Biographies from Historical and Biographical Annals by Morton Montgomery


p. 496


George de Benneville Keim, one of the distinguished sons of Berks county, for many years a resident of Philadelphia on account of his prominent connection with the Philadelphia & Reading railroad, was born in Reading Dec. 10, 1831. His father was Hon. George May Keim, who for thirty years was prominent in the financial, industrial, military and political life of Reading, in which city his lineal antecedents had been prominent since 1755.

George de B. Keim received his preliminary education in the local schools and at Georgetown College, District of Columbia, and at the age of fifteen years entered the sophomore class in Dickinson College, where he was graduated in 1849. Having become much interested in the subject of chemistry, he took a practical course in the laboratory of his first cousin, Dr. Charles M. Wetherill, of Philadelphia, with special reference to the analysis of minerals; but after a year's study in the laboratory he decided to turn his attention to the study of law. He entered the office of Charles Davis, Esq., a successful attorney at Reading, with whom he remained two years, and on April 8, 1852, he was admitted to practice before the several courts of Berks county.

Mr. Keim found his ability recognized and almost immediately entered upon busy practice at Reading, which continued for three years, when his father induced him to remove to Pottsville, in order to look after large interests in coal lands in Schuylkill county, which were owned by his father together with Dr. William Wetherill, Jacob W. Seitzinger and others. Upon removing to that place he was admitted to practice before the courts there and he made a special study of coal land titles, and naturally many prominent coal land owners became his clients, bringing him both reputation and increased emolument. Some years later when the Philadelphia & Reading Company decided to control the coal trade by securing important tracts of land and organizing a coal and iron company, Mr. Keim's comprehensive knowledge of the situation and recognized ability were so highly appreciated that he was selected to be the company's solicitor for that section of territory: and his identification with the company's affairs continued from that time, with increasing prominence, for twenty-five years.

In 1875 he was appointed general solicitor of the company, and as the offices were located in Philadelphia he removed there with his family. His professional services in the management of the law department were of the highest order, and the company retained him in this important position for eight years, until 1883, when he was elevated to the office of vice-president. Before and about this time the company was involved in so many financial difficulties and embarrassments, that it was forced into the hands of receivers. Mr. Keim was appointed one of the three receivers, and he filled the important position with great credit for four years, when the receivership was terminated. He and his associates were highly complimented for their skill, energy and devotion in restoring the solvency of the company. In a re-organization of the inter-related affairs of the railway and coal and iron company, he became the president at different times, especially from 1884 to 1886, and 1888 to 1891, being obliged to retire from the active management of the complicated affairs of these two gigantic corporations on account of ill health. In 1888 he was also chosen one of the directors of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, continuing to serve on the board until his decease in 1893. His brother-in-law, Charles F. Mayer, was then and had been for some years president of that company. Mr. Keim's grandfather, George de B. Keim, who for many years was a prominent hardware merchant and financier of Reading, was one of the incorporators in the founding and establishing of the Philadelphia & Reading railroad; and his uncle, Wirt Robinson, was on the staff of engineers who built the road.

The criminal prosecution of the "Mollie Maguires" by the Philadelphia & Reading railroad in the coal regions was a most laborious and hazardous undertaking, and the president of the company, Franklin E. Gowan, Esq., not only accomplished a brilliant success in destroying this malicious and nefarious secret society, but displayed extraordinary and well directed courage. In his great endeavors and final success, Mr. Keim was of much valuable assistance to him in the preparation and direction of the cases, although not publicly concerned in the noteworthy trials.

Historical matters relating to his native county and State received Mr. Keim's early attention. In 1853, shortly after his admission to the bar, he identified himself with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia, and he continued in active membership for forty years, having officiated as first vice-president from 1868 until his death, a period covering twenty-five years. He was also a member of the Sons of the Revolution; of the American Philosophical Society; and he was one of the directors of the Finance Company of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia, which he assisted in re-organizing. While residing at Reading, from 1849 to 1855, he took an interest in local matters and joined the militia and the volunteer fire department. He was possessed of a truly sociable nature, which he displayed at all times in a straightforward, unpretentious manner. He was very fond of both literature and art, and owned a large library of valuable books, while the numerous choice paintings which adorned his home, at No. 2009 De Lancy Place, gave evidence of culture and critical artistic taste. After his death, Mrs. Keim donated all of his Americana, comprising historical works of great value and numbering about a thousand volumes, to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

In 1853 Mr. Keim married Elizabeth Cocke Trezevant, only daughter of Dr. Louis Cruger and Elizabeth Marion Cocke Trezevant, of Charleston, S. C. The latter was a daughter of Buller and Elizabeth Barron Cocke. Mrs. Keim's father was the only child of Hon. Louis Trezevant, a justice of the Supreme court of South Carolina, and his wife Henrietta Morrell (Nethercliffe) Trezevant, of Savannah, Ga. To Mr. and Mrs. Keim two daughters were born: Julia Mayer and Susan Douglass. The latter married William Lyttleton Savage, of Philadelphia, son of William L. and Sarah (Chauncey) Savage.

