From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
The family roots that connect Jess Dews and Arthur "Bo" Himpel started in a small cemetery in the Stranger Township. The headstones remaining today in the Himpel Cemetery belong to the great-grandparents of both men.
Johann and Johanna Himpel farmed the land next to William and Sarah Sylvester. All four were buried in the one-acre cemetery not far from the homes they established in the 1860s.
Bo Himpel said Wednesday the tall oak trees shading the southern Leavenworth County cemetery are well over 100 years old and may have been there when his great-grandfather died in 1873.
Himpel's mother, Cecile, said Johann Himpel purchased the family farm in 1869 from the Union Pacific Railroad.
"Farms were cheap in those days," she said. "But no one had much money. He came from Germany and that's where my husband's father was born. The story is told that when the old man was getting on in years, he asked to be buried under the big trees across the road from the homeplace."
Lyndon resident, Charles Green, wrote in a "Tonganoxie Mirror" article from March 1902 that Himpel, the "old German," raised sheep among other things. Green remembered trading a flock of sheep to Himpel in exchange for "breaking up" his farm.
Mr. Himpel made a trade with me for a number and Charles and his brother came and did me a good job. I met Charles Himpel the last time I was in Tonganoxie, a prosperous farmer living near town.
Johann Himpel died Jan. 28, 1873, his wife died in 1900.
William and Sarah Sylvester lived just over the hill from the Himpels. Within six months of the senior Himpel's death, the Sylvesters died within six days on one another. The small cemetery was thus established.
Although only four graves may be found today, Mrs. Himpel says there have been several other burials. She remembers people telling of an infant and a farmhand whose graves were unmarked.
Among Charles and Bertha Himpel's children was Arthur, who was Bo Himpel's father.
The Sylvesters came to the United States in 1850 from England. First settling in Illinois, then Missouri, the family finally established their home in the Stranger Township. Within a few short years, their daughter, Eliza, married Samuel Cooper in the spring of 1868.
Eliza Sylvester Cooper was born while her parents lived in Derbyshire, England. She and her husband were buried in Hubbel Hill Cemetery, west of Tonganoxie.
Their daughter, Bessie Cooper, married T. C. Dews of Kansas City. They lived at the Sylvester homestead and had three children. Jess was the youngest born Nov. 30, 1916.
"Bo and I grew up together," Dews said Wednesday afternoon. "We lived just over the hill from the Himpels and I used to spend a lot of time there. You see, they had five boys and that was more fun than playing with the girls at my house."
Dews attended the Williams Institute of Mortuary Science in Kansas City, Kan. He was a licensed embalmer and funeral director many years for Newcomer and Sons.
Bo Himpel stayed in the area and worked the family farm. His grandfather had moved closer to Tonganoxie at the turn of the century. The original homestead, however, remains in the Himpel name and is still farmed by Himpel's nephews.
HIMPEL PAYS HIS RESPECTS -- Arthur "Bo" Himpel stands near the headstone of his great-grandparents, Johann and Johannas Himpel. The "Old German" asked to be buried across the road from the homestead he established after the Civil War. (Times Photo)
DEWS IN SOUTHERN LEAVENWORTH -- Jess and Lola Dews visited the graves of Dews' great-grandparents, William and Sarah Sylvester, located in Himpel Cemetery of southern Leavenworth County. (Times Photo)