JOHN NELLIS KLOCK
KLOCK FAMILY ARMS
There is a legend attached to the Klock Arms which reads as follows: This motto (Prends moi tel que je suis) refers to an incident in the year 1450 when the daughter of one of the Princes Du Rohen was stolen. The Prince promised his daughter in marriage to any gentleman who would secure her and bring her back to him. Henry Klock recovered her and took her back. Her father demanded of him his rank before consenting to the marriage. Henry replied, ' Prends moi tel que je suis,' (Take me such as I am), to which the lady replied, " I will do so," and immediately they married. And that was the beginning of the Klock family.
After years of pleading this autobiography was written to satisfy my wife and daughter. It was first intended for their eyes and use only, but afterwards we thought there might be a few friends who would like a copy.
It is not written in the egotistic belief that the general public would take any interest in the simple events of an ordinary life. Therefore this little book is not a broadcast but sent only to a few friends whom we feel care a bit for us and therefore will not read with the eyes of cynics or critics.
A study of my ancestry would be a story of the famous Mohawk Valley in New York state from the days of its earliest settlement by the Dutch. No history of Fort Plain, Canajoharie, St. Johnsville and Palatine Bridge would be attempted without giving much space to the Klock and the Nellis families. Fort Klock still stands in the neighborhood and is a reminder of the part the Klock family played in defending the early settlers against the savages. Co. Jacob Klock, a remote ancestor, was an early pioneer and was distinguished because he was able to write and spell and to compose a well-worded letter. His written documents stand out as being more literate than any of his contemporaries. My great- grandfather Klock was a major in the war of 1812, and was distinguished in. the government war records for unusual bravery. Other members of the tribe figured in all the wars of the country, but were not advanced to military commands.
None of the Klocks rose to eminence as statesmen, philosophers, scientists or captains of industry. They were just average folks, or possibly a shade better. As far as I know there were no scala wags in the lot.
My maternal grandmother came from the splendid Young family early settlers of Schoharie County, New York. My grandmother's mother was Isabel MacNaughton, a member of the wealthy and prominent MacNaughton family of Edinburgh, Scotland. My mother's family pointed to this lineage with considerable pride.
There is an interesting story connected with my maternal grandfather. . His grandfather was an adopted child. In the days of sailing vessels a three master left a port in Europe. When the ship was well out of the harbor a little boy was discovered who was traveling alone. How he got aboard no one on the ship knew. He was very richly dressed in velvet and was an attractive child. All inquiry regarding the boy was futile and the captain of the ship adopted the little fellow as his own son. That boy was my grandfather's grandfather.
Had I been born a girl I could join the D. A. R. with several bars to spare.
Ambitious for "Heel-and -Toe" Marathon Race
My life has always been measured in multiples of five. Born in 1865, married in 1890, moved to Benton Harbor, where most of my life has been spent in 1895, and if I discontinue this existence in 1935, in 1940, or improbably in 1945, the cycle of five will run to a final conclusion.
I was born of poor parents at Brier Hill, St. Lawrence County, New York, on October 18, 1865, in a room over a grocery store. I was the second child in a family of five. During the years of my childhood our family lived in nearly every quarter of New York state. At the age of eleven I was taken out of school and put at work in a printing office. This was made necessary by a break-down in my father's health. The education I have was acquired through reading, observation and the handling of type.
During my teen years I was deeply sensitive over the matter of clothes-my clothes. Changes in clothing for boys were more abrupt and pronounced in those days than now. As an illustration: Everybody then wore derby hats, and me year crowns of the hats would be as flat as flounders and the next year extremely high. There was a corresponding extreme in the style of a suit of clothes. I was always a year or two behind the style, as out-of-date stuff could be bought for little or nothing. On Sundays I would travel the back streets to avoid the jeers of boys who little knew or cared the wounds they were making. These experiences taught me never to make anyone uncomfortable because his clothes were poor or out-of-date.
Our family fare was wholesome, though frugal. My parents never owed a dollar, never ran in debt or bought anything on the installment plan. One year times were extremely hard with us and our principal fare was buckwheat cakes, corn bread, side pork, black strap molasses, potatoes, onions, and cabbage. We had two 10 cent soup bones a week, which furnished great treats. We had just enough butter to keep in memory its taste.
