died in Quincy on April 8, 1950 at the age of 71. John and Mary had eleven children. One child, Charles Bernard, lived only 21 days in 1916. The surviving children were Irene Margaret, Bernadine Mary, Ralph Herman, Henrietta Florentine, Mary Virginia, Lillian Elizabeth, Clarence Jerome, Edward Frank, Edgar Earl, and Kathleen Helen. I was always amazed at how this large family lived in such a small house at 620 N. 18th Street!

John F Happekotte

On their marriage certificate, John is listed as a bookkeeper. He must have had several other occupations at times. According to this picture at the right, he looks as if he were a fireman. I also found a 1904 article in the Quincy Daily Whig that states John was a minute man at the No.2 fire station. In 1909, john had an ad in the Quincy Daily Whig for repairing bicycles, lawn mowers, gasoline stoves, etc. The business was located at 1207 Broadway.  The 1920 US Census lists him as a millwright at an elevator works. In 1930, he is listed on the census as a foreman at the Otis Elevator Co. In 1940, I am assuming John is retired. On the 1940 census, his income is listed as “0” and there is a column where he indicates he is unable to work; he is 62 at this point.

I have a feeling that John could be a ruffian at times. I came across a court case where he had been arrested (but later acquitted) of an altercation in a saloon at 17th and Broadway. The article indicates that the problem stemmed from the defendant putting a cat on the back of John’s dog! I got the strong impression that this had something to do with unions. The defendant was a non-union man and John was a strong union man. The trial was also attended by many union and non-union members.  In another altercation, possibly at the same saloon, John and Mary were out for a drive when they stopped at the saloon for refreshments. He went in to get them while Mary waited outside for him. There were some men outside who were making fun of Mary and John got into it with them. I do not have the outcome of this incident as of yet.


In another matter of record, both John and Mary’s obituaries state they were married April 12, 1898. I have their marriage license that contradicts that; it states the marriage was on April 12, 1899! I will point out that their oldest child, Irene, was  born on August 3, 1899. Those are the facts, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions! Such are the mysteries of genealogy!


John and Mary raised a large family. Their children would grow up to be exceptional people and parents. I didn’t know Edward, Lillian, or Kathleen; so I cannot attest to their characters. I have no reason to believe they were any different. Perhaps, someone else who knew them better can add a few words about them. But I do know that ALL the rest were wonderful, kind, and caring people. That has to say something about John and Mary.

 In the above picture, seated are Mary and John (parents). From left to right are Irene, Kate, Edward, Bernadine, Clarence, Henrietta, Ralph, Lillian, Edgar. Not pictured is Mary.



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Time to Change Gears!

Up to now, I have dealt with mostly parents and grandparents who I knew more about. Now, it’s time to start delving into the lesser-known ancestors who were farther back in time. Even though this blog is called “Happekotte Happenings”, I will be telling you about other families in the maternal line including Shepherd, Davis, Jenkins, Percy, Weaver, and maybe a few others as I find more about them. All of these other families are important “pieces” to the genealogical puzzle. There are some great stories here including a Civil War soldier, a ‘49er (not the football kind!), an early settler in Kentucky, and a Union sympathizer who lived in Tennessee, and a German colonist in Guatemala. This maternal line has definitely been more problematic genealogically speaking. The records of some of these ancestors seem to be few; so it is really a challenge to locate them.  But I have found some interesting stories and information about them. Enjoy the upcoming blogs about these people from our past; they deserve to be remembered!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Edna Shepherd Happekotte

Edna Louise Shepherd Happekotte was my maternal grandmother who was born in La Grange, Lewis Co., Missouri on December 23, 1904 to Robert E Shepherd and Mary E Davis. We had always thought that she was one of three Shepherd children; how wrong we were! It was not until Cindy and I were searching for some grave sites in Marks Cemetery in La Grange that we came upon a headstone with four names. Grandma, it turns out, was one of seven children. The siblings that we grew up knowing were Charles and Mabel. Those four children whose names were on that headstone had all died very young. Their names were Norma, Mildred, Robert Russell, and Mary Elma. Only Norma survived past the age of one; she was about four when she died.

