How a chance encounter wrote a chapter of Ray County History

By Linda Emley

East of Millville on Highway E, there is a beautiful old house that was originally the home of Isaiah Mansur.
The home started life as a log cabin in 1842, but with additions over the years, it became the grand two-story house it is today.
The Mansur house is a good example of the kind of homes that were once located around Ray County, although few are still standing. The Isaiah Mansur Farmstead was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
According to the National Register document, this house was known as Rock Hall.
Isaiah Mansur was born in Vermont in 1815 and moved to Ray County in the 1840s. He was one of the early settlers of Ray County and owned a large farm. In 1847, he paid $8.48 in state and county taxes for his 480-acre farm.
He was from a family of 12 children, and some of his brothers were also early settlers of Ray County. The Mansur men ran a country store together, but broke up their partnership in 1842 and divided the land they had purchased. Isaiah cleared the trees off his share of the land and built his log home.
He farmed until 1849, but decided to go back into the retail business and opened up another store. In 1852, he moved his store to Millville.
All was well with Isaiah until the Civil War started. The 1881 edition of the Ray County History Book gave the following account: “This store he operated until the war, keeping a clerk in the store, while he remained on the farm. During the war, Mr. Mansur was a Union man, and voted for delegates to the Union convention held at Jefferson City. Though strongly opposed to the rebellion, he took no active part in the war, and did all in his power to preserve peace and harmony among his neighbors and friends, and keep them out of difficulties arising from their strong partisan feelings and sentiments.”
Isaiah Mansur married Miss Susan Smith in 1844 and they had seven children before Susan died in 1856. Isaiah remarried in 1871 to Miss Mary Lane and had three more children. Isaiah died in 1893 and is buried in the Mansur family plot.
One of Isaiah Mansur’s sons was named Isaiah Mansur II and he married Florence Cramer. They had two sons named Cramer and Charles. The younger Isaiah lived in the Mansur house until he died in 1972.
Thanks to my grandmother, Mildred Schooler, I got to know Isaiah’s grandson Cramer Mansur and his wife, Jeanette Keel Mansur. Jeannette and my grandmother were school chums and when my grandmother turned 80, I finally got to met the Mansurs that I had always heard her talk about.
Looking back now, I wish I could go back to that Sunday afternoon birthday party on March 22, 1987 and spend some time talking to Cramer Mansur. I’m sure he had stories to share about his family’s early days in Ray County.
Cramer and Jeanette lived in Chillicothe, where they both taught school, but Cramer and his brother kept the Mausur home place. Each summer, Cramer and Jeanette would return to Ray County and live in their “summer house” on the Mansur farm.
Jeannette spent part of her summer vacation teaching elocution to the children in the neighborhood. She would make house calls and teach them the art of public speaking. My mother, Betty Lou and her sister Dorothy were two of Jeannette’s students. These were valuable lessons that they used later in their school days.
Cramer and Jeannette Mansur did not have any children of their own, but they had many students that remembered them long after they left their school days behind.
All stories in Ray County are connected in one way or another, and there is one from the Cramer family that I would like to add.
Cramer Mansur’s mother was Florence Cramer Mansur. She was the daughter of Henry Cramer and Elizabeth Depenbrink Cramer. Florence obviously was proud of her family ties because she gave her son her maiden name.
I recently ran across the following story that tells how Henry, a boy in Millville, happened  to marry Elizabeth, a young lady from Napoleon.
In the good-old days, these two towns were worlds apart. “Henry Cramer was married to Elizabeth A. Depenbrink of Napoleon, Missouri on March 5, 1868. She was also of German heritage. They met during the Civil War when she and her brother rode their highly bred horses from their home to Cameron, Missouri, where they had relatives. They left them with the relatives to avoid having them stolen by bushwhackers. In route each way, they spent the night at the Cramer farm.”
After reading this story, I realized once again how things are connected and how one thing can affect something else down the road.
If Miss Elizabeth of Napoleon hadn’t had “highly bred horses”, she might not have met Henry Cramer of Millville. And if they never met, they wouldn’t have a grandson named Cramer Mansur. And if Cramer never married Jeannette, the young children of Ray County might have missed their elocution lessons and the students of Chillicothe would not have known these two teachers.
This is just another example of how the Civil War changed so many lives in Ray County. Some people lost loved ones during the war and families were forever changed. But in this story, Henry and Elizabeth became a family thanks to a chance meeting during the Civil War.

Have a story idea for Linda? You can reach her at or see her face-to-face at Ray County Museum Wednesday through Saturday.

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