Ninety people participated in the Zeisset Family Reunion Aug. 2-4 in Leonardville and Clay Center. It was the 50th anniversary of the first reunion.
Most attendees were descendants of Jakob Friedrich Zeisset and Margarethe Mueller Zeisset. Their six orphaned children immigrated to the Leonardville area from Germany between 1884 and 1893.
The 2019 Zeisset Reunion began Friday evening with an informal gathering at Nelson’s Landing in Leonardville. The venue for Saturday’s activities was Life’s Finer Moments Lodge, southwest of Clay Center.
Saturday’s reunion program included a series of presentations by Ray Zeisset of Lincoln, Nebraska; Paul Zeisset of Alexandria, Virginia; and Loretta Hoerman of Topeka, tracing the history of the 24 Zeisset reunions held across the 50 years starting in 1969. Richard Zeisset, Granite City, Illinois, described the branch of the family that descended from Johann Zeisset, an uncle of Jakob Friedrich Zeisset.
Many reunion attendees wore commemorative T-shirts featuring a design created by Stephen Gilpin, Iola. The design was adapted from an old photograph of the six immigrants and was also featured on an anniversary cake served Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday evening, Mary Ann Fowles and Stephanie Wolf, both of Clay Center, presented a “Name that Tune” contest of music from the 1940s. Loretta Hoerman and Gay Stewart, Manhattan, presented flute duets. A video sent by Sherry Nanninga Walker of Colorado Springs, Colorado, described the impact family reunions have played in her life.
Sunday events began at the Leonardville United Methodist Cemetery, where five of the six immigrant siblings and many of their descendants are buried. A brief memorial meditation was presented by Ray and Carolyn Zeisset, concluding with an instrumental duet by Alex and Conrad Hoffman, Omaha, Nebraska. Most in the group were seeing for the first time a new stone cemetery marker, manufactured and installed with funds raised by family members after the 2016 reunion. Family member Roger Potts, trustee of the cemetery, coordinated the sign project.
The group gathered at the Leonardville United Methodist Church for visiting, attending the morning service and sharing a catered and potluck dinner. The morning service included a surprise visit by a group from the Little Apple Barbershop Chorus arranged by chorus and family member Terry Nanninga, Axtell. The Sunday afternoon program included a presentation on the Protestant Reformation and Zeisset History by Ray and Carolyn Zeisset, focusing on Mennonites and Huguenots and their relationship to Zeisset ancestors. The reunion was organized and emceed by Paul Zeisset.
The oldest family member at the reunion was Merlin Potts of Leonardville. While more than half of attendees came from Kansas, other family members came from 14 other states and from as far away as Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington state.
Ethel and Sam Smoots of Gig Harbor, Washington, came the farthest distance.
The largest group in attendance was 21 descendants of Bettie Zeisset Hoerman. Other families included 18 from the Henry Zeisset family, 17 from the Louise Zeisset Swart family, 15 from the Jacob Zeisset family, 9 from the Elizabeth Zeisset Weller family, 4 from the Bertha Zeisset Nanninga family, and 4 from the more distantly related Johann Zeisset family of Illinois.
The program concluded with the singing of “Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” a tradition across the reunions.