William And George Keely

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
September 21, 1999

History of Charleston and Kanawha County, West Virginia and Representative
W.S. Laidley
Richmond Arnold Publishing Co., Chicago, ILL.
p. 358-362

WILLIAM and GEORGE KEELY are among the well known and honored citizens of
Kanawha county, both reside in Loudon district on their home farms opposite
Charleston; both were born in Haverhill, Mass.,-George in 1839 and William in
1842, and were sons of Rev. Josiah Keely, A. M. and Eliza (Bradley) keely.
Rev. Josiah Keely was born in Northampton, England; landed in America in 1818
and located in Haverhill, Mass., where, later, he engaged in mercantile
trade, and was one of the forty shoe manufacturers of the town in 1837. It
was then the custom for the young man who put up his first business sign, to
“wet his sign;” Keely, Chase & Co., were the first business firm in the town
who 4id not “wet his sign,”-being active in the great temperance movement
that had been started in the country. In 1840 Rev. Keely entered the
ministry. In 1843 he settled in Wenham, Mass.; in 1852 he settled in Saco,
Me., pastor of the Main Street Baptist church, and for a number of years was
also supervisor of the public schools of the town and township; in 1863 he
was appointed chaplain of the Thirteenth Maine Infantry, then doing duty in
the Department of the Gulf, and he joined the regiment at New Orleans, saw
active service during the whole Red River campaign, was corn-mended by
Major-General N. P. Banks for his care and devotion to the soldiers, was
~aced in charge of the Hospital Steamer “Natchez” with the sick and wounded
for New Orleans, and shortly after, was stricken with malarial fever and died
(June, 1864), aged s8 years.
Mrs. Eliza (Bradley) Keely, his wife, was the daughter of Enoch and Abigail
(Hildreth) Bradley. Enoch was a drum-major in the war of 1812, and after the
war returned to his farm in Haverhill, Mass.; later, as his nine children
became of age, he built cottage homes for each on different sections of his
large estate,-to provide against possible need. Enoch’s wife was a near
relative of the Hildreths who settled Marietta, Ohio; their descendants are
among the most estimable of the present residents of Marietta.
William Keely entered early in life upon duties of a public nature: at 16
years, was librarian of the Sarco Athenaeum (Public Library); at 17, teaching
a rural school; at 17, was graduated from the Saco (Me.) High School, and
entered Colby (Waterville) Col-lege. Later, the Civil’ War was claiming the
young patriots of the Country, and he enlisted as a private in the i3th Maine
Vol. Infantry, of which Gen. Neal Dow was the Colonel; and while in camp, at
Augusta (Me.) was Adjutant’s Clerk at Headquarters. His regiment was ordered
to Ship Island, Miss., where he performed his share of guard duty and of
loading and unloading, and coaling U. S. Transports, preparatory to the
capture of New Orleans. This regiment was sent to cut off the retreat of the
Confederates, and two companies were ordered to garrison Fort Macomb, La.
Later, Mr. Keely is commissioned a Lieutenant, and Acting Post Quartermaster
and Com-missary at this fort. Later, civil government being restored in
Louisiana, he and other officers are ordered to await assignment of duty in
the regular army. Not desiring to enter the regulars, he resigned and was
honorably discharged in October, 1864. Soon after arriving home he was
appointed principal of the Peaks Island School,-a part of Portland, Me.
Clos-ing his school work, he accepted position as bookkeeper, and, later, as
superintendent of the Cannelton (W. Va.) Branch of the Union Coal and Oil
Co., of Maysville, Ky. This company mined cannel and bituminous coal, made
oil from the cannel coal, shipped the crude oil in barrels and an oil boat to
Maysville to be refined, and, also, shipped cannel coal to Cincinnati and New
York for gas purposes. The pay rolls and expenses of the company were about
$30,000 per month. When, in 1865, Mr. Keely was appointed postmaster at
Cannelton, he and his two sureties had to go horseback fourteen miles on to
Cabin Creek to the nearest magistrate, Matthew P. Wyatt, Esq., to qualify.
Upon the discovery of Rock Oil, the cost of making oil from cannel coal
became prohibitive; and, in i868, Mr. Keely was instructed to close up the
business of the Canneltown Branch. In 1869 he moved to Fayette County, on to
the William Buster farm, where the town of Mount Carbon now is; later, he
rents the Hogue farm below Charleston, and in the winter months we find him
