Voices From the Past Provide a Link to the Present

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The Leavenworth County Historical Society, at the Carroll Mansion Museum, is a repository for collections of photographs, stories, and memorabilia of past and present residents of Leavenworth County.  Last year, the museum received a donation of an early 1940s scrapbook, assembled in memory of Bertha Mayer Renensland, a Kickapoo resident.  The donation was unusual, in that the scrapbook had somehow made its way to Louisiana, among the contents of a hope chest that had been purchased at an estate sale in Leavenworth.  Luckily, the new owner realized the historical value of the book to Leavenworth and contacted us!  

Within the fragile, brittle pages of the scrapbook were newspaper clippings, unidentified old photos, school programs, and greeting cards sent to Mrs. Renensland for every occasion.  As with many items that are donated to the museum, research was initiated in order to learn more about this Leavenworth County individual.  Within the museum’s vertical files the Renensland family was immediately located and ancestry.com filled in an extensive family chart.  Bertha Mayer had married, in 1897,  John Renensland, whose parents had settled in Leavenworth County in the early settlement days. They made their home in Kickapoo, just north of Leavenworth, on forty acres of land, where John made his home his entire life as a farmer and stock raiser.   Eleven boys and five girls were born of this union, out of which twelve survived to adulthood.  One of those children, Gilbert Renensland, was the caretaker of the Kickapoo Cemetery for many years, as noted in the March 22, 2014 Times article, “Q5: Respect and Resurrect”.    John Renensland served as clerk of the Kickapoo district school board for more than 50 years and as treasurer of Kickapoo Township for 35.  

Luella Baker, another Kickapoo native, who lived to the age of 101, fondly recalled the large Renensland family   . . . They would bake 40 large loaves of bread a week, and many pans of cinnamon rolls.  At one meal they would consume about 4 of those large loaves of bread, 2 gallons of coffee, a peck of potatoes (mashed), a half of a ham.  In their smoke house they usually had 20 hams and 20 shoulders hanging, along with 40 sides of home cured bacon.  They canned between five and six thousand quarts of tomatoes, fruit of all kinds, jams and jellies.  They always made 4 or 5 copper kettles full of apple butter every fall in the yard.  In addition, they stored Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and buried cabbage and carrots and beets.  They were about the only family that raised their own navy beans in the Kickapoo community.  They made their own ketchup.  One winter they had 600 quarts of tomatoes and 200 quarts of strawberries…..the land that their grandfather homesteaded in the 1840s remains the last property in the area which has never been bought or sold, but has always been in the possession of the family from the time it was homesteaded. Their home was a haven for many people who came from a distance to the community.  When they came to clean off their graves at the cemetery, they knew there was a good meal at the Renensland home and that they would be welcome . . . . 

A drive out to Kickapoo reveals a Renensland road sign, regrettably misspelled, and at the curve in the road, a stand of trees is all that remains, marking the location of the old homestead.

Discovered in the museum vertical files is a 1980 news clipping from the Leavenworth Times noting a recent visit by Howard Renensland, in the home of his parents, Howard and Shirley Renensland at 1230 Spruce Street.  A “Google” search on the internet revealed the Renensland grandson’s current whereabouts so we were able to get in touch with him to not only secure the identification of the numerous photos we had acquired within the family scrapbook, but additional family information as well.   Having been a 1966 graduate of Leavenworth High, some may be aware of Mr. Renensland’s television and stage fame.  From a biography furnished by Mr. Renensland:  

Howard Renensland, President and Founder of [with]tv, is a career professional actor. He is a member of Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and Actors Equity Association. Mr. Renensland has appeared in over 400 television commercials, numerous radio ads, and hundreds of print ads as well. He has appeared on and Off Broadway, on National Tours and Summer Stock as well as with The Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, The Missouri Repertory Theatre, The Cleveland Playhouse and The Dallas Theatre Center among others.On television he has been seen in Hill Street Blues, The Ted Knight Show, Family Ties, We Got It Maid, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, a number of Daytime Dramas and in the films Black Beauty, Batteries Not Included, The Wandering Muse of Artemeus Flagg, co-starring with Burgess Meredith and Friendly Persuasion with Richard Kiley and Shirley Knight . He was a Guest Professional Artist at Kansas University, Clark College, Case Western Reserve University, and Park College.  He earned a B.A. from Washburn University and an M.A. from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX.  In 2008 he was honored  as a Leavenworth High School Graduate of Outstanding Artistic Achievement by the LHS Alumni Association.Since the birth of Renensland’s first child Victoria, who is a person with disabilities, he has actively advocated for her inclusion. He has written and spoken extensively on the issue of inclusion of students with disabilities from preschool through college. Most recently he and his daughter Victoria were invited by The Circles Network to travel to Great Britain for a two week engagement speaking to parents and educators. He has written a variety of plays and is at work on a memoir of his life with his daughter, INCLUDING VICTORIA. He currently resides in New York City with his wife Kathleen and daughter Victoria. His other daughter Olivia, is a graduate of The University of Chicago and is completing her program at Duke Law School. Upon graduation she will be working at the NYC Law Firm Cleary Cottleib.

Mr. Renensland informs us that he is always happy to talk about [with]tv and encourages all who are interested to follow and “friend” [with]tv on Facebook ad Twitter as “we will soon have a KickStarter Project to launch the project and put dozens of people with disabilities, and others, to work on the web and in Film & TV.”   

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In visiting Howard’s website at http://with-tv.com/index.html, it becomes immediately apparent that the human kindness found in the Renensland family of old Kickapoo, lives on in their descendants.  

With a mission to gather, collect, and preserve Leavenworth history, the Carroll Mansion Museum is often a place where researchers of family or Leavenworth history visit to explore the extensive information gathered over the past sixty years since the founding of the Society.  Plan to visit the museum at 1128 Fifth Avenue, just south of Cushing Hospital or call 913-682-7759. Website:  www.leavenworthhistory.org  “Like” us on Facebook  under Leavenworth County Historical Society.

 

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