Joseph Jabez Wernette

Page 237 - Joseph Jabez Wernette is one of the prominent and highly skilled consulting engineers in his native state of Michigan, and his technical and executive ability, as combined with careful and honorable business policies, has gained to him a most important clientage. Mr. Wernette conducts his well-ordered business under the title of the J. J. Wernette Engineering Company, and his large and well-equipped offices are at 441-444 Houseman building in the city of Grand Rapids. Mr. Wernette was born in Ionia county, Michigan, of which Ionia is the judicial center, and the date of his nativity, April 7, 1868, indicates that his parents gained a definite measure of pioneer prestige in the county. He is a son of John and Elizabeth (Miller) Wernette, both of whom were born in Canada, the former have been resident of Grand Rapids at the time of his death, January 18, 1923, and his widow being still a resident of this city. John Wernette established his residence on a farm in Ionia County in 1865, where he cut down trees to make room for a log house, and thence he came to Kent County in 1873, he having established the family home on a farm in Gaines township and having been one of the prominent and successful exponents of farm industry and blacksmithing during a period of nearly forty years, his retirement from the active management of his fine farm estate having occurred about sixteen years prior to his death. Of the family of eight children-three sons and five daughters-the subject of this sketch was the fourth in order of birth, and all of the children survive the honored father. The district school of Gaines township afforded Joseph J. Wernette his early education, he having been about four years old at the time of the family removal to Kent County. He gained in his boyhood and early youth a full share of experience in connection with the arduous work of the home farm and blacksmith shop, and it is as a member of the world’s great army of productive workers that he has achieved his success in life. He later took an effective course in the Valley City Business College, which at that time had its headquarters in the Livingston Hotel building in Grand Rapids. Along mechanical lines his initial training was obtained in the Leitelt Iron Works, one of the old and substantial industrial concerns of Grand Rapids. He there found employment in the year 1886, and his early service was of general utility order, he having been at the time about eighteen years of age. His natural talent along mechanical lines was distinctly developed and fortified by his completion of a technical course in the International School of Engineering, in the city of Chicago, the institution having later been absorbed by the great Armour Institute in that city. In completing his course Mr. Wernette attended the night classes, and found employment during the days, by which means he largely defrayed his expenses while in Chicago. In 1890 he returned from Chicago to Grand Rapids and entered service as a machinist and steamfitter at the factory of the Richmond & Stowe Furniture Company, and with this concern he won advancement to the position of chief engineer. He next was employed as millwright with the M. L. Sweet Furniture Company, and thereafter was for some time chief engineer for the Grand Rapids Wheelbarrow Company. He then assumed a similar position with the Grand Rapids Refrigerator Company, with which he remained in the capacity of chief engineer during a period of seven years. The next four years he was chief engineer with the Grand Rapids Brass Works, where he gave special attention to the designing and constructing of electric motors. In March, 1907, Mr. Wernette purchased the business of Frank A. Simons, consulting engineer, and he has since been actively and successfully engaged in business in an independent way, as one of the leading consulting engineers in this section of Michigan. He has handled large jobs in the most diverse sections of the United States and his professional reputation thus far transcends mere local limitations. He retains in his office a corps of skilled architects, designers and draftsmen, and he himself gives scrupulous attention to preparing the plans for heating, lighting, ventilating, etc. He has done the engineering work in his line in more than 800 buildings that have been erected under the direct supervision of his organization. Among these may be noted the following: The steel forging plant of the General Forging Company of Merriton, Ontario, Canada; the power plants of the Piqua Manufacturing Company of Piqua, Ohio and Marquette, Michigan, in which last mentioned work he planned the entire construction of the plant, laid out and constructed the company’s twelve miles of railroad, and was even assigned to the selecting and purchasing of the land for the factory, he having continued as chief consulting engineer for the Piqua Manufacturing Company since 1908.

Mr. Wernette constructed also the power plant of the Cleveland & Cliffs Iron Company at Munising, Alger County, Michigan, and he has done the heat, light and power engineering work for virtually all the leading industrial corporations in Grand Rapids. He is a member of the National Association of Steam Engineers and of the Grand Rapids Engineering Society. He is affiliated with the Elks and for thirty years he was an active member of the Knights of Columbus. He and his wife are communicants of St. Francis Catholic church in their home city. In 1893 Mr. Wernette married Miss Theresa Neuman, and her death occurred in 1907. Her one surviving child, Marion E. Wernette being now a valued assistant in the office of the J. J. Wernette Engineering Company and being jof great help to her father in ordering the exacting details of his large business. In 1913 was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Wernette to Miss Florence Culbert, of Bay City and she is the popular chatelaine of their beautiful home, at 2047 Jefferson drive, southeast. To the family have been added two daughters, Margaret F. and Helen Jane Wernette.

Transcriber:  Pat Frey
Created: 27 February 2003