My dad was born in Indiana and I never really thought about why or how they ended up in Indiana.  In fact, as a child, I thought that my dad must be an Indian, since he was born in Indiana.  While visiting Grampa, I finally remembered to ask. 

My grandmother’s sister, Peggy and her husband Bob Burbridge, lived in Booneville, Indiana and worked at the Chrysler factory in Evansville.  This was during the War, so it’d been transformed into a bullet factory.  “Chrysler’s Evansville, Indiana, factory literally produced ‘bullets by the billions,’ including some 485 million cartridges for .30-caliber carbines and nearly 2.8 billion cartridges for .45-caliber carbines. Just as Chrysler prepared for production at its Evansville plant in July 1942, the Ordnance Department ordered the automaker to substitute steel for brass for the cartridge cases. Although this last minute change required Chrysler to retool much of the plant, full-scale production began in October.”  (Riding the Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation by Charles K. Hyde,)

Life Magazine advertisement, Feb 7, 1944, p. 27
Both Peggy and Bob worked and needed help with their children.  My grandfather was working in California at Davies Auto, but wasn’t doing what he wanted to be doing.  So when Peggy and Bob asked if Grampa and Gramma could come to Indiana they jumped at the chance.  Gramma took care of the children and Grampa went to work at the factory.  

Grampa, Dad, Auntie Karen

The factory shut down at the end of the war to convert back to cars and Grampa decided to return to California and Davies Automotive where he became a mechanic and worked for several years.
Grampa had a bunch of pictures of Uncle Art and I really wanted to do something with them, but I wasn't sure what.  There are others that I have a bunch of pictures of, too, that I don't really have a "story" for, but a bunch of pictures can MAKE a story.  Then I heard about this website that might be the answer for these "story-less" people.  So today I share with you a link to Uncle Art's 1000Memories page.

I don't have any idea who reads this site, but I'm asking (begging) you to go to this page and let me know if you can see the pictures.  Let me know if you can add stories (and please add stories).   I made Uncle Art's page "open" so that others can find it.  I can also make it "Closed" so that I have to approve you, but for Uncle Art, I just sorta think he'd be okay with "open".
My great grandmother’s brothers, Clem and Henry, were among other things, very tall- well over 6 feet and racing to 7.  They were farmers and landowners, as well as railroad workers.

Henry Barnard Konst was born on May 24, 1890 in North Washington, Chickasaw County, Iowa.  His brother, Clemens Henry Konst was born on April 10, 1896 also in North Washington.  In the 1900 census they are in Jacksonville, Chickasaw County and in 1905, they are in Alta Vista, Chickasaw County.  In 1908, they moved to Capa, Jones County, South Dakota with their parents and siblings to a homestead.  But that’s a different part of the story…

When Henry and Clem were 23 and 17, respectively, they were “haymaking” in Aberdeen, South Dakota.  In 1920, Clem married Ora Belle Saxton in Philip, South Dakota and in 1921, they experienced both the birth and death of their daughter Clara.  She was born April 10 and died October 10 that year.

In 1922, Clem married Alice Rose Griswold and the next year, their daughter Dorothy was born.  They had a son, Paul William, in 1925 and a daughter Dorris in 1925.

Closed to camera is Tony Konst.  Two other tallest are Henry and Clem, Tony's sons.

Right to left: Lizzie Elizabeth Bauhaus Konst, Clem and/or Henry (not sure which is which), unknown

After the death of their father, Henry and Clem had a falling out over the land and, despite living in the same small area of South Dakota, didn’t speak for years.

I don’t know much about Henry and Clem, but I did have some correspondence with Jim Konst, Clem’s grandson who reported, “Grandpa was a quite serious man who did not want to leave his home to visit people. Once, my aunt Dorothy and her family ‘kidnapped’ grandpa and brought him to our house, a mere  200 miles away. That was the only time he came to our house.  Grandpa had his opinions as well. He never believed that man went to the moon. His simple logic was: ‘How could they go there without knowing the way.’ Grandpa enjoyed fishing in his retirement.”

