Category Archives: Missouri

The Conners — Always On The Move

John W. Conner, uncle and namesake of my great-great grandfather, John W. ‘Pap’ Conner, poses with his wife Catherine Sheets and their dog.
John W. Conner, uncle and namesake of my great-great grandfather, John W. ‘Pap’ Conner, poses with his wife Catherine Sheets and the family dog.

The father of my great-great grandfather, John ‘Pap’ Conner, was born in May of 1819 in Virginia, probably in Augusta County. That’s according to multiple sources, including the 1900 census, on which the census man had mistakenly recorded John’s father name as John Senior. For years I thought his name was John Conner, Sr. But it was a mistake. Whether the census man had poor hearing or Grandpa Conner had dementia, we will probably never know the circumstances behind the story.

For years I’d been wondering why I could never find any trace of the family. I was looking for a patriarch with the wrong name. I developed all sorts of theories. Was it because they were hillbillies who shunned society, including the census man? Did they harass him? Did they scare him away, perhaps taking a shot or two at him, refusing to cooperate with the federal census? Or was it because they were a bunch of illiterates?

Well, none of these theories proved correct. They may have been illiterate hicks, but there was no avoiding the census man. They were there all along, recorded with just about everyone else.

I include these details not to denigrate the Conner clan, but to record what their lives were like. Not being able to read and write I’m sure was a huge burden.

The clue that broke through the brick wall was finding information from Pap Conner’s death certificate, which I was about to order from the vital records folks in Iowa, and which I may do anyway to confirm what I’ve learned. Someone had transcribed details from Polk County death certificates, including maiden names of the mother’s of the deceased. And, lucky for me, this included John Conner’s mother. Her maiden name was Reed.

A cursory search of Ancestry and other genealogical databases brought up only one couple with the names Conner and Reed, and they fit perfectly into the time frame. And they had a son named John who was born in Ohio in 1846. A perfect fit, besides of course, the name confusion from the 1900 census.

This was enough to convince me that James Conner and Nancy Reed were John ‘Pap’ Conner’s ma and pa. A few days after this terrific discovery I tried tracking them through the census. It took a little effort because they seemed to always be on the move.

In 1850, James and the family were living in Trenton Township, Delaware County, Ohio. This is probably where John was born in August of 1846. A decade later, in 1860, they had moved further west to La Harpe Township, Hancock County, Illinois. They continued pushing west. In 1870, the family was recorded living in Jackson Township, Andrew County, Missouri. Ten years later, in 1880, the Conners were still in Missouri, in Polk Township, Nodaway County, minus son John, who was living in Iowa.

By 1900, John Conner had been in Iowa for at least 25 years. He had married Ellen Lint there in 1875. James was still alive, living with John and his family on a farm in Washington Township, Polk County, Iowa. Of course, the census man recorded his name as John Senior, resulting in years of futile searching on my part. Now, however, the puzzle has been solved.


Tending the Graves in France

On Memorial Day, writing in The Kansas City Star, former Congressman Ike Skelton of Missouri, a conservative “Blue Dog” Democrat, described a recent visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in France as a member of the American Battle Monuments Commission.

My great uncle‘s name is on the Tablets of the Missing there, and he may very well have been re-buried among his comrades, although what happened to his remains is a mystery.

. . . I stopped at [the] Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. The cemetery was established after World War I and is named in honor of the June 1917 Aisne-Marne campaign, when American forces were rushed into combat to stop the German advance on Paris.

The cemetery itself rests on the edge of Belleau Wood, the scene of hard fighting by Marines, an experience forever etched in Marine Corps identity. Thanks to the American action in Belleau Wood and other hard-fought engagements of the campaign, the advance was halted and the German lines were pushed back.

What I experienced in the cemetery cannot be easily described. As I walked among the 2,281 white marble headstones and read the 1,060 names on the wall of the missing, I was awestruck at the level of sacrifice our nation has given in the name of freedom.

During my visit, I learned that 69 sons of Missouri were killed in the summer and fall of 1918 and are memorialized at this one cemetery alone. Among those names is Tony Mautino from Lexington, Mo. I have known his family for many years.

Tony was killed on Aug. 5, 1918. Over the course of Memorial Day weekend, many Americans will spend time with their family and friends. Many will attend or participate in Memorial Day parades or ceremonies in their communities. I am also sure that many will attend church and pray for all who sacrificed everything for the liberties we have today. In fact, that is exactly what Memorial Day is about: a day dedicated to honoring Americans who died in the service of their country, for our freedom and the freedom of others.

During this time, we must not forget those brave Americans from the world wars eternally resting overseas. The American Battle Monuments Commission, on which I serve, has commemorated these brave men and women abroad since 1923 through 24 commemorative cemeteries and 25 monuments. The first chairman, Gen. John J. Pershing, best defined the commission’s goals with his promise that “time will not dim the glory of their deeds.”

As we reflect on history this Memorial Day, it is important to understand how America’s overseas commemorative cemeteries came into being. In our nation’s earliest wars, most of the fighting took place on the North American continent. This naturally led to the return of fallen soldiers to families, or interment in national cemeteries near the battlefields. The relatively small number of American dead in its first major international conflict, the Spanish-American War, allowed this precedent to continue. But as America became involved in modern global warfare on a large scale, this became impractical.