I had always heard about a child named Russell, but it wasn’t the brother, Robert Russell, to which Grandma was referring. Her parents had taken in a child named Russell Mansperger and essentially raised him. All that I ever knew about him was that he had drowned in a Quincy municipal pool when he was about twenty. I had never known why he had been raised by my great grandparents; this still remains a mystery. 
Ralph & Edna
Edna married Ralph Happekotte in Quincy on November 14, 1925 which happened to be Grandpa’s 21st birthday. Maybe Grandma insisted on that date so Grandpa wouldn’t ever forget their anniversary! The story goes that they eloped; they were married by a justice of the peace. I don’t know why they chose to elope, but I wonder if it had something to do with religion? Grandpa was a Catholic and grandma was a Baptist. Grandma could be kind of headstrong at times and I can definitely see her insisting on not marrying in a Catholic church......just a guess!

In her youth, she and Grandpa both rowed racing shells for the Southside Boat Club in Quincy. They actually got to row for Quincy in the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. She met Grandpa when they were both working for Otis Elevator Co. She always told us the story that in order to work there, you had to be sixteen. She wasn’t; so she taped a piece of paper with the number “16” to the bottom of her shoe. That way, she could tell the employer that she was “over sixteen”. I have no reason to believe she didn’t do that; grandma was not one for making up a lot of stories! 

Artistically, Grandma was quite talented. She was very good at tinting black and white photos to make them appear as though they were color photos. I have one and am amazed at the workmanship that it took. She also had quite a business doing women’s hair in their homes....she said she gave them finger waves. Many of her customers were from Quincy’s East End which was the swanky part of town. She didn’t have a state license to do this and when someone turned her in, she had to stop. After that she went to work as an apprentice in a beauty shop owned by a Mrs. Wade. 

Ralph and Edna lived for a while in a duplex at 624 N. 18th St. Grandpa’s sister, Irene, and her husband, Elmer, lived in the other half. From there, they moved to S. 8th St. until the Depression made it necessary for them to move in with her parents at 615 Oak St. Eventually, as times improved, they moved to 1118 1/2 Ohio St. That turned out to be the last place they lived in Quincy. In January, 1936, the family made the move to Waterloo, Iowa. They lived in a
Ralph, Patricia, Edna
couple of different places near downtown Waterloo, including the Elmer Hotel. It was there that they became friends with Fritz and Edna Maeder; their daughter, Jeanne, would become one of my mom's best friends. For most of their lives, the Happekottes spent in the Sherwood Park area of Waterloo. They lived for a short time in one of Art Stitz’s many rentals. They moved to 150 Greenwood, but most of their years were at 204 Greenwood. I can still see Grandma sitting at that kitchen table which took up nearly half the space in that small kitchen. The table was always loaded with pencils, crossword books, or items needed for the beadwork she did or the plastic flowers she made. I can remember playing Scrabble and 500 Rummy with her at that table. It was a great place to be.... and there was always Costello’s ice cream in the freezer!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ralph Happekotte- the Iowa Years