Mr. Keim died Dec. 18, 1893, and his remains were interred in the Keim lot in the Charles Evans cemetery, Reading. His death elicited many testimonials of regret and condolence, which were highly complimentary to his life and character.


pg. 359


George de Benneville Keim, a prominent merchant, politician and official of Philadelphia, was born at Reading, Berks Co., Pa., Jan. 18, 1831, a son of John May and Harriet (de Benneville) Keim.

John May Keim was a prominent hardware merchant at Reading for many years. He married Harriet de Benneville, and they had six children, namely: Ellen, who married John Wickersham; Mary, who married Isaac Lathrop, Esther, who married Leonard Myers; George de Benneville; Anna, who married Amos Michener; and John May. (For other data see the publication entitled "Keim and Allied Families" which was compiled by de B. Randolph Keim)

After receiving a thorough education at Reading and at "China Hall", in Bucks county, Mr. Keim engaged in a general hardware business at Reading until 1862, when he went to Philadelphia and entered the hardware store of Rufus Smith, on Commerce Street, east of Fourth. After continuing with him for seven years he started in the saddlery hardware business for himself, at Third and Race streets, which he carried on until 1872; then he organized the firm of Keim, Kennedy & Co. which did business successfully until 1876, when the name was changed to Geo. de B. Keim, Ltd., & Co. and so continued for nearly twenty years. He was also identified for some years with the Union Banking Company, as a director, and with the Citizens' Bank as President.

Immediately after locating in Philadelphia, Mr. Keim identified himself with the Republican organization in that city and for thirty years took an active part in local politics. In 1880 he was chosen one of the Presidential electors for Pennsylvania, and he cast his vote for James A. Garfield. In 1882 he was placed on the Republican ticket for sheriff and was elected, notwithstanding opposition led by the powerful combination of the "committee of 100: which had been organized for the reform of local politics. He served the regular term of three years from 1883 to 1886. In 1887 he was nominated on the Independent ticket for mayor, against Edwin H. Fitler on the Republican ticket, and although his numerous friends throughout the city conducted a hard campaign in his behalf, he was defeated.

In 1873 Mr. Keim represented the United States as a commissioner to the World's Fair at Vienna. At its close he traveled for a year over many parts of Europe and brought home with him many rare and costly paintings and works of art. This collection he continued to add to, and by many persons his collection is considered the finest owned by a private individual in Pennsylvania. For may years he resided at No. 1122 Spruce street, and he had a summer home at Edgewater Park, N.J., occupying a charming site on the eastern bank of the Delaware river; he also owned a farm and "shooting-box" in Maryland. While enjoying sport at the latter place he contracted a heavy cold, which developed into pneumonia, and he died after a short illness, March 10, 1893. He had a large circle of friends who appreciated him very highly for his genial, frank and straightforward nature.

In 1850 Mr. Keim was married to Miss Sarah Childs, of Milestown, Pa., by whom he had six children: Harriet de Benneville, Mary L., Ellen W., Walter M., John M., and Fanny Granville. In 1883, Mr. Keim was married (second) to Miss Elizabeth Archer Thomas, daughter of Joseph Tuley and Belinda Jane (Mitchell) Thomas, the former of who was a distinguished lawyer of Philadelphia. They had two children: George de Benneville and Elizabeth Thomas.


p. 328


Gen. George May Keim was actively engaged in the financial, industrial, political, military and social life of Reading for upward of thirty years, dying suddenly in 1861, while co-operating in the organization of troops at Reading for service in the Civil war. He was born at Reading, March 23, 1805, and was a member of a family which has been settled in Berks county for over two centuries, being a lineal descendant of John Keim, who emigrated to America in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and was one of the first settlers in Oley township, this county. He took up land before 1718, and located in the upper section of the township, near what is now the village of Lobachsville, carrying on farming there until his death in 1732. In religion he was a Friend, a follower of Pastorius.

Nicholas Keim, son of John, was one of the earliest successful merchants of Reading. He was born in Oley township April 2, 1719, and engaged in farming until 1755, when he moved with his wife and only son to Reading, where he opened a general hardware store and also engaged in grain dealing, etc. In 1769 he purchased from Mark Bird the Weiser store stand, familiarly known as the "Old White Store," on Penn street, near Fifth, where he continued to do business successfully for a number of years. During that time he was one of the principal merchants of the place, and he had extensive transactions with the leading merchants of Philadelphia and Germantown, many prominent names appearing on his receipt books. In about 1785 he transferred the business to his only son, John, and retired from active life. He died Aug. 3, 1802, after a lingering illness. Mr. Keim was a progressive man, not only in the conduct of his own affairs, but also in the promotion of every cause affecting the development of the community in which he lived. He married Barbara Snyder, and they had one son, John. They lived in a large two-story stone dwelling located on the Northwest corner of Penn and Ninth streets.