As a boy I usually worked long hours in the print shop and about my only recreation was playing baseball. Like all normal boys, I had ambitions and visions. This was long before the marathon dances and the endurance bicycle races. I was in the days of the "heel and toe" matches which lasted for six days and six nights at Madison Square Garden in New York. I wanted to become the winner of a six-day walking match and practiced until I was able to cover about five miles in half an hour. In the great matches the contestants kept. going night and day with little time for food and sleep, the same as present day marathon dancers. That ambition soon died out and my absorbing passion was to some day become the owner of a daily newspaper.
SHORTLY before I was twenty-one, my family were again able to shift without my help and I started out on my own. My first position was reporting on the Schenectady (N.Y.) Gazette. This was not a very progressive paper, as it was run by an old maid and her old maid brother. I received $12. per week, but did not earn it, as I could get no kick out of working on a paper with so little snap or enterprise. I seemed to satisfy my employers but I was very much dissatisfied. After a few months I resigned and went to Stamford, Conn., where I secured a place on a weekly newspaper; there was no daily paper in Stamford at that time. I handled most of the local news for the paper but the editor was so conservative that I could not write the things that I thought ought to be written. After a few months in this uncongenial atmosphere I went to New York and worked in the printing office which printed the Century Magazine and the Century dictionary. I did some typesetting on the dictionary and set some Greek type, though I knew nothing of Greek. I did not know epsilon from upsilon or alpha from omega, but I managed to get by.
My pay in New York was $18 per week, but as my living expenses were heavy, there was not the chance to save money that I desired. My ability as a printer ran along the setting of straight matter and I went to Rochester, where I was employed as a compositor on the Post-Express. I could make more money setting type than following the more genteel occupation of a reporter. I worked six days each week on the Post-Express, which was an afternoon paper, and through Saturday night on the Sunday Democrat and Chronicle, thus giving me seven full days of work per week. Newspaper typesetters were paid by the piece and as I was the second fastest compositor in Rochester my pay checks were quite substantial for those days.
In Schenectady, at $12. per week, at Stamford and in New York, I saved some money every week by spending only for actual necessities. My only luxury was living at a reasonably good boarding house. While living in New York City, Denman Thompson was carrying the city by storm in the "Old Homestead." On the street, in the shop, in boarding house, everybody was talking about and praising the performance. I wanted to go to the play, but decided to save the price of the ticket toward my own paper. During my several months in New York, I did not attend a single theatrical performance and the same is true. of the time that I spent in Schenectady, Stamford and Rochester. I held to the theory that a young man without influential friends and financial resources must deny himself if he wished to get ahead.
AT ONE SCORE AND ONE
Ready to Start a Newspaper of My Own.
In my twenty-second year I decided to branch out in the newspaper business for myself. In the little more than a year that I had been away from home I had saved $4II, a small amount to set out in business. With that amount of money a daily newspaper was out of the question and so was the purchase of an newspaper would be welcome. A new railroad, now the Chicago Great Western, was building from Chicago to Minneapolis. It established a station midway between Freeport and Galena, on the rich prairie of northern Illinois, inhabited by a thrifty and intelligent farming population. This seemed to offer an inviting field and I arrived there on one of the first trains. The town was just starting and there was half a dozen stores, a bank, a hotel, water tank and railroad station and half a dozen houses, all the buildings having been constructed since the railroad started to build. It was necessary to run in debt for a large part of the printing outfit. I did the editorial work, the type setting, presswork and the mailing of the papers, with the help of a boy. In addition, the shop turned out quite a volume of job printing. It meant long days and long nights of work for six days a week.
The paper, clumsy and poor as it was, caught the fancy of the country-side and rapidly grew into favor and popularity. Every week the paper contained some editorial comment or some local article different from what the reader expected to find and these comments or articles were the subject, of general local discussion. ' It was an attempt to inject 'the personality of the editor into the paper and in this he was at least moderately successful.
ONE incident stands out quite vividly in my memory. My paper carried the advertisement of a saloon, calling attention to the fine supply of wines it had for serving homes. Personally, I never patronized a saloon nor used strong drink of any kind. Some of the best friends I had made in the community were members of the W. C. T. U. and in solemn convention assembled they passed a resolution demanding that the wicked advertisement be no longer carried. The saloon paid $ 1.00 per month for running the announcement, so the monetary consideration amounted to nothing. I took a stand that my maturer years have neither condemned nor justified. The demand of the good women was replied to in the newspaper. The paper expressed deep sorrow that the W. C. T U. should attempt to regulate a business outside its sphere and explained that a newspaper Was a common carrier, and as such was admitted to the mails, and that a newspaper had no right to discriminate against any business, especially one that had been expressly sanctioned by law. This stirred the good sisters into a terrific rage and they vowed to have vengeance. None of them stopped their subscriptions to the paper as they were anxious to see what blasts of sin were coming next. Their vengeance was poured out in the harmless amusement of hanging the editor in effigy on a hitching post in front- of his office. Morning came and the effigy was there. Noon came and it was still hanging in the breeze. Night came and it was still there. And the morning and the evening were the first day. Another morning, noon and night passed and the stuffed man was still there. And the morning and' the evening were the second day. On the morning of the third day the husband of a leading W. C. T. U. called and explained to the editor how much comment had been aroused and what a disgrace the whole thing was and he begged the editor to take it down.
