In the summer of 1918, during World War I, a man came to the Theiss farm and said he was the state milk inspector. He had never been there before, but they took him at face value. Anti-German sentiment was very prevalent in the United States at this time and there were several house and barn burnings in Johnson County that appeared to be the result of this. The man looked over the Theiss milk operation and left late in the day. The next morning, Peter Theiss went out to the old quarry. A heavy storm had blown many bee gums into the reservoir below and with line and grappling hooks he began to reclaim the lost property.
There was considerable excitement in Warrensburg last Sunday afternoon when word was sent to town that Peter Theiss just north of town, was dead and that his body had been recovered from an old quarry hole just back of his residence. Mr. Theiss went to do some work with his bees about 9 o'clock in the morning. and was not seen until pulled out of the old quarry hole about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The family became alarmed at Mr. Theiss' prolonged absence and had searched the place for him. Luther Hatfield and J.W. Lawhorn neighbors were called to assist in the search. About 2 o'clock, one of the Theiss children discovered Mr. Theiss' hat on the ledge of the quarry hole and as soon as possible they secured a skiff and proceeded to drag the hole. They soon recovered the body.
Coroner D. E. Shy and Prosecuting Attorney Rothwell went to the scene of the tragedy and decided that the death was accidental. The old quarry hole is located near the residence and Mr. Theiss kept his bees very close to the old hole. The sides are perpendicular a ledge being down a few feet. It is presumed Mr. Theiss went to look after some bee hives which had been blown into the hole and while there slipped and fell to the ledge below, striking his head, knocking him unconscious. Then he fell into the water and died immediately. As the cap was found on the ledge of the quarry hole, this theory is reasonable.
The funeral services were held from the family home in charge of Rev. Roy Priest.
There are and have been so many rumors in regard to the death of the late Peter Theiss that it is well to mention the fact. From the best information to be had, it is only justice to say that the rumors are entirely without foundation. His death was purely accidental. In such cases there is entirely too much talking.
After her husband's death, "...Mrs. Theiss rallied, took charge of the farm which by then, well-stocked and grown to many times its original acreage, demanded good management, kept her children in school and faced the world with a brave face if with a sad heart. But the shock was too great. Mary the oldest daughter was away at school and Peter's widow knew nothing of the business part of the farm. But Mary was well prepared for what was to come, and with her mother's blessing she took over the management of the farm. Seven children were at home at this time including a brother Johnny who died of pneumonia at age five the winter after Peter's death.
"After that the mother simply grieved herself to death. A few months later, she lay beside her husband. The Theiss home, still with three small children, had no directing head. "There was only one thing to do," Mary Theiss told me, "and that was to go ahead, keep the children together and do the things that father and mother had planned to do.
"...Mary had been operating on a strong faith in God and sheer determination. She asked the judge in Warrensburg to make her the legal guardian of the minor children and the judge agreed. And so this "slip of a girl" became administrator of the Theiss estate; but more than that, a mother to her motherless small brothers and sister and a counselor for the older ones. Soon, all the children younger than Mary were baptized and attending Sacred Heart regularly because of her influence.
"As the months went by it was found that many of a rural community were looking to this unassuming young woman for leadership and constructive planning. In every essential a home maker, Mary Theiss developed into a successful farm manager. There were 22 Jerseys in the farm herd, many of them registered, and every day cream went to Warrensburg and the owners were rewarded with a substantial check. Calves and hogs got the milk and the combination proved a profitable one. "
"I figure that our getting ahead depends a good bit more on what we do here on our own farm than on what the lawmakers do at Washington or Jefferson City," Mary said.The 140-acre farm was mostly rough pasture land, too rocky to cultivate. They put 30 acres in corn and 11 acres in hay. The silo was the mainstay for feed. Cost accounts on several enterprises helped to solve management problems and financial records of all transactions were kept.
Boys' and girl's club work appealed to May as opportunity to develop farm enthusiasm n her flock. There were no boys' and girs' clubs, so she went out among the neighbors and organized some. And on the piano in the neat living-room of the Theiss home were three engraved silver cups, all denoting state championships won by members of the family
"Mary encouraged her brothers and sisters to join poultry clubs. Johnson County folks never had exhibited much club enthusiasm but it soon began to flourish where it had never grown before. Frank won fourth place with his Poland's in 1919 and came back in 1920. More over he had the honor of placing second in the race for the pep trophy. But sister Anna went one better. After a contest which was warm from the start to the finish, the coveted Pep trophy for leadership was assigned to the Johnson County Poultry Club and it adorned the Theiss piano for Anna was the winning leader. "I was the happiest girl in all Missouri," she wrote. "But club membership has meant more than the winning of prizes."
"Their sister Mary took up the work of encouragement and inspiration. Club work had become part of the lives of the Theiss children. Their teammates were just members of an enlarged family The youngsters were absorbing information and obtaining training that was to prove valuable. "You will be surprised at hearing from me," Mary Theiss wrote to John Case, "but I wanted you to know what the club work has meant to us. Frank's training in record keeping has proved of great value in keeping our farm accounts. and Anna has become a regular little business woman. Your friendship and encouragement has meant even more to Frank tho. If it had not been for the help and encouragement that came through our club associations, I doubt that it would have been possible for us to continue the home life and the work as we have done."
"Untiring industry was a part of the Theiss family life. Every hand was needed on the big farm but sister Mary visioned for her brothers and sister the education which she craved but had been denied.so over to Columbia journeyed Sophia, the second girl to take the short course in home economics and there too went William to study mechanics during the winter months. At home the others did double duty. Frank took a short course in agriculture. "I want to be a farmer and a good one,: Frank said.
"It will mean getting up earlier in the morning and harder work for all of us at home," said Mary, "but if it is humanly possible, every one of the children is going to get an education. All of us are willing to sacrifice to bring this about."
The Kurtz family returned to Warrensburg and Sacred Heart before 1950 to care for Clara Pickel in her old age. Madeline was always a close friend of the Theiss family and after William Kurtz died she was a guest in the Theiss homes for holiday dinners,
Frank Theiss and Madeline Kurtz were good friends in their twilight years, but Frank said he would not consider wishing himself on any woman in his health condition at that time. Frank did return to the church in the last few years of his life while almost blind and in a nursing home.
Henry Theiss (above) was the oldest son of Peter Theiss. Henry was married and gone from the farm before his father's death, so, although they attended the Quarry School with their aunts and uncles, his sons Robert and Albert were not brought up on Prospect Hill Farm under the guidance of Mary Theiss. Not as much is known about their childhood adventures.
The below wedding announcement is interesting because Robert never married Margie Hachenberg. His first wife's name was Jean Kesterson.