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Kansas Family History

Family History of Orange E. Conner

The Kansas Heritage server would like to thank Neal Ekengren for contributing this material.

Karl Victor Ekengren History


Swedish Beginnings
Karl Victor Ekengren was born March 2, 1831, in the Village of Kedjeåsen,
Karlskoga County, State of Örebro, Sweden. This is a small countryside
village in the center of Sweden about 100 miles west of Stockholm. His
mother Lisa Sophia Ekengren apparently bore Karl out of wedlock to a Mr.
Caselli. She later had marriages to two other men and bore 8 more children.
Karl made a point of changing his name to Karl Victor Caselli during this

At the moment Karl was coming of age, a great Swedish migration to America
was beginning. 1846 saw the first waves of emigrants, who were following
their religious leader, the Swedish farmer/preacher Erik Jansson, to a
colony in western Illinois. They sought religious freedom. By 1873 this
migration would strip Sweden of 25% of its 4 million population.

At 21 years old, Karl had a ruddy complexion, light hair, blue eyes, and was
5'8" tall. He decided that he was ready for the American adventure. In 1852
he took the long journey to seek his future. This probably led him through
the St. Lawrence to Chicago, Illinois, and overland to his final Whiteside
County, Illinois destination. This was near the Swedish-American religious
centers being established in the state. Karl remained in Illinois 7 years.

During this time, Karl anglicized his name to Charles W. and decided to go
back to his original Ekengren surname. He also learned about the continued
expansion of the U.S. frontier. This land bonanza was causing a tidal wave
of U.S. settlers to keep moving further westward in search of more fortune.


Kansas Beginnings
In 1854, the Kansas Territory was established. Charles saw this as the
opportunity he was looking for. He moved in 1859 to Olathe in Johnson County
which had only been incorporated two years previous. “O Lathe” are the
Shawnee indian words for “beautiful”.

Charles immediately befriended John T. Burris, a prominent Olathe attourney.
As we shall see, Charles and John would continue to cross paths until the
very end. It was probably this introduction to the legal system which now
led Charles to announce his intention to become a U.S. citizen and renounce
allegiance to Oscar 1st, King of Sweden and Norway. He would soon show more
patriotism as the U.S. civil war unfolded.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act, which had opened Kansas Territory, was designed to
placate both sides of the slavery issue. Congress left it up to the
newcomers to decide whether they wanted to live in a free state or a slave
state. This strategy only created legions of extremists on both sides.
“Bleeding Kansas” was the scene of a series of cross-border conflicts and
raids with the Missouri Slave-state lasting 7 years from 1854 to the
beginning of the war in 1861. In 1859, a fourth attempt at drafting a Kansas
consititution was attempted, the previous efforts having failed on
Free-state versus Slave-state issues. John T. Burris joined the Wyandotte
convention representing Johnson county as a member of the anti-Lecompton
Free State party and signed the resulting Kansas constitution. This led to
Kansas statehood just three months before the civil war began. John served
on a variety of statewide and county elected positions over the years.

As soon as the war started, the threats from Missouri based partisans
increased. Most of the 500 Olathe residents fled to Lawrence, Kansas for
safety from raids. The next year in Lawrence, Charles mustered into the
Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, 2nd Battalion, Company H, for a 3 year enlistment.
He had to provide his own horse and equipment since these were in short


Charles at War
Charles served with the 2nd in the Missouri-Kansas-Oklahoma-Arkansas
theater. The local forts operated against guerillas that infested the
country. The "Old Second" gained great distinction. Charles served detail
duty with forage trains, mail escort, artillery support, company cook, etc.
Although the 2nd Battalion fought some major battles, it appears that
Charles was never directly involved in the fighting. During his service, he
suffered three severe bouts of dysentery/diarrhea which were very common
ailments with these closely quartered personnel and which killed many men.
Charles consistently signed his name Eckengren, with a “c”, on his military
papers, which later had to be corrected for military pension purposes.

In May 1863 at Cassville, Missouri he suffered a debilitating injury. “I was
riding a horse and leading 6 others out to graze when the horse I was riding
became unmanageable and threw me off severely dislocating, straining, and
permanently injuring the right ankle. This ankle was useless for 6 months”.
Charles remained in a Springfield, Missouri hospital for 3 months before
returning to service. He mustered out August 1865 after being promoted to


Ekengren Family
You will remember that Charles and John T. Burris were aquainted in 1859. It
happens that Mr. Burris hired a servant, Elizabeth Brady, in 1860. She was a
member of an extended family which had migrated from West Virginia to Kansas
City. An excellent version of this migration story from Elizabeth Brady’s
perspective is told by Naomi Ayres Lightfoot. Charles probably had his eye
on “Lizzie” from the beginning. Except for a brief break during the war,
Lizzie worked for the Burris’ until her marriage to Charles in August 1865
at the Burris home. The new Ekengren family lived with the Burris household
for a brief time.

