The History of Our Cradle Land
by Thomas H. Kinsella

Transcribed by Sean Furniss

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Was born in Oberselters, Nassau, Germany, on October 22, 1832. He received his education there and came to the United States in 1860. His younger brother William, had preceded him and was then located in Miami County. He well foresaw the possibilities of this new and undeveloped county, and had Jacob, as well as his sisters, Katherine Stahle, Elizabeth Seck, Helena Seck and Dora Papst Hirt, come direct to Wea, Kansas. Mr. Schwartz was married in 1862 at Kansas City, Mo., to Miss Annie Shilo. To them two children were born, Elizabeth and Dora. Mrs. Schwartz died in 1870, and the daughter, Elizabeth, in 1873. Mr. Schwartz was married again in 1872 to Miss Frances Bauer, who was born in the same town in Germany in 1849, and came to America in 1869. To them five children were born, Jacob, Frances, William, Joseph and Mary. Dora, now Mrs. Frank Gangle, as well as her two sisters, Frances and Mary, are now located in Kansas City, Mo. The two latter live with their mother. The three sons are all located on the old home farm or on adjoining farms. Mr. Schwartz died January 11, 1910, at his home in Wea, Kansas, and was buried in the Catholic cemetery there.

Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz were very active in the welfare of this community in which they lived, were liberal with their friends and generous in their gifts to the church in which they worshipped.


Was from Nassau, Germany, and was born October 9, 1941. He was married in 1865 to Elizabeth Schwartz, who was also a resident of the same village. The following year they came to Wea and located on a farm, where they raised a large family, and continued to reside until their death. Five of their children died when young. The seven living are Jacob H. at Wea, William G. at Hutchinson, Kansas, Bernard W., Anthony J., Mary D., Rosner and Lawrence A., who resides on the old home, and the others on adjoining farms. Berthold J. lives at Larned, Kansas.

Mr. and Mrs. Seck were hard working and industrious people, and this, together with their good business ability, enabled them to provide well for their family.

Mrs. Seck died in 1903 at their home, and Mr. Seck died at St. Margaret's hospital September 1, 1914. Both were buried in the Wea cemetery.


Was born in Germany December 29, 1840. He came direct from his home to Miami County in 1869. The following year he was married to Dorothy Schwartz. They had two children, Mary F. Vohs of Wea and Adam Pabst of Ransom, Kansas. Mrs. Pabst was born in Nassau, Germany, July 15, 1839.

Mr. Pabst died August t, 1875, and was buried in Wea cemetery. Mrs. Pabst was married to Berthold Hirt in 1877. To this union two children were born, Bertha, now Mrs. Louis Gangle of Kansas City, Mo., and Joseph Hirt of Dorrance, Kansas.

Mrs. Hirt died November 9, 1909, and was buried in Wea cemetery.


Was born in Nassau, Germany, August 1, 1829. He came to America at the age of twenty-five years, and located in Illinois, where he married Caroline Finch in 1861. They came to Wea in 1869, and located on a farm. Thirteen children were born to this union. Three died in infancy, and the balance are located as follows: Effie Keenan at Paola, Kansas, Joseph in Armourdale, Kansas, Bertha Conboy at Lawrence, Kansas, Frances Conboy and George Miller at Stilwell, Kansas, Mary Seck at Wea, Eugene at Cleveland, Mo., Clarence at Rosedale, Kansas, Margaret Houston and Gertrude in Kansas City, Mo.

Mr. Miller died February 17, 1889, at Wea and was buried in the Catholic cemetery there.

Mrs. Adam Miller was born near Sandwich, Illinois, November 21, 1843. She died February 21, 1904, in Kansas City, Mo. and was buried beside her husband at Wea.

They have forty-three grandchildren living and five dead. Also twenty great grandchildren.


Was born in Uber Selters, Nassau, Germany, January 22, 1831, and came to America in 1852. He worked at the blacksmith's trade, and on coming to Kansas was employed by the government for two or three years among the Delaware Indians. He married Miss Annie E. McGuirk, January 6, 1863, and came to Wea in 1864. The family consisted of nine sons, namely: Peter J., William A., Jacob T., Adam E., Anthony, Albert H., George A., Bernard J., and Lawrence Miller. Albert and George died in their 4th year and Adam in 1899. Peter Miller died October 12, 1901, and his wife, Anna, passed away June 27, 1909. They rest in the Wea cemetery, after a most laborious and honorable struggle to make a home for themselves and their children. They were eminently successful. They died respected by all, leaving to their sons an honored name and a reverence for the ancient faith for which they, themselves, made great sacrifices.