From Find-A-Grave in the Midland Cemetery, Midland, SD

From Find-A-Grave in the Midland Cemetery, Midland, SD

Grampa’s Uncle Henry Konst used to tease him for being so many ethnicities and called him, “The Duke of Mixager.”

You see, Grampa’s father was half Scottish and the other half was a little bit of a lot.  Grampa’s mom’s family (Uncle Henry's, too) was German.  All German but with a possible hint of illicit Native American.

While I grew up thinking I was Indian because my dad was born in Indiana, I really didn’t know about the whole possible Native American connection.  But apparently on Great Grama’s death bed, she whispered, “There is some Indian in us.”  Coming from California in the 21st Century, it’s difficult to imagine that being anything but awesome, but times were different in the homestead years and some things were apparently not something the family was proud of.

But all I have to go on for this illicit Native American is a death bed statement, a tease from Uncle Henry about Grampa being named Pierre for a French Indian, and a story from Grampa’s childhood.

When he was a boy, his grampa, Tony Konst, took him to the Indian Reservation.  They went into a tee pee and all sat in a circle and the men smoked a peace pipe.  Grampa doesn’t remember where this was, but he remembers thinking that it was important that they were there and that his grampa was important to these Native Americans.

So was Tony’s mom or dad not who we think but actually a Native American?  Or were Tony’s children those to first house the possible Native American DNA?

We may never know.

But it's cool.
At some point during their time in Capa, South Dakota, my great grandfather, Orville Thomas Conner, decided that he was going to be a turkey farmer. They rented a farm outside of Capa near the Badd River and bought 60 baby turkeys. They raised them to adulthood on that farm south of town. One day, a cyclone came through the farmlands.

After they safely emerged from the cellar, they went to check the livestock. The turkeys were nowhere to be found. They searched and searched until they heard an odd noise down by the river. Looking up, my grandfather and his sisters saw the turkeys in the trees. But they looked odd. Something was amiss.

No feathers?

The tornado had plucked their feathers right out. The turkeys were naked.

They finally came down from the trees to eat, but sadly, died in just a few days from sunburn.

Faced with 60 rotting dead turkeys, Great Grampa had to quickly perform a mass burial. But where? He looked around the place and remembered the hole that tended to retain water after the snow melted each year. He decided that if he buried the turkeys there, and covered them with enough dirt… well, two birds with one stone (so to speak…).

He informed Great Gramma (Ann Konst) of the plan and she insisted it would stink. “No, Ann! We’ll bury ‘em deep! It’ll be fine!”

So Grampa and Great Grampa, using a scoop made of a half-barrel looking piece of metal strung up to the horse, dug and dug and dug. When they thought they were done, they dug even further, just to not hear, “I told you so!” from Great Gramma.

And that was that with the turkey farm.
When visiting with Grampa, I learned that he’d had a brother named, Gerald. Gerald was born the just before one summer that my grandfather went to Salem and died while he was gone. Gerald had a very short life, but even though my grandfather hadn’t spent much time with Gerald and it was over 74 years ago, he still talked about, “My brother, Gerald.”

Dear Signa,

Today you are nine years old. Nine. Nine is a big number and while I can’t believe you are already nine, I also cannot believe that you are only nine. You are smart, understanding and beautiful on the inside and out- more-so than I thought possible for one that is only nine years old.

But today you are nine and you are growing up so fast. You have wants and needs of your own and are more and more self-sufficient each day. Sometimes I forget you are only nine until I find something like your Littlest Pet Shop figures all soggy from a long bath with you. You still curl up in our laps, making yourself almost as small as you were nine years ago and you still perch on your chair like a kitten waiting for something fun to happen.

People comment to me so often about how cheerful you are and how smiley you are. Your face is nearly always open and free and smiling. You aren’t shy and you don’t hide in your shell. You are confident and know what you want and don’t want.