John Keim continued in his father's footsteps as a successful merchant, but surpassed him greatly in the accumulation of property. He was born in Oley township July 6, 1749, and was six years old when the family removed to Reading, in whose development and commercial life he was destined to play so prominent a part. In the fall of 1777 he marched with the battalion of Lieut.-Col. Nicholas Lotz to reinforce the army under Washington, and was honorably discharged in 1782, after five years' service. After his return from the war he joined his father in the conduct of the general hardware store, of which he became sole proprietor in 1785, as previously related. About the year 1800, he took into partnership his two sons, Daniel and George, under the firm name of Keim & Sons, and they carried on the business for a number of years. Meantime John Keim was acquiring new and varied interests, and became prominently identified in different ways with the life of his adopted city. In 1787-90 he served a term as county commissioner, and he was also burgess for a time. He became a large property owner, and in the improvement of his own holdings saw the value of internal improvements in the city, of which he was an enthusiastic advocate. He built a number of dwelling-houses and put up the first three-story brick building in Reading, and he was accounted one of the wealthy men of Berks county in his day. In 1806 he leased to Charles Evans, esq., the three-story brick building on South Fifth street which afterward became the property of Mr. Evans, who resided there for many years. Mr. Keim was prominently identified with the first steps taken toward the building of the Penn street bridge, lending all his influence to the project. He was a man highly respected and well thought of, for though strict in business and of the highest integrity he was never stern or unreasonable in his transactions. In an obituary notice which appeared in the Berks and Schuylkill Journal it was said: "He had resided in this borough for sixty-four years, during which time he amassed a large fortune, which never caused a widow's tear nor an orphan's execration.what he has left behind him was justly his own. As a creditor he was ever lenient and his numerous tenantry can testify to his goodness as a landlord." He died Feb. 10, 1819, in his seventieth year, and was laid to rest in the Episcopal burial ground.

On Oct. 15, 1771, John Keim married Susanna de Benneville, through whom General Keim is of French-Huguenot extraction, she having been a daughter of Dr. George de Benneville. They had four children: Daniel de B., born Sept. 8, 1772, who died in 1833; George de B., who is mentioned further on; Benneville, born at Reading, Nov. 30, 1790, who died there Oct. 30, 1872; and Esther de B.

Dr. George De Benneville was one of the early practitioners of medicine in Oley township, where he was located before 1750. He was born in London July 26, 1703, a descendant of George de Benneville, a Frenchman of Normandy, born in the city of Rouen. The Doctor's father, who bore the same name, was a "French refugee, who, being persecuted for his religion, retired with his family and connections into England upon invitation of His Majesty King William, who took a tender care of them and employed them at his court." After a varied career, in his thirty-eighth year (1741), with the aid of Queen Anne, of England, Dr. de Benneville came to Philadelphia. He was in failing health at the time of his arrival, but the changed environment was to bring renewed strength. Benneville was met at the Wharf by Christopher Sauer, the printer of the oldest Bible in this country, who did not know him but was led to meet him by the influence of a dream. He took the stranger home with him and there Benneville met Jean Bertolet, of Oley, Berks county, where a colony of Huguenots had settled. The Bertolets had located there as early as 1726. Bertolet persuaded the Doctor to settle near him in the forest, and in 1745 he married Esther de Bertolet, daughter of Jean. While in Oley he taught school, practiced medicine and preached the gospel, becoming the founder of the Universalist Church in America. He held the first meetings in the home which he had built (on the farm at one time owned by Daniel Knabb) near the "Oley line," for teaching the doctrines and beliefs of that religious denomination. The walls of this historic old de Benneville house in Oley township are still standing, although it was erected in 1745. He was there until 1755, when he moved to Branchtown, on the old York road, Philadelphia county, where he acquired an extensive medical practice. He died there in 1793, aged ninety years, and his wife died in 1795, aged seventy-five years.

Gen. George de Benneville Keim, second son of John Keim, was born at Reading Dec. 16, 1778, and received his education in the school held in the old Friends' meeting house. He was then sent by his father to Philadelphia, entering the large hardware establishment of the Chancellors, in order to familiarize himself with the business. When he returned to Reading, in his twentieth year, he was taken into partnership by his father, who carried on the business established at what was known as the "old White store." This building was the first business place at Reading. In addition to merchandising George de Benneville Keim also engaged in the manufacture of iron, being interested in the Reading Furnace and various forges. From 1809 to 1814 he did business in Philadelphia in connection with the export of bread stuffs. Many of his business interests were of direct benefit to this region, not only in the way of furnishing profitable employment to a large number, but also in introducing new industries, thus increasing the resources of the section materially. He was one of the first to attempt the cultivation of the grape and the manufacture of wine; he used his means and influence in raising the quality of the live stock in Berks county; and was active in promoting agricultural interests generally, owning several farms in Exeter township and vicinity. Mr. Keim served as president of the Branch Bank of Pennsylvania for over thirty years; he was one of the promoters of the Reading Water Company and its first president, filling that position for a long period.

