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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

KIENE, Peter Sr.

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Located at 315 West Locust, this QUEEN ANNE ARCHITECTURE home built in 1888 for Peter Kiene, Sr. features many leaded glass windows.
Family marker in Linwood Cemetery

KIENE, Peter, Sr. (Canton Graubundten, Switzerland, Dec.15, 1819--Dubuque, IA, Apr.,1898). With thirty-five dollars in his pocket, Kiene left has home and walked 450 miles to Ilave de Grass where he boarded a cotton transport for the United States. The eighty had voyage left him in New Orleans where he found work as a deckhand. He came up river and landed in Dubuque on August 15, 1840. (1)

Among the leaders of Dubuque's many benevolent societies, Kiene took an important role in the organization of the GERMAN BENEVOLENT SOCIETY, one of the most powerful in Iowa. In 1845 he opened the FARMERS' HOME on the corner of Main and Fifth STREETS. Four years later, he had HARMONY HALL constructed.

Kiene was involved in BRICK MANUFACTURING for many years. In 1858 he broke from this business and founded the firm of PETER KIENE AND SON (insurance, loan, real estate, railroad and steamship agency). In 1883 he was a founder of the DUBUQUE RUBBER AND BELTING COMPANY. He was also a founder of the GERMAN SAVINGS BANK. Among the civic offices Kiene held were city marshal, city alderman, deputy sheriff and director of the poorhouse.

During the CIVIL WAR, Kiene's son, Peter KIENE, was captured and imprisoned at the notorious Andersonville prison. He might have died had not Kiene bribed an officer at the Rock Island prison for Confederate prisoners to care for a particular Southerner. In exchange, that soldier's sister saw that Kiene's son received special care in the South. (2)

Kiene was probably the only Dubuque resident to receive an invitation to the golden wedding anniversary of King William of Prussia which occurred on June 2, 1879. The Dubuque Herald offered no reason why he had received the invitation, but noted that he would not be able to attend because he could not make an ocean voyage every year. (3)

Kiene and his son Peter KIENE were involved in the operation of the IOWA IRON WORKS. Prior to 1904 a large amount of money was borrowed to carry on the business. When the business known as Peter Kiene & Son went bankrupt in 1914, records of what became of obligations the Kienes had been given were difficult to locate leading to bankruptcy being filed by Robert BONSON and William Watts BONSON. (4)

The 1868-69 through 1878-79 Dubuque City Directory listed southeast corner of 5th and Main.



1. "Peter Kiene, Sr.," Dubuque Daily Herald, February 21, 1896, p. 8

2. "How a 15-Year-Old Dubuquer Survived Andersonville," Telegraph Herald, March 29, 1964, p. 21

3. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, May 1, 1879, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18790430&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

4. "Bonsons File Petitions in Bankruptcy," Telegraph-Herald, February 17, 1914, P. 1

Oldt, Franklin T., The History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Western Historical Company, 1880, p. 820

Portrait and Biographical Record of Dubuque, Jones and Clayton Counties, Iowa. Chicago: Chapman Publishing Company, 1894, p. 282