Ralph, Irene, Clarence
In 1935, the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. Grandpa moved to Waterloo, IA in 1935. This picture, to the right, is probably close to that time. In the picture are siblings Ralph and Clarence Happekotte and their sister, Irene Schutte. Grandma and mom followed him in January, 1936.  He had worked for the Illinois Tire & Battery in Quincy, but a job in Waterloo was better. He worked for Bennett Tire & Battery at the corner of Park Ave. and Jefferson. They lived in a couple of places near downtown, including the Elmer Hotel before moving to Sherwood Park. Art Stitz owned several “cottages” in the Park and the Happekottes moved into #4. No running water, hand pump in the kitchen, kerosene stove, and an outhouse- not quite luxury living! This has to be where Grandpa got into the pump side business because it wasn’t too long before he had installed a shallow well pump for running water, he put a toilet and crude shower in the basement. I would be willing to bet that Grandma had a lot to do with that decision! What did they do for a shower before that? They took the bus downtown and went to the YWCA where they could take a bath for 25 cents. So, I guess running water, indoor toilet, and a shower were really luxuries to them.
Ralph started an emigration from Quincy. His brother Clarence lived with them for a time while he was working at Chamberlain’s before he moved to California. His sister, Mary, who had married Bob Foust in Quincy moved to Waterloo in 1952. Bob also worked at Chamberlain’s. Mary and Bob actually had lived in the Sherwood Park home that became our longest Sherwood Park residence at 109 Greenview Dr. 
While working for Bennett Tire & Battery, Grandpa was working on a car owned by Earl Manning. Earl owned Manning Pattern Co. This led to a new job for Grandpa; one that lasted from 1936 to his retirement in 1962. He had a long and good retirement. Working on the pumps and wells down in Sherwood Park kept him busy. They always enjoyed making trips to visit the many relatives in Quincy and I was fortunate enough to get to go along on several. I had not grown up in Quincy even though I was born there, but I always enjoyed the visits. There were so many relatives back in the 1960s and 1970s on both mom and dad’s sides of the family; so there wasn’t a shortage of people to see.

Grandpa and Grandma had a good life in Waterloo, but Grandpa’s heart was always in Quincy. We can remember that he always referred to Quincy as “God’s Country”. Grandma passed away on June 1, 1981; that was the only time I had ever seen Grandpa cry. Even if they were like the Bickersons, we knew how they felt about each other. So, when we lost Grandma, he took her back to Quincy to be buried. We lost Grandpa on August 25, 1983. Now, they are both back there in the Happekotte family plot in Calvary Cemetery in “God’s Country”.

Note: We really don't have a lot of pictures of Grandpa from the Iowa years. We lost most of any pictures we had of him in the house fire that I told about in the March 3rd post.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ralph Herman Happekotte- the Quincy Years

First, let me say there was never a kinder, more gentler soul than he was. I never ever heard him raise his voice for anything, even when Grandma was on his case about this or that! And we all believe he knew which strings to pull to get Grandma going! It could have been about that limburger cheese that he liked and Grandma hated- mostly because of the smell. They were kind of like that old radio show named the Bickersons. It was all pretty harmless but always present! Grandpa did a lot of pump work and sinking sandpoints in the houses down in Sherwood Park. He didn’t charge people very much because he knew many down there didn’t have much. But Grandma was his bookkeeper and she would get after him if he dragged his feet about collecting the small fee he charged. I truly believe he would have been perfectly happy doing much of the work for free. That was just his nature. I really believe he came by that disposition naturally-- his brothers and sisters were all the same way. They would do anything for you.

This little momento was indicative of how others thought of him. The wording says “Hap the Flood Angel- March 16, 1945 Flood”. On the back it says, “Presented to Ralph Happekotte by the Residents of Sherwood Park”. The spring floods, which were a usual spring happening back then, was when Grandpa really shined. He became the Sherwood Park ferry service when the water came up. Many residents did not have a boat, so he would ferry them to the water’s edge so they could either go stay with others or get groceries and wait it out. Most people, by the way, waited it out. 

Grandpa was born on November 14, 1904 in Quincy, Illinois. In September of 1905, he won a baby contest at a Labor Day celebration in Quincy. The picture here was taken at that time and all I can say is he definitely had the Happekotte feet! We don’t know much about his growing up years, but I was always amazed at how his parents raised such a large family (10 kids) in such a very small house at 620 N. 18th!  There was one sibling born in 1916 and died the same year. His name was Charles Bernard; I don’t know at this time if he was stillborn or died as an infant.
According to notes mom had written, Grandpa met Edna Louise Shepherd when they were working for Otis Elevator Co. The Shepherd family had moved to Quincy from nearby LaGrange, Mo by 1920 when she was about 15. Ralph had worked as a lifeguard at the Casino Pool in Quincy and both of them rowed racing shells for the Southside Boat Club. The highlight of their rowing career had to be rowing at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. Mom always told us that they eloped and honeymooned in Hannibal, MO. They were married by a justice of the peace in Quincy on November 14, 1925. I didn’t realize it until now, but Grandpa got hitched on his 21st birthday! They became parents for the first and only time on November 12, 1926.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pat- the Years at “Walton’s Mountain” on Greenview