Faced with the massive loss of life in the wake of World War I, the government decided to establish eight permanent cemeteries in Europe. Families of the deceased were given a choice to have their loved ones returned home for burial or allow them to be interred in the new commemorative cemeteries in Europe. Approximately 30 percent of them allowed their loved ones to remain where they fought and died. In return, the U.S. government promised to perpetually maintain those sites to a befitting standard. The government has kept that promise.

As we honor the service and sacrifice of our military this Memorial Day here in the United States, I ask that you reflect upon all those sons and daughters who rest abroad. More than 125,000 American war dead are interred in overseas commemorative cemeteries; an additional 94,000 are memorialized on tablets of the missing. These men and women gave everything to defeat the forces of tyranny.

Reading Tony Mautino’s name on a marble cross at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France immediately connected me with his sacrifice, and that of his family. Every American who is able to travel overseas should visit one of our 24 commemorative cemeteries at least once. The experience is powerful and tremendously personal.


Missouri Mountain Lions

DNA test results show that four mountain lions seen in Missouri last year had traveled east from the West. One was from central Montana, two from the Black Hills of South Dakota, and another from Colorado.

Fourteen reports of mountain lions were made in 2011, a sharp increase. There were only 12 documented cougar encounters during the previous 16 years. There have been two sightings so far this year.

2011 remains a puzzling aberration in Missouri’s mountain-lion history. The largest number of sightings . . . in any previous year was two, in 2006 and 2010.

No one knows why these big cats are moving around so much these days.

Large carnivores have big home ranges, and males disperse long distances in search of females. It seems logical that the rate of dispersal would be greater when cats have repopulated available habitat in neighboring states, but there is also an innate drive to travel . . . but last year’s spike is hard to explain. What we now know for sure is that mountain lions are traveling a long way to get here.” — Scientist Jeff Beringer

Awhile back I wrote about one cougar making his way from South Dakota to Connecticut.


Rush, In Bronze

Rush will be joining the likenesses of Mark Twain and Walter Cronkite.
Rush will be joining the likenesses of Mark Twain and Walter Cronkite.

A sculpture of Rush Limbaugh will soon be gracing the Hall of Famous Missourians, housed in the Missouri state capitolin Jefferson City. Besides the one slated for the collection, six others are available.

[C]ritics of the sculpture [have] suggested dozens of ways to destroy or deface it. Once a potential Limbaugh collector coughs up the 15 grand for the sculpture, it becomes that person’s property, to do with as they please. If the sculpture were purchased for the purpose of destruction, that action could potentially become a piece of political performance art in its own right — like burning an effigy.

One critic thinks the collection should add busts of Jesse James, and other criminals and vagabonds, since honoring Rush in this manner somehow sullies the place. The writer even included serial killers on her list. I think she might be taking this, and the fight over federally-mandated contraception, a little too personally.

Have you noticed that some people are beginning to believe their own lies? The War on Women? Making contraception illegal? I am not a big fan of honoring people in bronze while they are still living, but the criticism is a bit over the top.

What I do like about her post is the history within it, the scoundrels she equates with Rush.

We’ll start with Jesse James. And include some of his comrades.

William Quantrill, who led raiders into Lawrence, Kansas and killed men, women and children, then burned the town to the ground. Quantrill was not born in Missouri, but lived with and married his 13-year-old bride in Blue Springs. Quantrill didn’t just kill in Kansas. He and his group killed plenty of Missourians in pro-Union towns.

Then, there is William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, who grew up in Missouri and was known not only for riding with Quantrill’s Raiders and Jesse James, but was well-known for murdering Union soldiers after they surrendered, and killing blacks living in pro-Union Missouri towns.

Now the duo of Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Emily Brown Heady should be in this new wing of Famous Missourians, too. This couple set the then-record for “largest ransom” ever paid, after they kidnapped six-year-old Bobby Greenlease from a Kansas City school. The Greenlease family paid $600,000 in ransom, but Bobby was murdered anyway.

Hall and Heady made Missouri famous on other levels, too. The ransom money and Hall were found at the Coral Courts Motel on Watson Road in the Village of Marlborough. That really put the motel on the map.

Heady was also one of only two women since 1865 to be executed by Federal authorities.

Then there was Lt. Lou Shoulders, a St. Louis police officer who arrested Hall at the motel. Shoulders turned in $288,000 of the ransom money, the other $322,000 disappeared while being driven from the Coral Courts to the police station. All three of these folks should have a bust . . .


Ahh, Maple Syrup

It’s time to tap some maple trees for syrup, at least in southeast Missouri.

. . . Maple sap should be flowing best starting this week. According to the calendar, it’s the variation from freezing nights and thawing days that causes the change.”

Collecting syrup from maples is a tradition stretching back centuries.

Though some think Maple sugaring, and syrup making, is more of a tradition in the Northeast, Missouri has sugar Maples, too, and has enjoyed a long tradition harvesting the sap. . . . the history of collecting sap goes back to its use by Native Americans who originally used it to make sugar. Once settlers arrived, they learned the practice from Native Americans and the sap collection and uses evolved from there. So whether we purchase our syrup from a store, or tap a tree ourselves, consuming Maple syrup is a direct connection to our natural world and our historical roots.”