Historical Details

Fernau, John Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 11/19/2020


by Helen Veirs

John Joseph Fernau, son of Henry and Martha Coffman Fernau, was born at Ells­worth, Kan., July 17, 1878, and there grew to manhood. His mother died when he was a small boy and he was, as he said, educated in the "school of hard knocks".

On April 26, 1881 Anna Christina was born to Martha and Henry Strube in Bright­enbach, Germany.   When she was seven, the family migrated to America and settled on a farm near Baker, Kan. Here she grew up and attended school.

John Fernau and Christina Strube were united in marriage at St. Joseph, Mo. June 30, 1899. Fourteen children were born to this union--Henry John, Isabel Jeanette, Florence Henrietta, Floyd Frederick, George Henry, Edith Christina, Harry Martin, Louise Margaret, Ivan Woodrow, Dale Howard, Walter Charles, Bonnie Doris, Robert Lawrence and Betty Ione. Four of the sons, Ivan, Dale, Walter and Robert served in the armed forces during World War II.

Mr. and Mrs. Fernau moved from Kansas to Wyoming, arriving in Lusk Feb. 16, 1900. Lusk was only 14 years old at that time and Wyoming had been admitted to the Union as a state 10 years earlier.

From 1902 to 1910, John Fernau was manager of the city light and power plant and also held the office of city marshall. Later he served for four years on the Lusk town council and proved himself a conscientious and faithful citizen. In 1911 Mr. Fernau established a plumbing and heating business, which he operated until his death May 11, 1931.

John was always a good provider for his large family and a kind father.

The first Fernau home in Lusk was a small cottage built on the rear of a lot on Elm Street. As the family grew, a larger home was built on the front of the same lot, and this home has always been occupied by some member of the Fernau family.  Mother Fernau continued to live in this house for more than 60 years, keeping house and cul­tivating a large and productive garden, as well as many beautiful flowers. Her yard was always greatly admired and once she  grew a peach tree from a discarded peach pit.      

When her youngest daughter Betty married Voyne Morgan, they continued to live in the family home with Mother Fernau, and are still residing there.  

After the death of her husband, during the depression years, Mrs. Fernau found her­self without a substantial income and a number of younger children to provide for and educate. By hard work and careful plan­ning she was able to meet this challenge, without welfare help of any kind, and her children attest to her success as the head of the family.  Her home was always a happy one, where friends were ever welcome. With little money available for amusement, the family planned their own fun, and at one time even had a family orchestra--there was never a dull moment in the Fernau home.

Mrs. Fernau passed away in Lusk Jan. 22, 1969, at the age of 87, having spent most of her adult life in this community. The many tributes paid her at this time showed to what extent she was admired and loved. She was laid to rest beside her husband and several children in the local cemetery.

There are four surviving children from the large family, two of whom still reside in Wyoming:  Walter, who is co-publisher of the Lusk Herald; Betty Fernau Morgan, who is the Niobrara County Clerk. Dale is a retired businessman living in Crawford, Nebr. and Bonnie Fernau Bartlett's home is in Arvada, Colo.

A respected and loved family, the name "Fernau" surely deserves an honored spot in the annals of Niobrara County history.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Fernau, Anna (04/26/1881 - 01/22/1969) View Record
Obituary Fernau, John (07/17/1878 - 05/11/1931) View Record