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MEMORIES IN FOCUS: Children avoid being carted off by tragedy years ago

Around the time of their father’s accidental death in 1896, Charlie and Vella Niederhauser ride in a two-wheeled pony cart pulled in front of their home in southwest Marion.

Their father, jovial shoe and boot merchant Christ Niederhauser, who had immigrated from Switzerland, accidentally shot himself in the heart at age 34 while cleaning a pistol he had borrowed to protect against a vicious dog that several times had attacked him.

It wasn’t the first tragedy in the family. Just five years earlier, the children’s older brother, Freddie, age 4 at the time, left a fenced area in the family’s backyard and drowned in the adjoining Cottonwood River while playing with Charlie.

Both children went on to become leading citizens.

Vella, born in 1892, was among 10 girls who conducted what they called a doll picnic in 1897 in Central Park. She then became president of a literary society at Valley School and a popular soloist at local musical performances, including union church service for Easter and, while studying music at what now is Bethany College in Lindsborg, at community Christmas night concerts in 1908 and 1909.

“Marion audiences always like to hear Miss Niederhauser sing,” the Record wrote at the time. “Her efforts were well-received, considerable improvement being noticeable as the result of her study.”

After graduating from Bethany in 1910, she taught school, was a soloist at a district teachers association meeting and at a major recital in Marion, and even sung in German as part of a German chapel exercise by Marion High School students in 1916 before marrying and moving to Chicago. She died in 1980 in Spokane, Washington.

Charlie, born in 1888, began working as a clerk at the W.W. Loveless and Sons dry goods store in 1906 and owned a dry cleaning business in 1915 before serving as a supply sergeant with the Army in France during World War I.

After the war, he went to work for transplanted Englishman John Powers, local agent for Scully Estates land holdings, and in 1922 married Powers’ daughter, Florence, moving into a new bungalow, now owned by Jeanice Thomas, at 222 N. Cedar St.

Charlie took over managing Scully interests in the county after Powers’ death in 1929 and continued with Scully until his retirement to Sarasota, Florida, in the 1960s.

He died in 1972 and is buried in Marion Cemtery alongside his wife, who died in 1957.

Last modified Aug. 23, 2018

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