Do you know: the Kienitz family
By Richard Karns
Special to the Herald Review
The Kienitz name is very familiar to many of us who grew up in Reed City. It would take too many pages to cover every family. There are several families of cousins, but all started with Daniel and Wilhelmina Kienitz.
Daniel Kienitz (1825-1895) and Wilhelmina Bettin (1830-1909) were married in Germany in 1850. The line that will continue on from this point is that of their son, Herman, to his son, William, to his son, Gerald.
Daniel and Wilhelmina migrated from Germany to Canada, and after a couple of years came to Michigan and settled in the Osceola area. Their children were Louisa, Ernestina, Herman, Wilhelmina, Amalia, Theodore, Edward (known as E.H.) and Bertha.
Daniel was a wheel rite, working on different wagons in the area. Daniel and Wilhelmina also were farmers. All of the children were expected to work on the farm to the best of his or her ability. Myrtle Lather Stephan, the daughter of Alamia Kienitz Lather, stated Louisa worked on the farm along with her father. "She worked like a man," she said, helping her father clear the land, hauling stumps out by oxen. Although Daniel was the farmer, it was Wilhelmina that "was a great achiever and drove hard to make the farm pay and pay well."
Daniel trekked to Big Rapids to buy supplies that weren't available in Reed City. You can imagine that trip in the 1860s wasn't as easy as it is today. He loved music, and according to Myrtle on one of his errands, "he surprised everyone by coming home with the latest and best organ that could be found." Wilhelmina wasn't pleased "and was quite upset of the expenditure of hard-earned money."
Daniel and Wilhelmina were at one point able to offer lodging to the teacher at Trinity Lutheran School and country school teachers as well. Most of the family spoke German. According to Myrtle, the influence of the teachers helped change this.
Daniel retired from farming and opened the St. Almo Hotel in Reed City. The written material didn't have a date, but did state that Daniel was "not too old." According to the writings from the history of Reed City's "One Hundred Going on Two Hundred," between 1890 and 1900 there were six hotels in Reed City. Daniel died in 1895, and the hotel ran several years after his death. It was reported that they not only had good service, but great food.
It is worth mentioning that Daniel and Wilhelmina are instrumental in the building of Trinity Lutheran Church, which was dedicated in 1880. The Trinity Lutheran Church this congregation built stands on the corner of Higbee and Church Street in Reed City.
Herman Kienitz married Minna Heppner and took over running the family farm from his father. There was no well on the farm. All of the water came from a natural spring which was covered for protection. Minna kept her butter cool by storing it in a container placed in the spring. An orchard also grew near the spring and it was known that Native American graves were at the southeast corner of the orchard. The spring flowed to the north, where a pond formed and supplied water for the farm animals.
They had 10 children: Edward, Lula, Herbert, William, Bernard, Martin (who died at 2 months of age), Erwin, Frederick, Herta and Vera.
William Kienitz married Eva Timm and had four children: August (known to most as Gus), Eva, Bill and Gerald (known to most as Skip). Before his marriage, William served in World War I in Germany. His fluency in the German language was of great benefit to U.S. troops.
He worked at the E.L. Bruce Flooring Mill, which later was purchased by the Robbins family and became the Robbins Flooring Mill most of us remember. That is where Reed City Hall and the fire department are today in Reed City. William also served as the janitor for Trinity Lutheran Church for more than 30 years.
Gerald Kienitz married Norma Hufendick and had four children: Karen, Brenda, Geri and Mark. Gerald worked at Kroger grocery store before going into the service and worked for Miller Industries when he came home. Brenda and Geri stated they were taught English as well as German, and when the siblings were adults they still enjoyed speaking German to each other.
In talking with Brenda and Geri, they shared many things that I wouldn't have room for in this article. One I would like to share, however, is how their parents met. Gerald and Norma's is a nice one. Gerald was in the service during the Korean Conflict and was stationed in Germany with Norma's brother. Having seen her picture, Gerald asked if he thought she would write to him. They corresponded during his time in the service and continued when he got home. During this long-distance relationship, Skip would not only write to Norma, but would go to Illinois to see her as well. They were married in Illinois in 1955 and started their life together in Reed City.
In 1954, Skip joined the Reed City Volunteer Fire Department and was part of that organization for many years, retiring in 1991.
I enjoyed the talking and laughter as memories and facts about their family were shared. Brenda and Geri gave me some insight into a family I have known my entire life.