Saturday, May 16, 2009

The First Member in Aurora

Mable Stemple (left), the first member of the Church in Aurora is shown here in 1932 or 1933 with her daughter Evelyn Kiesel, Elder Walker, and Cora Hall with Louise Greer in front. (Does anyone know Elder Walker’s first name or whose house is shown?)

Now turn the clock back to 1913. Two Mormon missionaries were tracting a modest neighborhood on the outskirts of Aurora. They were a little discouraged because, as far as they knew, they were the only Latter-day Saints in the city, and even if they were to find a family to teach, they couldn’t invite them to church—there was no branch in Aurora.

Then, to their surprise, a young mother with two small children invited them in. “I’m a member,” she told them as she hurried into the kitchen to bring back a jar of coins and small bills. “It’s my tithing,” she said and placed the jar in their hands.

Delighted to find a member of the Church, the elders began to get acquainted. All too quickly, they realized her error—she belonged to the Reorganized Church, not the “Salt Lake Mormons.” Undaunted, they told her she would need to be baptized again, and eventually she agreed. Mable Clair Kiesel [Stemple] was baptized in the Fox River on June 13, 1915, the first member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Aurora.

But the Church did not go continue in Aurora at that time. Fourteen years later, Mable Kiesel Stemple was found again, this time by Jim and Myrtle Greer. But that’s another story.

This picture of Sister Stemple (right) with her niece, Gladys Lancaster, is the way I remember her. Very tiny, white hair in a knot on top of her head, and a big smile.

After the branch was organized, Mable Stemple was a stalwart member. For much of her life she lived in a small house next door to her daughter, Evelyn Kettley, on Morton Avenue, a couple of blocks from the Greers who took her back and forth to church. As they dropped her off, she would always say, “Thanks for the buggy ride.”

Mable was born and grew up in Loupe City, Nebraska. After a brief unhappy marriage that ended in divorce, she and her parents moved to Aurora near where her mother’s family had lived for at least three generations. She was still only 18 when in 1906 she met and happily married William John (Wilhelm Johan) Kiesel, age 29. A year later their first daughter was born and died on the same day. Two more children, a boy and a girl, came into the family, but in all Mable and Mr. Kiesel enjoyed only 8 years together before he passed away. Mable’s third husband, Charles Carl Stemple, was gone before 1930 (as per the 1930 US Census). Nevertheless she was a happy person. It’s been said about her, “She wanted to have fun.”

Maybe Sister Stemple’s family can fill in some more details.

1 comment:

  1. Good story..Again great pictures. So funny about the RLDS membership. She sounds like she was a great person.