In 1957, we were on the move again; this time to 109 Greenview Dr., the house that Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob (Foust) had lived in for a short while.  This house was “home” to most of us. It’s where we really grew up. It wasn’t directly on the river, although at imes it was IN the river! It was more or less in the woods. Lots and lots of great times in those woods! I’m sure this topic will come up on Staci’s blog “My Funny Family” at While there, mom was always active in the Cub Scout chili suppers at Castle Hill School for many years. She would make up little “chili kits” so all that the other mothers had to do was dump everything in the hamburger and cook it! The system worked great. Dad, meanwhile, was always active in the PTA’s Dad’s Night. The PTA dads always put on these hilarious skits that were always a hit. The one that I remember them talking about was a take-off on the “Jack Paar Show” which they called “The Jack Poor Show”. I wish we could get a hold of those films that were taken; they are probably long gone. Mom also did a stint making pizzas at Joe’s 218 Tap (now the east end of Casey’s on University. She must have done a really great job with the pizzas because it became a draw for the bar- a lot of repeat customers. That was back when pizzas, or pizza pies as they were called then, were just getting popular.

And, of course, one thing that mom was really known for was her chauffeur services. I think everyone thought she lived in that car or van. At one point, dad put a big racing stripe right down the middle of the van. By 1967, there were eight of us kids; so somebody was always going somewhere. And she and dad both truly loved to drive- we were known for going to the Old Mill in Independence,
Dale & Gwen Brooks with Mom
Ia for ice cream cones. In the summer we often went to Backbone State Park with our dear friends, the Brooks. If we weren’t going to Backbone, we were picnicking with them at Exchange Park. I can even remember going to Des Moines many times for Poppin’ Fresh pies. We would actually take orders and bring pies back! Obviously, the price of gas was not a deterrence then! And when hockey started in Waterloo about 1962, all of us boys were involved and my sisters were always down at public skating. We practically lived at the rink in the winter months. I don’t know how they ever managed... we all had skates, hockey sticks, clothes on our backs, and food on the table.... and there were eight of us! But they always managed.

Sadly, we lost that house to a fire on December 5, 1985. It was a total loss. It was the same night that the Goodwill burned in downtown Waterloo. They couldn’t spare the pump trucks to save our house. And there aren’t water mains in Sherwood Park. There would have been records and pictures that would have really been great in this genealogical pursuit, but other family have generously shared pictures and information.   At the time of the fire, only Jacki and her daughter Kristin where living at home. It was Jacki who woke up and smelled the smoke. The fire had started in the kitchen and that was one of the exits. The only other exit was the main door that went past the kitchen. So, they were very fortunate to have escaped when they did or they could have been trapped. After the fire, mom lived out in Hudson for many years and really liked it out there. When her health started to slip, she moved into a house next to Jacki’s in Cedar Falls. My sister, Cindy, and her husband, Jim, purchased the house and Jacki’s husband, Brian, did a lot of work making repairs and remodeling it. She had a series of small strokes in 2004 that left her incapacitated. We had her in the Windsor Nursing Home in Cedar Falls for about a year and a half. One of us was always with her from the first thing in the morning until she went to bed. There was no way that we were going to trust a facility to meet all of her needs, especially when she could not communicate them. Finally, we decided to take her back to her home since we were doing most of the work anyway. We got great help from the visiting nurses and Area Agency on Aging. That system worked well until we lost her on December 17, 2007. We all were with her..... sons, daughters, spouses, grandkids.. everyone when she passed. It was hard to lose her, but everyone understood it was for the best by that point. We all miss her very much.

