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.




  1. Hello Steve,

    I came across your blog doing some research about the Happekotte last name. One of my German ancestors came to Guatemala in the second half of the XIX century. I notice that you include a Kreitz in your website. Is that person by any chance Christina Kreitz Wolter?

    Please let me know. You can reach me via e-mail:

    Warm regards,

  2. my grandmother Mary Nelson Shanahan Happekotte was married to Edward or Edgar back in the 1940s or 1950s. Edgar or Edward adopted her 3 children and they used his last name of Happekotte. My mother was one of his stepdaughters and I took on her last name of Happekotte. I have no blood relation to the Happekotte family, but this is still so very interesting to me. Great site!


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