History Mystery Solved!

history mystery003On the evening of May 19, 1960, a tornado leveled the home of George & Gladys Stein of rural Leavenworth, leaving the couple without their home furnishings including a collection of family photos. George was the caretaker of the Mt. Zion Jewish Cemetery for 48 years, taking up the work from his father, Otto Stein, a son of German immigrant pioneers of Leavenworth County. Use of the home and adjoining 40 acres of land was essentially his payment. Stein had also been clerk of Kickapoo Township, held office as road overseer, was appointed a special deputy sheriff for Kickapoo as well as being named game warden.  He had married Gladys, a daughter of Agnes Bonskowski Cook Stanley (1892-1965) in 1930.

The Steins were the parents of five children. A son, Joseph Charles Stein and his wife Sharon, currently reside in rurual Leavenworth County. Both are now retired after being employed at Fort Leavenworth and are faithful readers of the Leavenworth Times. When Joseph finishes reading the paper, he passes it to Sharon. So, imagine Sharon’s surprise when she recognized a “History Mystery” photo, submitted by the Leavenworth County Historical Society, to be her husband’s grandparents, exclaiming to Joe: “Here’s a picture of NaNa and Punsa!” Joe had not recognized the couple pictured as Agnes M. Bonskowski and Joseph Charles Stanley, his namesake, but Sharon remembered the flower on the dress of Agnes from another photo she had seen in an album of photos gathered by family members following the 1960 tornado. Sharon called Joe’s only living sibling, Florence Rodgers, also a Times subscriber, who resides on the Stein Family Farm, and she readily agreed. The photo had been taken on the wedding day of Agnes to Joseph Charles Stanley, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army at Fort Leavenworth, on January 29, 1928.

As fate would have it however, another Times subscriber, Robert Holt, now a resident of Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada, thought he recognized his great-grandmother in the “History Mystery” photo and contacted the museum. Robert’s mother, Agnes Marie “Sissy” Stein Holt (1938-1990), was a daughter of George & Gladys Stein, and therefore a granddaughter of Agnes Bonskowsky Stanley, her namesake. Yet another interesting connection is that Robert Holt was the administrator for the Carroll Mansion Museum, home of the historical society, for ten years in the 1990s and was instrumental in obtaining the Everhard Glass Plate Negative Collection for the museum. The collection is comprised of nearly 30,000 portraits, taken by early day photographers of residents in the first 100 years of Leavenworth’s existence.

With the solving of this particular “History Mystery”, a little piece of Leavenworth history has been saved for not only future generations of historians and researchers but also for a Leavenworth County pioneer family.   Watch the Times for more “History Mystery” photos that remain unidentified in the photo collections of the Leavenworth County Historical Society at the Carroll Mansion Museum, 1128 Fifth Ave. The Society celebrates its 60th year of service in the discovery and preservation of the rich history we enjoy here in Leavenworth County. For more information, contact the museum at 682-7759, email: leavenworthhistory@sbcglobal.net or visit their website: http://leavenworthhistory.org

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