And that, after all, is one of the reasons for this blog. All of these ancestors that I will present to you, deserve to be remembered. They all were more than just a name and a picture on a family tree. They all had real lives and had real contributions. And, of course, these ancestors helped make us who we are today. So, they really do deserve to be remembered.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pat: The Married Years to 1957

When dad got home from his naval service in 1946, with the GI Bill he attended Quincy College. After graduating, they moved to Waterloo. We lived with my grandparents (Ralph and Edna Happekotte) in a house in Sherwood Park owned by Art Stitz. When he found out there were more people living in the house, he decided to up the rent. Grandpa and Grandma decided they would move- no leases back then! So, they moved to 150 Greenwood Ave. For those who know the Park back then, that is where the Don Davis family lived later on. Mom, dad, and I moved in with her best friend, Gloria and Bill Duschen, who lived up by Edison School. Gloria had been mom’s best friend in junior and senior high school and served as mom’s maid of honor. We were actually there only a couple of months before moving to another house in Sherwood Park; it was owned by Vic and Nell Morrice. It was on the river and the house in front of it on road is where  my grandparents lived.  Mom said in her notes that dad swore he would never live in the Park. But after a couple of floods, he became a true “river rat”. He would sit on the front porch and shoot at bottles and cans as they floated by. Probably the most vivid memory I have of that house was the day when mom was away shopping and dad had just finished icing a chocolate cake. It was sitting on the kitchen table. A storm came up rather suddenly and I remember standing at the door looking out at the storm. Suddenly, a large tree near our driveway came crashing through the kitchen roof ruining the cake.... and of course, the roof!
Black's Dept. Store

Mom had worked at Black’s Department Store in downtown Waterloo. She started out in Black’s post office wrapping packages and selling stamps. She eventually was promoted to run the record department- that is, record albums. That department was located on the mezzanine. She worked there until becoming pregnant with Tom. Tom was born in December of 1952; so she probably worked there until early in 1951. Dad had worked as an assistant manager at the Paramount Theater and then went to work for Sears when it was downtown on 4th Street about across from where the YMCA building is. An opening came up at Waterloo Corrugated Box Co. This is where his Quincy roots helped. The owners of the box company were John Ewers  and Jim McLaughlin, both from Keokuk, Ia. When they found out dad was from Quincy, they took a liking to him and eventually made him a sampler maker. He worked there from 1952 until his death in 1978. The box company had been sold to Mead Corporation along the way, but he endeared himself to the company bigwigs who came in to Waterloo ever so often. I’m sure they loved his sense of humor and practical jokes of which they were the victims at times. One of the funniest jokes I remember him playing on the bigwigs was the time he went out to pick them up at the Waterloo Airport. You have to understand that our airport is probably five minutes at most away from the box factory. Instead of driving them straight to the box factory, he took them out through Cedar Falls, out past Crossroads Mall, and back through downtown Waterloo, then on to the box factory. These out-of-towners, who had never been to Waterloo before were quite impressed at how large Waterloo was; they had no idea they were being driven in a quite round about manner. The next day when it came time to leave the box factory for the airport, it was getting to be close to the time of departure. The bigwigs were getting a little worried about making their flight. I can only imagine the look on their faces when they got in the car and dad zipped out to the airport in five minutes!

After Tim was born in 1954, the family moved to 164 Greenwood Ave.; again for those who know the Park, that was the house that Ruth and Jim Trimble later lived in. It was definitely larger, and that was needed because the family was expanding. There were four kids at that time: Tom, Cindy, Tim, and me. That house was just two down from Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob’s, grandpa’s sister and brother-in-law. Probably the most vivid memory of our time there was the day dad took us kids out to the sandbar in front of our house. Generally, playing in the river was a big no-no. A lot of that had to do with grandma. Her family back in Quincy had taken in a boy and essentially raised him; I’m sure he was considered a brother to them. He drowned in a city pool in Quincy.  So, the name “Russell” was invoked many a time as we lived on the river. But I diverse; what happened next is now funny to recall, but not so back then. After coming in from the sandbar, later on we noticed Tom wasn’t around. We scoured the house and every place outside. The neighbors got involved in the search. We started to conclude that he may have had so much fun on the sandbar that maybe he went back out. The thought was frightening I imagine especially to grandma. But, alas, someone found him sleeping under a bed!