"I did not put it there," said the editor, "and it does not disturb me." And he added: "Let them that put it up, take it down if they do not like their work." The fourth morning the apparition was gone but the editor had no hand in its removal. After a few months
the W. C. T. U. was the most loyal supporter the paper had. The liquor or wine advertisement was carried as long as the saloonkeeper found that it paid.
Those were strenuous, exciting, though happy days. It gave a young man, only a boy, an opportunity for self-expression uncurbed by a master hand. The years were made shorter and sweeter by an acquaintance made by the editor of an auburn haired girl, who possessed personal charms and the ability to use them. She read the paper religiously and picked out what she thought were sayings unusually bright. She lived in the next town on the new railroad and occasionally walked six miles over railroad ties to pay her regards to the editor. She was later rewarded by becoming the editor's wife. She is good enough to say that she has never regretted the pilgrimages over the ties and the subsequent result. Neither has the editor ever had any regrets, for this good wife has ever encouraged her husband to do something better and nobler.
AT ONE SCORE AND A HALF
When I Began My Life Work at Benton Harbor
At the time of selling the Owosso paper my wife was in poor health, really an invalid. She somewhere got the idea that she could improve more rapidly if she could live near Lake Michigan. So a survey was made of lake towns from Petoskey to Benton Harbor, and the latter city was finally selected. There was a well-established and well-managed paper, the Daily Palladium, and another paper, the Morning News, on its last legs; It had but a few weeks left of life. Buying the established paper was out of the question for two reasons, it was not for sale and the " lack of capital to buy it. The Morning News was bought and converted into the Evening News and was operated as such for about ten years, when it absorbed the Daily Palladium.
At the time of my coming to Benton Harbor the city was in turmoil and financial distress. During the few preceding years the city had enjoyed a great boom. Factories of large size and employing large numbers of men were secured only to fail and to close from the stress of industrial conditions. The basket" factories, making packages for the fruit industry, were prosperous and so was one furniture factory which had weathered the storm. The principal industry was the steamboat business, which was largely carried on by the Graham & Morton company. There was a competing steamboat line that changed ownership with the moon.
The city and the street railway company was engaged in a spirited war. The old established paper took up the cause of the street car company, while the new paper advocated the rights of the citizens. The warfare was so fierce that the mayor of the city cut down the trolley wires of the railroad and in the excitement that followed one alderman was shot by the owner of the road from an armored street car. The public was with the authorities and this made it easier for the new paper to gain patronage. The task of fighting an old established paper which was strongly entrenched was no easy matter.
After running the Evening News for two years or less, and still struggling on the brink of failure, the newspaper plant was completely wiped out by fire. My family, tired of the bitter warfare between the two papers and its fight with the street railway company, wanted me to quit the business and quit the city. I told them that I might be carried out but that I would not walk out until I had gained supremacy of the field. The paper went on and never missed a single issue. Temporary arrangements were made to print the 'paper in a St. Joseph printing shop.
Eight years later the Evening News bought the Daily Palladium and the two papers were united under the name of the News-Palladium. After operating the consolidated papers for a few years a company well financed, who owned the St. Joseph Press, coveted the Benton Harbor field. They threatened to move the Press from St. Joseph to Benton Harbor, and leased a Benton Harbor building for that purpose. This was the year of the great peach freeze and the prospects for business were very poor. It had been demonstrated that Benton Harbor could not support two daily newspapers and another life and death struggle was in prospect. The new comers offered a good price for my holding and the News-Palladium had a new management.
WHEN I sold out it was my thought to locate in some western city and I had Sioux Falls, S. D., especially in mind. My wife, who ten year before was anxious to leave Benton Harbor, would not listen to moving away. Because I had been successful as a newspaper publisher she thought I could do anything else. She did not appreciate the hazards of business as I did and thought it was easy to succeed anywhere at anything. She was still a semi invalid and she had her way.
