NATOMA — Across America, Hackerott descendants continue to connect through correspondence and through the annual invitation for a two-day reunion in the small rural community of Natoma. Nestled in Paradise Valley along Paradise Creek, the once thriving community gives a unique sense of place in the historic background of the German immigrant family. Each year in June, they reunite in celebrating their Kansas pioneer heritage by revisiting the family’s history of determination, perseverance and rugged individualism in taming the prairie.

History once again was relived during the 60th annual reunion June 4 and 5. Twenty-six descendants gathered Saturday afternoon for a homestead tour with family historians Mary Ann and Roger Beisner. An introduction gave an overview of German immigrants August and Marie (Kruger) Hackerott, who with their nine children, left their homeland of Germany in 1842. They braved the Atlantic Ocean for freedom in America, settling in Dupage County, Ill. Thirty years later, three siblings set their sights on the Kansas homestead movement.

Traveling by oxen-drawn wagon, August Hackerott and his family arrived in Osborne County in 1872. A sister, Lisette (Hackerott) Pfortmiller, her husband, John Henry, and children joined them in 1877, and a brother, Ernest Hackerott, and his family in 1878.

Under a clear blue sky, the Beisners guided a caravan of vehicles along dusty roads to the original family homesteads and farms. Encompassing a sweep of time and a visual culture of a bygone era, they envisioned the pioneers’ embrace of the Great Plains. Traveling across the countryside, past wheat fields and through pasturelands, the tour reached each site.

Documented stories revealed the Hackerott’s dedication and determination to settle the Great Plains, undeterred by extreme weather conditions, toil in breaking sod, pestilence and illness. With information contained in the Hackerott Heritage Book III by Mary Ann Beisner, family history was bridged to the present time. In mid-afternoon, refreshments were enjoyed at the Beisners’ Victorian home located along Kill Creek. The two story house was built by Edward Hackerott in 1907; outbuildings include a native stone barn dating from 1899.

On Sunday, 60 family descendants from the original pioneers gathered at the Natoma Community Center for a social hour, dinner, business meeting, special recognitions and music. On display were Hackerott Heritage Book I, II & III, albums with hundreds of pages of history, plus photographs from the 1800s to the present — and also maps of Osborne County homesteads, townships and towns.

Unique birth and marriage certificates were shared by Joyce Clark, Hutchinson. Antiques were displayed by Herb Hachmeister. Mike Bristol, Osborne, displayed a rifle passed down from his great-grandfather Otto Hackerott. Also, on display was a hand-stitched friendship quilt from Bertha (Hackerott) Hachmeister, who was born in a Kansas “soddie” on Flag Day, June 14, 1883. Banquet tables were graced with checkered cloths and Sunflower bouquets by Arielle McLarty.

Throughout the weekend, history was enhanced by personal stories and new reports of goodwill, marriages, births, military service and deaths. Information from the past and the present continues to add threads to the rich tapestry of their heritage.

Christian faith continues to be the center of the Hackerott descendants. Family members joined Daryl Larson, McPherson, for prayer and the Lord’s Prayer. Fellowship was enjoyed during a dinner catered by Bigge’s. The annual meeting was brought to order by Daryl Larson, president. Roll call by Ginger DeBey included an introduction of each family member with name, occupation and connection to the original pioneers. Special recognitions were given for members present: eldest gentleman, Orville Pfortmiller, 86, Natoma; and eldest lady, Lucille Snodgrass, 83, Dodge City; youngest member, Patrick Henry McLarty, 2, Albuquerque, N.M.; longest married, Mary Ann and Roger Beisner, 59 years; greatest distance of 1,700 miles, Bob Hackerott, Keene, N.H. Mary Ann and Roger Beisner and son, Brian Beisner, Olathe, were recognized for their “labor of love” in compiling history in the Hackerott Heritage Book III. Newly elected officers are: Daryl Larson, president, McPherson; Laah Tucker, vice president, Natoma; Ginger DeBey, secretary, Cawker City; with unanimous applause for Mary Ann Beisner, historian.

Ginger DeBey and Mary Ann Beisner presented family correspondence from across America, including the recent appointment of Seth Hachmeister to West Point Military Academy. Recognition with gratitude and applause was given to all family veterans and military servicemen and women of the U.S. Armed Forces.

In closing, Larson and Tucker invited everyone to join in singing a Kansas tribute with “Home on the Range” and “God Bless America”. The songs of inspiration describe the heartfelt blessing of the patriot dreams realized in the descendants of the pioneer Hackerott family who gather once a year in the Kansas Heartland to celebrate and give thanks.

The 2017 celebration will be June 3 and 4 in Natoma.