The next blog will conclude mom’s part of the story and our family background. Then it will be on to some of the genealogical findings.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Patsy- the Early Years

Before I get into my story, I have noticed that if you get email notifications of new postings that the actual post is in the email. I find it much easier to read the post if you click on the blue title in the email. That will take you directly to the post in an easier-to-read format.

My mother was Patricia Marilyn Happekotte. All of the Quincy-born relatives on the Happekotte side always called her Patsy. She was born in Quincy, Illinois on November 12, 1926 to Ralph and Edna Shepherd Happekotte. She passed away on December 17, 2007 at her home in Cedar Falls, Iowa. This picture of her has always reminded us of our great Aunt Irene (Schutte) from Quincy; we
Aunt Irene & Mom
always thought there was a strong resemblance. And when it came to a kind and loving attitude about life, both mom and Aunt Irene definitely shared that. As with dad, we don’t know a lot about her growing-up years in Quincy. She was an only child and she always told us that it was her intention to have thirteen children! Well, she only fell short by five! We do know that she attended Irving and Jackson Elementary schools in Quincy before the family moved to Waterloo, Iowa in 1935. She attended Emerson and Castle Hill Elementary schools. And that would be the old Castle Hill up on Rainbow Dr., the same one that I attended for my first two years of school. She attended Edison Jr. High, which is the same one that all of my siblings and I attended. I actually wound up teaching junior high there for about eighteen years. In 1944, she graduated from West High as did her four oldest children.

In Waterloo, mom always talked about roller skating as being one of her favorite activities. The first outdoor rink was located on the Cattle Congress grounds. One of her best friends was Jeanne Maeder whom she spent a lot of time with at the rink. From her  notes it looks like the rink moved downtown on Jefferson St. and was called the Felix Rollerdrome .They went every weekend and whenever they could. The roller skating tradition continued as many of us skated at the Black Hawk Rollerdrome in Cedar Falls. My brother, Tim, was actually married on skates at the Black Hawk!

One thing we have always tried to find out was how mom and dad met. This may be a story lost to history. So, if anyone out there knows, we’d love to have the story. But mom went back to Quincy during the summers when she was in high school. While there, she lived with her mom’s sister, Aunt Mabel and Uncle Everett Windsor and their family. Our family has been blessed by having a multitude of kind and generous aunts and uncles, and Aunt Mabel was definitely one of those. Mom had moved back to Quincy after graduating to be there when dad got home from naval service in 1946. (His naval service will be a future topic in my Schellseekers blog). When her best friend, Gloria Duschen, moved to Quincy, they got their own place at 22nd and Chestnut. They both worked at S.S. Kresge’s. Gloria would eventually serve as mom’s maid of honor in Quincy.

They were married at St. Francis Catholic Church on May 30, 1947
Engagement Photo
and celebrated with a big reception in Aunt Irene’s backyard which was very near the church. There used to be a film of that reception, but I fear that is, too, lost to history. Although mom spent most of her adult life in Waterloo, Quincy always remained near and dear in her heart.   

