The Bohnstedts in Missouri:
Descendants of Guy and Vaden Bohnstedt

by Thomas Allen Bohnstedt, California USA
     (the text of this page is my intellectual property. Please do not copy and repost without my written permission)


L-R: Guy Irven Bohnstedt and brother Vaden "Vade" Bohnstedt


The Miners

In 1909 Verner Bohnstedt married Mary Jane "Mollie" Thomas and his twin brother, Vaden T. Bohnstedt married Ada Lona Herring. This was just a few short years after their half-brother, George Clinton Bohnstedt, was married.

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Top L-R: Guy Irven and Vaden T. Bohnstedt. Bottom: Verner Bohnstedt

Vern and Vade both started their families in and near the small town of Webb City Missouri. During the period 1910 - 1915 Vern and Mollie had four children; Virgil (1910), Lewis Prater (1911), Walter Alfred (1913), and Verna Lucile (1915).

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1. Wedding of Vade and Lona Bohnstedt, Webb City Missouri, 1909
2. L-R: Mary Jane "Mollie" (Thomas) Bohnstedt, Virgil Bohnstedt (baby) and Verner Bohnstedt, circa 1910-1911, Webb City Missouri

Vade and Lona had four children of their own during that same time; Irven Denzil was born in 1910, Flora Nadine was born in 1912, Vada Pauline was born in 1914, and Gladys Marilla was born in 1916.

In 1916 Vern and Vade's brother, Guy Irven Bohnstedt, was married to Helen Harmon. Like his brothers Guy started his family in Webb City; he and Helen had their first child, William Jason Bohnstedt, in 1917 in Webb City. That same year Vern and Mollie had their fifth child, Melvin, in nearby Joplin Missouri. In 1918 Vade and Lona had their fifth, and last child, Ivan Leroy Bohnstedt, in Webb City.

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1. L-R: Flora Nadine and Irven Denzil Bohnstedt circa 1913, Missouri
2. L-R: Vade Bohnstedt, son Irven Denzil, wife Lona (Herring) Bohnstedt, and daughter Flora Nadine Bohnstedt, circa 1914, Missouri

At this time it appears that the brothers Vern, Vade and Guy were moving farther southwest, deeper into the area where the borders of Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas meet; the "Tri-State area". This area was rich in deposits of lead and zinc.  This gave rise to a huge mining industry, and the brothers all found work in the mining companies in the area. We know that Clint Butler, Marilla Bohnstedt's husband, also worked for a time in the mines in southern Missouri with the Bohnstedt brothers. There is also some evidence that their half-brother, George Clinton Bohnstedt worked for a time in the mines as well.

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1-2. Marilla (Bohnstedt) Butler, sister of Vern, Vade and Guy Bohnstedt, with husband Clint Butler

What evidence we have, combined with verbal family history, indicates that the three brothers, Vern, Vade and Guy, more or less moved around together from company to company finding work. Sometime between 1918 and 1920 the brothers moved a few miles southwest and across the border to Oklahoma.

1. Marilla (Bohnstedt-Butler) King (front, center), with children, probably 1950's. Back: Lloyd David Butler, Clarence Earl Butler.  Front: Ruby Edith (Butler) Amos (left), and Mary Leona (Butler) Frisbee (right).
2. Grave of Marilla (Bohnstedt) King and James T. King, Greenwood Cemetery, Kellogg Idaho.  After her marriage to Clint Butler Marilla was married to James King

On Sheet B of a 1920 census record for Ottowa County, Oklahoma we find Guy Bohnstedt's, his wife Helen, and their son, William Jason, living in the town of Quapaw, close to Picher, Oklahoma. In January of that year Guy and Helen's second child, Mary Maxine, was born in nearby Picher. The Eagle-Picher mining company was very likely associated with the town of Picher, Oklahoma, or the founder of the company came from the same family for whom the town was originally named.

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1. Sons of Verner Bohnstedt, circa 1915, Webb City Missouri. L-R: Lewis, Walter, Virgil
2. Flora Nadine and Vada Pauline Bohnstedt, circa 1916

In fact the Bohnstedt family in Missouri has been involved with the Picher company for decades; Nadine Bennett, Vade Bohnstedt's daughter, grew up in and around mining camps as did her siblings and cousins. She married her husband, Theodore Bennett, in the machine shop of one of Eagle-Picher's facilities. In more recent time's one of Guy Irven Bohnstedt's grandson's, John Andrew Bohnstedt, was for a time an aerospace engineer working for a manufacturing division of Eagle-Picher that made electrical batteries for aircraft and spacecraft.