The giving of these few facts and dates in the life story of Peter Miller and his wife arouses a desire to know more about them--the father of a great home and the mother of nine sons. They were pioneers, we know; but in a generation or two it will be asked who was Peter Miller? Who was Anna McGuirk? There must be a beautiful story back of these names, but men have forgotten it. Even the grandchildren will know little, and the great-grandchildren nothing at all about the personalities of these two great characters, the founders of the family in America.

It behooves the children of the pioneer families to transmit in writing or in print a full account of their parents' wanderings and struggles, their bravery and their final victory over all obstacles. Time will give it value. No true man can afford to be ignorant of his ancestors. Pride here is legitimate and ennobling--a beautiful thing. The family tree is one that is worth climbing; every member of each generation should sit in its branches and rest in its pleasant shade and remember those from whom they have received every earthly blessing.


Among the early settlers of Johnson County was a remarkable young Irishman named John Larkin. He had been a sailor from his boyhood days and had seen much of the world. Endowed with a bright mind and a clear, unerring judgment, this youth assimilated a fund of knowledge which other men obtained with much labor from books. He was one of those remarkable men, once common in Ireland, who could solve mathematical problems with the knowledge of figures, and who could give weights and measures without the use of scales or measuring rod. He could sing correctly without the use of notes and spoke the English language eloquently, if not correctly, without any knowledge of the rules of grammar or any acquaintance with books or schools. He knew the sea and sky and all the coasts and bays of the civilized world. He met men of all races in all climes and endured hardships that would not be believed possible in our day.

Born in County Down, Ireland, in 1820, Mr. Larkin took to the sea when that profession meant danger and superhuman labor. He came to America finally and settled in Peoria, Illinois, where he wooed and wed Mary Morgan, a young girl from his own county in Ireland. This event took place in 1859, after which the young couple moved to Kansas and preempted the claim in Johnson County which remained their home to the end.

Mr. Larkin was a remarkably shrewd business man, rough of speech, quick in action, honest in all his dealings. In the early days he formed a partnership with Philip Conboy in the cattle trade. They drove fat cattle on foot to Kansas City and were amongst the first to give impetus to the meat packing industry for which the latter city is now justly famous. On one occasion, it is related, "Jack" Larkin was returning on foot from Kansas City after disposing of a large herd of cattle. He was overtaken by a farmer and his wife who kindly offered him a "lift." The tramper gratefully accepted the ride and lay on some straw in the well of the wagon. Proceeding slowly over the rough prairie-trail the party was attacked by robbers and the prosperous looking farmer and his wife were soon relieved of all their cash; as the highwaymen were departing the "tramp" in the bottom of the wagon lifted himself on his elbow and asked the thieves to give a poor man a quarter to get his bed that night. One of the robbers flung him a coin and passed on, not suspecting that Mr. Larkin had several thousand dollars on his person at that moment. Innumerable stories are told of "Jack Larkin;" but the ones told by Mr. Larkin himself, on himself, were rich and rare and racy to a high degree of wit and humor. He was an Irishman in the full sense of the word and had hosts of friends. Of course no one regarded him as a pious Catholic, but a fighting one he always was.

He established a fine home near Auburey (now Stilwell) and his children continue to prosper and are amongst the substantial people of the district. There were eight children in the family, six of whom are living and married in and around the old home place.

The mother died July 10, 1889, in the 54th year of her age. She was greatly respected for her splendid qualities of head and heart. She was a good Christian woman, a true wife and mother and never suffered discouragement to overshadow the terrible struggles of pioneer days. Mr. Larkin lived to be 76 years of age; he departed this life on December 30, 1896 and was laid beside his beloved wife in Holy Rosary Cemetery, Wea. May they rest in peace.


Philip Conboy was born in County Roscommon, Ireland, in 1833. He came to the United States in 1851 and married Sarah McCarrol in New York in 1853. She was a native of county Armagh. The young couple started west to seek what ever good fortune might be in store for them. The young wife proved herself to be a woman of sterling character, "a truly great woman, she was a home maker, a good manager and withal a splendid mother."

They resided in Dixon, Illinois, for a time and then came to Westport, Missouri, when Kansas City was only a small place. Mr. Conboy took great interest in the public life of the new city which has since become the metropolis of the west. He served two terms on the Town Council and afterwards acted as tax collector. Later, when the Civil War broke out, he was chosen City marshall of Kansas City. He was respected and honored for his fearless championship of law and order and his stern attention to duty. He remained a member of the State Militia until the end of the war in 1865.