When I ask you what you want to be when you grow up, you tell me an astronaut, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that; I don’t want you so far away from me, for you bring me cheer and joy. And you hate talking on the phone, so that wouldn’t even console me while you were gone. So please pick something else to be. Maybe an entomologist since you love bugs so much? Or an archeologist since you like mummies and the idea of digging things up?

Regardless of what you decide to be, I know you will do it perfectly. You are just brilliant and I’m always so proud of you. Yesterday I watched you with your brother and you were resting your head against his while he was playing video games. It was a very sweet gesture and showed me that you really do like that little guy and that you really do know it. As much as I say how awesome you are as a daughter, I think William would argue with me about being a better sister than a daughter even. Because you are wonderful all the way around in all your roles.

Welcome to your last year in single digit ages, Bunches. I hope it’s your best year so far!

When Grampa was a teenager in the tiny town of Capa, South Dakota, the town’s Catholic priest had a car and family in Salem, Massachusetts. What he didn’t have was the knowledge on how to drive the car. But Grampa did…

Priest's garage in Capa, South Dakota

So the summer when he was 15 years old, Grampa and one of his friends, Clarence Petorski, drove the priest the 1,850 miles to Salem, to stay with his family for the summer. They stopped by my grandfather’s grandfather’s house in Russell, Iowa, where this picture was taken.

The next summer they did it again, only this time, using the brilliance that only a 16-year-old can pull off, Grampa talked the priest into letting his friend Pete come along. Pete knows how to fix things, said Grampa. Remember that trouble we had with the car last year? Pete could fix that!

From the 1937 yearbook of Pete, the friend who came along the 2nd summer
So for two summers, a car of teenagers and a Catholic priest road-tripped to Salem, Massachusetts where they stayed at 3 Milk Street.

The priest had a non-priestly brother who worked all day. Grampa and his friends would impatiently wait all day for the brother to get home and then they’d all head to the Salem Willows.

From the Salem Willows website (

This beautiful wooded and hill peninsula jutting out into Salem Harbor became a municipal park in 1858. Graced with majestic, 200-year-old white willow trees, Salem Willows, a public park since 1858, has a special place in amusement park history.

In 1906, Everett Hobbs & William Eaton offered Americans the first ice-cream cone; “Blind Pat” Kenneally introduced Spanish “double-jointed" peanuts to America from his cart at the Willows.

Bavarian woodcarver Joseph Brown created the famous Flying-horse Carousel in 1866. in 1945, the horses were sold to Macy’s Department Store in New York City , where they graced the famous Macy’s Christmas displays. While the original horses have been replaced, the carousel itself still offers a thrilling ride.

A young Duke Ellington played here in 1923; Count Basie and Louis Armstrong performed as well, at the old Charleshurst Ballroom, now the Willows Casino. A tradition of popular summer jazz concerts continues to this day; jazz vocalist Cassandre McKinley performed here in 2003.
I also asked Grampa how he and Gramma met. Grampa’s best friend Harry (who he was friends with for over 70 years) was dating Grampa’s sister Harriet. Harriet was working in a hospital in the Black Hills and my grandmother Signa worked with her. She’d come down to visit and bring Gramma with her. Or Harry and Grampa would go up and visit.

Before Harry went off to the war, he and Harriet were married. That didn’t last beyond the war (Grampa told me several such stories- should be a lesson in there for the future).  But Gramma and Grampa lasted a lifetime.

Harry Ravenscroft

Harriet Conner

Pierre Conner and Signa (Felt) Conner

Pierre Conner and Signa (Felt) Conner
My grandmother, Signa Felt, was an engraver for Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto, California for many years. All the HP equipment had plates with writing that was done by my grandmother or her team. She even did the plaque on the front of Mr. Packard’s boat.

