History of the State of California and Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California by James Miller Guinn 577 (Chapman Publishing 1904 1500 pages)
It is but little less than half a century ago in 1859 that James A. Kleiser came to Sonoma Co. as one of its early pioneers. At that time Russian River Valley was a wild country with a few straggling settlements here and there, the present thriving town of Cloverdale being then a small hamlet containing a half dozen rude structures used as dwelling houses. Purchasing the site of the present village of which he was the founder, he was for many years its moving industrial spirit and to his sagacity and enterprise is largely due its present prosperous condition. In the various beneficial enterprises inaugurated for developing or advancing the interests of town or county, he has been prominent and active, assisting in their establishment by a judicious use of his advice, time and money. A son of George Kleiser, he was b. July 7, 1818 in Bourbon County, Ky. He comes of thrifty German ancestry, his paternal grandfather, Joseph Kleiser, a watch and clock maker by trade, having emigrated from the Fatherland to the US when a young man, taking up his residence in Virginia. George Kleiser was b. and reared in Va. He subsequently removed to Kentucky, where he married Elizabeth McLeod, a daughter of George McLeod. A carpenter by trade, Mr. Kleiser worked as a joiner and builder until his death in 1823, at the age of 46. His widow, with her 3 children, afterwards moved to Montgomery County, Indiana settling on a farm near the village of Waveland. The eldest of a family of 3, James A. Kleiser assisted his mother on the home farm during his earlier years, doing much of the pioneer labor of clearing a homestead from the dense wilderness. Having much natural mechanical ability, he became proficient as a carpenter without serving any special apprenticeship and on attaining his majority took the contract for building the first Presbyterian Church in Waveland, Ind. Subsequently settling in Lafayette, Ind, he was for a few years the leading contractor of that place, and erected several large buildings in that town. Turning his attention then to the Atlantic coast in order to make a study of the subject, visiting all the principal cities of the New England, middle and central states. In 1849, inspired by the glorious accounts form the golden region of the Pacific Coast, he, in partnership with Capt. William Winter, formed a small company to come to California. Each man putting in $300, five wagons were purchased, with a sufficient number of mules to draw them and Feb 22 the little band left Lafayette, driving to St. Louis, where a stock of provisions was laid in. In April 1849, the party left St. Joseph, Mo, being the first outfit to leave that city that year. At the foot of the Black Hills the party had to form a blockade of the wagons for protection against the Indians but no serious trouble was had with the Crow. Mr. Kleiser formed the friendship of Chief Red Cloud, of the Sioux tribes, who protected their band while in his country. The company disbanded before crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains at which time the property was divided and although each had put in only $300 the increased value of their goods was such that each man received $600 as his share. Mr. Kleiser purchased nearly all of the carpenter, blacksmith and harness-making tools, and he, with five others, continued the journey to Stockton and theirs were the first three wagons to enter the town, Aug 12, 1849. From there they went to the Mokelumne Hills, and for a time were successfully engaged in mining at Winters bar. With characteristic enterprise he started a trading post, going to Stockton, where he chartered a small schooner, which he loaded with provisions and mining supplies, buying at the wholesale houses in the city and from the vessels in the harbor. Returning to the hills, he had no trouble in disposing of his entire stock at a good price. At one time he was alcalde, and as such meted out impartial justice to whites and Indians. Disposing of his interests in that locality, Mr. Kleiser returned with his accumulations to Indiana in the Fall of 1850, and soon afterward purchased a farm of 200 acres in Lafayette where he lived as a farmer and money broker for two years. In the Spring of 1853, he and his former partner, Captain Winter, again crossed the plains with their families, coming to the coast with 200 head of cattle and locating on the Sacramento River August 20, 1853. Mr. Kleiser sent his part of the cattle to Humboldt Co. The following October he settled with his family in Arcata, Humboldt Co., but subsequently removed to Hoopa Valley, where he erected a flour mill costing $12,000 which he operated until 1858. Selling out his milling property, he traveled with his family through various parts of the state, visiting places of note, and being especially pleased with Russian River Balley determined to locate here permanently. Purchasing from Messrs. Markel & Miller 750 acres of land in July 1859, he moved here with his family the following September and has since been one of its most esteemed residents. Very soon afterward he surveyed 100 acres, which he later platted as a town site in 1861 sold the hotel which stood upon the place when he bought it and built a brick residence. Mr. Kleiser carried on an extensive business as a stock raiser and dealer for a number of years, and was also interested in mining pursuits, in 1862 mining on the Salmon River in Idaho and on John Day's River. He was one of the organizers of the Cloverdale Toll Road and took a contract for building that part of the road extending to the Geysers, and the branch extending to Clear Lake, and was practically owner of the roads which he built at a cost of $20,000 the subscribers failing to pay for their stock. As the road did not pay, the patronage not being sufficient to pay expenses, it was presented to the county. He was fortunate in his financial investment sin the John Day's river mining district, the 7-mile ditch and flume which he built at a cost of $9000 going in debt for the same, paying for itself in two years. In 1867, he built bridges for the Central Pacific RR on the Truckee River and in 1868 erected six miles of snow sheds for the company at the summit of the Sierra Nevada, inventing and using a machine for cutting and fitting the timbers. While building the bridges he fell a distance of 50 feet and was carried unconscious to the camp. Notwithstanding the fact that five ribs were broken he recovered rapidly. In 1871 he superintended the building of the RR from Healdsburg to Cloverdale, building all the stations and fences from Donahue landing to Cloverdale, and surveyed the RR form Fulton to Guerneville. He obtained all the rights of way free except one, and built the road to the satisfaction of all, besides making money out of the undertaking. He also superintended the location of the survey.
In more recent years, Mr. Kleiser had given his attention tot he care of his large ranch, having one of the finest olive orchards in this part of the county. It is within the town limits and he carries on a profitable business in the manufacture of olive oil and pickling the olives. He has also 7 or 8 acres of pasture land within the town limits. He has persistently declined all public office, but is a warm supporter of the principles of the Republican Party. Fraternally, he is a member of Curstis Lodge No. 140, F&AM of Cloverdale.
March 18, 1869, Mr. Kleiser married Elizabeth Unferfate, a native of Rochester, NY. 3 children have been born of their reunion, Goerge W, whose birth occurred June 25, 1874, is a resident of Portland, Ore; James Henry b. Jan 28, 1876 and Joseph Albert b. Aug 1, 1881 are dentists by profession and reside in San Francisco. All 3 sons were made Masons in the Cloverdale Lodge.
Picture of James A. Kleiser and family above in Cloverdale, Calif., taken about 1894. His wife, Lizzie Unferfate, is seated on his right. His sons are standing behind, George W. Kleiser (founder of FOSTER and KLEISER) by woman with baby. James H. Kleiser, Sr., is standing on your left as you look at the picture. Joseph Albert Kleiser is the boy seated. I (Harry Kleiser) do not know who the other people are. Earlier assumptions appear to have been incorrect. He says the young woman seated next to James A. Kleiser is probably a friend of the family from across the street. I do not know who the other people are. Will edit again as more info becomes available. I (Harry Kleiser) selected 1894 as a date because the boy appears to be about 13. If it be Joseph Albert, he was born in 1881.