By Angie Wagner (Don Wagner's Grandmother)
Our curtain rises to reveal a setting near the city of Berlin, Germany, (Prussia). There had lived many
generations of Wagners who were of the higher class of German citizens. The spotlight points to a strong and
robust boy with determination to fight the battle of life to a goal of success. There, Albert William Wagner was
born October 17, 1838 to William Albert and Wilhelmina (Zehms) Wagner. His father was a professional
shepherd and from early life had charge of the flocks of a lord, receiving as his share the profits of one half the
The grandfather of our subject was a weaver by trade and had served thirteen years in the army with Napoleon
Albert Wagner spent the days of his youth assisting his father in the care of his large flocks of sheep, and when
sixteen years of age, in 1855, he came to America with his sister. After their arrival in New York, they continued
the westward journey to Wisconsin where he arrived without means, but immediately sought employment as a
farmhand. After two years spent in that state, work became scarce and he shoved on to a new frontier in
Indiana and there became engaged in chopping cord wood. From here he moved on to Illinois, where he was
employed as a farmhand until 1859 and in that year he came to Kansas, locating at Riley City. There he found
employment with a butcher, receiving in compensation for his services his board and washing.
In the following spring he became a partner in the business and located in Junction City where he remained for
three years. In the meantime, he was married and pre-empted a claim near Solomon City, but after making
some improvements, he abandoned the claim and in 1864 came to the Solomon Valley in Ottawa County one
mile and a quarter from what is now the city of Bennington. After the homestead law was enacted he filed a
claim and it became his home on the banks of the Solomon River. Continuing his work as a butcher in Junction
City, he came to the valley where he was lord of all he surveyed, as at that time there was no one there to
dispute his rights. He made a fine selection of land in the valley which contained some native timber and here
he laid the foundation of his first cabin. At that time there were many Indians who inhabited this portion of the
state, and though apparently friendly, they were always ready to steal. Game of all kinds was plentiful and wild
beasts roamed the country. After the close of the Civil War, however, emigrants began flocking to this fertile
valley and soon the choice land was claimed. During one of Mr. Wagner's absences to Junction City to hold his
job and purchase supplies, his wife met with one the many strange incidents of that day. His wife always
remained on the claim and one night her solitude was broken by Indians outside. Becoming frightened, she fled
from a side door, ran to the river and swam the icy waters to the near William Rehberg homestead, the home of
Mr. Wagner's sister and her husband.
As time passed the country became more settled and after the establishment of Junction City and Salina, the
settlers were permitted to enjoy more of the conveniences of city life. Mr. Wagner made improvements on his
homestead and added to his land possessions. His homestead was located one and a quarter miles south of
the city of Bennington.
Mr. Wagner was married to Maria Ulrich in 1863 at Junction City, Kansas. She us an ambitious young lady and
liked by all who knew her, for she became the "good angel" of the community. She acted in the capacity of
nurse and midwife to all the sickness of the frontier, cholera being the worst. The sister of Mr..Wagner, the Mrs.
William F. Rehberg, died with her two children of cholera and were buried on the hill overlooking the Rehberg
homestead. Mr. Rehberg was the father of Theodore Rehberg living in the present city of Bennington (1966).
The Wagner's never had any children, but raised Ruena (Quinn) Richter, whose mother, Crystal (Rjchter)
Wagner, was a sister of Mr. Wagner and died while Ruena was a small child. Ruena lived with her uncle until
her marriage to H.J. Quinn, the father of Clarence and Arthur Quinn now of Bennington (1966). The Wagners
also raised an orphan boy, Charles Blake.
The Wagner home was always a meeting place of old and young for dances and parties of gayety during the
frontier days until the passing of Mrs. Wagner in 1887 at 56 years of age. She remained faithful to her Lutheran
Seven years after the death of his wife, Mr.. Wagner moved from his homestead to a new farm two miles west of
Bennington that was his home until his death. He brought his second wife to this new home. Mr. Wagner was
married to Mrs. Emma (Sieberth) Mierose in 1894 at St. Louis, Missouri. Making a home and sharing of his
unending love he helped to raise her two children, Martha, later Mrs. Charles Russel of Bennington; and
George Mierose, now deceased.
