The corner of 49th Street and Lamar Avenue is now dwarfed by apartment buildings, but more than 90 years ago Bessie (Penner/Pencharz) and Charley Ashner rose early each morning to work the first Jewish-owned dairy farm in Johnson County. Greenwood Dairy supplied nearby neighbors (and the Ashner’s family of ten) with milk, cream, cheese and butter for three decades before the press of post-war suburban development demanded other use of the land.
Elizabeth “Bessie” Penner (Pencharz) was born in Ciechanowiec, Russian Poland about 1901, and arrived in New York City on the Zeeland on September 9, 1913, with her father Jacob, mother Freda, and brothers Isadore (Itzig Tajbel) and Joseph (Abraham Joal.) The family settled at 3023 Prospect Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri and Jacob set up a shoe shop. Five more siblings followed: Fanny, Minnie, Maurice, and Samuel. The 1920 Census notes the family’s native tongue as Hebrew and all family members speak English, but the children are able to speak and read in English, too.
Charles “Charlie” Asner was born August 16, 1896 in Lieda, Russia to Louis and Ida Ashner. The Ashners immigrated in 1906 and by 1910 owned a dairy in Kansas City, Kansas. The family’s first language was Hebrew and all spoke, read, and wrote English. Charley served in the United States Army from September 11, 1918 to February 14, 1919; he applied for and was granted American citizenship at Camp Funston during the course of his enlistment.
Charlie and Bessie married March 5, 1922 by Rabbi Simon Glazer of the United Synagogues of Kansas City, who also happened to be responsible for the bottling of kosher l’Pesach milk for the Jewish community of Kansas City. The young couple lived and worked with the Ashners at 1885 Benton Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas for several years before venturing into the wilds of Johnson County with their children Fern Ruth “Eva” (1923-2009), Leo (born 1925), and Anna May (1927-2007). Five more children followed in their home on the Kansas City Road, later 4946 Lamar Avenue: Dorothy (1929-2016), Frances (born 1932), Louis (1934-2015), Bernard (1936-2017), and Herbert (born 1938).
Unfortunately, Bessie suffered a stroke and passed away at Menorah Hospital in 1953. Work at the dairy continued for a few more years; the Greenwood Dairy or Ashner dairy listing disappears from the local directories between 1955-1958. Charlie never remarried. He passed away in June 1990.
The loss of their mother did not dissuade the entrepreneurial spirit of the Ashner family. Several Ashner children became successful business owners in the area, thanks to their start on the first Jewish-owned dairy farm in Johnson County.
-Melissa Horak-Hern, Johnson County Library
Bernard Ashner obituary (9 Mar 2017). Kansas City Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved from
Louis Ashner obituary (5 Aug 2015). Kansas City Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved from
Jackson County (MO) Office of Recorder of Deeds (1922). Marriage license of Charlie Ashner and Bessie
Penner, 28 Feb 1922 (number A935). Retrieved from https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/.
Johnson County (KS) Farm Bureau (1929). Johnson County, Kansas, Farm Directory. Retrieved from
- Ibid. (1950).
Missouri Department of Health (13 May 1953). Certificate of death number 14023 for Bessie Ashner.
Polk’s Directories (1953). Northeast Johnson County Directory, 1953. Retrieved from
- Ibid. (1955).
- Ibid. (1957).
- Ibid. (1958).
Schultz, J. P. and C. L. Klausner (1983). Rabbi Simon Glazer and the Quest for Jewish Community in
Kansas City, 1920-1923. Retrieved from
U.S. Census Bureau (1910). Thirteenth Census of the United States: 1910 Population Retrieved from
U.S. Census Bureau (1920). Fourteenth Census of the United States: 1920 Population. Retrieved
U.S. Census Bureau (1930). Fifteenth Census of the United States: 19300 Population Schedule. Retrieved
U.S. Census Bureau (1940). Sixteenth Census of the United States: 1940 Population. Retrieved from
U.S. Department of Labor, Immigration and Naturalization Service (1918). Naturalization Index for the
Western District of Missouri, compiled 1930-1950, documenting the period ca. 1848-ca. 1950:
Charles ASHNER Form No. 1-IP. Retrieved from https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/.
U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (2010). Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem Death
File. Retrieved from https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/.
Western District of Missouri (1926). Missouri Federal Naturalization Records, Petition no. 4311 for
Naturalization of Abraham Joal Pencharz. Retrieved from https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/.
Western District of Missouri (1926). Missouri Federal Naturalization Records, Petition no. 4312 for
Naturalization of Icze Lajbel Pencharz. Retrieved from https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/.
World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Charley Ashner registration number 265, Draft Board
2, City of Kansas City, Kansas. Retrieved from https://www.ancestrylibrary.com/.