John Wesley Kieff, widely known throughout Oklahoma as a journalist, is now serving as justice of the peace of Miami and is generally conceded to be the most capable incumbent in that office in the history of Ottawa County. A native of Indiana, he was born in Tippecanoe County on the 9th of March, 1857, his parents being John and Mary (Ryan) Kieff, the former a native of Ireland, while the latter was born in the Hoosier state. The father followed the occupation of farming and both parents passed away during the childhood of the subject of this review.
John Wesley Kieff attended the public schools and when fourteen years of age he began working on nearby farms during the summer months, while in the winter seasons he continued his studies. He then taught school in order to secure the funds necessary to pursue his academic course and subsequently attended Purdue University, the Danville Normal School and Wabash College at Crawfordsville, Indiana, from the latter of which he was graduated in 1887, with the B. S. degree. While a student at the last named institution he won prominence as a football player, being for four years a member of the championship team of the state. Following his graduation Mr. Kieff became principal of a school at Oregon, Missouri, continuing to fill that position for four years, and during that period he devoted his leisure hours to the study of law, being admitted to practice before the Missouri state bar. From that state he went to Dallas, Oregon, to occupy a similar position and was also admitted to practice in that state but did not take up the work of the profession. Returning to Missouri, he became identified with the St. Joseph Herald and later came to Oklahoma, being connected with the Shawnee Herald and the Lawton News.
In 1905 he entered the employ of the government and was appointed deputy United States clerk of the Seminole agency at Wewaka by Judge Raymond of Muskogee. His able work in that connection led to his appointment as United States commissioner at Wewaka in 1907 by Judge Lawrence and he was later transferred to Tulsa, continuing to serve in that capacity until Oklahoma was admitted to statehood, when the office was discontinued. In 1908 Mr. Kieff removed to Oklahoma City, where he resumed his connection with journalism, accepting a special assignment as a writer of Indian stories with several papers of that city, while he also was a contributor to newspapers in various parts of Oklahoma, as well as in other states. He remained a resident of Oklahoma City until 1913, when he came to Miami and for four years was connected with the Miami Record Herald, a weekly publication, continuing to write stories for leading newspapers and magazines throughout the country and becoming widely and favorably known as an author. He was one of the organizers of the Miami Daily News, at that time owned by S. A. Roberts, and while engaged in journalism became Secretary of the Tri-City Club, the first commercial club of Miami, which has since been developed into the Chamber of Commerce. He was also admitted to the bar in Oklahoma Territory but has never engaged in practice although his knowledge of the law is of great value to him in his present office of justice of the peace to which he was elected in 1918. His decisions indicate strong mentality, careful analysis, a comprehensive understanding of the principles of jurisprudence and an unbiased judgment and his public service has been characterized by strict integrity and devotion to duty.
Judge Kieff gives his political allegiance to the Republican Party and is an earnest worker in its ranks. He is a stanch champion of every project for the up-building of his city, County and state and his efforts were resultant factors in securing for Miami many public improvements, such as the erection of a courthouse, schools and bridges. He is preeminently a public-spirited citizen and no man in Ottawa County has made more substantial contribution to public progress and prosperity than he. The Judge is active in literary clubs and is a man of scholarly attainments. He is the owner of a fine library, which affords-him much enjoyment, and he is especially fond of the poems of James Whitcomb Riley. He possesses a genial, optimistic nature and is a most welcome addition to any social gathering. In religious faith he is a Presbyterian and is now serving as Treasurer of the Church, while fraternally he is identified with the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, of which he is an active member. He is a self-made man, who has won success through intense application, the ceaseless watchfulness of opportunity and undaunted courage, and Miami regards him as one of her foremost citizens.