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Elmer, Missouri - Early History
Ezra Franks Family
(Reprinted from History of Macon County, 1987)
No history of Macon County would be complete without the history of Ezra Franks and his descendants.
At the death of his father, Michael Franks in 1868, Ezra Franks and his wife, Louisa Smith Franks with their three small children: Jennie Bell, born in 1861, Justus Smith born in 1862 and George Alvin, born in 1863, left German Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, to make their home in Missouri. They traveled down the Ohio River to the confluence of the Mississippi and up the Mississippi to Hannibal. They traveled from Hannibal to Macon County where they settled on a farm near Cardy. In the 1870’s, they moved to a farm south of Elmer. This farm has remained in the family since that time. The present owner being Mrs. Ira Franks and her late husband, Ira Franks, grandson of Ezra.
It must have been a painful decision for Louisa and Ezra to leave the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania. Louisa left behind her parents, Jacob and Mary Murry Smith. Ezra’s family roots were deeply entrenched in Fayette County, going back to the 1750’s when his great-great-grandfather, Michael I. Franks, left his home in upper Palatinate, Germany, in the Rhine Valley, to come to America, along with his three children: Jacob, Michael II and Catherine.
In the fall of 1765, Michael I, Michael II and his wife, and Jacob and Barbara, great grandparents of Ezra, with their small son, George, joined four other families in the settlement in what is now known as German Township near Fayette County, Pennsylvania, in the vicinity of Jacob’s Lutheran Church, burial site of four generations of the early Franks family. From 1912 History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, page 560, “With their small families, they set out together on their dangerous journey. The women rode horses with blankets thrown across, tent canvases and a light outfit of cooking utensils attached. The men walked carrying their guns and axes.” Upon arrival at their destination, they each tomahawked themselves a large track of land for which they later received a patent or deed under the “Tomahawked Improvement Claim.” Under the provisions of the Tomahawk Improvement Claim, each owner had to give their claim a name. Michael I named his Franconia, probably after the area he left. Jacob called his Frankston.
Catherine Fell Franks, mother of Ezra, family roots went back to the Quaker settlement in Buck County, Pennsylvania. Her ancestors having emigrated from Northern England near Carlisle where Quakerism first began.
After moving to Missouri, five more children were born to Ezra and Louisa: Mary Elizabeth, born in 1868, Ira Taylor, born in 1870, Edward Oscar, born in 1872, Lillie May, born in 1875 and Emma Louisa, born in 1879. In addition to their children, Ezra and Louisa raised a step-son, Henry Coates.
After moving to their farm south of Elmer, Louisa and Ezra spent the rest of their lift in the Rock Creek community where Ezra raised shorthorn cattle and for recreation, went fox hunting and played the fiddle. Louisa was known as an excellent cook and the latch string was always out for people passing by. Louisa was very fond of gardening, miniature white roses and dwarf iris being her specialty. Louisa and Ezra are buried in the Elmer Cemetery.
Justus Smith Franks, eldest son of Ezra and Louisa, remained in the Rock Creek community to become a well known farmer and stockman, where he owned two farms, one of which was his father’s farm and the other was located across from Rock Creek School where he later built a house for his family.
Justus married Laura Bell Payton in 1889. Six children were born to this union: Lillian Navella in 1890, Alma Florence in 1892, Ezra P. in 1894, Ira William in 1896, Meda Justus in 1899 and Clay Martin in 1903.
The family of children attended Rock Creek School. As young adults, they enjoyed many forms of recreation such as ice skating, baseball, hunting and music. Music had always been a tradition with the Franks family where each of the six children played an instrument to contribute to the family band.
The Franks’ home was a center of hospitality for all family members including fourteen grandchildren who came to pick fruit in the orchard, climb the mulberry tree and to seek shelter from summer storms in the storm cellar.
Laura was a very energetic woman whose hands were always busy mending, knitting or preparing vegetables.
Laura and Justus are buried in the Hull cemetery, north of Callao.
Ira William Franks married Sina Blanche Elam on October 6, 1921. They settled in the Rock Creek community on his grandfather’s farm. Two children were born to this union: Helen Louise and Greta Madge. Both attended Rock Creek School and each received a Bachelors and Master’ degree from Northeast Missouri State University. Madge taught school in Macon County, Write City and Excelsior Springs.
Ira was an outstanding baseball pitcher and enjoyed hunting and fishing. Ira died on July 2, 1979 and is buried in the Hull Cemetery. Blanch is still living on the family farm where she enjoys her flowers and gardening.
Helen Franks married Kenneth Spencer in 1946. They moved to a farm south of La Plata where they still reside. Three children were born to this union: John William (who died in infancy), Kenneth Michael and Melice Louise.
Author’s note: Clay Martin Franks, youngest son of Justus and Laura Franks, grew to manhood in the Rock Creek area and remained in the vicinity for his entire life. He married Ola ??? and this union bore two sons: Richard and Bobby. Bobby was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and died in a plane crash during the Korean War. Richard married Louise Drake, daughter of Arthur and Lena Drake of Elmer, and farmed on the family farm until he died in 1917.