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L-R Guy Bohnstedt, Vern Bohnstedt in the mine

On Sheet A and Sheet B of the 1920 census record for Ottowa County, Oklahoma, we find Verner Bohnstedt living in Quapaw with his wife and first five children. We also find on Sheet B Vern's brother Vade, and his half-brother Clint Bohnstedt living with Verner and his family. Vade and Clint must have left their families in Missouri and sent money back to them while they were working in Oklahoma. Indeed, we also find Vade living with his family in the town of Joplin, in Jasper County Missouri in another 1920 census, taken on 27 January 1920. The census from Quapaw was also taken in 1920, but the date might have been in June or 'Jan' (January); it's difficult to tell from the census taker's writing.

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1. Verner Bohnstedt and co-workers in the mine. Verner is seated on the left
2. Vade Bohnstedt at the job site

What's interesting about this is that Vade was enumerated (counted) in two different households during the same 1920 census. Vade's family must have been with him at least for a short time in Oklahoma because we know from verbal family history that this is where his daughter Mary Maxine was born in January 1920. For reasons which remain unclear Guy and Helen had returned that same year to Webb City where another daughter, Martha Bea was born in December.

Within a couple of years Verner had moved with his family a little farther southwest, to Miami Oklahoma, where his sixth child, Leroy Robert "Pete" Bohnstedt was born. From this point we find no more records showing any of these Bohnstedt brothers in Oklahoma.

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1. Vern Bohnstedt, standing, center
2. Vern Bohnstedt, seated, center

Two years later we find two of these Bohnstedt brothers in the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho, in the mining communities near Kellogg. We know from anecdotal family history that in 1924 Guy Irven Bohnstedt and his wife Helen had their fifth child; Jerry Warren "Jack" Bohnstedt. Vern and his wife Mollie had their seventh; Perry Alden Bohnstedt.


A Grim History

But things were beginning to go seriously wrong in the Bohnstedt family. Vade died in 1924 in Webb City Missouri at 35 years old. During their time working in the lead and zinc mines Vern, Vade and Guy Bohnstedt had been breathing substantial quantities of toxic dust which was rapidly destroying their lungs and other vital organs.

We found no documentary evidence of Vade being in Idaho, either with or without his family, so it's possible that Vade had never moved west with Vern and Guy. However, some verbal family history related that Vade became ill while he was in Colorado (or the symptoms of his toxic poisoning had became acute there) and he returned to Missouri where he died. The possibility here is that he was in fact on his way to Idaho with his brothers and their families, but only made it as far as Colorado, where he turned back because of his illness.

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1. Vern Bohnstedt (in the car) with wife Mollie, circa 1924, Kellogg, Idaho
2. Sons of Vern and Mollie Bohnstedt, Kellogg Idaho, circa 1925. Top L-R: Lewis and Virgil Bohnstedt. Middle L-R: Walter and Melvin Bohnstedt. Bottom L-R: Leroy "Pete" and Perry Bohnstedt
3. Melvin Floyd Bohnstedt

By 1926 Vern and Guy had moved on to Washington with their families near Everett. Some anecdotal family tradition has it that Vern felt that the air in Washington would be better for his lungs. Obviously, he was also feeling the effects of the toxic poisoning on his respiratory system. Guy and Helen had their fifth child in Washington, Guy James Bohnstedt. But that same year Vern and Mollie's little boy, Perry, died.

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1. L-R: Maxine and Bea Bohnstedt, at a mining community in the Bitterroot Mountains, Idaho, circa 1924 as the family was heading west through Idaho, or perhaps circa 1926 when Guy was headed back east to Missouri, via Kellogg Idaho where he died.
2. This was one of Vern and Mollie's children, although who it was is not certain.  It might have been David.

1927 was another tragic year for the family; Guy died that year as did Vern and Mollie's youngest child, David Gale Bohnstedt, less than one year old. The place of Guy's death is just a little bit confusing; Kellogg, Idaho. I say confusing because it is believed that Guy and Helen's youngest, Guy James Bohnstedt, was born in Washington in 1925. So the question is, if they were in Washington, why did Guy, Helen and the children leave and go back to Kellogg, Idaho?

