Jacob Kleinhans

Pages 376-378-379 - Jacob Kleinhans held for virtually half a century acknowledged standing as one of the leading members of the Grand Rapids bar, and in character, service and high achievement he lent dignity and honor to his profession. He was the faith that makes faithful in all of the relations of life, and his noble and generous influence touched with gentle benignancy all who came within its sphere. Mr. Kleinhans was a most devoted churchman of the Protestant Episcopal church, and it is probable that no layman of the church wielded larger or more helpful influence in advancing and supporting the work of the diocese of western Michigan, as will be shown later in the memoir. Mr. Kleinhans, a scion of a family early founded in America, was born at Belvidere, New Jersey, January 19, 1845, and he was one of the most loved and honored citizens of Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the time of his death, October 7, 1918. In his native state Mr. Kleinhans received in his youth excellent educational advantages, including those that prepared him for the profession of his choice. He was duly admitted to the New Jersey bar, but he soon afterward, when he was twenty-one years of age, came to Michigan and initiated the practice of his profession at Rochester, Oakland county, in 1866. Within a comparatively short period he found a broader field of professional endeavor by removing to Grand Raids, where he passed the remainder of his life and where he gained high professional honors, as well as substantial material prosperity. His every thought and action were dominated by inflexible integrity of purpose, and his was a noble personal stewardship in all of the relations of his long and useful career. The law firms of which he was a member within the period of his active professional career had the highest of standing at the Michigan bar, and among his clients were numbered many of the leading men and larger corporations of Grand Rapids and western Michigan. In his first law practice in Grand Rapids, Mr. Kleinhans was associated the late Judge Isaac Parish, and later he formed a professional alliance with the late Ebenezer Eggleston, the firm name later becoming Blair, Eggleston, Kingsley & Kleinhans. Upon the retirement from the firm of Eggleston the firm title became Blair, Kingsley & Kleinhans, and upon the death of the senior member, James Blair, the firm of Kingsley & Kleinhans continued in control of the representative law business until Mr. Kleinhans withdrew to form a partnership with Loyal E. Knappen, under the title of Knappen & Kleinhans. No change of this title was made after the admission of Stuart E. Knappen to the firm, but when the senior member, Judge Knappen was appointed to the bench of the Federal court he withdrew from the firm, the name of which was then changed to Kleinhans & Knappen. Marshall M. Uhl later was admitted to the firm, and in 1916 the personnel was further extended by the admission of Harold Bryant. All of the associates of Mr. Kleinhans were lawyers of sterling character and marked professional ability, and he took great satisfaction in aiding younger lawyers to establish themselves in successful practice. Mr. Kleinhans ever considered his profession worthy of his undivided allegiance, and thus he acquired few business interests aside therefrom and refused all overtures to become a candidate for public office. He was, however, for many years a valued member of the directorate of the Fourth National Bank, and as a citizen he took the deepest interest in all that concerned the communal welfare. The earnest and zealous service of Mr. Kleinhans must ever figure as an integral and important part of the parish history of Grace Church, Protestant Episcopal, as must also the equally loyal and benignant service of his widow, who is still an active and revered communicant of this parish. Both Mr. and Mrs. Kleinhans became teachers in the mission Sunday school that became the nucleus around which was evolved the independent parish of Grace church, and both were charter members of the new parish organization, which was formed in 1875. Kleinhans was made a member of the first vestry of the parish, and his confirmation as a communicant of the Protestant Episcopal church occurred December 28, 1879. In 1881 he was elected junior warden of the church, and in the following year he was made senior warden, an office that he retained until his death, thirty-six years later. Constant and faithful in his work as a churchman, Mr. Kleinhans gained distinctive recognition when, in 1897, he was appointed chancellor of he diocese of western Michigan as well as a member of the standing committee of the diocese. By consecutive annual action on the part of the diocese he was retained in these important offices during the remainder of his life, besides which he was at the time of his death a trustee of the Akeley School for Girls, the diocesan institution at Grand Haven. Concerning Mr. Kleinhans the following estimate has been given: "As he was one of the recognized leaders of the Michigan bar and one of the nationís distinguished lawyers, so likewise was he one of the recognized leaders of the church in his own diocese and throughout the land. He was frequently consulted by those in authority and was an expert in the canon law of his church. In his parish he was an acknowledged leader and its unfailing supporter. All respected and admired him, and those who knew him loved him. He was a man of few words, but his life spoke volumes." The heart and mind of Mr. Kleinhans were attuned to human sympathy and tolerance, and his was instant and constant helpfulness to those "in any way afflicted, or distressed, in mind, body or estate." There is much of significance in the following words spoken by one who gave long and faithful service as rector of Grace church: "From the time I became rector of Grace church I planned and consulted with him about everything that related to the church and parish. I also brought to him matters of a personal nature, and I grew to love him as I do my father. In every department of his life he was faithful." Mr. Kleinhans centered his interests in his home, his church, his city and his profession, and it may well be understood that the relations of the home were of ideal order. Thus he had no desire for the honors or emoluments of public office or for multitudinous affiliations with social and fraternal organizations. He was a well fortified advocate of the principles of the Republican party and did much to advance the party cause, though never in an ostentatious way. On the 25th of February, 1979, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Kleinhans to Miss Emma E. Miller, the ceremony having taken place in the old homestead of the Miller family, 246 Jefferson avenue, southeast, where Mrs. Kleinhans still resides, the place being hallowed to her by many gracious memories, as it was her girlhood home and has continued to be her home during the long years that have passed since her marriage. Mrs. Kleinhans is a daughter of the late Henry and Margaret (Cook) Miller, her father having come to Grand Rapids from Rochester, Michigan, in 1867, and having become a successful merchant and also interested in the Grand Rapids Street Railway Company, in which connection he was one of the first and most influential promoters of the enterprise that led to the construction of the street car line from the city to the Kent county fair ground. Mr. Miller died in 1879, and his widow survived him by a number of years. Their attractive old homestead, now owned and occupied by Mrs. Kleinhans, was one of the early brick houses erected in Grand Rapids, and Mrs. Kleinhans has taken pride in maintaining the original architectural integrity of the building, upon which modern improvements have been made from time to time. Mrs. Kleinhans and her sister, Mrs. George R. Allen, were charter members of Grace church, and with Mr. Earp, were the mission workers who started the Sunday school that was established under the auspices of St. Markís Church and that eventually led to the organization of the new parish of Grace church. Mrs. Kleinhans has been active and faithful as a church worker during the long intervening years, and has been a gracious figure in the representative social and cultural circles of her home city. She is affiliated with the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, her eligibility for which is based on the service of her patriot ancestor, Major William Christopher Fox, of New York state, who was an officer in the Continental line in the great struggle for national independence. The honored subject of this memoir is survived by no children.

Transcriber: Nancy Myers
Created: 8 August 2003