About this time Mr. Conboy formed a business partnership with John Larkin in the cattle trade. Their venture was successful. The firm of Conboy and Larkin drove herds of fat cattle from the finest pasture lands of Kansas. They were instrumental in making Kansas City a center for the cattle trade which led eventually to its great packing industry. A whole chapter might be written on the adventures of these two remarkable men.

Famous "Jack" Larkin, Philip Conboy and even their town of Auburey are now only sacred memories. In 1866 Mr. Conboy purchased the homestead in Johnson County where he resided until his death in 1905. His good wife, Sarah Conboy, lived until 1914, thus closing a chapter of human interest, the like of which can never come again.

Their remains rest in the Catholic Cemetery of Wea, and their children still maintain the fine old home and, what is more, they maintain the high standard of faith and character for which the old folks were noted.

It seems as if Kansas was destined to receive the bravest and the best of those whom fate had cast upon our shores during those eventful years of revolution, fever and famine in Europe, beginning in 1846. There is undoubtedly much good material for literature back of the names we now pass by so carelessly. "What is in a name?" you will say/ what interest can future generations find in men clad in homespun, or in women who never knew a note of music or read a line of Dante or saw a play of Shakespeare? Like the clods of the earth in which they delved, they surely can have not message for us of a brighter and better day.

Be not deceived; those men and women lived the tragedies and comedies that poets only dreamed of; they played upon a vaster stage than art could build and saw the sweep nature's fingers over the might organ which God had made on the day, "When the stars sang together" and the mountains answered back to the sea and all nature piped its melody from throat and cloud rippling stream along the pathway of a richer and fuller life than we can ever know.

These men and women passed through "purgatories" and "infernos" not imagined by the author of the Divina Commedia. Their lives are unwritten epic poems, replete with plots, contrasts and climaxes; with victories and failures, and plentifully varied with the joys and sorrows that lent to life its charm and its perfection. The theme ennobled the actors and made them heroic; the scenes were real, whereas art can only copy. God himself was its author and His Divine Son the teacher, and the best and bravest human hearts the world ever knew acted the play of life magnificently. If you want proof of all this, look around. The stage is right here, hallowed by the fame of the actors and the glory of their deeds.


Philip Kelly was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, in 1828. Coming to America in his young manhood he endured all the hardships of a long voyage and the still more trying conditions incidental to the life of an emigrant amongst strange peoples who were, as often as not, hostile to his faith and nationality--such were the ignorant backwoods Americans of those days; Philip, however, was from Tipperary and no contest went counter to the fame of his native county nor left a shadow of cowardice on the ancient name he bore. Like many thousands of his country-men he labored with his hands wherever the opportunity offered. Finally we find him in Memphis, Tennessee, where he wooed and wed Miss Johanna Ryan, a girl of Limerick, who had come out of Ireland in her teens, in fact, she was but thirteen years of age when she arrived in Montreal, Canada. Fever and famine had done its work in the old land. Families had been disrupted and children cast adrift.

This child was taken as a hired girl by a family that lived in the forest, eighty miles from that city. Unable to stand the hardships and, also, afraid of her employer, she fled and spent a night among the wild animals in the timber and then walked most of the distance back to Montreal.

After a time she came to Boston and found employment in the factories of that city. Following the trend of the times, she, too, sought to better her condition by going west, away from the crowded condition of tenement life, and the degradation and intemperance to be found on every hand in the big cities of the East.

Cincinnati was then a thriving town, Louisville and Memphis were attracting thousands, and here again we meet Johanna Ryan. She had been through the stirring times of the vicious Know-Nothing movement which attacked her Church as well as her nationality. Then came the yellow fever to Memphis, causing terrible ravages among the people. Having married Philip Kelly in Memphis, she and her husband came north, up the Mississippi river to S. Louis and from the latter point took boat to Westport Landing on the Missouri where Kansas City now stands. This was way back in 1856. Then the cholera came and slew its thousands. Toil and struggle was, of course, to be expected. They hoped to own a home some day. The family moved from Kansas City to their newly purchased farm in Johnson County in 1868 and there, in the choicest part of the best state in the Union, found an abiding place and a final rest. However, the end is not yet. After two years of pioneer life Mr. Kelly's health failed and he succumbed to consumption. His death at his home in Auburey in 1870, left his widow almost helpless with her little son as her only treasure. The land she owned was only partly reclaimed. There was no one she knew, all were strangers, and yet, brave woman that she was, she met the situation successfully and carried out her purpose magnificently. She became a successful farmer. Finally she won the admiration of her neighbors and the respect and honor of the entire community. She was a woman of pleasing personality, ready wit and indomitable courage. Strong in mind as well as in constitution she was able to endure any hardship. Though living a frugal and simple life herself, she was, nevertheless, a great entertainer and made hosts of friends. She loved to see all about her happy. She loved Kansas and was very contented with her final lot, seeing her son, who had married the daughter of William Schwartz, a wealthy neighbor, was now a prosperous and honorable citizen.