Mr. Keim was the chief burgess of Reading, served as president of the town council for many years, and was prominent in the development of the county and of Reading, not only in business affairs and as a factor in the local civil government, but also in the promotion of education and other matters affecting the broader development of the community. He took an earnest interest in the establishment of the Reading Academy and the Reading Female Seminary, both of which held an important place in the literary training of the young people of that day. The matter of local public improvements always received his hearty support, and he was active in the erection of bridges and the building of good roads, being for many years one of the managers of both the Perkiomen and Reading & Sunbury turnpikes. He was a zealous worker in Christ Church, and took an active part in the building of same, the lot for which was donated by a member of the Price family, to which his wife was related. All benevolent objects and worthy charities were encouraged and supported by him.

When the whiskey insurrection broke out, in 1794, Mr. Keim volunteered, serving in the government forces, and he always took the keenest pleasure in military matters. In 1821 he received the appointment of aid on the staff of Governor Hiester, with the rank of colonel; in 1830 he was elected major-general of the 6th Division, Pennsylvania Militia, succeeding his brother-in-law, Hon. Samuel D. Franks, and when he retired, five years later, was succeeded by his son, George M. Keim, who in turn was succeeded by his cousin, Gen. William H. Keim.

On Feb. 4, 1799, Mr. Keim married Miss Mary May, daughter of James May, and to them were born seven children, three sons and four daughters, namely: John M., George M., Daniel M., Ann, Susan, Catherine and Rebecca (m. Wirt Robinson, an eminent civil engineer of Richmond, Va.). George de B. Keim passed away Aug. 20, 1852, and his wife died in 1854.

James May, father of Mrs. Mary (May) Keim, and maternal grandfather of Gen. George May Keim, was a well-known citizen of Reading. He was born March 20, 1749, in Coventry township, Chester county, Pa., son of Robert and Elizabeth May, and grandson of Robert May, who came to this province before the year 1700, and married a daughter of John Brooke. Mr. May was of Quaker ancestry. Prior to the Revolution he moved to Reading, where he ever afterward made his home, becoming one of the prominent citizens of that place. In the Act of 1783, incorporating Reading into a borough, he was named as one of the assistant burgesses, and he was particularly well known as an early advocate of public improvements in this section, being identified prominently with such ventures as the Union canal, Centre turnpike, etc. He was a general merchant and also dealt extensively in grain, lumber, etc., and was connected with various important institutions, being a director of the Branch Bank and a member of the first Board of Trade at Reading. He was one of the two wardens of the Episcopal Church, the other having been Marks John Biddle, Esq. His death occurred at Reading in 1819.

James May married Bridget Douglass, daughter of George Douglass, and by this union lost his birthright in the Society of Friends, the Douglass family being Episcopalians. Their children were: Mary (m. George de B. Keim), George, Sarah (m. Hon. Samuel D. Franks), Thomas and Elizabeth. George May Keim received his early education at home and at Bentley Hall, the school conducted by Joshua Hoopes, at Downington, Chester Co., Pa. In 1823 he was graduated at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa. He studied law under Charles Chauncey, Esq., at Philadelphia, where he was admitted to the bar June 5, 1826, being admitted to the Bar in Berks county on Aug. 11th following. As a leader in important public affairs, in various business enterprises of note, and in the government of his country, he found this preparation of immense value. In fact he used his legal knowledge more in such ways than in direct professional labors. At the early age of twenty-two, in 1827, he was elected cashier of the Farmers' Bank of Reading, of which his uncle, Benneville Keim, was the president, and held that position until 1836. He held a substantial interest in many projects tending toward the commercial development of Reading, and encouraged the establishment of others. He aided in the erection of the first rolling-mill and nail works, owned by Keims, Whittaker & Co., and was a member of the firm of Jones, Keim & Co., who carried on the Windsor Furnace, in Windsor township. This firm had a reputation for its fine castings, made directly from the iron ore, notable among which was "The Last Supper," after Leonardo da Vinci. He understood thoroughly the value of agriculture in the economy of the county, and used his influence and means in raising the standards in various branches of farming. He introduced imported thoroughbred cattle into the county, and was one of the organizers of the Berks County Agricultural Society, delivering the address at its first annual meeting, Oct. 28, 1852. He was the second president of the society, serving as such for several years, and it was during his administration that the county commissioners leased to the society for ninety-nine years the "Commons" for the annual exhibitions. He made agricultural addresses in various parts of the State by request. Another source of revenue which he considered valuable in the State led him to an early investigation of her mineral resources, and he made a thorough study of the geology and mineralogy of the State, in the course which he acquired a comprehensive collection of minerals, including valuable specimens from all parts of the world. In this connection might be mentioned his Indian relics, which were principally from central Pennsylvania, and which after his decease were presented to the Smithsonian Institute. The minerals were given to Lehigh University. In 1829 General Keim was commissioner, and later for some years manager, of the Mill Creek and Mine Hill Navigation and Railroad company.

