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Early Settler – Frank H. Klenke – Holy Cross Cemetery, Windthorst, Ford County, Kansas

Frank H. Klenke was a member of the Aurora Colonization Society which was formed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Along with Henry Tasset and Herman Thesing, these members of the exploring committee came to southwest Kansas in 1876.

The men made a deal with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad to purchase ten sections for $10.00 an acre and the railroad donated 80 acres for a townsite.

Frank Henry Klenke was born in Germany in 1840. At the age of 21, he came to the United States and made his way to Cincinnati, Ohio. It was there where he met and married Mary Peppercorn on October 11, 1869. Mary was born in Ohio in 1851 and her parents had emigrated to America from Germany. Frank and Mary were blessed with 11 children. Frank owned and operated a general store.

In the spring of 1878, Frank sold his store, purchased train tickets for his wife and four young children, and traveled to Offerle, Kansas. While waiting for a sod house to be built, the family lived in a boxcar. The weather was not conducive to planting a crop and money was needed. So, Frank found work with the railroad. The family eventually settled three and a half miles west of Windthorst where the remaining seven children were born and raised.

Learning how to survive in this new land was challenging, but they did survive and prosper. Buying a cow to provide milk, raising chickens for eggs, gathering cow chips for fuel to cook and keep them warm in the winter, and doing what needed to be done to provide for the family.

Times were so bad that help was sought from the eastern states. Two carloads of provisions arrived by train and were divided up among the Windthorst families. These pioneering settlers were dependent upon extended credit at various stores.

On July 3, 1880, a torrential rainstorm with hail pounded the area. The crops were ruined, chickens and other animals were killed. Windows in the home were broken. A few months later, a prairie fire burned swept through the area. But the family did not give up. Life improved as crops grew and money was available to pay back those who were generous. The family was able to build a frame house. The descendants of the Klenke family stayed in Ford County. Frank passed away in 1905 and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery. Mary died in 1922. She shares a stone with her husband.

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