As a member of the Benton Harbor Development Company, which expended $150,000 of Benton Harbor's money in securing new industries, I had with the other members of the committee voted a bonus of $10,000 to the Benton Harbor Malleable Foundry Company. Before the foundry began operations the capital of the Chicago men who had organized it gave out and the prospects were that the plant would never open. The Chicago men made an appeal for local capital to help out. There was no general response and finally the late John E. Barnes, H. S. Gray and the writer carne to the rescue with the needed cash. . None of the three wanted to make the investment but did so because they had voted a bonus to the concern and they could not bear to see a blot upon the judgment of the Development company, in which they were so prominent. The malleable foundry, with the help of this Benton Harbor cash, was able to begin operations. It was operated only a few months when it was found that the Chicago promoters would not be able to make a success of it. As I was doing nothing the other local investors asked me to try and manage it. Being in a distressed condition of mind I consented. From that time until the depression of 1929 the company was exceptionally prosperous and yielded large returns to the original stockholders. Along in 192.0 I organized a corporation and raised $600,000 in cash in two weeks and purchased the Whiteley Malleable Foundry at Muncie, Ind., and in less than ten years the plant had been rebuilt and greatly improved, and was worth twice the $600,000 paid for it. In addition to this the stockholders had received in cash dividends over that period more than the $600,000 they had put into it.
ATHOUGH there was more money to be made in manufacturing than in running a small city daily I felt lost. I was taken out of the whirl of life and planted on a shelf. An editor who at all has the confidence of the public is consulted about everything. In him is confided more secrets than the family doctor or the minister. He is the first to learn of the sordid things of life, of family difficulties, of public dishonesty, of impending events which may mean very much to the well being of the community. Much is related in confidence and it is a wise editor who can discern what to suppress. If a newspaper should publish all the things that people say and do it could almost bring on a revolution.
The manufacturer, if successful, can only do two things: Furnish employment at good wages and make money for his stockholders. There is little joy in piling up money that you do not need and so the major part of my excess earnings have been spent in providing beaches, parks, churches and schools. Our first major gift was Jean Klock park, a half mile of Lake Michigan frontage, which was given to the city of Benton Harbor. I say "our," for my wife was very anxious to give this park to the city in memory of our little child. Her untimely death made possible the giving to other children the share of our earnings which belonged to her, but which she could not use. As the years progressed larger gifts to other causes followed.
RIGHT after the close of the war I became interested in the newspaper business again, not in an active capacity but as part owner of the News-Palladium. At the outbreak of the war Stanley R. Banyon, who had carried papers for me and who had been one of my cub reporters, made me a visit. He wanted to interest me in helping him buy a newspaper. I questioned about the number of brothers he had and how many of them were going to enlist. He gave the number and said none were going as they had families to support. As he had no family I asked if it were not up to him to go. I told him his duty was in France and when he came back I would help him get a newspaper. He went as an officer, was severely wounded, and recovered after a long experience in foreign hospitals.
He came home and the first day of his arrival he asked me if I remembered the promise made him. We looked over several newspaper properties but none suited him as well as the News Palladium. That paper was not for sale and could only be bought at a fancy price. Together with his brother, Willard J. Banyan, I purchased the paper and gave the young man a chance. He has made good use of his opportunity and is now a very substantial citizen of Benton Harbor, and is recognized throughout Michigan as a journalist of more than ordinary ability.
I never had any desire for public office or the lime-light. Unsought by me I was made a member of the library board and served for several years, and resigned to become a member of the school board, and again resigned to become a commissioner and Mayor of Benton Harbor. In the election which made me a commissioner I received a larger number of votes than any of the other twelve candidates in the race. When chosen mayor by the commissioners I announced that when my term of three years had expired that I would not stand for reelection. At the close of my term petitions were presented with signatures of hundreds of voters in all stations of life asking me to run for a second term. I held true to my pledge. During my administration the city was pulled out of debt and out of the mud. A modem water plant was erected and other needed improvements made. When I became mayor the city was deeply in debt; it was in default on interest and bonds and could not pay its running expenses. When I left office credit had been restored and the treasury had a large surplus. My success in this office was due to the fact that I did nothing looking toward a second term. It was a business and not a political administration.
I have been connected with many "drives." The first, was the campaign for securing the Bell opera house. Dr. John Bell and George A. Mills propose that they would erect a theatre if the citizens would subscribe for 1,000 tickets for the opening night at $5 a ticket. I was chairman of this committee and the $5,000 was subscribed. My next experience was in raising $25,000 for Y. M. C. A. work in the war. I was the county chairman and the designated amount was raised. Later I was impressed as county chairman of the last three liberty loan campaigns, and in each case more than the amount allotted to the county was secured. This was the rawest work in which I was ever engaged.
