This page was last updated 15 August 2011 -- rak.

Reserved for their photo

image caption

John Henry Kraus and Elizabeth Christine Beltz were married 24 Feb 1907 in what happened to be the first marriage ceremony to be conducted in the newly built German Baptist Church in Tampa, Marion County, Kansas.

Grandma and grandpa met when one of John's sisters was teaching at the little schoolhouse near the Beltz home in Marion County. She roomed during the week with the Beltz family and daughter Lizzie shared her bedroom with John's sister. It was John's job to take his sister back and forth on weekends. Before long John and the buggy began appearing at the Beltz house during the week, and, soon thereafter, the two were happily taking buggy rides together around the local countryside.

Grandpa proposed, grandma accepted, her parents were fine with it, his mom evidently felt grandma was not good enough for a Kraus man. The marriage proceeded anyway. And, according to grandma, her mother-in-law and a couple of her sisters-in-law did everything they could to make grandma's life miserable as long as they lived (I never heard the other side of the story).

Shortly after the wedding, the new couple and at least one of grandpa's sisters and her husband set off to homestead in Western Kansas in a covered wagon carrying them and all their meager possessions. They claimed land in Sheridan County and set up housekeeping in what evidently was an abandoned tool shed with a leaky roof, siding that let in plenty of wind, with one smallish room. In time they were able to stop most of the roof leaks and they stuffed old newspapers and the like to stop as much as the could of the merry breezes coming through the walls. Dirt floor of couse.

Farming out there was hard, so was the soil - unbroken prairie sod. And both the weather and the pests were awful. In five years of homesteading they managed to raise some garden produce that the prairie dogs didn't eat and the sun didn't shrivel. During that time, grandma told me they lived almost entirely off of a big hogshead (i.e. barrel) of salt pork that they had brought with them from Marion County! Life was incredibly grim.

They had a somewhat better record in baby production. Aunt Helen Elaine arrived in October 1908 a bit more than one year after they set up homestead. About two years later it was uncle Harvey David. Exactly two years after that it was my dad. Almost three years later it was aunt Irene Dorothy. And lastly, almost two years later, it was aunt Christine Elizabeth. But there was an cloud of sadness over all the related activity.

Aunt Helen contracted a terrible fever when three days old. Neither her brain nor her body ever developed. She had to be cared for as an infant until she died at age 20 1/2, despite desperate attempts by her parents to find medical help for her, including moving the whole family to Lyons, Kansas, where they heard there was a doctor who could cure cases like Helen's.

The western Kansas foray having been a financial disaster, the couple, and the two children they then had, headed back "east" and moved in with the Kraus in-laws on their farm south of Arlington in , Reno County. It was quite a while before they could afford to rent a farm of their own and move out. Grandmother had just a WONDERFUL time living cheek by jowl with her mother-in-law!

As time allows, I will next detail their next four moves including moving out of the in-laws house.

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