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Prominent early citizens of Newton to be topic of next museum lecture

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A retired local legal professional who loves history and sharing it with others will give Kauffman Museum’s next Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum August 19.

Karen Penner, Newton, will present her illustrated program “Bernhard and Wilhemina Warkentin: Newton’s finest citizens” at 3:30 p.m. at the museum, located on the Bethel College campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Penner originally prepared the program for the international convention of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR), held in Hays in June. She is a former Kauffman Museum Board member and currently serves on the boards of Warkentin House in Newton as well as AHSGR. Warkentin House is a co-sponsor of the Sunday-Afternoon-at-the Museum program.

Bernhard Warkentin settled in Halstead in 1873, where he built Harvey County’s first gristmill. He married Wilhelmina Eisenmayer of Summerfield, Ill., in 1875. They built their large Victorian style house, located on First Street in Newton, between 1886 and 1887.

Warkentin owned mills and grain elevators in Newton, Halstead and Blackwell, Okla. He was instrumental in founding the Halstead State Bank, Kansas State Bank, Bethel Deaconess Hospital (which became Newton Medical Center) and Bethel College. Bernhard died in 1908 of an accidental gunshot wound while on a tour in the Middle East. Wilhelmina lived in their Newton home until her death in 1932.

Penner worked at Wheeler Law Office in Newton for almost 30 years before retiring. She has researched records about Warkentin House at both the Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel and the Harvey County Historical Society archives, and has made two trips to Ukraine and the Crimea to visit the region from which Bernhard Warkentin emigrated to North America in 1872. Among Penner’s passions, she says, are family, Mennonite history and sharing this history with her grandchildren.

Kauffman Museum is located at 27th and Main in North Newton. Regular museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the museum, which also includes admission to the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture,” is $3 for adults and $1.50 for children ages 6-16. More information is available by calling the museum at 316-283-1612 or visiting its Web site,

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