Thursday, April 28, 2016

"This is the Kaiser House and I am The Kaiser"

The story goes that Melchoir (Michael) Kaiser used to sit in front of the Kaiser House repeating the above phrase late in his life. By that time he had contributed a great deal to the community of and around Philipsburg.

Michael was born December 21, 1827 in Switzerland. He immigrated to St. Louis, Missouri in 1846. Trained as a shoemaker, he set up a shop in St. Louis. Michael married Louisa Wagoner (Wagner) in 1850 and they moved to California in 1852. In California Michael worked in the market business around San Francisco and Marysville. Next they moved to Virginia City, Nevada in 1860 where they operated a butcher shop, grocery and supply store. In 1866 Michael, Louisa and children John and Hermann moved to Helena, Montana. In Helena, Michael built the Planter Hotel. In 1867 they moved to Cable where he built the International Hotel. Michael ran that business until 1878 when he moved to Philipsburg.

I am uncertain as to when the original frame structure known as the Kaiser house in Philipsburg on the corner of Montgomery and Broadway was built. The New Northwest in July 1881 stated:
The enterprising people of  Philipsburg, with an unmistaken confidence in the future, are building costly houses, both public and private. The new three story brick hotel, to replace the frame structure long and favorably known as the Kaiser House, is nearly ready for the roof.
The Rocky Mountain Husbandman, October 13, 1881 had the following article:
Of the  two hotels, the Keizer House, kept be M. Keizer is worthy of special mention. The House is receiving an extensive addition in the shape of a two story brick with a large basement. The house was planned and the thereof supertended by Hector S. Horton, Philipsburg's principal mason. It is sightly located on the corner, along side the old hotel building. It is tastily finished and especially arranged with the design of economy, convenience and ventilation. The front porch is also two stories high and extends halfway around the building. In the large basement Mr. Keizer will open a fine bar and billard hall. When completed Philipsburg will be next to Helena in the way of fine hotels, and it will be a great addition and credit to the town.
 Louisa's obituary states that she had  lived in Philipsburg continuously since 1873, which leads me to believe that she ran the Philipsburg business while Michael ran the Cable business. Also their son, John is credited with arriving in Philipsburg in 1869.  In 1888 the Kaiser House Annex on North Montgomery was added to the establishment.

On May 4, 1893, Michael was named  the first Alderman for Philipsburg and in the May 11, Philipsburg Mail, was the statement:
The Kaiser Brothers have been so busy superintending the work on the new water system of late that they have been obliged to delay proceedings on the proposed resumption of operations on the East Granite; but they expect it will be carried on as soon as the water plant is completed and they can devote time to starting it the right way.
Although the article states brothers, I believe that Michael was also involved with John and Hermann in  setting up the water company.  The operation was a major undertaking and built a pipe system to provide water to the growing community. The system was described in the Citizen Call December 25, 1899:
The water from the South Fork of Boulder is conducted a distance of two and a half miles over the divide, through a series of heavy pressure pipes and flumes, the pipes being a distance of 8,000 and the flumes for a distance of nearly 10,000 feet. The two lines laying in the form of a Y, bearing from different heads and emptying into one receiving tank. The water is then conducted by flume from the receiving tank and emptied into the water of Stuart Gulch (note the spelling). From the head of Stuart Gulch  the water is conducted through flumes and pipes a distance of  three and three fourths miles to a larger reservoir located one and one-fourth miles north of Philipsburg. This reservoir is eighty feet long, thirty feet wide and twelve feet deep and holds 149,000 gallons. From the reservoir the water is conducted  through iron mains to the city of Philipsburg, a distance of  one and one-fourth miles. This reservoir is located at an elevation of 357 feet above the corner of Montgomery and Broadway indicating a pressure at that point of 165 pounds to the square inch... The Water Works  system was constructed at a cost of $55,000... The owners of this system operate under a franchise granted by the city of Philipsburg to furnish water for a period of ten years at the rate of $100 and $112.50 per hydrant per year.
By 1896 the water company was referred to as The M and J K Water Company with Hermann Kaiser President and J,W, Suppinger Secretary, according to stock holder meeting minutes. One of the major votes during 1896 was whether to sell out to the Philipsburg Water Company.  Obviously the vote was negative because the company  continued ownership into the early 1900's.

Maintenance of the system was frequently cited with notices published in the Philipsburg Mail that water would be shut off while a water main was repaired or the crew could clean the reservoir. Also, the City Council in 1896 ordered the Water Company to remove all private street and alley hydrants. This was to be done by the first of May at owners expense and the hydrants would now have to be placed in the consumers homes or yards. After a notice of water being turned off for a reservoir cleaning in 1901, the City of Philipsburg bought out the Kaiser Water System but I have not determined the exact date.

