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Recently I connected with Susan Vesper, a 5th cousin. She alerted me to an error in my Ancestry tree and we’ve been trading data and photos ever since. When I added Susan to my tree, I did a little more research on her lineage. She descends from Johann Wilhelm Vesper, my ggg grandfather Frederick Vesper’s brother. Three of Johann Wilhelm’s sons came to America in the late 1800s and they lived for a few years with their uncles Frederick Vesper and George Hetzler (who had already come to Canton, Missouri) before moving to Topeka, Kansas. I already knew a little about these brothers from some of the research by Bessie Brose Miller in her Brose-Vesper genealogy.

I was curious, however, because, around the same time, my Freyhofers had settled in Riley County, Kansas, not far from Topeka.

It occurred to me that there might be a coincidental crossing of these then-unrelated branches (my Vesper blood doesn’t connect to my Freyhofer line until 3 generations later with my grandparents Homer Wagner (the Vesper line) and Louise Weiler (the Freyhofer line)).

In the 1860s, right before the Civil War, the Freyhofers moved from Indiana to Kansas Territory to help ensure it entered the Union as a free state. They built new farms on land grants in the wilderness of Riley County and then enlisted on the side of the Union when the war broke out. William Freyhofer was active in local and state politics and became a well known successful farmer in Riley County.

William Freyhofer:


My ggg grandfather Frederick Vesper’s nephews – Henry, Fred and William Vesper –  left Canton, Missouri for Topeka, Kansas in the 1870s.

Nephew Fred Vesper:

The Vesper brothers were bakers and they immediately started an impressive new bakery called Vesper & Co. Star Bakery.

Through the years the Vesper brothers had several popular establishments in downtown Topeka, including a restaurant, as well as the bakery where they made Vesper branded bread that they also distributed to other grocery stores and delivered around town in wagons emblazened with their bakery name. They baked specialty cakes, made confections and candy, and had a popular ice cream parlor. They even sold Christmas trees.

Topeka, the state capital, was an easy 40-minute train ride on the Union Pacific Atlantic Express from Manhattan in Riley County.  In 1886 William Freyhofer was elected to the state Legislature, so he spent a lot of time in Topeka. It is highly likely that he stopped in for a quick bite at the Vesper & Co. lunch counter only two blocks from the Capital steps when he was in town. Two of his daughters also lived there for a while, and he and his wife visited them regularly.

The Freyhofers may have met the Vespers considering how prominent the Vespers were. The Freyhofers likely enjoyed some Vesper bread or ice cream at some point. They couldn’t help but know the Vesper brand name or see one of their many daily ads in the paper (I did find one Topeka paper with a small article mentioning William Freyhofer running for Riley County Treasurer on the same page as a Henry Vesper Bakery ad). The Freyhofers probably saw Henry Vesper’s horse-drawn bread delivery wagons trotting around town. Both families were active in common pursuits including cattle, horses, and sports that might have crossed their paths. Or William and Henry may have simply passed each other as strangers on the street and tipped their hats to each other.

It’s fun to speculate and marvel at how small the world really is.

I’m working on a new chapter with lots more info about the Vespers, both in Canton, and in Topeka.

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