General Keim early became identified with public affairs. He represented Berks county at the convention called to amend the State Constitution held during 1837-38, and his speech on banking attracted considerable and most favorable notice. His name appears among such distinguished ones as John Sergeant, Charles Chauncey, Thaddeus Stevens and George W. Woodward as a member of the committee of nine who issued a stirring address concerning the ways and means of providing for common school education and the general diffusion of useful knowledge, as well as the industry and pecuniary prosperity of the State. In 1838, when a vacancy occurred in Congress because of the resignation of Hon. H. A. Muhlenberg, who accepted the mission to Austria, General Keim was elected to fill out the term, and he was subsequently re-elected for two terms, remaining in Congress until March, 1843. At the election for Speaker of the House in the XXVIth Congress he received a complimentary vote. During the XXVIIth Congress he distinguished himself in a patriotic speech against a petition praying for the dissolution of the Union. He declined renomination for a four term. In 1842, toward the close of his Congressional career, he presided at a dinner given to Charles Dickens in Washington in March of that year, when many men prominent in politics and letters were present to welcome the great author.

Upon his retirement from Congress the General was offered his choice of three positions by President Tyler, and he selected that of United States marshal for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania in order to remain at home. In 1844 he was re-appointed by Polk. Meantime he found his popularity throughout the State increasing steadily, and such was the confidence in his ability and integrity that he could have had the Democratic nomination for governor in 1848, but he would not consider the proposal. In 1852, upon the death of Mayor Getz, he was elected to fill the unexpired term, entirely without solicitation. In 1860, at the Democratic convention in Reading, he was elected a Presidential elector at large.

From early manhood General Keim manifested his interest in military matters. In 1830 he was elected captain of the Reading Artillerists, to succeed his uncle, Capt. Daniel de B. Keim, and not long afterward he became colonel of the 53d Regiment, Pennsylvania Militia. In 1835 he became major-general of the 6th Division, Pennsylvania Militia, which included the companies of Berks, Schuylkill, Dauphin and Lebanon counties, succeeding his father in that position. When the Civil war broke out he immediately identified himself with the Union cause, and he labored faithfully and zealously to hold the Democratic party in his county together in the trying period immediately preceding the war. In the spring of 1861 he raised a company of volunteers for home defense, and he was active and enthusiastic in drilling and preparing them for actual duties. One of the last acts he performed was to head a paper with his name, offering the services of this company to the government. It was undoubtedly the unusual exertion of this undertaking that brought on the stroke of paralysis from which his death soon ensued, on June 10, 1861, when he was fifty-six years old. He was buried at sunset on the 12th, in the Charles Evans cemetery, with military and Masonic honors. His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Reading up to that time, his death being sincerely mourned throughout the State. The numerous enterprises he encouraged and supported won him friends in every walk of life, and his genial disposition, open-hearted and companionable nature, retained them forever.

General Keim married in 1827 Julia C. Mayer, youngest daughter of Hon. Christopher Mayer, of Lancaster, and six children survived them: George de Benneville, Charles Wetherill, Henry May, Julia Mayer (Mrs. Gustavus Augustus Behne), Susan Douglass and Mary May. Mrs. Keim died May 12, 1857. The sons have attained an eminence in the public life of the State worthy of the name and family traditions.


p. 405


Henry May Keim was born of a family which has been prominently connected with the city of Reading and county of Berks since the time of the earliest settlements therein. His father was Gen. George May Keim, who represented his district in Congress and died at the beginning of the Civil war which preparing to leave with his troops for the front. His grandfather was Gen. George DeBenneville Keim, who was born during the war of the Revolution and was in the military service during the Whiskey Insurrection. His great-grandfather was John Keim, who was one of the leading merchants of Reading, where he amassed a considerable fortune. His great-great-grandfather was Nicholas Keim, who was one of the earliest proprietors of the "Old White Store: at Fifth and Penn streets, shortly after it was first established by Conrad Weiser; and his great-great-great-grandfather was John Keim, the elder, who arrived in Pennsylvania shortly after its foundation, and settled in Oley township, Berks county, as early as 1718.

Henry May Keim was born at Reading, Aug. 16, 1842. He graduated at the Reading high school in 1858, at the head of his class, and he entered the Sophomore class at Union College, Schenectady, N. Y., graduating in 1862. Shortly after his graduation he enlisted for service in the Civil war, in Company I, 11th Pennsylvania Militia, and saw service in Maryland. He entered the service for the second time, the following year, during Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania, when he was commissioned lieutenant in Company A, 53rd Pennsylvania Militia, and received distinguished mention from his superior officers. Meantime he had undertaken the study of law in the office of Jacob S. Livingood, Esq., and was admitted to the Bar of Berks county Aug. 7, 1865.

