History of Joseph Alonzo Kleeberger
= As researched by Doris Klock
= Joseph Alonzo Kleeberger was born on April 11 1860, in southwest Wisconsin (in Monticello Twp, Lafayette County), to George Louis Henry Kleeberger (1816-1894) and Harriet Funk (1823-1909). George Kleeberger had immigrated from Germany about 1837. Harriet Funk was from a pioneer family who first settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s. Her parents moved west to work in lead mines south of St Louis, Missouri in Jefferson County, where Harriet was born. Harriet’s ancestors for several generations were interested in learning and in medicine across these several generations. When Harriet was about five years old the family moved to Wisconsin where, at age 18, she married George Kleeberger. He was a farmer in southern Wisconsin but later bought a store and a nice home at Apple River in northern Illinois. The store seems to have been successful.
= Joseph was the seventh of eight Kleeberger children who grew to adulthood. He and brother Ben, three years older, both attended a commercial college in nearby Dubuque, Iowa. About 1880, after Ben graduated, his father sent him to run a general store at Nebraska City, Nebraska on the Missouri River about 50 miles south of Omaha. Soon Joe followed his older brother. Two things happened at Nebraska City: the store went broke, and Joe got religion.
= Joe went to Chicago, probably attended Moody Bible Institute, and became a Methodist minister. He was sent to be the preacher in Frontier County on the prairie of southwestern Nebraska. Joe had always had an interest in the ladies, and here he met and married Minnie Smith. They had a son, John Wesley Kleeberger, born in 1886, and another, George Louis, in 1888. Minnie died when George was three weeks old, apparently due to complications of childbirth. Joe took the baby and little John back to his folks at Apple River, Illinois. He met a nice looking Methodist lady in the area named Annie Reed (1860-1945) who worked as a seamstress. They married October 22 1890 at Apple River.
= Joe and Annie, along with Joe’s sons John and George and Annie’s mother Jane Reed, moved to a lumber camp in Wisconsin’s North Woods where Joe had been appointed to another preaching post, while he also managed a small general store and Post Office. Their first child, Hazel, was born August 22 1891. Son Fred was born November 10 1892, and Jessie was born December 4 1893. Annie had now been married three years and was raising five children, the oldest (John) being seven years old. Annie did not hesitate to say what was on her mind, and she usually got her way. John and George got into mischief while Annie had three babies and tried to keep up the home. The family moved around during the short time they lived in Wisconsin, and now they headed back to Iowa. There must have been a photography shop in some of the general stores. There are pictures of all the children dressed in fancy clothes. On the way back from the North Woods, Grandma Jane Reed missed the train, probably on purpose, and ended up back in Apple River with her son Charles Reed and wife Mary.
= In Iowa, Joe found work near their home for a while. Later he became a traveling salesman. Ruth was born May 21 1896 in Camanche, Iowa. It seems Joe and Annie were not getting along too well. About 1897 he joined Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. He traveled with them as a sharp shooter and chaplain.
= Money in the home was short. As children, Hazel and Fred picked strawberries and herded cows. Then the girls worked one at a time for a lady with a nose cancer and a rough personality. Mother Annie worked out. Fred delivered messages for Western Union. They all worked hard. Jessie and Ruth kept the home running. The church became an important part of their lives. They were living in Clinton, Iowa. (A photo shows the house where they lived from 1909-1918.)
= Joe and son John went south to work in corn and cotton fields. The second year, on August 20 1905, Joe died in Mississippi of malaria fever. He was buried in a corn field. John was nineteen. He returned to Clinton, Iowa, but died young in New York City. George ran away at about age thirteen and took his mother’s surname, Smith .
= Annie and her four children worked hard and lived a good life, rich in family and friends. The church was always a central part of their lives. Annie was 85 years old when she died, Hazel 90, Fred 73, Jessie 87, and Ruth 93.