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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Joseph Kemper

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 58-59 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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It is seldom, indeed, that a municipality or a commonwealth finds in its public service a man so adequately qualified for his position as is Joseph Kemper, commissioner of public works in Utica, Oneida county. More than thirty years of remarkably successful professional experience as a civil engineer, both in private practice and in public employ, in addition to an excellent technical training, have made Mr. Kemper an engineer of the first rank, whose knowledge of the profession is invaluable to the city in the promotion of its public improvements. The son of Jacob and Rose Kemper, Joseph Kemper was born in Dayton, Ohio, November 26, 1872. His father was a German by birth, who came to this country as a young man to seek the opportunities and advantages of an American citizen. So completely did he identify his interests with those of his adopted country that in 1863 he said farewell to his young bride of four months, shouldered a musket and marched away to the southland to fight for the cause of the Union and the freedom of the human race. Like many of his compatriots he fought gallantly for the northern cause and by his active support of the Union on the battlefield contributed his bit to the maintaining of its integrity as a nation. Fortunately for his young wife, he was not called upon to give up his life and at the close of the war he came home, took off his faded blue uniform and set about the more commonplace but no less necessary work of peace.

When Joseph Kemper was seven years of age the family moved to Philadelphia, where he was sent to a parochial school. He entered the University of Pennsylvania and later graduated with the degree of Civil Engineer. The young engineer obtained his first practical experience in his profession in the bureau of surveys, department of public works of Philadelphia, where he was employed from the time he left college until 1898. In the latter year he came to Utica as assistant city engineer, which position he held until the 11th of the following November, when, upon the death of Mayor Thomas E. Kinney, he retired from office. From the latter part of 1899 until 1914 Mr. Kemper was engaged in the private practice of his profession in this city and in contract work in road construction, with the exception of the years 1910 and 1911, during which he again served as assistant city engineer. From 1914 to 1919, inclusive, roughly the period of the World war in Europe, Mr. Kemper devoted practically all of his energies to filling the post of city engineer for Utica. In 1920 he again turned to the private practice of engineering, as one of the firm of the Kemper-McLoughlin Company, Incorporated. He is the president of the company and A. J. McLoughlin is secretary and treasurer. While on the 1st of January, 1924, Mr. Kemper assumed the duties of commissioner of public works, he still retains his connection with this firm, which has made an excellent reputation in the past few years and enjoys a large clientele. Mr. Kemper's duties as commissioner of public works call for that ripe experience in civil engineering that he so abundantly possesses. His previous connection with the city's engineering and improvement enterprises have thoroughly familiarized him with the local problems that must be solved and enabled him to bring to this important work an understanding of the situation and its requirements that would not be gained by much hard study by an outsider. Utica is to be congratulated upon her good fortune in securing Mr. Kemper's services in this position.

All of his life Mr. Kemper has taken a keen interest in public affairs and politics, in the latter adhering to the teachings and principles of the democratic party, which he has always actively supported. It is not unlikely that his father instilled into him as a boy some of that sturdy patriotism that he exhibited himself. Since he was not eligible for active military service during the World war, Joseph Kemper bent his every energy to the prosecution of the conflict on the "home front". As chairman of the food garden committee for Utica and vicinity he worked tirelessly for several seasons and had the reward of seeing about thirty thousand dollars worth of vegetables and other foodstuffs grown by the "war gardeners" of his district. Closely connected with this war garden movement was his work in behalf of the national program for the conservation of food that played such an important part in releasing large quantities of food products for our armies and our allies. Needless to add Mr. Kemper was a loyal and efficient worker on all the war campaigns for Liberty Loans and funds for the various activities of the Red Cross, and other humanitarian and social organizations.

On the 10th of January, 1900, Mr. Kemper was married to Miss Agnes Marie Ryan of Philadelphia. They are the parents of two daughters: Marie and Katherine Kemper. Mr. Kemper is a member of the local democratic association and a prominent Rotarian, being one of the board of governors of the local Rotary Club. Likewise he is identified with the Knights of Columbus, Lodge No. 189; and Lodge No. 33, B. P. O. E. His interest in the intricate game of chess is indicated by his membership in the Utica Chess Club, while in connection with his professional interests he belongs to the Mohawk Valley Engineers Club. Mr. Kemper is a member of St. Francis de Sales church of this city.

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