I never met Aunt Jennie as she passed away when I was a toddler but I heard the stories from my dad. Aunt Jennie was my dad’s great aunt (older sister to his grandmother on his dad’s side of the family) but she was more like a grandmother to my dad. He never knew his own grandmother as she had died when his own dad was just a teenager. (Reference my blog post about Mary Alemeda Spangler) She was born Jennie Rebecca Spangler on a farm three miles south of Newton, Kansas, in 1871. Jennie was the second oldest child in the family of seven children. Jennie received her early education, most likely, in a Dewey influenced one room school, which was about one-half mile north of the Spangler Farm. Her dad, Simon M. Spangler, and her mother, Mary Ann “Polly” Taylor moved the family to Newton on the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets where various members of the family lived for many years. This house was on the same block as my father’s home so Jennie often cared for my dad after she raised her own son. Jennie was a big influence on Dad as he described her as fun to be around, smart, and willing to spend time with him in his formative years. My dad stood over six feet tall by the time he was in middle school but Aunt Jennie, not even reaching five feet, stood her ground with dad as their was tremendous mutual respect.
Jennie was married to Wilbur Quisenberry in 1896, at the age of 26. Her son, Karl Spangler Quisenberry, was born on August 2, 1897. Jennie is listed as a widow in the 1956 city directory but we have no family records that provides any reason for her husband’s passing or date in history. He must have died early in their marriage as our family records document that Jennie and her son Karl lived with her parents as Karl grew up. After graduating from high school, Jennie and Karl moved to Manhattan, Kansas, where Karl attended the Kansas State Agriculture College now K-State. To support themselves, Jennie worked as a housekeeper and maid in homes around Manhattan. After Karl’s graduation from college, he found employment with United States Department of Agriculture as an agronomist which he did for the rest of his life. He was to become one of the world’s leading authority on grains, especially wheat. He held roles throughout the midwest including time as the Associate Agronomist in Western Wheat Investigations, Office of Cereal Crops and Diseases, with charge of the cooperative breeding of wheat for rust resistance at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He published a book in 1967 with over 500 pages of details about wheat grain – see below for cover. After Karl’s graduation from college and employment, Jennie moved back to Newton, where she cared for her father until his death in 1922. From the time of his first job, Karl provided his mother with ample financial assistance.
Jennie continued to live alone in the family home for several years, when brother Ed and his wife Larue came back to live. What took place next is not clear, however, apparently there was not room in the big house for Ed, Larue, and Jennie to live in harmony, and eventually Jennie moved out. From then on, Jennie lived in various rented rooms and apartments until her death in 1963 at the age of 92. Dad said she often had Sunday dinner with his family and shared holidays and celebrations over the three decades.
I have a vanity of Jennie’s that was passed onto me by my father. While the drawers don’t open easily, I treasure it as it reminds me of the joyful stories shared with me by my dad about little Aunt Jennie. Don’t forget to share a memory or a story with your loved ones as they will certainly be cherished. Our family is uploading these stories into ancestry.com for future generations to read as well as to share with other branches of the family conducting research about their families.