During the years 1874 and 1875 he served as one of the three auditors of the city of Reading. In 1876 he was Democratic county chairman, and succeeded in increasing the Democratic majority in the county for Tilden beyond all previous figures. In recognition of his valuable party services and general ability, in 1885 he was appointed by President Cleveland United Stated consul at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, where he most creditably represented his government and gained the highest respect and regard of the officials and people of the Island. Upon his return from this service, he was elected president of the Valley Railroad of Ohio, with his offices at Cleveland. The financial troubles of the country occurring about this time having forced the railroad into a receivership, he was appointed one of the receivers, and by his careful management soon succeeded in bringing it out of the receivership and restoring it to prosperity. Upon the completion of his task he returned to Reading in fulfillment of his long-cherished desire to continue his residence here.

Mr. Keim was devotedly attached to the places, people and traditions of his native county, and was foremost in all undertakings designed for the public welfare. He was a trustee of various important institutions, and was untiring in his exertions in behalf of the sesqui-centennial celebration of the founding of the city and in the movement to liquidate the debt of the Reading Library and to establish it as a free library. He was one of the organizers and original corporators of the Historical Society of Berks county, and was from the beginning its corresponding secretary and member of the council. His public spirit, his careful attention to detail, and his zeal in all his undertakings made him a most useful member of society, while his uniform kindness and affability made him a general favorite with all classes and attached his near associates very closely to him.

In 1867 Mr. Keim was married to Miss Emma E. Trexler, daughter of Horatio Trexler, and she survives. He died at his residence in Reading, Feb,. 18, 1899. Mr. Keim was a devout member of Christ Protestant Episcopal Church at Reading, having joined in his boyhood. When he became of age he was selected as a vestryman, and he filled that position for a continuous period of thirty-five years, his services terminating with his decease. His devotion to the Church was so highly appreciated that a tablet was erected to his memory on the south wall of the auditorium , which bears the neat and expressive inscription: "A faithful friend ? An Earnest Churchman ? A sincere Christian." A Bishop of the Church said of him: "He was a perfect type of a Christian Gentleman."


p. 327


Gen. William H. Keim was born at Reading June 13, 1813, eldest son of Benneville Keim (president of the Farmers Bank for a number of years, Mayor of Reading for three terms and enterprising business man of the county) , and his wife, Mary High (daughter of Gen. William High, wealthy farmer at "Poplar Neck," of Cumru township, and prominent in the military affairs of the county).

At the age of twelve years William H. Keim entered the Military Academy at Mount Airy, near Philadelphia, then one of the foremost educational institutions in the United States, and was graduated with honor in 1829. Upon returning home, he entered the store of his father, one of the largest general hardware stores in Reading, and continued actively engaged in this pursuit for nearly thirty years. The greater part of the time he was a proprietor of a large store, in co-partnership with his brother, John H. Keim. Besides the store business, he encouraged enterprises generally for the development of Reading. His early military training gave him a natural taste for military affairs and he found much gratification in the volunteer service of the State militia. Before the age of seventeen years he was an orderly sergeant of the "Washington Grays," and in 1837 he became captain (succeeding his cousin, Capt. Daniel M. Keim). He was promoted rapidly till l842 when he was elected major-general of the 5th Division of Pennsylvania Volunteers, composed of Berks, Lebanon, Dauphin and Schuylkill counties. In that year he took a prominent part in the military encampment held at Reading, which was an eventful occasion in the history of military affairs in Berks county. In 1844, during the religious riot at Philadelphia, he was ordered to assist in quelling the disturbances. His services in organizing the local militia and in bringing them under proper discipline were both untiring and successful, and they were placed in the front rank of the volunteer soldiers of the State. In 1848 he was elected to the office of Mayor of Reading for one term, becoming the second Mayor of the city. Several years afterward, he took great, if not the principal, interest in establishing at Reading the Pennsylvania Military Institute, for the purpose of enabling young men to obtain education in military matters. In November,1858, he was elected to Congress to fill the vacancy till March following, caused by the resignation of Hon. J. Glancy Jones - being the first and only Republican elected represent Berks county in Congress. In 1859, he was elected Surveyor-General of the State for the term of three years, at that time holding the office of Major-General of militia, and while at Harrisburg, in 1860, he suggested to Governor Curtin that the Commonwealth should be put in a condition of defense, inasmuch as the signs of political discontent over the election of Lincoln indicated civil strife; and he recommended in that behalf a general encampment of the militia of the State. Governor Curtin accepted this timely suggestion, and an encampment was held at York in September, 1860,. with General Keim as the chief in command. In January following, upon visiting his home at Reading, he called upon Capt. James McKnight (who commanded the Ringgold Light Artillery, a company of volunteers in his brigade), and asked him to keep his company in readiness so as to be able to respond promptly to any order that might be given. Through this notice, the Ringgold Light artillery came to be the first company that responded to the President's call for troops in the Civil war and reported for duty at Harrisburg in April, 1861. General Keim offered his service when the crisis arose, and Governor Curtin appointed him to a command of the State troops under the first requisition of the President. After the campaign on the upper Potomac, he received from the President the appointment of Brigadier General of National troops. Resigning the office of Surveyor-General, he obeyed the order to join the Army of the Potomac. At the battle of Williamsburg, one of the most severe contests of the war, he distinguished himself. Although too sick to be on duty, he could not be prevented from leaving the hospital, and having mounted his horse he led his brigade on the field. His coolness, judgment and great bravery during the action were conspicuous. Though under fire nearly the whole time, he was perfectly calm. A bomb fell almost under his horse. Every one about him turned pale with fear. The explosion covered him with mud. After the battle, General McClellan called on him, complimented him for the great service which he had rendered, and ordered him to the post -of honor in advance of the army. But the excitement incident to this battle aggravated his illness, and he was obliged to ask for a furlough. This was granted and he returned to Harrisburg, where his family had taken up a temporary residence. Unfortunately his health was too far gone, and he died May 18, 1862, in the very prime of life and usefulness, aged forty-eight years. The news of his death produced a profound sensation of regret throughout the Army of the Potomac. General McClellan was deeply affected by the loss of this faithful commander, and he, on May 26th following, issued general orders announcing his death and complimenting his faithful, patriotic services to his country, and these were read to every regiment in the army. His remains were brought to Reading, and buried with military honors in the Charles Evans cemetery.