Friday, January 25, 2013

How I Got Into This

Sometime back in 2008, something sparked my interest in family history; I wish I could remember what that spark was, but it’s lost to me at this point. I do remember what my first acquisition was though. While visiting my dad’s brother, Mark, in Quincy, he gave me three family group sheets that had been sent to him in about 1987 from Marjorie Martin. The families shown were Reinold Schell, Peter Florian Schell, and Peter Schell (my great grandfather, second great uncle, and second great grandfather, respectively. She had sent these sheets in hopes he might have other family information. Uncle Mark had no idea who Marjorie was and neither did I. But, oh, how that would change! This eventually led to one of the happiest moments that I have experienced on this genealogical journey. Marjorie had done these family group sheets in 1976 and had her address included. Now we are talking about 2008 when I obtained these from Uncle Mark. I had no idea if Marjorie would have been at the same address or, indeed, if she was even still with us! Part of genealogy is taking these shots in the dark! I was also in possession of a record from the LDS church that had Marjorie’s name and the same address. There was also another name Terry Sparks with a different address but from the same general area as Marjorie. Who were these people? Would they still be at the same address? There’s only one way to find out- write a couple of letters. I did and I really did not expect to get anything back. You can imagine the surprise when I received a letter from Terry. They were living in the same residence; Marjorie was Terry’s mom! This had to seem like a bolt out of the blue to them; we exchanged emails and got to know each other a little better. To make a long story short, Marjorie and Terry descended from Peter Florian Schell and I had descended from Reinhold Schell. We were truly cousins! These are the kind of discoveries that keep me going.

But the story does not end there. It gets better! In the summer of 2010, I was planning a trip out to see friends in California. I had planned to get off the train in Salt Lake City for a couple of days and use the Family History Library maintained by the Mormons. I would then continue on out to the Bay Area and visit the friends. Cindy, my sister, who is working on her husband’s genealogy in addition to helping me once in a while, found out about my plans. She decided it would be fun to go, too. She talked our sister, Staci, into going along. So, the three of us, that is, me and Lucy and Ethel, were on our way by car to Salt Lake City. I couldn’t, at times, help  but think of the Ricardos and Mertzes trip to Holloywood! After finishing up at the library, Cindy said, “You know, Terry and Marjorie live near San Bernardino--- that’s only a day’s trip from here!” Pass up a chance to meet some cousins we had never heard of? Not a chance! So, now we were off to actually meet them in person. I can’t even begin to describe the joy we all had in spending that day together. Unfortunately, Marjorie, who was in her 90s was beginning to suffer from dementia, but we could easily see that she was enjoying every minute of our visit. We are so happy that we took the time to do that because we lost Marjorie in 2012.

After our wonderful day-long visit with Terry and Marjorie, I took the train north to the Bay Area while Lucy and Ethel (AKA Cindy and Staci) took a rather circuitous route back to Iowa! They could start a blog just about that trip!

‘Nuff said for now!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Welcome to My world

    I should say, "Welcome to my obsession!" I have been at this genealogy thing long enough now that it is time to start sharing some of my "finds". Besides sharing with family, I also hope that there may be others out there who are researching some of the same lines and will want to do some collaboration. I find that this is one of the most fascinating aspects of family research- you never know what you will find! It's like traveling down a river without a map; you never know what's around the next bend!
    What I hope to share are some of the interesting stories about our ancestors and, hopefully, let you in on how I found these things.  There are some events that are going to be based on my best guesses at this point. Either the documentation is not available OR it has not been located. I will always try to remember to tell you when that is the case. This leads me to another hope- someone else out there in the blogosphere may have either new documentation or a different take on things.  If you come to different conclusions about something I have posted, please, let me know. You know what they say - two heads (or in this case, many) are better than one. You may "see" something that I don't!
    This blog is called "Happekotte Happenings", but understand that this is about my maternal line. So other family names will be included. The lines that will be covered are: Happekotte, Shepherd, Davis, Jenkins, Allen, Jasper, Schutte, Kreitz, Sigafoose, Weaver, and Windsor. There are a few other names that I am not including at this time but may be added as I locate information.  I am not certain how often I will be posting new material. I would hope it could be a couple times per month - but no promises at this point. Also, I will be doing a different blog on my paternal side called The Schell Seekers <>. If you have questions or comments, you can send me an email. The email is in the “About Me” section in the upper-right corner. You can also leave comments on the blog. It’s hard to see, but it is in the lower-left corner of the blog. You can also sign up for email notifications when there is a new posting. This is located in the lower-right corner of the blog. Look for the first posting soon. I'll be telling you how I got into this "magnificent obsession"!