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James Van Kleeck (1846-1923)
Born Monroe Co., Mich., former prosecuting attorney at Midland and Bay City, MI.

1915 biography. (Added Mar., 2009)

History of Michigan, by Charles Moore, 1915


As a lawyer James Van Kleeck has practiced with many successes and honors in Michigan for over forty years. Outside his profession his career has been no less prominent. Beginning in the Civil war, after his discharge bearing a wound which never completely healed, he has been honored with many offices, in municipal, county and state governments, and his intelligent and disinterested service has been more than repaid all the distinctions paid him by a grateful public.

James Van Kleeck was born at Exeter, Monroe County, Michigan, September 26, 1846. His parents were Robert and Catherine (McManniss) Van Kleeck. His father was born in New York, Dutchess county, and was a son of Simeon Van Kleeck, a native of New York State, who during the Revolutionary war was loyal to the mother country, belonged to the class known as United Empire Loyalists, and moved across the line to Canada, settling in a locality which thereafter was known as Van Kleeck Hill. The ancestry goes back eight generations in America to Holland. Robert Van Kleeck was reared in Canada, when a young man came to Michigan, first in 1832, lived in Monroe county, returned to Canada to take part in the Rebellion with McKenzie's men, and returned to Michigan as a permanent home in 1837. At Exeter he continued his labors as a farmer, cleared and lived on land that he reclaimed from the wilderness, and died in Monroe county in 1906, at the age of seventy-three.

His wife, Catherine McManniss, was born in Buffalo, New York, and died in Monroe county, Michigan, in 1863, at the age of forty-three years.

Of the five children, James Van Kleeck was the third. Reared on a farm, he attended the common schools, and was fifteen years old when the Civil War broke out. His boyish patriotism was stirred by the rending of the country, and in June, 1862 he enlisted in Company D of the Seventh Michigan Infantry. From Detroit, his regiment was sent south to Virginia, and participated in the battles of South Mountain and at Antietam, where in September, 1862, Mr. Van Kleeck was twice wounded. The second time a ball was lodged in his side, and he was left on the field supposedly dead. Taken to the hospital, he remained for a number of months in the Frederic City Hospital in Maryland, and was finally discharged in December, 1863, for disability. For one year after his wound he was unable to walk, and he has suffered from the injury more or less ever since. Mr. Van Kleeck when measurable restored to health proceeded to get a better education, studied law in Monroe county, and in 1869 entered the law department of the University of Michigan, where he was graduated L.L. B. in 1871. After six months' practice in Monroe he moved to Midland City. Fifteen years were spent in successful practice in Midland City, and since then he was has been one of the foremost members of the Bay City Bar. For five years he was in partnership with Mortimer Stanford, and then for two years was associated with George W. Mann, but with those exceptions has practiced independently.

While at Midland City, Mr. Van Kleeck served two years as city attorney, and for six years was prosecuting attorney of the county. He was also president of the Midland County Agricultural Society, and was, elected representative to the state legislature from Midland in 1882 on the Republican ticket. He was in the legislature which elected Thomas W. Palmer United States senator. Mr. Van Kleeck served as prosecuting attorney of Bay County, elected in 1886 and serving two years, and was the last commissioner of immigration, serving until that office was abolished. In 1907-08, he was representative from Bay County, in the recent constitutional convention. Mr. Van Kleeck has always taken an active part in the Grand Army circles, and in 1901 was commander of the Michigan Department. In line with his profession he belongs to the Bay County, the State and the American Bar Association. In politics he has been a true-blue Republican since getting his first vote. In Masonry Mr. Van Kleeck has attained thirty-two degrees of the Scottish Rite. At one time, earlier in his career, he served as judge advocate of the state under H. M. Duffied.

At Midland City, on July 2, 1873, Mr. Van Kleeck married Miss Juliette C. Carpenter. To their marriage have been born three children: Edith A. Van Kleeck, a graduate of the University of Michigan; James C. Van Kleeck, who graduated at the Bay City schools, and is now practicing with his father; Delia Van Kleeck, a graduate of the University of Michigan, and teacher in the high schools at Brennerton, Washington. All the children were born in Midland City.

