Biography of J. D. C. Thiessen

One of the best known and most successful sheep-raisers and wool-growers of Idaho is J. D. C. Thiessen, of Lewiston. A native of Holstein, Germany, he was born February 16, 1843, and is of Danish ancestry, although his parents, John D. and Alary (Hanchild) Thiessen, were both natives of Germany. The father was a farmer and trader. In religious faith both he and his wife were Lutherans, and the former lived to be fifty-four years of age, while the mother departed this life in her fifty-sixth year. Mr. Thiessen of this review is the fourth in their family of seven children. He was educated in his native land, and when twenty-three years of age emigrated to the United States, reaching New York in 1866. Two years later he came to San Francisco, where he pursued a course in a commercial school and was thus fitted for life’s practical duties. He did not come to this country entirely empty-handed, as so many have done, having had five hundred dollars on his arrival. He was however, ignorant of the English language, and had to meet other difficulties. After having spent several years in America, he received three thousand dollars from his father’s estate, but lost it in mining enterprises in California and Nevada, and when he arrived in Lewiston, November 10, 1876, he had just eighteen and one-half dollars remaining.

Here he entered the employ of John Brearley, but soon afterward the Indian war broke out, and he engaged in packing army supplies for the government, receiving eighty-five dollars per month and his rations. In the spring of 1878 he established a saloon in Lewiston, which he conducted for a year. He then went to San Francisco, but after about a year returned to Lewiston. In 1885 he received the appointment of deputy sheriff of Nez Perces County, and in 1886 he became connected with the stock business, “raising cattle and horses. In 1889, however, he sold his cattle, numbering about two hundred head, and turned his attention to the sheep industry, in which he has since been eminently successful. His first purchase consisted of nineteen hundred and sixty-four head, and he now has twelve thousand old sheep and five thousand lambs. He raises Merino sheep, slightly mixed with Delaine, and for raising in large flocks he has found this breed well adapted to Idaho. The bucks average twenty-eight pounds of wool and the ewes nine pounds each. He says that the tariff on wool has doubled its price and he now has two years’ clip on hand, which will bring him handsome returns. He has also acquired one thousand acres of land, on which he raises hay and grain, employing from fifteen to forty men, according to the season. He has one of the most desirable business locations in Lewiston, known as “The Old Corner.” He has also erected a fine residence in the city.

In 1879 Mr. Thiessen was united in marriage to Miss Lillie Meister, who was born in Chicago, March 10, 1862. They became the parents of six children, four of whom are living; Clarence C. and Sylvester S. are attending school in Portland; George Garfield and Vandaline V. are at home.

In politics Mr. Thiessen is a stalwart Republican. On coming to this country he studied closely the political questions, the platforms of the parties and the measures advocated by each, and has always been identified with the Republican Party. In the campaign of 1896 so active was he in support of the Republican presidential nominee that his friends laughingly termed him
“Mr. McKinley.” He is an intelligent, enterprising, progressive man and his well directed efforts have brought to him a success that numbers him among the substantial citizens of his adopted state.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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