There are a number of possibilities for this:

1. It is possible that Guy James Bohnstedt was not actually born in Washington. This might have been an error, and it is just as possible that he was born near Kellogg, Idaho just as his older brother Jerry Warren was. I would add here that I was never completely certain of my information that Guy James Bohnstedt was born in Washington.

If true, Guy Irven Bohnstedt may never have left Idaho when Verner did, and he (Guy Irven) stayed there until he died.

2. The second possibility is that Helen moved on to Washington with Vern and Mollie while her husband stayed in Idaho, where he died.

3. The third possibility is that Guy and Helen did indeed move to Washington with Vern and Mollie's family, but after a short time decided to move back to Missouri. It has always been uncertain whether Guy James was born in Washington or Idaho. However, allegedly a social security record which says that Guy James Bohnstedt was born in 1926 in Seattle. This could simply have been where they social security number was issued, but if so, it means that even if Guy James was born in Idaho, Helen, and probably Guy, made it to Washington, and got the boy registered with social security in that state, which means they were in Washington, at least for a little while.  It is then possible that on the way back to Missouri, they stopped in Kellogg, where Guy died.

We may never know exactly what happened, but we do know that Guy died near Kellogg Idaho and was buried there. Helen returned to Missouri with the children, a very long trip to make by herself, with the children. Did she and the children take a train back to Missouri, or did she try to drive all the way there? We don't know. Once in Missouri she remarried to a man named Sam Barr, and, according to verbal family history, they had six daughters together.

1. In the early part of the 20th Century Picher, Oklahoma was a bustling boom town.
2. Even then the mining companies were already pouring large piles of toxic mine tailings (debris) into the empty lots in town.

The "Tri-State" area of southwest Missouri, including Joplin and Webb City, northeast Oklahoma, including Miami and Picher, and southeast Kansas, became one of the largest producers (collectively) of lead and zinc beginning in the late 1800s. Mining companies from this area sold lead and zinc, not only to American companies and the U.S. Government, but also to European governments and manufacturers. It has been estimated that at least half of all of the lead and zinc used in small arms ordnance (bullets) in the First World War came from the mines in this area.  

Unfortunately lead and zinc are highly toxic in quantities. Picher, Oklahoma was particularly bad because the mining companies poured out mountains of "tailings" (also called "chat") - excess dirt-from the mines - into vacant lots right next to lots occupied by houses and businesses. Not only were the miners exposed to this toxic dust while underground, but the toxic dust drifting off these huge piles created a health hazard for the rest of the town's residents. Picher is frequently listed among the top ten toxic ghost towns when such lists are produced, along with the likes of Pripyat, Ukraine, which was contaminated with radiation when the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant melted down in 1987. In Picher's case, the town's problems were made worse when it was realized that the large voids being created under the town from the mining operation were making the surface dangerously unstable. The federal government began buying out properties and the exodus from Picher began. Today, even though toxicity levels have dropped, only a handful of die-hard residents remain.

1-2. Today Picher, Oklahoma is a ghost town with only a handful of people remaining. What's left of Picher looks like a filming location from The Walking Dead, but without the zombies.


Descendants of Vade and Guy Bohnstedt

By 1928 all three of the Bohnstedt brothers, Verner, Vaden and Guy Irven, were dead before reaching forty years. Vade died in 1924 in Webb City, Missouri after making it as far west as Colorado. He was 35 years old.  Guy died in 1927 in Kellogg Idaho at the age of 31. Verner died in 1928 in Everett, Washington, aged 39 years. Vern's wife, Mary Jane "Mollie" Thomas stayed in Washington with the children and re-married to a man who probably needed a wife to take care of his home. Such marriages of convenience were common for the working classes at the time; a woman's husband might die before his time leaving her widowed and with no financial way to take care of her children. Then she might meet a man who had a business and a stable income, and in return for her taking care of his household (and often his children from a previous marriage of his own) he would provide financial support for her children.

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1. Grave of Vaden Bohnstedt, Carterville Cemetery, Carterville, Missouri. Although the year of birth says "1890", this is an error.  Numerous records, including census records and draft registration records, show very clearly that the Vaden and Verner Bohnstedt were twins, and that they were both born in July 1889. Given that some of these records (such as the draft registration records) were generated separately, yet show the exact same date and year of birth (1889) for both men, the year of 1889 as the birth year is certain.
2. Family of Vaden T. Bohnstedt, circa 1925-1926. Vade was deceased at the time of this photo. L-R:
Vada Pauline, Lona (mother), Ivan Leroy, Flora Nadine and Gladys Marilla. Irven Denzil Bohnstedt is absent from this picture. Family lore has it that as a teenage boy Irven often ran away from home, jumped onto railroad cars and went exploring, frequently causing distress to his mother.

