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Kiowa County Signal - Kiowa County, KS
  • Local historian discovers Harlow's Haviland heredity.

  • While searching amongst headstones, rolls of microfilm and county documents local historian Ed Schoenberger discovered a trail that took him from the battlefields of the Civil War to the rich soil of Kiowa County and on to the bright lights and glamour of classic Hollywood.


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  • While searching amongst headstones, rolls of microfilm and county documents local historian Ed Schoenberger discovered a trail that took him from the battlefields of the Civil War to the rich soil of Kiowa County and on to the bright lights and glamour of classic Hollywood.
    “I collect information for the Sons of Union Veterans,” said Schoenberger. “They are working on a project to document burial sites of Civil War soldiers. I’ve been doing this for ten years. I’ve been walking cemeteries and getting online and I send them information when I find it.”
    While researching hundreds of civil war soldiers that called southwestern Kansas home, Schoenberger came across the name Abraham Carpenter, a sergeant in the 138th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company E.
    Abraham had fought in the battle of Cedar Creek. Family members say that he witnessed General Philip Sheridan’s ride from Winchester while awaiting medical attention at the side of a road. Abraham brought his family to Kansas in the late 1870s or early 1880s and lived in Haviland.
    The Carpenters were farmers. Abraham and his wife Dianna (or Diana) Beal (or Beale) Carpenter had five children, but only three survived childhood.  Earle Bert Carpenter was born in 1869, Arden Howard Carpenter was born in 1870 and Mont Clair Carpenter was born in 1877. Earle, the eldest son, stayed in Haviland, became a schoolteacher, storeowner and farmer and married a young Quaker named Elma Bevan. Both Earle and Elma are buried at Haviland Cemetery. 
    Abraham eventually made his way west, living in Pratt and Wichita where he passed away in 1933. He is buried in Highland Cemetery in East Wichita.
    Schoenberger says that when he finds a soldier he goes to the computer to search for additional information. Often he finds only bits and pieces but in this case, he was surprised at what he found.
    “While I was looking I just ran across Abraham Carpenter,” Schoenberger recalled. “I clicked on his name and Jean Harlow popped up. I thought I might as well check Jean Harlow and there was all of this stuff on Jean and her dad.”
    Jean Harlow was, and is what many would now consider to be Hollywood Golden Age royalty. She was a screen star and sex symbol in the 1930s starring alongside such famous leading men as Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. The American Film Institute rates her #22 in their “Top 50 Hollywood Legends” list. Harlow tops notables like Ava Gardner, Mary Pickford and Carole Lombard and sits just below Sophia Loren, Lauren Bacall and Rita Hayworth.
    But the “platinum blonde” wasn’t the product of a glitzy Hollywood power couple or an exotic European upbringing; she was Abraham Carpenter’s granddaughter and the only child of Jean Poe Harlow and Mont Clair Carpenter, Abraham’s youngest son.
    Page 2 of 2 - Mont Clair left the Haviland farm as a young man and moved to Kansas City where he attended Kansas City Dental School. He graduated in 1902 and opened his own practice.
    In 1908 he married Jean Poe Harlow in an arranged marriage orchestrated by Jean’s father Skip Harlow, a wealthy real estate broker.
    On March 3, 1911 Mont Clair and Jean gave birth to Harlean Harlow Carpenter, who would later take her mother’s name “Jean Harlow” as her stage name after moving to Hollywood in 1928 following Mont Clair and Jean’s divorce in 1922.
    Mont Clair got remarried to Maude S. Carpenter some years later and would pass away on May 1,1974, only months shy of his 97th birthday. He is buried next to Maude at Ozark Memorial Park Cemetery in East Joplin, Mo.
    Although Schoenberger compiles his civil war names and burial sites for more noble reasons, he admits he enjoys finding interesting county connections like the one he found through Abraham Carpenter.
    “It’s something I like to do and I think it’s important work,” added Schoenberger. “When I find something like this, it’s also pretty fun.”

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