p 636


William M. Keim (deceased), who was for many years a popular hotel man of Kutztown, Pa., was born in Pike township, Berks county, in July, 1827, son of George M. and Susan (Mensh) Keim George M. Keim was an extensive farmer in Pike township, and he followed that occupation until his death, when his property was purchased by his son, William M.. who operated it in connection with hotel keeping. At the time of his death, in 1880, William M. Keim was proprietor of the "Keystone Hotel" at Kutztown. In 1860 Mr. Keim married Mary Ann R. Gonser. daughter of William and Mary (Reager) Gonser, and four children were born to this union: Ida Nora m. George Marx, of Kutztown, and had one child, Warren E.; John Ellsworth m. Matilda Reinhart and is a broker in cotton yarns in Reading; William Oscar died at the age of three years, four months; and Cora Ella died when seven years, nine months, three days old. Mr. Keim was a Lutheran in religious belief, and that church his widow also adhered. Politically he was a Democrat.

Mrs. Keim came to Reading in 1885, and after living for four years on Fifth street, she purchased two houses on Pearl street, which she rebuilt in 1901. Mrs. Keim was a woman of many admirable traits character, and had hosts of friends in the community who mourned her decease.


p. 1647


William R. Keim, one of the successful fruit growers of Douglas township, Berks county, comes of a family that has given able and useful citizens to the Commonwealth.

The early home of the Keim family was in the Rhine country in Germany. Some 687 years before the birth of the American emigrant of the family lived one Gottschalk Keim, the direct ancestor of Ludwig Hercourt Keim, an officer in the "Thirty Years War," serving under Bernhard von Weimer, and born near Speier, about 1598. In 1638 he participated in the storming and capture of Briesbach, and he died after 1662.

George Keim, son of Ludwig Hercourt, was born about 1623, and was a merchant. George Keim and a Joseph Keim are recorded as living at Speier in 1690.

Johann Keim, son of George, was born about 1647.

Johannes Keim, son of Johann, was born near Speier about 1675. He was ruined in the French invasion of the Palatinate (1688-1697), and visited the New World (Pennsylvania) on a prospecting tour in 1698. He returned to Germany about 1701, and was there married in 1706. The next year (1707) he returned to Pennsylvania and located at Germantown, where he remained until the following year, when he settled in the wilderness on the Manatawny, in Oley township, Berks county. His first child was born at Oley in 1708. The earliest autograph manuscript relating to the Keims in America (so far as is known) consists of two much faded, time-worn and broken sheets of paper in German script by the hand of Johannes (Hans) Keim. It must have been written about 1732, as it ends with that year, and it was evidently drawn up for the benefit of the fourth child and third son, Johannes Nicholas Keim, who gave it to his son John. This record is now held by the family of the late Daniel May Keim, of Bristol, Mr. Keim having obtained it from his brother, Hon. George M. Keim, a zealous collector of data pertaining to the family history.

The text of the paper is as follows:

"Ich Johannes Keim hab mich verheiratat in dem jahr 1706, viertzen tag von Michels. "Katarina, born on Michels Day 1708. (Later in another hand writing has been added '1793, den 8 Mai begraben.')

"Und in dem jahr, 1711, vier Wochten von Ostern ist mein sohn Johannes zur welt geboren.

"Stephen, born March 28, 1717.

"Hantz Nickel, April 2, 1719.

"Elizabet, February , 1723.

"Jacob, October, 1724.

"Und in dem jahr 1731 den ersten tag in dem jahr 1731 habe ich meine zweihe frau zur ehe genommen.

"Und in dem jahr 1732 den 27 Aprill is meiner sohn Henrig zur welt geboren."

