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Joseph & Mary Jane Bernatzki – Sts. Peter & Paul Cemetery, Edwards County, Kansas

Before coming to America in 1872, Joseph Bernatzki served in the German military. During the Franco-Prussian War, he served in the First Escadrone Cavalry Dragoon of the Eighth Cavalry. At the end of the war, he was allowed to come to America.

Joseph spent six weeks on a ship sailing to New York. An outbreak of measles led to everyone being quarantined for two weeks. He received a job offer as a farm laborer in Illinois. Joseph accepted and he worked as a farm laborer for six years.

Living in Illinois at the time, Joseph had to have heard stories of free land farther west. His first trip to Edwards County was in 1880 where he purchased an 80-acre homestead with timber rights.

As we already know, those first few years were challenging for the pioneers, The men were forced to find jobs to provide an income. Joseph and his friend, John Demain, traveled to the southwest part of the United States to work for the Santa Fe railroad laying track.

Returning to Kansas, Joseph married Mary Jane Lewis (b. 1871) in the original Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. Mary was five years old when her family left Pennsylvania and came to Kansas. They made the journey in a covered wagon. Other families made the trip with them, and their first stop was Hutchinson, where they were told no one could make a living farther west. The Lewis family and Lightner family continued to Kinsley.

Joseph and Mary raised 13 children with two dying in infancy. All except one is buried in Edwards County. Joseph died in 1933 and Mary in 1946. They are both buried in Sts. Peter and Paul Cemetery.

The rest of the story: Mary’s father was Jacob Lewis. He served in the Civil War where he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for six months.

Note: The Franco-Prussian War was fought between July 19, 1870, to January 28, 1871. The countries of France and Germany were the main combatants.

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