Obituary of Augustus Spies from the Menominee Herald-Leader, August 14, 1915.
Augustus Spies, capitalist and director in many of the largest business interests on the Menominee River, former mayor and donor of the Spies Public Library, is dead.
The end came yesterday afternoon at 5 o’clock in his home at 1212 Main Street. Mr. Spies had been suffering with heart trouble for more than a year. Members of his family were at his bedside.
Mr. Spies was 79 years old, and had lived in Menominee for fifty-five years.
Funeral services will be held at the residence Monday afternoon at 2 o’clock. All the plans for the funeral had not been completed this afternoon.
No man, possibly, has been more prominently identified with the business progress of Menominee than Augustus Spies. Director in many large corporations which contributed materially to the growth and prosperity of the twin cities, and active head of others, his keen business policy was largely responsible for many big enterprises.
At the time of his death, Mr. Spies was president of the Menominee & Marinette Light & Traction company and of the First National Bank, while he was active head of the Marinette & Menominee Paper company for many years and founder of the Spies Lumber company, now the Spies Thompson company.
Born in Hesse, Darmstadt, Germany, on Oct. 23, 1836, Mr. Spies arrived in the United States in 1850 with his parents, who settled on a farm in Roygan Township, Winnebago County, Wisconsin.
He attended school in Germany for seven years, but his educational opportunities in his younger life were meager, for he went to work on his father’s farm at thirteen years of age. He later work for a nurseryman, and when he was twenty-two years of age he rented and later bought a farm of 160 acres.
After his marriage in 1860, he took advantage of improving finances to complete his education by attending college at Lawrence College in Appleton. He sold his farm, realized a good profit on the land, and came to Menominee in 1866.
He started a meat market at the corner of Ludington avenue and Kirby street, later building the first brick building in the city of Menominee at the corner of Ludington Avenue and Main Street, where the P. C. Servatius market is at present. Mr. Spies remained in the market business until about 1875.
In the meantime he had been trading judiciously in real estate and timber lands, and in 1880 he erected a lumber mill on the bay shore, upon the present site of the Spies-Thompson mill. The mill built by Mr. Spies at that time is the oldest mill now operating upon the Menominee river, with the possible exception of the N. Ludington company’s mill on the island.
The long life of this mill was made possible by the firm belief of Mr. Spies in conservation. During the rush times in the lumber industry, when other institutions were running day and night, the Spies mill was open during the daylight hours only. No rise in lumber prices or heavy demand for lumber could force a change in this policy of looking toward the future.
Mr. Spies withdrew his interest in the lumber company three years ago, and the Spies-Thompson company is now composed of Frank Spies, his son, and John Thompson.
Mr. Spies was one of the incorporators of the Stephenson Banking Company of Marinette, which later became the Stephenson National Bank, and was a director in the bank up until the time of his death. He also helped in the organization of the First National Bank of Menominee and was president of that institution at the time of his death.
He was president and general manager of the Marinette & Menominee Paper Company for many years, retiring as active head of the concern several years ago.
Perhaps no other business enterprise in the city owes it’s growth to Mr. Spies as much as does the Menominee & Marinette Light and Traction Company. He entered the Menominee Electric Light, Railway & Power Company in 1891 when the first street railway lines were built, and became president of that company.
He was instrumental in the consolidation of the traction company with the Menominee Gas Company and the Marinette Gas, Electric Light & Street Railway Company in 1903, and was president of the consolidated enterprise, the present Menominee & Marinette Light & Traction Company. He was still president of the company at the time of his death, thus making a continuous service of twenty-four years in that capacity.
Men associated with him in business had unlimited confidence in his business judgment, and there was little trouble in financing ventures in which he was interested. He also believed in Menominee for Menomineans, as shown by an anecdote recalled by Edward Daniell, general manager of the traction company. An offer from eastern capitalists for controlling interest in the traction company had been received. The offer was considered a good one and some of the company directors were in favor of acceptance. Mr. Spies put down his foot against the sale.
“If we let a crowd of eastern capitalists get hold of this, they might now take the same interest which Menominee people would take, and let it run down.” Mr. Spies told the directors, and the stock was not sold.
The Spies home at the corner of Main street and Woodford court was the first solid brick residence built in Menominee. Mr. Spies often recalled during the last few years how people had chided him because he was building his house “way off in the woods.”
His generosity to the city was best demonstrated in his gift of the Spies Public library site and building in 1903 and by charter amendment this became the public library of the city.
Out of respect to the memory of the donor, Librarian Zana K. Miller announced that the library would be closed until after the funeral of Mr. Spies.
In addition to his civic gift, Mr. Spies was a liberal benefactor of various public charities and churches in Menominee.
Mr. Spies was interested in public affairs all through his residence here. He was one of the first aldermen after the incorporation of the city in 1883, and he treasured a city order for $1, which was the compensation for serving on the council at that time and which he had never cashed.
He was elected mayor in 1906 with a vote of 1,178 to 544 for George Haggerson, his opponent, and was re-elected in 1908, retiring from office two years later. He served six years as a member of the school board and for many years as a cemetery trustee.
Gertrude Prince, whom he knew in Germany before coming to this country and to whom he was married in 1860, survives her husband. The living children of this union are: Charles A., Frank and Arthur Spies, Mrs. D. G. Bothweil, Mrs. R. W. S. Hoskin, Mrs. C. R. Elwood, Mrs. Victor de Morainville, Menominee; Mrs. George H. Peaks, Evanston, Ill; and Mrs. F. W. Humphrey of Shawano, Wis. Three children died in infancy.