1894: Recovers precious book. (Contributed by Jim Petrimoulx - Apr., 2009)

The Bay City Tribune – Sunday, October 7, 1894


James Van Kleeck Recovers a Testament Lost During the War.

When James Van Kleeck fell wounded at the battle of Antietam, a small testament dropped out of his pocket and was given up by the owner as lost. About six years after the close of the war, Mr. Van Keeck's sister, who lives in Washtenaw county, received the missing book from a Captain Theodore Gregg of Co. F. Forty-fifth regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers, who explained that he had picked it up on the battlefield and finding between the leaves a letter from the lady to her brother considered the matter of sufficient importances to forward the book to her address.

Last summer Mr. Van. Kleeck's son visited his aunt who gave him the testament to present to his father. That the gift was appreciated goes without saying. Mr. Van Kleeck now carries the book as he did 32 years ago and is determined never to lose sight of it as long as he lives. Yesterday he showed the testament to a reporter for >The Tribune. It is colored with age but still in good condition. Some of the leaves are badly stained. “That is my blood,“ said Mr. Van Kleeck, “but only a small portion of what I lost on the memorable day I missed the book after the battle and made an effort to find it, but could not secure any trace of it.”

On the fly leaf of the book is written, “Found on the battlefield of Antietam while a hot engagement was going on Sept. 17, 1862, in which the union troops were victorious by Capt. Theodore Gregg, Co. F. Forty-fifth regiment, P. V. V.

The company of which Mr. Van Kleeck was a member – D of the Seventeenth Michigan – was commanded by J. C. Burrows, the present illustrious congressman of the Third district in the same regiment were Gen. Withington of Jackson, and Alfred Milnes, republican candidate for the lieutenant governor. The latter carried Mr. Van Kleeck off the battlefield.

1923: Obituary. (Contributed by Jim Petrimoulx - Apr., 2009)

The Bay City Times Tribune – Wednesday, February 7, 1923


Well Known Attorney and Soldier Died Tuesday Night.

James Van Kleeck, aged 77 years a prominent lawyer of this city in past years, died at his home, 608 Farragut street north, Tuesday evening at 9 o'clock after being ill with pneumonia since last Saturday.

Mr. Van Kleeck was born in Exeter, Monroe county on September 26, 1846, received his early education in the Monroe high school, and when Fort Sumter was fired on near the start of the Civil war, he came forward when less than 16 years of age to answer the call of President Abraham Lincoln for volunteers. After meeting with considerable trouble on account of his age and smallness of stature, he was finally accepted as a drummer boy in Co. D, 17th Regiment, Michigan Volunteers Infantry. He served with distinction until wounded at the battle of Antietam and after months in a hospital was discharged because of disability.

Later he read law with Baldwin & Rafter, of Monroe, and in 1868 entered the law department of the University of Michigan, graduating with the class of 1870. He then took up the practice of law in Midland, served two terms as county prosecutor and in 1882 was elected to the state legistlature where for several years he served on the judiciary and University of Michigan committee.

In 1885 he came to Bay City and entered partnership with George W. Mann. He was appointed commissioner of immigration by Governor Alger in 1885 and elected prosecuting attorney of Bay county in 1886. He served four years on the board of education, two years as president, and in 1890 was the republican candidate for congress from this district, being defeated by T. A. E. Weadock democrat.

In 1898 Mr. Van Kleeck was a member of the Constitutional Convention.

Mr. Van Kleeck was a past commander of U. S. Grant post, No. 67, G. A. R. and was unanimously chosen department commander for Michigan in 1901 and 1902. In addition to being a member of U. S. Grant post, Mr. Van Kleeck is a member of Center lodge, F. & A. M. of Midand, Bay City consistory, A. A. S. R. and Moslem Temple Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, and National League of Veterans and Sons.

In 1872 Mr. Van Kleeck was married to Miss Juliette C. Carpenter, of Midland, who together with three children survive him. The children are Edith A., of Seattle, James C., of Bay City, and Mrs Delia Dyckman, of Bay City.

