Meet the Kranszes - Part 2

Vol. II No. 1 - FALL 1989

The Tradition Continues

By: Gloria L. Evenson

Five of the children born to Nicholas and Margareth Kransz lived to adulthood and, obviously, retained their father’s knack for success and being in the right place at the right time.

Nicholas Henry, Peter P., Henry P., Mary and Annie were born on the family homestead known as Seven Mile House (built 1848) at Clark and Ridge, seven miles from downtown Chicago. They attended St. Henry’s parochial school on Devon and Ridge.

Reared in the family’s Luxembourg tradition of vegetable farming, the three Kransz sons later went on to further success in other occupations. Though rural, their life was not secluded. Avid political and civic interests of their father, Nicholas Senior (who is known as the first permanent settler in Edgewater) and frequent use of the family home for public meetings gave the second-generation Kranszes early exposure to the workings of society.

Fourth-generation Lois Kransz, granddaughter to Peter, has described the family as “progressive, competitive and shrewd, with very high-class tastes. If one got something new, another had to outdo him.” Family togetherness was not a priority, and it was normal for the relatives not to speak to each other much of the time.

The “1897 Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois,” at the Conrad Sulzer Regional Library indicates that Nicholas Henry Kransz, born October 9, 1851, did farm work until 1879 when he entered the insurance business. He worked for the American Insurance Company and the Home Fire Insurance Company. His interests included the Republican party, Catholic Order of Foresters, National Union and School Board of Lake View.

Marriage to a Sophia Dilger (of Prussian descent) October 7, 1880, produced three children: Charles, who died at the tender age of eight, Lydia and Margaret. The Album further describes Nicholas Junior and his family as “…all members of Saint Henry’s Church and most estimable people.”

Lois Kransz adds that Lydia remained single all her life and Margaret married a Marty Beecher and had twins.

According to Lois, Nicholas Junior had a small house on Clark early in his marriage, a later home on Hood Avenue and then an exquisite residence, typical of Kransz preferences, on Granville and Greenview. He is buried in St. Henry’s Cemetery, whose records indicate he died in 1909.

Peter P. Kransz, grandfather to Lois, made a name for himself, among other things, as Consul General to Luxembourg, a seasoned traveler, phenomenal storyteller and owner of the first brick house north of Lawrence Avenue, located at 5896 N. Ridge. In this house, featured in John Drury’s Old Chicago Houses, Peter lived his entire life with his wife Katarina [Becker]. Together they raised two children - Alois (Lois’s father) and Elsie. Alois conveniently settled his family in a house at 5888 N. Ridge, right next door to Peter’s.

Katarina Becker Kransz was from a farm family which lived on Wolcott and Peterson. The tiny Becker farmhouse still stands at approximately 125 years of age and, according to Lois, remained in the family until some 20 years ago.

Peter Kransz, like his father and brothers, went from farming into the insurance business. The “1890 Chicago City Directory” lists a Peter P. Kransz at 84 LaSalle Street under “Insurance Agents.”

Growing up next door to Peter, Lois remembers her grandfather as outgoing and opinionated, but with a great sense of humor. He loved to travel and go to lodge meetings.

Peter’s travels and association with numerous organizations eventually led him to become Consul General to Luxembourg. For his work as Consul, Peter “was presented the decoration of the Order of the Oak Leaves by the Grand Duchess of Charlotte in 1924,” as noted in “The Lake View Saga,” published by the Lake View Bank in 1974.

The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, of course, saw Peter with a booth at which he demonstrated the benefits of Luxembourg china, leather gloves and other products.

Gregarious Peter enjoyed the many VIP functions connected with the Fair. He is also said to have traveled to Europe several times, made many visits to Luxembourg and regularly wintered in California. His wife Katarina, on the other hand, completely loathed travel and stayed home. Peter’s daughter-in-law (Lois’s mother) often accompanied him at social functions. She enjoyed the fanfare, though people often stared when she was introduced as “Mrs. Kransz” because of the apparent age difference.

Peter’s lifestyle gave him much to talk about and he loved to tell stories. “You could almost put a nickel in him and out would come a story,” recalls Lois. He was known to stretch the truth a bit, but was fascinating to listen to. Peter’s narratives ranged from elaborate details of a childhood meeting with Abraham Lincoln (when an 1860 Re-publican rally was held at Seven Mile House) to tales about an unusual chicken from which he could make chicken soup every Sunday by holding it up to the light and letting sun melt through it into a pot.

Peter loved radio. The Lone Ranger and Cubs ball games were favorites of his. When he became hard-of-hearing later in life, he would turn the volume up so loud the ball game could be heard clear across the yard at Alois’s house. Lois says it’s a good thing Katarina was also hard-of-hearing, “otherwise it would have driven her nuts!”

Another family story - something that nearly did drive Alois Kransz nuts - is about how Peter insisted on tampering with a new thermostat Alois had installed. It had been made very clear to Peter that Alois didn’t want the thermostat touched. Kranszes, of course, had a way of getting what they wanted so, when Peter was cold, he took a bottle of milk out of the refrigerator and held it near the thermostat until heat came on. He never touched a thing!

Peter died around 1945 and Lois believes that he was 87 or 88. Katarina lived until about 1953, to age 93.

An “Edgewater History Series” article written by LeRoy Blommaert for the Edgewater Community Council mentions that Peter’s brick house stood until 1958, and Alois’s brick house to the south remained until 1964. Both properties, the article states, were taken over by the Senn Nursing Home facility.

Not much is known of Lois’s two grand-aunts, Mary and Annie. Lois recalls that Mary was wed to a Mr. Weber of National Brick Company, lived on Kenmore opposite the Sovereign Hotel and had a daughter named Creseda. Annie married a Mr. Schrup who sold fire insurance and later moved to Dubuque.