In 1896, September 7, their first child was born, Albert Leonard William and in Febraury 11, 1901, a son, Harry,
was horn. Mr. Wagner remained true to the teachings of the Reformed Church of his fathers, associated his
politics to the Democratic party, was broadminded and c6ntributed much to his community in early frontier days
by promoting towards the need of a banking system which was later chartered as the Bennington State Bank in
1884. In 1897, he became a director and served until his death in 1912. In 1873, he contributed a parcel of land
by contract and deed to Isreal Markley of Minneapolis, Kansas, upon which to build a dam to contribute power
for a saw and grist mill, one and one-half miles south of Bennington. This later became a source of power for
the Bennington city lights in 1913.
The cause of education has ever found in him a warm friend and for thirteen years he served on the school
board and has also filled other minor public offices. He was an outstanding farmer, raising some of the finest
cattle in the community and had fine orchards and vineyards on his farms. He was honorable in his business
dealings, loyal in his friendships and his fidelity to duty in all the relations of life gained him respect and good
will as a pioneer.
Mrs. Emma Wagner with her children continued to live on the farm until 1917 when she moved to a home in
northeast Bennington. She served as director of the Bennington State Bank, taking the place of her husband;
she served until her death in 1927.
In 1918, the son, Albert L. began a career of farming. He lacked the advice and coaching of his father who had
passed on while Albert was still a teenager. However, with determination and hard labor he began on the farm
of his youth, two miles west of Bennington to farm. On July 16, 1919 he drove to Salina with his fine horse and
buggy and his future life partner, Angie C. Harder, daughter of H.J. and Mary Harder, to he married by the Rev.
Van Ordan of the First Presbyterian Church.
On January 11, 1923, their son, Albert Julius, was born. In July,.1923, they moved to the father's homestead
south of Bennington, Kansas. The house contained the second log cabin with added improvements by the
original founder, Albert William Wagner. On July 27,1926, a daughter, Twila Geniva, was born completing the
Up until this time all farm work had been done by horse-drawn machinery, but this gave way to tractor power in
A new and modern house was built in 1928 beside the log cabin home which was later torn down. The greatest
disaster of Mr. A. L. Wagner's farm life was the great flood of 1951. Through the foresight of his father, the
homestead had been built on one of the highest points of the farm. It had withstood all previous floods which
had never reached the building sites. However, the swirling waters of 1951 surrounded the foundation of the
home, but caused no serious damage.
Mr. Wagner spent his full life in farming and preparing for the future of his children. Albert Julius (A.J.)
graduated from Emporia Teacher's College at Emporia, Kansas, with a B.S. in band and school music and
education. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942 as an engineer, ensign, serving four years in World War ll in the
Pacific. He taught three years of high school band and chorus. He was married in 1945 to Patricia Hamilton,
daughter of Irvin and Alice (Baker) Hamilton. Patricia was at the time serving as a Wave in the U.S. Navy of
World War II. Together with their children, Albert Michael, Patricia Alice, Donald Irvin and William Jay, they live
on the old Wagner homestead since the death of A. J.'s father, Albert L. Wagner in 1963.
The daughter, Twila Geniva, graduated from Kansas University in Lawrence, Kansas , with a B.S. in piano and
education. She accepted a position as a music supervisor in Arvin California, in 1950. She has continued her
teaching career and is now employed in Goleta Valley Junior High, Santa Barbara,. California. She was married
August 6,1950, to Thomas H. Tipton and with their sons,. Lionel and Kyle, reside in Santa Barbara, California.
The second son of Albert William, Harry Wagner, was married to Emma Horn, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs.
Charles Horn, Sr., on June 1, 1922. They made their home on the original farm of his father two miles west of
Bennington where Harry began a career of farming. Possessing the characteristics of his father,. he is a neat
and efficient farmer.
On June, 1933., a son, Leslie Lee was born. He attended the Bennington schools and after graduation he took
up farming with his father. Leslie was married January 1, 1953, to Gloria Comfort, daughter of Frank and Angie
Comfort of Wells, Kansas. Gloria and Leslie, with their daughter, Connie Sue, reside on a farm four miles
Thus our curtain closes on the several generations of Wagners.