In 1866, Charles purchased 5 contiguous lots (12-16) of Olathe property
around 318 Cedar St. He sold lot 12 in 1871 but kept the remainder for the
growing Ekengren family. His children and their birth dates are:

1866 - Charles Harry
1867 - Frederick
1872 - Frank Dennis
1873 - William Fisher
Olathe was growing rapidly now and Charles worked hard as Stone Mason and
Plasterer although he was constantly hampered by his war injury. One of the
first Olathe churches, the Congregational Church of Olathe, was organized at
the new Ekengren residence in 1866 by Rev. Bodwell. The first Olathe
railroad, "The Missouri River, Fort Scott and Golf" , was built in 1868
connecting Kansas City to Fort Scott through Olathe. The Ekengren family was
never wealthy but managed to survive well over the next 20 years.

In 1891, young Charles Harry died at 25 years of age, at his father's house.
This must have been a big blow to the family. Charles Sr. was also in
failing health. The death of his son gave him the initiative to purchase the
family plot in Olathe cemetery for his young son and future family members.

In 1894, young Fred married Artemesia Bright. The one and only marriage that
Charles would live to see.


The End
Charles Sr. was still nagged by his injured right ankle and slowly declined
in health “It hurts me all the way up into the hip. I will state that after
walking all day, I suffer nearly all night. I used to build stone houses but
can no longer. The injury seems to have turned into rheumatism.” In fall
1896 he contracted “la grippe”, an unnamed infection. In April 1897, Charles
knew his time was short and started the transfer of his worldly belongings
to his family. He gave his wife property “in consideration of love and
affection and five dollars”. In May 1897 he died of “hasty consumption”,
some variety of lung infection. He was buried in Olathe cemetery Monday May

The ultimate cause of death had enough liberal enterpretations that Lizzie
was able to get an increased military service pension.

Version 1: His limb was painful and continuously swollen, resulting in
faulty circulation. This culminating in congestion of the lungs, which
resulted in death.
Version 2: Rheumatism of the limb led to the back and then the chest muscles
and affecting the lungs.
Version 3: He may have been infected with bacillus tuberculosis during his
service in the war.
John Burris again appears. He testifies that he has known Lizzie "since a
child" and sympathizes with her lack of financial support now that Charles
is gone.

A series of transactions were made after Charles death to divide the Olathe
land among Lizzie and her 3 remaining children. Some of the property was
rented and provided income for Lizzie until her death in March 1923.

The fate of the children:

Fred and his wife Artie apparently moved through Colorado on the way to
Washington state. They adopted twins.
Frank’s first wife Addie died shortly after marriage. Frank then married
Lula and had three children and many descendants.  (Frank is Neal Ekengren's
William married Ida but never had children.


The Brady Appendix
[By Naomi Ayres Lightfoot]

The year was 1860 and it was time for the twin girls to say goodbye. One
girl was going with a family who lived in West Virginia, the other girl was
to live with the William Fisher family who was heading west. The Fisher
family had six boys but no girls, and Mrs. Fisher looked forward to caring
for the girl. The family started their western trek by boat, down the Ohio
river from Sutton County, Ohio, then on the Mississippi River as far as St.
Louis, then up the Missouri River to Westport Landing. Their cattle and
household belongings went by separate barge along the same route.

When the Fishers arrived in Johnson County, Kansas they were unable to get
property with a dwelling on it, which necessitated their living in a
dug-out. Since this was no proper place for a young girl of 12 years (life
was rough even for boys, mother, and father in those days) a place must be
found for the girl in town.

Elizabeth was placed with a retired Army Colonel and his wife by the name of
Burris in Olathe. The girl was to work for her room and board. The Burris's
were not unkind, but kept their association with their "help" on an
impersonal basis. The young girl did the household chores; laundry, carrying
coal for the stove, then carrying out the ashes. She did the housework which
in summer included beating heavy carpets with a carpet-beater, to remove the
accumulated dirt and grime of winter, which daily sweeping with a broom
would not remove! For these services she was given her room, board and bare
necessities of clothing.

Even though Colonel and Mrs. Burris like the girl, she was never permitted
to sit with the family for meals but ate alone, later. It was not an easy
life, yet much better than she would have had living with here "adopted"
family in the dug-out exposed to the hot Kansas sun of summer and the cold,
windy blasts of winter.

One day a young man, wearing the uniform of the Union Army, came to visit
his former officer, Colonel Burris. As the young housemaid served him and
the Burris family the evening repast, the young man took notice of the lass.
Hist visits to the Burris household became more frequent, as as time went
by, he asked permission to court the young lady, Lizzie. One cold
early-winter day when he came, he noticed that Lizzie was wearing very
ligh-weight clothing - not at all appropraite for the time of year. He, in a
gentlemanly way, asked her if she owned long-underwear. She told him, "No".
The young ex-military man, Charles Ekengren, gave Elizabeth new, warm,
underwear for a Christmas gifts. They were married the following spring.

The young husband was of Swedish descent with blue eyes and blonde hair.
Lizzie was fair skinned and had long, dark hair. Charles was an accomplished
craftsman and provided his family with many hand made articles of furniture,
etc. Lizzie was a good cook and made delicious breads and often took prizes
at the county fairs. The couple had four sons. All the boys had musical
talents and were skilled in the crafts. One of these sons, the third boy,
was Frank D. Ekengren - and from now on, you know the family history.


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