All these children were born on the Manatawny Creek, near its headwaters, in what was known as Oley in later years, in Berks county, but then in Philadelphia county. It was about a half mile from the present village of Pleasantville, and fifteen miles southeast of Reading. The Christian name of the second wife, as given in the will, was Maria Elizabeth. The will of Johannes Keim refers to "All my six children from my first wife." In another part of the same document concerning bequests to his second wife he provides "My wife, charged with ten small children." (Will probated at Reading, Jan. 1, 1754). It is therefore established beyond question that he had sixteen children. Through a "release of John Keim to George Keim, etc., April 29, 1762" the names of the following children of the second marriage are obtained: Heinrich; George; Conrad; Maria (m. Jacob Yoder); Barbara (m. Michael Witman); and Susanna (m. Frederick Huft) - "Heirs and representatives of John Keim, late of Oley in the County of Berks and Province of Pennsylvania deceased." The signatures to all papers where the names are spelled "Kihm" in the text are clearly Keim in German or English Script.

George Keim, grandson of Johannes and grandfather of William R., was born April 10, 1776, and died July 11, 1859. He owned a large farm near Pikeville, now the property of Moses Eberhart (the Eberharts and Keims are intermarried). In 1805 Mr. Keim married Susanna Mensch, born April 10, 1780, and died Aug. 24, 1865, after fifty-four years of wedded life. Both Mr. and Mrs. Keim are buried in a private burial ground on their farm, located in the orchard back of the barn. Of their ten children nine were living at the time the mother died, at which time there were also forty-seven grand-children and two great-grandchildren. The nine were: John, William, Israel, George, Joel M., Benneville, Susanna, Elizabeth and Sally Ann. George Keim had a sister Susanna, 1775-1846, who married George Oyster, 1762-1848.

Joel M. Keim, son of George, was born in Pike township, Berks county, and died in Douglass township, aged eighty-four years. He was a tanner in his earlier life, and was employed at different places, but later he took up farming, and lived many years in Pike township. The last six years of his life he passed in Douglass township at the home of his son William R. His farm of seventy-eight acres in Pike township is known as the Keim farm. In politics he was a Democrat, and efficiently filled the office of school director and supervisor in Pike township for a number of years. Both he and his wife are buried at Hill Church, of which he was a Lutheran member. He married Catharine Rohrbach, who was born in District township, daughter of Daniel Rohrbach. She is still living, now aged eighty-nine years, and makes her home with her daughter-in-law at Hill Church. Their children were: James, a farmer in Pike township; Augustus, deceased, a farmer in Douglass township; Samuel, unmarried, and living with William R.; William R.; and Katie, who died about seventeen years.

William R. Keim was born near Lobachsville, in Pike township, Jan. 29, 1858, and was educated in the schools of his native township. His practical training for life's affairs he acquired on the home farm. At the age of seventeen he learned the tinsmith's trade, but never followed it to any extent. He began farming for himself in 1880, continuing for six years, and in addition he attended the Philadelphia markets once or twice a week. From 1886 to 1889 he worked as a molder in the Colebrookdale foundry. Since the spring of 1890 he has been farming. For nine years he was a tenant farmer on different farms in Douglass township. In the spring of 1899 he moved to his present tract, located in the extreme northeast end of Douglass township. It consists of sixty-four acres, and is known as the John Mauger farm, though originally a part of the Behr estate for one hundred years, Mrs. Mauger having been born a Behr. Mr. Keim is a pomologist, taking great interest in fruit growing, and has about 1800 peach trees, 600 now (1909) being in bearing condition. He also has 140 apple trees that he planted in 1900. His farm is in an excellent state of cultivation, and he has a reputation for thorough understanding of his work.

In politics Mr. Keim is a Democrat, and he has been active in his party's interest. He served as supervisor of Douglass township for six years , and is very influential in Lower Berks county. He and his family are Lutheran members of the church at Lobachsville.

On April 28, 1884, Mr. Keim married Emma, daughter of Thomas and Catharine (Weidner) Weider, the former of whom was a "Herrenhooter" from Bethlehem, belonging to the Moravian Church. (His son Thomas was a farmer in Spring township). Two sons and one daughter have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Keim, namely: Milton W., a bookkeeper in the service of the Bell Telephone Company, Philadelphia, is married to a Miss Hare, of Nova Scotia; Edwin W. is a merchant at Gilbertsville; and Emma C. is at home.

Last Modified Thursday, 16-Oct-2008 20:54:49 EDT

Previous       Home Page       Index       Next
404 - Error: 404


Category not found

The Page you are looking for doesn't exist or an other error occurred. Go back, or head over to Home Page to choose a new direction.

You may not be able to visit this page because of:

  1. an out-of-date bookmark/favourite
  2. a search engine that has an out-of-date listing for this site
  3. a mistyped address
  4. you have no access to this page
  5. The requested resource was not found.
  6. An error has occurred while processing your request.