A Kienlen Family Legend

Great-Grandmother Kienlen

Margaret Ann (Bruegger) Kienlen, ca. 1938, is seated on back steps of a house.
Margaret Ann Bruegger Kienlen,
ca. 1938

For as long as I can remember, my mother’s side of the family loved to tell stories about the quirkiness and adventures surrounding my Kienlen family ancestors. One of the most unique and delightful characters in this line of my family was Margaret Ann Bruegger (1853-1938) who was my 2X great-grandmother.

Margaret was born in Highland, Grundy County, Illinois, on 03 July 1853[1] to Alois Bruegger (1816-1872) and Maria Kirri (1820-1903) both of whom were immigrants from Switzerland.[2] In August 1872, she married John Frederick Kienlen (1849-1915).[3] Together, they raised seven children (3 sons and 4 daughters) while living and working on a farm near Edwardsville, Madison County, Illinois. In 1891, the family moved to Fort Worth, Texas where she and John Frederick ran a grocery store.[4] 

Oklahoma Territory Pioneer

Around 1895, Margaret and John Frederick left Fort Worth and moved to a farm near the town of Lexington in the newly opened Oklahoma Territory.[5] They quickly became prominent pioneer members of the community by hosting numerous social events and engaging in local politics until John Fredrick’s death in 1915.[6]

Shortly after his death, Margaret moved to Oklahoma City where she resided for the next 20+ years. Although she lived in several different homes, she was always nearby her daughter Wilhelmina “Mina” (Kienlen) Hughes and her family. During these years, Margaret was very active in the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Nova Chapter of Eastern Star.[7] She continued to live in Oklahoma City until two weeks prior to her death in 1938 when she moved back to Lexington with her daughter Anna (Kienlen) Sherman and her family.[8]

Feisty and full of life

While this overview outlines some of the major events in my Great-grandmother Kienlen’s life, it does little to capture her true character and outlook. Thankfully, my mother has several delightful memories of Margaret that reveal more about this feisty, spirited, independent, and adventurous woman.

My mother remembers that Margaret walked everywhere whether it was to nearby homes or longer treks into downtown OKC. Because Margaret and most of the other family members lived near each other, her home was often a gathering place. Of course, Great-grandmother Kienlen’s large, blue and white speckled coffee pot that always remained full of freshly brewed and generously spiked coffee likely contributed to the popularity of her home.[9]

My mother’s favorite memory of her great-grandmother is receiving a stack of romance magazines every week or so. These were Margaret’s favorite reading material that she shared with my mother when she was finished reading them. As a very young girl, my mother said it was the colorful pictures of the glamorous females on the covers that she so enjoyed.[10]

Quickie California Marriage

My personal favorite anecdote about Great-grandmother Kienlen tells of the time she met an older gentleman while riding on a train. In the story that my maternal grandmother always told about this event, Margaret was traveling to Trinidad, Colorado to visit her youngest daughter Hazel (Kienlen) Kistler when she met and fell in love with an older gentleman. Their romance was a whirlwind and they continued together on the train to Los Angeles where they decided to get married.

My mother and I both remember that this older gentleman was always described as having white hair and a white goatee which reminded those family members who actually got a chance to meet him as looking like Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chickenä fame. They also noted that he wore a white hat and carried a fancy gold-topped cane.

Marriage… What marriage?

Now, I must admit that I had gotten the idea that the quickie California marriage was just a story that had been embellished over the years and had never really happened. But, one day, while browsing marriage records in FamilySearch.org , an actual digital image of the marriage license and completed certificate popped up. The record documented that the marriage of Henry B Steward, 81, and Margaret A. Kienlen, 71, was performed by A. H. Bolton on 15 April 1925 in Inglewood, California.[11]

Evidently, their marriage was considered unusual even in California at that time. According to an article in The Los Angeles Times, “fancies turning Dan Cupid’s way in the spring does not necessarily apply only to youth…”[12] The article singled out their marriage specifically because of their ages.

I wish I could tell you what happened after the ceremony, but I can find no evidence of them living together. The family story never indicated that they did and according to the 1930 US census, Henry was living in Santa Monica, California[13] while Margaret was back in Oklahoma City.[14]  To date, I have not located any record of an annulment or divorce. What can I can say? It looks like Great-grandmother Kienlen’s whirlwind marriage didn’t have a happy romance magazine ending and simply fizzled out.


[1] Find A Grave, database with images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 22 January 2020), memorial 27801867, Margaret A Breugger Kienlen (1853-1938), Willow View Cemetery, Cleveland County, Oklahoma;  gravestone photograph added by Jan Fendley.

[2] 1860 U.S. census, Township 3, Range 5, Madison County, Illinois,  Schedule1,  p. 555, dwelling 825, family 807, Margaret Bruegger; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 January 2020); citing FHL microfilm: 803208.

[3] “Illinois, County Marriages, 1810-1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-LB2K-YZV?cc=1803970&wc=326X-PT5%3A1583390302 : accessed 22 January 2020); FHL film: 005203007; image 662 of 724; entry for John F Kienlen and Anna M Bruegger.

[4] “Edwardsville,” Alton (Illinois) Telegraph, 10 December 1891, p. 8, col. 4; image copy, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 22 January 2020).

[5] “Heart Attack Fatal to Mrs. M. A. Kienlen,” Cleveland County (Oklahoma) Rural News and The Lexington Sun, 27 January 1938, p. 3, col. 2; digital image copy, Oklahoma Historical Society, The Gateway to Oklahoma History, (http://gateway.okhistory.org : received via email 18 January 2020).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Moreland, Ardyth Joan Clark. Peoria, Arizona. Interview by Jacqueline Marshall Menasco. 05 September 2019. Interview notes. Privately held by Menasco,  [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Peoria, Arizona. 2020.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “California, County Marriages, 1850-1952,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G93H-39K4-D?i=969&cc=1804002 : 17 Jun 2020), > image #970-971 of 2524; entry for Henry B Steward and Margaret A Kienlen; county courthouses, California.

[12] “Young Man Not The Only Victim of Spring Lure,” The Los Angeles (California) Times, 16 April 1925, p. 23, col. 4; image copy, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 23 January 2020).

[13] 1930 U.S. census, Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California, population schedule, Sheet No. 2A, p. 27 (stamped), enumeration district (ED) 1502, house number 256, dwelling 36, family 38, Steward, Henry B; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 January 2020); citing FHL microfilm: 2339910.

[14] 1930 U.S. census, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, population schedule,  Sheet No. 8B, enumeration district (ED) 0106, house number 1319, dwelling 148, family 210, Kienlen, Margaret A; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 January 2020); citing FHL microfilm: 2341654.

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