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Buchanan County MOGenWeb Project

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Biographies of Buchanan County Residents:

Theodore J. A. Benkendorf

Transcribed by Danielle Thompson

From the History of Buchanan County and the City of St Joseph and Representative Citizens


THEODORE J. A. BENKENDORF, president of the Benkendorf Brick Company of St. Joseph, and one of the large manufacturers of Buchanan County, was born at Watertown, Wisconsin, June 20, 1866, and is a son of August G. and Johanna (ARNDT) Benkendorf.

August Benkendorf, the paternal grandfather of our subject, was a man of prominence in Germany, where he owned a large estate which still remains in the possession of the family. Years ago the family belonged to the German nobility and in the 15th century it migrated to Russia, where it became wealthy and influential. The grandfather was the first of the family to return to Germany, and there, in the province of Pomerania, his son, August G., was born in 1840.

August G. Benkendorf came to America in 1856 and entered into partnership with his older brother, who had come to America in 1854, establishing a milling business at Watertown, Wisconsin. He remained there in business until the outbreak of the Civil War. He was one of the first to enlist in Company E, Third Reg., Wisconsin Vol. Cav., of which he was made corporal, and he remained in the service with the Third Regiment until it was mustered out. He then reenlisted at Benton Barracks, at St. Louis, Missouri, in Company A, Third Reg., Wisconsin Vol. Cav., and served until the close of the war, at all times displaying that courage and valor that makes the good soldier. He was present at the massacre by guerrillas of Federal soldiers at Baxter Springs, Kansas, and was one of the few members of Company E to come out of that conflict alive. At the battle of Prairie Grove his horse was shot from under him, after which he became ill and was sent to the hospital at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory. His service was one long continuation of exposure and hardship, but all was valiantly borne, with no thought but the final conquest of the enemy.

After the close of the war, Mr. Benkendorf returned to Watertown and embarked in a general mercantile business, which he continued until 1878, when he removed to Western Minnesota, becoming one of the pioneer settlers of Nobles County, where he secured a homestead farm and operated it for three years. In 1881 he removed to St. Joseph, Missouri, and opened up a hotel on Messanie street, where he remained for some years, and then entered the employ of M. K. Goetz Brewing Company, with which firm he continued until a few years since, when failing health, doubtless caused by his hard army experiences, compelled him to retire from active life. He is a valued member of Custer Post, Grand Army of the Republic; a member of Sons of Herman and of the North German Federation. He has always been an active and influential member of the Republican party.

At Watertown, Wisconsin, Mr. Beckendorf married Johanna Arndt, a native of that city, and they had eight children, of whom the oldest was our subject. The others were as follows: William F., the superintendent of the plant of the plant of the Beckendorf Brick Company; Leonora, wife of W. F. FRANKS, of St. Joseph; Isabella, deceased; Maximilian, of St. Joseph; August, Jr., of Chicago; Marie J., and Lillian, wife of William REBER, of St. Joseph. The family has been reared in the religious faith of the Lutheran Church.

Our subject, Theodore J. Benkendorf, was educated in the public schools of Watertown, and was 15 years old when his parents came to St. Joseph. He then took advantage of the commercial training afforded by the Rittner Business College, and, after completing the course, was employed in various mercantile establishments until 1891, when he entered the employ of the M. K. Goetz Brewing Company and remained with that firm as bookkeeper, for 12 years. In 1903, he went into business for himself, organizing the Binkendorf Brick Company. He bought the old Joe DAVIS tract of land in the north end of the city, where the clay supply is almost inexhaustible, and here erected a first-class modern plant with the best of facilities for the manufacture of all kinds of brick, the specialty being a fancy pressed brick. This has grown already into one of the leading industries of the city and the promise for the future is all that the stockholders of the company could desire. In addition to his interests here, Mr. Benkendorf is one of the stockholders and directors in the M. K. Goetz Brewing Company and a director in the Goetz Real Estate Company. He is a shrewd, careful business man, one whose honorable methods have won for him the confidence of the public.

On September 6, 1893, Mr. Benkendorf was married to Emma GOETZ, daughter of M. K. Goetz, of St. Joseph, and they have one son, Theodore, Jr. The family attend the Zion's Evangelical Church. Politically, Mr. Benkendorf is active in Republican circles. He belongs to the Turn-Verein, the Benton and Lotus clubs, and to Golden Cross Lodge, No. 143, K. of P.