Bio: Karnitz Family (Reunion - 1977)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Karnitz, Butler, McGraw, Durst, Dux, Smetana, Wallace, Mueller, Rogers, Blix, Lemen, Wren

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 7/07/1977

Karnitz Family (Reunion - 1977)

It was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, Sunday, July 3, when the extended Karnitz family gathered to celebrate “100 Years On the Farm.”

A family reunion brought relatives of all ages (from 3 weeks to mid-80’s) from as far away as Arizona and California to join in the fest, which had been in the planning for a year. Others came from Indiana, Illinois and the surrounding Wisconsin area.

It was in 1877 that Frederick Karnitz brought his wife, Johanna, and four children to Neillsville, after having spent their first three years in America struggling to find sufficient work in Lake Bluff, Il. They bought 120 acres in Pine Valley from Wallace Butler, who had homesteaded the land only a year before, and set out to clear the rocky, wooded area.

The land has been farmed without interruption for these hundred years by the Karnitz’ family. Frederick’s grandson, Thone, and his wife, Selma, are the farm’s current residents. Their son Kenneth coordinated most of the arrangements for the event.

A civil defense tent he rented was raised between the house and the barn to shelter (or swelter, as the case may be) the gathering as they ate, sang, reminisced and gave thanks. In addition, the barn had been cleared for dancing, and saw considerable activity despite the hot, muggy weather.

When the tables had been cleared after dinner, a short, informal thanksgiving service was conducted by the Rev. William McGraw, a relative to the family by marriage. He spoke of three reasons for celebrating; first to remember, and commemorate the family’s history; second, to reaffirm our relationship in one another as family members; and, finally, to give thanks for a century of good fortune.

Group singing of familiar hymns and songs followed, led by James Durst to be accompaniment of his guitar. James is the grand-nephew of Thone and Selma Karnitz, and a professional singer-song writer living in Chicago.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was when James sang an original ballad he had composed especially for the occasion, chronicling the Karnitz family history in 22 verses, from when they left Germany in 1874 until the day of the centenary celebration.

Master of Ceremonies for the day was LaVern Durst, son of Walter and Alma (Karnitz, Thone’s sister) Durst, who reminisced with numerous attendees, in the fashion of an informal interview, about past occasions for celebration on the farm, including the births and weddings of many of those in attendance. LaVern was even able to coax Thone to sing one of his amusing original songs, to the delight of everyone.

The afternoon sped quickly by and a great deal of fun, warmth and fellowship was shared by the whole family. Those who attended were as follows: Thone and Selma Karnitz, Kenneth and Virginia Karnitz, Walter and Alma (Karnitz) Durst, Dorothy Karnitz and Art and Elsie Dux, Neillsville; Bernard and Lois (Karnitz) Smetana, Lori, Lisa, Mark, Brian and Beth, Black River Falls; Jake and Lillian (Karnitz) Wallace, Lake Villa, Il.; Robert and Janice Karnitz, Tom and Scott, Barren; Jon and Jone Karnitz and Chad, Wisconsin Rapids; Kerry and Joy Karnitz and Kristen (three-weeks-old), Wausau; Mel and Lynette (Karnitz) Mueller, Fall Creek; Cindy Karnitz and friend, Steve, Eau Claire; Ronald and Mary Karnitz, Jeffrey and Jennifer, Barren; Michael and Beverlee (Karnitz) Rogers and Chauncie, Fresno, CA.; LaVern and Marie Durst and James Durst, Northbrook, Il.; Lewis Durst, Scottsdale, Az.; Dr. Fred M. and Marjorie (Durst) Blix and Paul Blix, Zionsville, In.; Judith Durst, North Hollywood, Ca.; the Rev. William McGraw and DR. Susanne Blix, Pittsboro, In.; Clifford and Marcia (Blix) Lemen, Seattle, Wa.; Elmer and Leona Wren, West Bend.



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