Louis Klee

Early Days

Louis Klee was Victor and Emelie’s youngest child born in France on 28 May 1874, and he was only 1 year old when they arrived in Port Chalmers, Dunedin on board the Wennington. Louis appears to have left Waitati in 1889 for the North Island aged 15, although it is uncertain what he did for the next several years prior to volunteering to serve in the Boer War.

Boer War Service

Louis medal

Louis decided to serve in the South African “Boer” War, along with his brothers George and Victor. In 1901, he enlisted as a Trooper in 26 Company with the 7th New Zealand Contingent.

The 303 rifle that Louis used in the Boer War is still in existence. On all the wooden parts, Louis carved his name and rank, places he fought in South Africa, and a decorative border. Although privately held, it is planned that this rifle and a number of other Boer War rifles will be placed in a public collection.

Lou rifle details – select to see larger image
Lou rifle butt – select to view larger image
Louis discharge document

On return to New Zealand, after serving for 1 year and 187 days he was discharged.

Move to Whangamomona

L. Klee Proprietor Billiard Saloon (detail from photo)

He then made his way to Whangamomona where he found employment as a billiard saloon keeper and barber.

Detail from a photo taken about 1920 – the railway to Whangamomona was opened in 1914. Athalinda Dean’s house is on the near side of the main street adjacent to the bridge.
(Source: Batt album, copy of Alexander Turnbull Library photo; ref. 388521/2.

For several years around 1919, there were a number of members of the Klee family also living in Whangamomona – Victor Klee employed as a storeman, Alexander Klee employed as a clerk, with his first wife Eva “Nel” and son James “Jim” Klee, and then second wife Ellen. (The specific dates need to be verified).

Marriage to Athalinda Dean (nee Evans)

Athalinda Dean about 1910
(Source: Batt album)

On the 2nd April 1917, in Wellington, Louis, aged 43, married Athalinda Dean, aged 49.

This was the home of Athalinda and her 4 children after the break up of the marriage with Richard Dean. She was a very resourceful woman and as can be seen above, she had a drapery business for some time; later she ran the hotel. This photo was taken about 1901.
(Source: Batt album)

Athalinda was the proprietor of the Whangamomona Hotel when Louis was the billiard saloon keeper. Athalinda Evans had previously been married, in 1885, to Richard “Dick” Edward Dean, and they subsequently had four children. She was reputedly a tough lady, and Dick Dean eventually left her to “live in a whare up the river”.

Louis and Athalinda’s marriage, which took place in interesting circumstances, only lasted a few years with Louis moving on to other areas, while Athalinda remained in Whangamomona until her death on the 4th February 1946.

Whangamomona frontiersmen – Louis Klee centre with walking stick, step-son Les Dean on the right
(Source: Batt album)

Marjorie Klee

Young Marjorie Klee,
presumably about 1919-1920
(Source: Batt album)

On 22 June 1918, about a year after they were married, Louis and Athalinda Klee adopted Marjorie. Born on the 25th June 1916, she was the daughter of Victoria Adelaide Scott. It has been suggested that Athalinda had at first tried to adopt Marjorie herself, but was apparently turned down on the grounds that she was single. Consequently, part of the reason that Athalinda married Louis Klee may have been to gain married status, and thus allow the adoption to go through.

On 22 June 1918, about a year after they were married, Louis and Athalinda Klee adopted Marjorie. Born on the 25th June 1916, she was the daughter of Victoria Adelaide Scott. It has been suggested that Athalinda had at first tried to adopt Marjorie herself, but was apparently turned down on the grounds that she was single. Consequently, part of the reason that Athalinda married Louis Klee may have been to gain married status, and thus allow the adoption to go through.

Athalinda lived for some time down the Whangamomona road in this house. On the step is Marjorie Klee. By the look of it, this photo was taken in about 1918 or 1920.
(Source: Batt album)

 

Naturalisation

Louis’s parents George and Emelie were not naturalised as New Zealanders at any time after arriving at Waitati. At age 45, Louis who was born in France, decided to take this step, and was naturalised on 28 June 1919 while living in Whangamomona.

Louis was allowed to make a Memorial application for naturalisation, that allowed “alien” soldiers who fought in the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces in World War I to be allowed to become naturalised citizens. The accompanying Internal Affairs memorandum notes that he saw active service in the Boer War and should be granted naturalisation on the same basis.

Memorial application
Internal Affairs memorandum
NZ Police report

 

 

 

 

 

The NZ Police report provides some useful information on his occupation as a barber and billiard saloon keeper, and the length of time he had been living in Whangamomona.

Katikati

Louis Klee, sometime prior to 1951
(Source: Klee album; detail from group photo)

During the late 1920s or early 1930s, Louis shifted to Katikati in the Bay of Plenty. The electoral register shows his occupation as a hairdresser at this time.

While living in Katikati, Marjorie recalls that Louis met a younger woman whom he wanted to marry, but he first needed to get a divorce. Athalinda drove from Whangamomona to Katikati, taking Marjorie with her, to meet the prospective wife and her mother. However, apparently she did not approve, and Louis was not allowed to have a divorce.

Loss of a Leg and an Eye

A family letter records that Louis and one of his other brothers spent some of their time bushwhacking in the Bay of Plenty. At some stage Louis lost his leg as the result of an accident in the bush. Marjorie confirmed that he was out pig shooting, and while sitting on the back of a truck, a gun discharged, hitting him in the leg.

On a later occasion, when he was cutting a piece of wood, it flew up and hit him in the eye, causing the loss of the eye.

Later Years

Lou, Levin

By 1941, now aged 67, Louis had retired to the Hawkes Bay, and lived with his brother Emile at 9 Awatoto, Napier, and Gloucester Street, Taradale. He spent his final years living in Levin at the War Veterans’ Home in Prouse Street. Louis died, aged 88, on 14 May 1962 in Levin.