For my great grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary, my grandmother made this plaque, which I find fascinating, as the reason I began researching family history was for a plaque. I wanted to create one for my grandfather of his descendents for his 75th birthday and couldn’t get the spacing right. I bought a genealogy computer program and now here we are, 14 years later…

I cannot get this iPhone picture to turn right-side-up. Sorry. Just turn your head...

My grandfather also worked at HP for a time. He was in production and then a master scheduler.

My grandfather’s sister, Fern, married a guy named, Johnny. I called him Uncle Johnny and although he was a bit gruff, he was the kind of man that looked you in the eyes (even when you were six) and told it how it was. You believed him and when he smiled at you, you know it was because you were awesome. Or at least he thought you were.

My Grampa told me a story about Uncle Johnny’s Uncle Pierre (Jean Pierre Origer). Uncle Johnny (and Uncle Pierre) were from Illinois. Uncle Pierre was a sort of a hobo in those days, living wherever, doing whatever. He would disappear for months, even years, and then just pop up again.

During this time, Uncle Johnny and Aunt Fern had an orchard in Cupertino, California and one day while my grandfather was visiting, Uncle Pierre just popped in on them in California after months of being gone from Wisconsin. He said he was in San Jose and heard the name “Origer” in “Origer Orchards” and so decided to see if he was related. He stayed awhile and told some tales.

The kid in me finds this tremendously exciting. I think it did to Grampa, too, as he mentioned him a couple of times and then got as excited as I did when we found a picture of Uncle Pierre.

"How did your parents meet?" I asked Grampa.  He told me that my great grandmother, Anne Ellen Konst, was a school teacher for awhile. Her school was halfway between Midland and Capa, South Dakota. Because it was 5 miles in either direction, she lived in a little house behind the school. In rural areas, sometimes the most you had was a few people in each township, so they would get together in the schoolhouses for dances. My grandfather, Orville Thomas Conner, came from his father’s homestead out in Ottumwa (about 10 miles to the train and then another 10 or 12 miles on the train) for a dance at my great grandmother’s school.

Now, Grampa didn’t tell me if it was love at first sight or anything, but look at these two?!?!? Don’t you think it was?

As many of you know, I spent the weekend with Grampa (Pierre Conner) a couple weeks ago and scanned about 500 pictures and wrote down at least as many stories.  I'll be sharing them here over the next couple of months, so please stay tuned!!!

As a family historian, I tend to think of my ancestors by their full names. “William Mason Conner” “Anton William Konst” “Elizabeth Bauhaus” “Petter Eriksson Felt”  So when I hear stories and they are “Bill”, “Tony,” “Lizzie,” and “Pete”, it’s a story and a smile all on its own.

Also, I’d always thought that my great grandfather’s name was Thomas Orville Conner. But it was Orville Thomas Conner. I’d heard stories that he changed it from one to the other because he didn’t like being called “O’Conner” but when I visited my grandfather, he said that his mom and older brother Miles always called him “Orville.” In Grampa’s papers, there was the delayed birth certificate which is listed to “Orville Thomas Conner”. So I guess it’s official. He was an Orville who was called, “Tom.”]

Tom was a true cowboy; he broke horses and herded cattle through the Midwest. When times were tough during the Depression, though, Great Grampa would do just about anything- from odds and ends around town to working on a bridge crew for the railroad. He also was very well-respected in their small town of Capa, South Dakota. Without being asked, he’d walk the 15 miles to Midland to fetch the doctor when someone needed him. He was the first to volunteer to help out with anything anyone needed.

In those days, the baseball town teams were a very big deal. Each town had a team and the kids played all summer. There were two Native American railroad workers who were exceptional baseball players from Fort Pierre. They were named Louis and Franz Franier and as they traveled their rail routes, they would teach the kids all over the Midwest to play baseball. Tom convinced them to come to Capa and they played on the Kleven’s property by the river. Tom was also the organizer, housing the balls and bats and arranging the games.