The Kaiser Family were members of the Philipsburg Pioneer Association founded in 1880. At the founding meeting there were nine bylaws adopted by the members, of which I will quote two:
Sixth: we reserve the right to get decently drunk and to recognize a social game of cards, where money is not staked, as a necessary of our daily lives;
Ninth: we want no legal advice; no long winded set of bylaws, nothing but good fellowship and lasting friendships; and as the flume is all clear, we lift the head gate and start to work on discovery. 
The bylaws were signed by 30 members, all who had arrived in Montana on or before 1865; California on or before 1849 or Idaho on or before 1860.

The Kaiser's also had a saloon located at an unknown location in Philipsburg which they asked to build an extension onto in May 1893. The Board of Aldermen, after reviewing "ordinances No. 42 and 48, relating to the fire limits decided that the request could not be granted."

Michael died on January 29, 1903 at the age of seventy-six years one month and eight days. He had been ill for several days when John  took him to St. Patrick's Hospital in Missoula on January 17th. He was diagnosed with a bowel obstruction and they could not save his life. The body was brought home on the evening train and Michael was laid to rest on February 1 after a funeral service in the Kaiser House Annex.

Louisa had been in poor health for some time and declined rapidly after Michael died.  She succumbed to an intestinal stigmatism and heart failure on November 28, 1903 at the age of seventy-seven years, six months and eleven days. Her funeral was at the Kaiser House Annex and she is buried next to Michael in the Philipsburg Cemetery.

A Philipsburg Mail article on January 27, 1972 about Wilma Bruns, has memorabilia describing the Kaiser House "Bill of fare" from the late 1880's. They served such foods as "top sirloin steak for 50 cents, ham and eggs for 35 cents, pork chops, mutton chops, pig feet (plain or breaded), veal chops and others all at comparable prices"

John Kaiser, born in Marysville, California on August 18, 1857 arrived in Philipsburg in 1869, according to his obituary.  His obituary also stated they homesteaded the Kaiser ranch on Ross' Fork in 1904. This is in error as I have found references to the ranch as early as 1895. John married Jennie Suppinger in Highland, Illinois on November 20, 1889. To this marriage was born: Robert in 1890; John Walter on July 22, 1892; Edward on March 10, 1894; Mary in 1895; Jennie in 1897 and Harold on April 30, 1907.

John was an active community member which included serving  as Granite County Commissioner. His obituary states he served two terms but I was only able to find him winning against John D. Kennedy in 1916. He was also involved in supplying lumber for the West Fork Bridge in 1925, which was authorized by the County Commissioners, so maybe he served on the county road crew. His obituary stated he retired from public life in 1930. He died from a lingering illness at the family home on June 12, 1934. Pallbearers were his four sons and two son-in-laws: Frank Conley and Theodore Saurer. His brother Hermann was residing in San Diego, California at the time of John's death.

On January 17, 1895 The Philipsburg Mail states :
The Kaiser Brothers and Charles Williams, who own some valuable mining property on the north slope of Red Hill, just north of the Hope Mining Company's ground, this week resumed work by putting several men to work in their tunnel. A new blacksmith shop has been built and the equipment installed, which would indicate that extensive development of the property is contemplated. They have a vast body of iron ore carrying from 3 to 8 percent of copper and some silver values. It is one of the best properties in Flint District, and according to the theory of experts, has every indication of developing into a great mine. The property is situated two miles from Philipsburg.

I also found a news article dated July 10, 1914 stating:
Herman Kaiser at one time had a company partly organized to operate placer mines in Stony Creek and located about forty claims along its course. The project at that time called for a drain tunnel by means of which the water was to be drawn from bedrock so that shafts could be sunk and mining carried on by means of drifting along bedrock. The tunnel was to start at a low point north of the Wyman place and pointing south, cut through the hogback or ridge extending down to the Wyman house and into the channel of Stony Creek. For one reason  or another the project was abandoned, principally on account of shortage of funds.

I know that Herman was married and had a son Clifford who contracted Typhoid Fever in 1907. But most of the available history is about John's children.  John Walter know as Walt was involved with E. M. Poese in the Hardware business and was in partnership with Charlie Carpp at the Sapphire Mines on West Fork of Rock Creek in the 1950's. (Refer to the Sapphire article earlier on this Blog)

This article was adapted from "Mettle of Granite County" Book One pages 15, and 47 - 52.