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Joseph S. Kies

JOSEPH S. KIES, from Lenawee County Biographical Album, 1909

JOSEPH S. KIES, prominently connected with the Clinton Woolen Mills, is one of the oldest settlers of the township, and is at present representing this industry in the various States adjacent, a position for which he is eminently qualified by his general knowledge of men and things, and his naturally fine business capacities. He has been a resident of this county since the spring of 1829, when his parents made the long journey from Cayuga County, N. Y., to seek their fortunes in the western country.

Our subject was born July 13, 1820, in Cayuga County, and accompanied his parents to this State. Tlie journey was made via canal from Buffalo, and thence they started by the lake steamer “William Penn " to Detroit. This boat was commanded by Capt. Hoyt, an old friend of Alpheus Kies, the father of our subject, and after they had been out two days it became disabled and they were obliged to put in at Dunkirk. From there they took the steamer "Enterprise," and arriving in Detroit six days later secured a team, and loading their effects upon a lumber wagon they and the goods were by .this means conveyed to their destination. Their route was scarcely marked by a wagon track, and in some places almost impassable.

Upon their arrival within the limits of Clinton Township they found there one building, a "shanty," near the site of the present town and standing in the woods between what is now Clinton and Saline. Alpheus Kies took up a tract of Government land, 240 acres in extent, lying on sections 4 and 5, Clinton Township, and embracing the greater part of the present corporation of Clinton Village. Mr. Kies donated from this a lot of one acre each to a carpenter and a blacksmith, to encourage them in establishing their business. This was in keeping with the character of the man all the way through; he took a heart-felt interest in the progress and development of his adopted county, and employed the best means in his power to assist in bringing about this result.

The place upon which the village of Clinton now stands was then known as Oak Plains. Here the elder Kies put up the first house, and there was but one building within forty miles on what is now the Chicago Turnpike. The log house which Mr. K. put up for the use of his family, in time became the stopping-place for many a traveler through that section. As time passed on he began dealing in real estate, and was permitted to behold the transformation of the wilderness into smiling farms and valuable homesteads.

Mr. Kies named the town of Clinton in honor of DeWitt Clinton, an early Governor of New York State, and at one time a candidate for Vice President on the Democratic ticket, which Mr. Kies uniformly voted. The death of this early pioneer and thoroughly good man took place at the homestead of his son Joseph, after many years* labor, in October, 1864.

The subject of our sketch spent his early years under the home roof, and after starting out for himself engaged in farming for a time, and also carried on a nursery for some yearsl He early gave evidence that he had inherited the capabilities of his honored father, was wide-awake, ambitious, and never idle. He became the owner of considerable real estate and was foremost in the organization of the industry with which he is at present connected.

This enterprise was inaugurated under many difficulties and discouragements, and had it not been for the determined man at its head, would soon have succumbed to the pressure. The buildings were put up in 1 867, and the following year Mr. Kies was made President of the company, and had the general supervision of its affairs until 1886. The Clinton Woolen Mills are now one of the most flourishing manufactories of the kind in Michigan, averaging now 1,300 yards per day, and have been kept in operation since the wheels were first put in motion. This can be said of only one other institution of the kind in the State, and.speaks well for him who has been the moving spirit and kept them going when many a man would have been dismayed at the prospect and given up in discouragement.

The machinery of the Clinton Mills is of the most modern and improved pattern. The building is a substantial brick structure with four stories and basement, besides its office adjacent. Their product is shipped to many of the Eastern and Western States, and the company gives employment to nearly 100 hands. A fire on the 11th of December, 1887, did great damage, entailing a loss of several thousand dollars.

Mr. Kies, besides his responsible duties in connection with these mills, has been quite prominent in local affairs, serving as Supervisor and Justice of the Peace, besides filling various other offices in the township. Like his father before him, he is a stanch Democrat, politically, and with his estimable wife, is a member in good standing of the Episcopal Church. Socially, he belongs to Blue Lodge No. 175, A. F. <fe A. M. His residence is one of the attractive features of the town, and he numbers his friends by the score on the northern line of Lenawee County.

Mr. Kies was married in Clinton Township, Sept. 28, 1846, to Miss Frances E., daughter of flames and Lucretia Parks, natives respectively of Salisbury and Middletown, Conn., and early pioneers of this county. James Parks died in Clinton in 1859, and his widow survived him until Nov. 9, 1883. To Mr. and Mrs. Kies there were born five children, namely: James A., who died in 1863; Mary Ida, the wife of Dr. Samuel Chandler, of "Washtenaw County ; George A., of Elkhart, Ind.; Kate, the wife of Fred Field, editor of the Tecumseh News, of Manchester, and Willie J., of Elkhart, Ind. Mrs. Kies was born in Meadville, Pa., Oct. 19, 1823, and came to Michigan with her parents when a child of seven years.

The mother of our subject was in her girlhood Miss Elizabeth, daughter of Calvin and Elizabeth Lazell, of the old town of Sempronius, Cayuga Co., N. Y., who were the parents of six children. She was born in Ashfield, N. H., Oct. 16, 1790, and died in Clinton, Dec. 20, 1877. The father of onr subject had two brothers who were in the French and Indian War, in which the elder was killed; another died of smallpox. Joseph P., Sr., also enlisted, subsequently serving under Gen. Montgomery, and was at the siege of Quebec. One of the brothers had a very nice powder horn which has been preserved now nearly 100 years, and is in possession of our subject, being prized by him as a memento of the old Colonial days, and the great struggle for liberty and nationality in which his ancestors took part.