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John Phillipp Launhart, Sr. – Hanston Mennonite Cemetery, Hodgeman, Kansas


A heartbreaking event sets the backdrop for this story. John was born in 1854 in Poland. He married his wife, Mary Anna (b. 1858) in 1879.


In 1893, John and Mary Anna brought their five children to Hanston, Hodgeman County. Later that year, their last child was born.


The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Mary Anna Hoffman Launhart regarding the death of Phillipp Launhart, transcribed from German by her daughter Mary Launhart Schmidtt with her added recollections. “On May 9, 1894 in the afternoon, we two older children had gone to the neighbors to play, and about 4:00 in the afternoon a dark cloud was making its appearance from the Northwest. Father was in the field when he saw the dark clouds coming so unusually fast, which was so different from the weather in Germany, he hurried home and put the horses in the new barn and rushed into the house when it started raining. Father and Mother put the three remaining children on the large trunk at the foot of the bed; Mother sat on the bed holding the baby on her lap. Father was standing beside Mother when all at once everything went black. Presently due to the restlessness of the baby on Mother's lap, Mother realized something had happened. The baby was crying so, Father was lying on the floor, then she noticed all the windows were broken out, and the door was open. As the children woke from the daze they started crying, and as Mother looked around more, she noticed the south wall of the bedroom was entirely gone, she could see the blue sky, but she still couldn't make out what had happened. Mother tried to revive Father, but to no avail, he had died, from lightning striking the house, however none knew what it was, nor did they hear thunder. The children all clung to Mother crying and shaking with fear, so she took the children to the other room of the house and it was a shamble as everything was scattered on the floor, so she huddled the children in the only clean area in the room, walked to the door and as she stood there she saw someone coming, it was an elderly man and as Mother saw him she began crying and when he came close enough, she grabbed his hand and in fear asked him not to leave her and the children. The man asked what the trouble was, and then Mother showed him Father's body and told him she didn't rightly know, but thought lightening had struck, killing Father and wrecking their home.”


John is buried in the Hanston Mennonite Cemetery. Mary Anna did remarry and passed away at the age of 84. She is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, Kansas beside four of her children.

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