After Vade died in Webb City, his wife, Lona, re-married. She must have relocated with her husband and her children to Kansas city. This is evidenced by the fact that all of Vade and Lona's children started their families in Kansas City, and Lona later died in Kansas City.

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1. Lona (Herring) Bohnstedt
2. After Vaden died Lona remarried to Burton J. Mowers. After Burton Mowers died Lona married a third time, in 1943, to Edwin Gustave Berlekamp.  Lona Berlekamp is buried in Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens, Kansas City, Kansas.
3. Ivan Leroy and Vada Pauline Bohnstedt

Of five children born to Vade and Lona, only two were sons, Irven Denzil and Ivan Leroy. Irven had one child, a daughter named June, and Ivan had two children, also daughters; Donna and Janet.

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1. Grave of Ivan Leroy and Beth Bohnstedt in Chapel Hill Memorial Garden, Kansas City, Kansas
2. Irven Denzil Bohnstedt
3. Grave of Ivan Leroy and Beth Bohnstedt in Chapel Hill Memorial Garden, Kansas City, Kansas

After Guy's death, his wife, Lona, returned to Missouri, probably in or near Webb City, where Guy and Helen had first started their family. Guy and Helen's oldest, William "Bill" Jason Bohnstedt married in 1937 to Geraldine "Geri" Handley, and pursued a career in civil service; according to family tradition he worked for Webb City for a time as the Streets Commissioner. Bill and Geri had three children; Beverly Kay, Sharon Ruth, and Guy Edward Bohnstedt. The two girls, Beverly and Sharon, were both born in Webb City, while Guy was born in Joplin, Missouri.

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1. Family of Guy Irven Bohnstedt, circa 1928. Guy was probably deceased at the time of this photo, and buried in Kellogg Idaho. This picture is an interesting study in personalities. Even at a young age Maxine (top left) displays an outgoing personality with her mischievous smile, and Bea (bottom right) reveals a more introverted, shy personality. The mother, Helen (top center), seems to be under some stress, while the young boy at the bottom left is showing his impatience with the long process of taking the picture. The boys are William "Bill" Jason Bohnstedt (top row), and on the bottom row, left to right; Guy James (the impatient little boy), and Jerry Warren "Jack" Bohnstedt.
2. Jerry Warren Bohnstedt, circa 1930, Missouri
3. Mary Maxine Bohnstedt
4. Martha Bea Bohnstedt with husband (or future husband) Charles Morgan

Guy Edward Bohnstedt married Mary Mary Degraffenreid in 1961 in Webb City. Three years later he graduated from College with his Bachelor of Science degree. According to one family source he was a 'mechanic' for Cardinal Scale manufacturing company. However, this may have been an improper term; with a Bachelor of Science degree Guy may have been an engineer. Guy and Mary had two children, Michelle Ann (1961) and Shawn Edward Bohnstedt (1963).

1. Grave of Theodore and Nadine (Bohnstedt) Bennett, Newcomer's Floral Hills Cemetery, Kansas City, MIssouri
2. Grave of Roy and Vada Pauline (Bohnstedt) McClure, Chapel Hills Memorial Gardens, Kansas City, Kansas

William Jason Bohnstedt's brother, Jerry Warren "Jack" Bohnstedt served in the U.S. Navy during the Second World War in 1941 - 1945. After the war Jack worked for industrial mining and ore processing companies as a welder and drill operator. This occupation took him far from his Missouri home as he followed the work in the desert regions of the Southwestern United States. This is no doubt how he ended up in Quartzite Arizona where he married Peggy Jane Grimes in 1949. By 1950 Jack and Peggy had moved farther west to Indio, California, near Palm Springs, where their first two children were born, both daughters; Jerry Sue in 1951 and Jody Ellen in 1953.