Furneral services will be held from the home Friday afternoon at 2 o'clock.

1936: Annual Memorial Service. (Contributed by Jim Petrimoulx - Apr., 2009)

The Bay City Times – Monday, January 13, 1936


Mid-Winter Observance Held At Pine Ridge.

The annual mid-winter memorial service in honor of Capt. James Van Kleek was held yesterday at the side of his grave in Soliders Rest, Pine Ridge cemetery, by the Woman's Relief Corps of the U. S. Grant post, No. 67, G. A. R.

Capt. Van Kleek served in Co. D, 17th Michigan Infantry, of Monroe, in the Peninsular Campaign in the Civil war. Wounded in the battle of Antietam, he was invalided home in 1863. In 1870 he graduated from the Michigan University of Michigan law school, practiced law in Midland, and served in the state legislature for two terms. He came to Bay City in 1885 and live here until his death.

Active in the formation of the Woman's Relief Corps in Michigan, Capt. Van Kleek served several terms as commander of U. S. Grant post No. 67, and was state commander of the G. A. R. in 1901 and 1902.

Yesterday's memorial services were in charge of Mrs. Beatrice Reichard, president of the Grant post relief corps, assisted by Mrs. Bertha Madden, past president; Mrs. Lillian Smith, chaplain, and Mrs. Florence McMann, color guard. Capt. Charles C. Cuthbert, of the Spanish War Veterans, placed a wreath on the grave on behalf of Miss Edith A. Van Kleek and the W. R. C. of Seattle and the eulogy was given by Lieut. Col. A. H. Gansser and the Allied Veterans of the 10th District.

Reference Notes & Pages

James VanKleeck

  • Burial: As of this writing, Mr. Van Kleeck's headstone located in the Soldiers Rest of Pine Ridge cemetery cannot be found. It is either missing, or his remains were removed to another cemetery.
  • 1860 Census:
    Livingston Co., NY
    Van Kleeck:
    - Jeremiah, 40, m, doctor, b. Can.
    - Sausa, 30, f, b. NY
    - Orrin, 1, m, b. NY
    - Robert, 42, m, b. Can.
    - James, 4, m, b. MI
  • Marriage License: James Van Kleeck, son, married Agnes Roueche on Jun. 24, 1903, at Bay City.
    Related Pages:
    Bay Co. Civil War History
  • People Referenced
    Alger, Gov.
    Carpenter, Juliette C. (wife)
    Cuthbert, Charles C.
    Dyckman, Mr.
    Gansser, Augustus H.
    Lincoln, Abraham Pres.
    Madden, Bertha Mrs.
    Mann, George W.
    McMann, Florence Mrs.
    McManniss, Catherine (mother)
    Palmer, Thomas W.
    Reichard, Beatrice Mrs.
    Smith, Lillian Mrs.
    Stanford, Mortimer
    VanKleeck, Delia (dau.)
    VanKleeck, Edith A. (dau.)
    VanKleeck, James (subject)
    VanKleeck, James C. (son)
    VanKleeck, Robert (father)
    VanKleeck, Simeon (g-father)
    Weadock, T.A.E.
    Subjects Referenced
    7th MI Inf., Co. D 17th MI Inf., Co. D
    Baldwin & Rafter
    Bay City, MI
    Bay Co., MI
    Bay Co. Bar Assoc.
    Brennerton, WA
    Buffalo, NY
    Detroit, MI
    Canadian Rebellion
    Civil War
    Dutchess Co., NY
    Exeter, MI
    Fort Sumter
    Frederick City Hosp., MD
    Michigan Bar Assoc.
    Michigan legislator
    Midland, MI
    Midland Co. Agr. Soc.
    Midland Co. Bar Assoc.
    Monroe Co., MI
    Monroe high school
    Pine Ridge cemetery
    Revolutionary war
    Seattle, WA
    Spanish American Veterans
    United Empire Loyalists
    U.S. Grant post, #67
    Univ. of Michigan
    Van Kleeck Hill, Canada
    Woman's Relief Corps
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.