The committee was given use of the court house, where we held our inquisitions. We had the people of the county card indexed and those who could but would not buy bonds of our solicitors were summoned to the court house for examination. The officials and lawyers backed us in our methods. We went after many a man pretty rough and in all cases I think we got results. In times of war things are admissible that would be grieviously wrong in times of peace. The justification was that Berrien county was always "over the, top" in the liberty loan campaigns.
My "war record" caused me some trouble later on, as I was drafted to head up the committee that sold the bonds of Hotel Vincent, and chairman of the committees that collected subscriptions for the Y. M. C. A. building and the new Congregational church, the three efforts calling for more than half a million dollars.
THE ambition of my life was never realized. I wanted to own- a daily paper profitable enough so that I could devote all my time to editorial work. While running newspapers the revenue was always so small that I had to devote about half my time to helping in the mechanical department. It was never my purpose to be rich and if an issue of my paper carried a line of profitable advertising and there was nothing of importance in the news or editorial columns I would go home at night discouraged and dejected. If on the other hand, there was no pay load of advertising but the paper contained something that would appeal to the better nature of the reader in an unusual way I would go from work happy. I never was given the joy of putting out my ideal of a newspaper. Had I continued a publisher, instead of switching to manufacturing, I might have arrived.
In these days when the surplus of most manufacturing plants is largely dissipated I am glad that in the good days of prosperity that the Benton Harbor Malleable Industries distributed at Christmas may not have done much good but the life insurance helped many families.
MUCH of my earnings and a liberal portion of my energy have been devoted To the cause of religion. I have always abhorred the idea of being classed among the pious. My definition of pious is expressed by the person who totes his Bible through the streets, wears phylacteries, and is forever crowding his devotions upon an uncaring world. I did, however, feel deep concern about being classified as religious. I wanted to deal justly, to love mercy and walk humbly before God.
It has always seemed to me that a city without a church would be one in which even the religiously indifferent would not care to live. If that be true, it follows that good citizenship demands support of the church in money and attendance from everyone who wishes to be classified as a good citizen. It seemed to me that a person deriving benefit from the church ought to be a supporter of the church. In any other case he is shifting his load of the responsibility onto someone else.
Aside from the duty of supporting the church, I have found my religion a source of great inspiration when high tide was running with me and a source of great comfort when confronted with sorrow and disappointment. It has given me poise in the face of calamity and catastrophe. Besides, I have found great joy in doing religious and church work. And, the money I have spent in these enterprises have made me no poorer. Together with gifts to the public, they are the only investments I have that were not upset by the depression.
I have often witnessed the truth of the words of the psalmist, "Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it."
THESE in brief are a few of the outstanding things that have happened in a long and active life. Perhaps too much stress is laid on accomplishment and too little on failure. In recounting the past we should be thankful that the failures fade away from view while the successes stand boldly out in our memories. The proudest accomplishment of my life is the help that it has given to others. Many young men are now holding better positions and are carrying more responsibility, and I hope are better men, than they would otherwise had we not known each other and helped each other. This I count my greatest contribution to my fellow men.
On an ancient occasion ten men afflicted with an incurable disease were given permanent relief and only one of the lot ever made any acknowledgment of the benefit received. My experience has been more happy, for out of every ten young men helped through our association, nine have sent me endearing words of appreciation. I take the liberty of printing one of these very personal letters taken from my treasure chest.
Stanley R. Banyon, the young man I induced to go to France to fight in the world war, and now editor and publisher of the News-Palladium of Benton Harbor, on. Christmas day, 1925, wrote me this note of appreciation:
"Sometimes I wish you were very poor and I very rich so that I could give you a fortune to repay you, in part, for all that you have done for me. A few years ago I foolishly entertained, for a brief spell, the idea that I might like to go to congress. But I keenly realized that if I did leave here I would lose your companionship, your leadership and your inspiration. I am glad now that I stuck. Whatever success I have achieved is due entirely and wholly to you; and I feel that no matter what success is in store for me, if there is any, will always be due to your guidance. I would rather be associated with you in business than any other living man."
From reading the forgoing it must not be understood that all men speak well of me. I have been engaged in too many public and private controversies where principle was at stake to make no enemies. While publishing newspapers my friend today were often enemies tomorrow, and enemies today friends tomorrow. The test, "Woe unto you when all men speak well of you." Never had any terror for me.
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