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1. William Jason Bohnstedt
2. Grave of William Jason and Geraldine "Jerri" Bohnstedt, Mt. Hope Cemetery, Webb City, Missouri
3. Resting place of  of Charles and Martha Bea (Bohnstedt) Morgan, Ozark Memorial Park Cemetery, Joplin Missouri

By the mid 1950's Jack and his family moved again, this time back eastward, to Blythe California, near the town of Quartzite and the California-Arizona border where Jack had married Peggy. Their last two children were born in Blythe; William Jason (named for his uncle) in 1956, and John Andrew in 1959. Jack eventually returned to Missouri.

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1. Guy Edward Bohnstedt, 1941 - 1998, son of William Jason Bohnstedt
2. Grave marker of Guy Edward Bohnstedt, Mt. Hope Cemetery, Webb City, Missouri

The youngest of Guy and Helen's sons, Guy James Bohnstedt pursued a number of occupations, including merchant marine and mechanic. He also owned and operated a home improvement business with his brother Bill. He married Dorothy Shaw and they had two children; Guy James Bohnstedt II (1948) and Nancy Allene Bohnstedt (1951).

1. Grave marker of Guy James and Dorothy Bohnstedt
2. William Jason "Bill" Bohnstedt, son of Jerry Warren "Jack" and Peggy Bohnstedt. Bill passed away in 2005.  He was cremnated and his ashes were given to his younger daughter, Billie Jean.  Bill was named for his uncle.

Ludwig "Lewis" Bohnstedt was the first of the Bohnstedt family to migrate to Missouri sometime between 1881 and 1886. He had five sons, Charles, George Clinton, Verner, Vaden, and Guy Irven. Verner took his family to Washington on the Pacific Coast and stayed there, never to return to Missouri. Charles did start his family in Missouri, but the descendants of Charles Bohnstedt have been located and identified in other locations such as Oklahoma, Iowa, Arkansas, and even California. Vade Bohnstedt's two sons had only daughters, and so the family name no longer continues with his descendants.

It is only through the descendants of George Clinton Bohnstedt and his half-brother Guy Irven Bohnstedt that the family name continues in Missouri today.


The Stillings Connection

In 2003 one of Clifford Lee Bohnstedt's grandsons (and a great-grandson of George Clinton Bohnstedt), Clifford Wayne Bohnstedt, married Debra Stillings in Ava, Missouri. I discovered this when I was catching up the records in 2016.  When I heard the Stillings name it rang a bell in the back of my head. Then I remembered that one of the Bohnstedts from the Guy Irven Bohnstedt line had married a Stillings. I checked records, and there it was, Dan Stillings was Jody Ellen Bohnstedt's second husband.

I talked to Clifford W. Bohnstedt's wife, Debra about this. According to her, the Stillings who married Jody Ellen Babish (Bohnstedt) was Debra's brother, Dan Stillings, and Jody is a descendant of Guy Irven Bohnstedt.  Jody is a second cousin to Clifford Junior Bohnstedt (Clifford Wayne Bohnstedt's father), so while Jody and Clifford Wayne Bohnstedt are "second cousins once removed", they were also in-laws through their spouses, Dan and Debra Stillings, who were brother and sister. (sadly, Dan passed away in 2016). 

When Dan first married Jody she may have still had the last name "Babish" from her first marriage. But according to Debra, when she (Debra) realized that her brother's new wife was a Bohnstedt (her maiden name) she called her new sister-in-law, Jody, to ask her about it. Jody came over to visit Debra with a copy of the Bohnstedt book we had put together and distributed in 1998.

I was very gratified by this because, although there are some errors in it, and although our knowledge has expanded considerably since then, Debra and Jody were able to use the book to look up their Bohnstedt lines and see how they were related. And that was one of my intentions in creating this Bohnstedt record; so that, hopefully, we wouldn't lose all knowledge of each other again because of time, distance or tragedy.

It was through these two marriages; that of Debra Stillings to Clifford Wayne Bohnstedt (a descendant of George Clinton Bohnstedt), and of Dan Stillings to Jody Ellen Bohnstedt (a descendant of Guy Irven Bohnstedt) that these two Bohnstedt family lines in Missouri were reconnected.



See Also:
3-18 / Lewis Bohnstedt; Rebuilding a Family History
3-24 /
The Descendants of Verner Bohnstedt in Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona
3-36 /
Genealogy 3-3-8: America; Missouri
3-37 /
Genealogy 3-3-9: America; Arkansas, California, Oklahoma and Iowa
3-38 /
Genealogy 3-3-10: America; Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona


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