Colonel Frederick Wilhelm Victor Blees ~ March 30, 1860 - September 8, 1906
Appropriately, we are starting with one of our most illustrious Famous Maconites - Colonel Frederick Blees. He also has the distinction of being one of the few well-known Maconites from our history that still has descendants living here today!
Colonel Blees's full name was Frederick Wilhelm Victor Blees, and he was born in Aix-La-Chapelle, Prussia (now Aachen, Germany) on March 30, 1860. He was educated in the excellent schools of his native country, and was graduated with honors from the Imperial Lyceum at Metz, Germany, in 1878, at the age of 18. One year later, he graduated from the Royal Prussian Military School of Cassel, entered the Prussian Army and was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the 81st Royal Prussian Infantry, and served for two years.
In 1880 and 1881 he pursued graduate studies in music and the classics at the universities of Heidelberg and Wurzberg and won academic honors. He came to the United States in 1881, at the age of 21, and later that same year became a naturalized US citizen, on December 21, 1881.
Between 1881 and 1890 he lived in New York City, Jackson, Mississippi, and Monroe, Louisiana. While in New York he worked for a time for his uncle, Richard Blees, who manufactured Blees Sewing Machines. While in Monroe, Louisiana he met and married Mary Virginia Staples in 1886.
In 1890 he moved to Davenport, Iowa, where he was Commandant of Cadets at Griswold College and also was made lieutenant colonel of the Iowa National Guard, and was appointed aid-de-camp on the staff of Iowa Governor, Horace Boies, eventually advancing to the rank of Colonel.
In 1892 he moved to Macon, Missouri, and became the headmaster and superintendent of the Saint James Military Academy.
After having received a large inheritance upon the deaths of his parents, in 1899 he founded and built, in Macon, Missouri, the Blees Military Academy, which was considered to be among the very best military educational institutions in the country at the time. With his interest and background in the military, it became his pride and joy, and was the pinnacle of all his accomplishments.
Also in 1899 he was offered the Republican nomination for Congress, but declined it because he did not want to be taken away from Macon and his Academy. He was the head of the Academy until his death on September 8, 1906. He and his wife had five children, Frederick James (1887-1951), Alvin Wolcott (1890-1945), William Albert (1892-1979), Anne Marie (1893-1976), and Mary Elise (1894-1936).
Some of his accomplishments while living in Macon included:
- Much of the credit needs to be given to Colonel Blees for the paved streets and sewers of Macon.
- He founded or co-founded many enterprises in Macon that provided employment for many of the citizens, including the Macon Shear Company, The Blees McVickar Carriage Works, the First National Bank, the Macon Citizen Printing Company, the Jefferson Hotel, and the Blees Theater
- He made Macon famous when he purchased the very first electric automobile made by Studebaker in 1902 (By the way, Thomas Edison purchased the second one)
- He will be long remembered with admiration for the founding and operation of the superior Blees Military Academy in 1899
- For a time he was the owner of Rex McDonald
This horse is considered by many experts in the field to be the greatest American Saddlebred horse that ever lived, and Colonel Blees won many awards and ribbons with him.
Rex was such a famous horse that he when he died, he was provided with his own headstone to commemorate his life! This is just another small demonstration of the many ways in which Colonel Blees used his intellect and excellent judgement throughout his remarkable life.
Much thanks to David Wood - a descendent of Colonel Blees and the Grand Marshall in our upcoming Sesquicentennial Parade - for much of the information and images provided on this Famous Maconite! Also thanks to Terry of CadetWeb.Net - a wonderful lady who has compiled a large amount of information on the history of military academies due to her love of the subject - who provided the article with picture of the Blees Military Academy and the image of the two fine looking Blees Academy Cadets. Big thanks also to the Audrain County Historical Society for the picture of Rex McDonald!
Famous Maconite by Amy Lee Goosey
Well, I would have to say my dad, Olin Dennis. He was a watch repairman and was at one time the president of the National Horologist's Association. (An horologist is a watch repairman and jeweler.) He would even have business from overseas as far away as London England. He was a man who cared more for others than for riches. He did not charge much and never had much in the way of worldly possessions, but he would give anyone less fortunate a helping hand. He was the first in the West End to have a television that he made out of a kit purchased through the mail and had people come from all over to come and watch television at our house. During WWII, when metal was scarce he even made watch and clock parts from wood. He was a man of many talents and I miss him a lot.