The grandchildren and their children's children will hark back to Johanna Ryan as the founder of their family and a heroine of the highest type, ever showing forth in her life that love and respect for religion which was typical of the old Irish people. Her faith it was that kept her.

She died full of years and honors in 1898 and rests beside her husband in Saint Mary's cemetery, Kansas City, Missouri. May her soul rest in peace.


Catherine Schwartz, the sister of William and Jacob, was born in Oberselters, Nassau, Germany, in 1834. She was married to Peter Stahl in 1854. The husband died in Germany in 1865. Mrs. Stahl with her children came to Wea in 1869. The children's names are as follows: Katherine (Mrs. Honor Meyer), Anna (Mrs. Geo. Furthmyer), Dora (Sister Walburga of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth), Elizabeth (Mrs. Geo. Vohs) and Peter J., who married Miss Mary Hirt.

Mrs. Stahl, "Aunt Kate," as she was familiarly called, was known for miles around for her charity in nursing the sick. She was the donor of many beautiful articles for the Wea Church, and was always a devout and helpful member of the congregation.

The story of her life is very interesting; it was, however, her beautiful personal qualities that endeared her to the hearts of all her neighbors.

For fifty years she went about doing good without, in any way, neglecting her own household. Her spirit of kindliness coupled with her energy of mind and body made her a power for good amongst the people.

It is safe to say that Wea will long remember Katherine Stahl; nor need we fear that her children or her children's children will ever lose the Faith because her love of God, of the Church, and of all humanity was too great to be put into a coffin and laid away in a country church yard; her love will live and not die and other hearts will emulate her beautiful example for generations yet to come.

She died at the venerable age of 86 in St. John's hospital, Leavenworth, and her remains were taken to Wea where they rest amongst her own people. In the shadows of the Church she loved so well. She passed away surrounded by the Sisters of Charity and in the arms of her daughter, Sister Walburga, on February 14, 1920.

Rev. Wm. Michel of Kansas City, her cousin, officiated at the altar, and the pastor praised and exalted her many virtues.


Michael O'Keefe was born in the County Kilkenny, Ireland, November 1, 1832, and emigrated to this country in 1846; he came to Kansas and to the parish of Wea in 1868. Mr. O'Keefe married Anastasia Norman, a young lady from his own county in Ireland on November 30,1869.

Their children's names are Margaret, Joseph, Mary, John, Anastasia, Lucy, Edward and Lawrence. Mr. O'Keefe was a fair type of the plain people of Ireland. He came to America when it took six weeks to make the voyage. He was rugged in body and mind, simple in honesty, strong in what he believed to be right, true to his friends, industrious, and always successful and useful in his undertakings. He believed in Catholic Education for his children, always subscribed for and read the County Papers and one Catholic Journal. He knew his religion by heart. Just a year before his death he was heard reciting the Ten Commandments in short, he was one of the old timers who had the faith deeply implanted in the heart. He died at Stillwell, Kansas, April 2, 1905 and is buried at Wea.

In the same year, 1846, Anastasia O'Keefe came to Cincinnati, Ohio, thence in 1865 to Kansas City, Missouri, where she met and married Michael O'Keefe. She came into this County for the first time on that day and took up life's burdens and for forty-seven years was a valiant worker and a defender of the Faith. She was a woman of energy and thrift, having a bright mind that swayed all around her. She was a lover of books and left no task unfulfilled. She was truly a pioneer and a good woman. She passed away on November 30, 1916, and rests beside her husband in Holy Rosary Cemetery. Mrs. O'Keefe was beloved by all and greatly respected by the entire community. The funeral oration was delivered by Father Kinsella of Paola, a native of her own County in Ireland. It abounded in many beautiful passages, extolling the valiant woman. "The price of her," said he, "is as things from afar and from the remotest coasts."

Stillwell and Wea have many finely built homes and well equipped farms, but the home of Anastasia Norman O'Keefe is not the least of them, nor is it excelled by the best she had known in her native land. All her hopes, surely, were fulfilled; she died, thanking God for all His blessings, not the least of which was the love and affectionate reverence of her children.


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