Ben and Anna Teply moved onto the Alexa farm in January 1921. Why?
It’s a story of neighbors, family conflict and lawsuits. Let’s take a look.
John and Katherine Alexa
John and Katherine Alexa were among the early pioneers in Washington County.
They were both born in Tabor, Bohemia, he in 1827 and Katherine Fuka in 1834. They married in 1853, and had three children in Bohemia.
In 1861 they immigrated to Michigan and had four more children, including John M and Anna. The first three and last two children pre-deceased their parents.
Alexas to Kansas
In 1873, John and Katherine Alexa and their children came to Washington County, Kansas.
They homesteaded in Little Blue Township, about seven miles south of Hanover.
They built a fine house, and John and his son John M worked the farm.
John and John M
Around the mid-1890s, John was afflicted with rheumatism and was overweight, and was incapacitated for further labor. John M ran the farm, and managed the money.
In 1902, John M married, and built a house next to his parents’ house, literally in his father’s dooryard.
Teplys and Alexas were neighbors
In 1909, Frank and Anna Teply bought a neighboring farm just east of the Alexa farm. They had previously rented a farm just west of Alexas. So the families knew each other well.
John M Alexa was John and Katherine’s son. He and Frank Teply were about the same age, and often helped each other with farm work.
Anna Alexa was John and Katherine’s daughter. She was a country school teacher from 1885 to 1915, teaching at Willowdale, Eagle, and Ballard Falls. The Teply boys attended Willowdale and Eagle, and Anna Alexa had been their teacher for several of their school years.
Anna had always lived at home with her parents. By the 1910s, Anna was caretaker for her father and mother, as both were in failing health. She retired from schoolteaching after the 1915 school year.
Ben Teply worked for Alexas
Ben Teply had been working for John M Alexa in 1916 and 1917 before the war. And he resumed working for the Alexas after he returned from the military and married.
Conflict between John and John M Alexa
From the 1890s up through the 1910s, the relationship between John and John M was sometimes a bit contentious.
For the most part, John and Katherine let John M run the farm however he saw fit. But John M treated the farm and the finances as his own, setting up bank accounts and buying additional farms for himself with income from his parents farm.
John Alexa died
John Alexa died on Christmas day 1916. He was buried in Pecenka Bohemian cemetery.
A month later, on January 13, 1917, John’s will was probated. In the will, John left all his property to his wife Katherine.
A month after that, on February 10, Katherine conveyed by deed a 220 acre part of the farm to her daughter Anna.
John M was enraged. He claimed that his father had made a verbal agreement in 1893 that the farm would become the property of John M.
John M filed a lawsuit
John M filed a lawsuit in Washington County district court, naming his mother Katherine and sister Anna as defendents.
Plaintiff claimed that the will was made in fraud of his rights, under an oral agreement between him and his parents made In 1893, whereby he was to have all his father’s property at his father’s death, subject only to a life estate for his mother if she survived his father.Alexa v. Alexa et al
The court case
The verdict was not favorable to John M. The trial court ruled that:
- The plaintiff should recover nothing.
- The plaintiff estopped himself from claiming by submitting to the probated will.
- The contract alleged by the plaintiff was not enforceable, and would be inequitable and unjust.
- That the homestead of John and Katherine Alexa could not be contracted away by John Alexa without Katherine’s consent.
- Anna Alexa was the rightful owner of the property deeded her by Katherine.
- Katherine Alexa was rightful owner and should regain immediate possession of the property that John M Alexa had seized.
The verdict was appealed, and went to the Kansas Supreme Court. On December 11, 1920, the supreme court upheld the findings of the trial court.
You can read more of the interesting and salacious details of the trial here.
The entire affair had poisoned the relationship between John M and his mother and sister.
During cross examination, Katherine testified that John M told her that she could “eat them up like an animal”. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds nasty.
“A few days after I made the deed of the land to Anna, I had a conversation with John M. Alexa at my home. He came up and told me that I sold my roof from above my head, and that, further, I told him that I still had 120 acres that I meant to do something with; I meant to give him those 120 acres, and that he told me that now I could eat them up, eat them up like an animal. He never talked anything about my husband and myself having promised to give him all our property at the time of our death. I thought when I gave Anna that I would also give him when I did not need it any more, but when he told me to eat it up, I cannot give it to him.”Katherine Alexa direct examination – Alexa v. Alexa et al
Shortly after the supreme court decision, John M had to vacate his house and move off the Alexa farm. He still owned several farms in his own name, and he continued to farm them.
Katherine and Anna Alexa asked Ben and Anna Teply to move onto the Alexa farm, and manage the farm. And so they did.
Ben and Anna Teply moved into John N Alexa’s house. Ben was to manage the farm for Katherine and Anna Alexa, who both lived in the main farmhouse.
Life goes on
Ben and Anna settled in. Ben managed the farm. They lived here on the Alexa farm when their son Don was born in 1922.
Anna Alexa continued to care for her mother Katherine. who was by now bedridden.
Anna Alexa appreciated Ben and Anna Teply, and treated them well. In return, Ben and Anna had secure employment, a good place to live, and proximity to Frank and Anna Teply.
The war was long past. The Teplys had started a family. They even bought a Ford touring car.
The Alexa’s acrimonious lawsuit and family fight was over. Anna Alexa was caring for her mother Katherine.
Life was good.
- (108 Kan. 38) ALEXA v. ALEXA et al. – Supreme Court of Kansas. (No. 22592.) (Dec. 11, 1920.)
- Photos of Alexa farm and houses – Mark Jarvis – October 2015
- All news articles are from The Hanover Democrat, The Hanover Herald, The Marysville Advocate, Washington Register. All are available on Newpapers.com and are free for Kansas residents – Kansas State Historical Society – https://www.kshs.org/ancestry/drivers/dlverify
- Military Application of Injured Person – Ben Teply – Teply family memorabilia