working fire and life insurance in Kanawha, Boone and Logan Counties,
representing the Coldwell & Moore Agency. At the same time, he is looking
about for some place on which to permanently locate. In the meanwhile, he is
business manager of the Ba~ tist Record at Charleston, and, later, is local
editor of the Kanawha Daily,-the FIRST Daily paper printed in Charleston, and
also reporting the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of 1873;
later, this Daily, with its good-will, was merged into the Daily Courier, of
which Hon. H. S. Walker was proprietor.
Mr. Keely now accepts a position as Secretary, Bookkeeper and General Manager
of the Anchor Stove Works Co., of which Colonel T. B. Swan was the
President,-succeeding Secretary Randolph, of the firm of Boggs & Randolph.
This stove company was composed of local capitalists, and made a brave fight
to com-pete with the larger and stronger stove companies on the Ohio River,
hut having assumed the debts of a former company, it was “quit or lose more
For a year or more Mr. Keely was accountant for Mr. Charles Ward and The
Charleston Gas Co., of which Mr. Ward was the efficient superintendent, but
stringency in money matters compelled curtailinent in office force.
>From 1874 to 1876, business was very dull in Charleston, and, for the first
time since coming to the Kanawha Valley, Mr. Keely retired for a livelihood
to his mountain home on the wooded hills of the south side of the Kanawha
River,-this site having been purchased in 1870. He supplemented his poultry
and dairy operations by devoting his spare time to copy-ing “Briefs,” and by
occasional bookkeeping.
In August, 1876, through the kindness of friends, and unbeknown to Mr. Keely,
he was recommended to Dr. J. P. Hale, President of the Snow Hill Salt Co.,
who was planning to start the old Snow Hill Salt Furnace, the larg-est in the
Kanawha Valley; Dr. Hale wrote for an interview. Mr. Keely had never met Dr.
Hale, but, following the first interview, he ac-cepted the position of
storekeeper, bookkeeper and general manager. He was able to handle the work
in the store for a while with the young men who were assisting, but other
duties demanded more of his time, and he secured the services of Mr. B. F.
Mays of Charleston, who proved faithful and trustworthy in every respect.
Mr. Keely made a thorough study of the process of salt making, and
demonstrated that the business could be made a success. The furnaces were
running every hour of the six week (lays and Sunday, and he ascertained, by
experiments, that he could make as much Salt without running on Sunday, and
so give the men who were “Kettleteoders” a needed rest and the furnace was
run for three years on this plan :until 1882, when all the furnaces of the
Kanawha and Ohio rivers were closed out and shut out by the cheaper grades of
salt from Michigan and New York States, which monopolized the markets, the
Dickinson Furnace, only, running on the Kanawha, by holding the Kentucky
trade over the Chesapeake & Ohio RR.; and one or two furnaces on the Ohio
having their own market.
During his stay at Snow Hill, Mr. Keely was road commissioner, Sunday school
superintendent and school trustee; he also opened a reading room for the men,
which was well patronized and much appreciated: he had, also, Mrs. Keely as
his valued assistant in keeping up the bookkeeping and office work.
In 1882, Mr. Keely, having closed up the business of the Snow Hill Salt Co.,
moved to his mountain home; and, again, accepted position with Mr. Charles
Ward, whose business as inventor and manufacturer of the Ward Water-tube
Marine Boiler was becoming firmly established; and Mr. Keely, as accountant
and. later, as secretary of The Charles Ward Engineering Works has continued
with this firm for a period of thirty years. During this time, he has, also,
through the courtesy of this firm, been able to accept the position of
president of the Board of Education of Loudon Magisterial District, for four
years, and, later, for seven years, he has been the secretary of the same
He has been active in religious work since his conversion at fifteen years;
was superintendent of the Union Sunday School when at Cannelton, and after
taking his letter to the Charleston Baptist Church in 1870, he was clerk and,
later superintendent for ten years, of the Sunday School of this Church, also
a Deacon of the Church since 1876; also, clerk of the Kana-‘vha Valley
Baptist Association for thirty-two years, and West Virginia Transportation
Leader for the Conventions of the International Baptist Young Peoples’ Union
of America since 1895.
He is awake to all matters of public interest, -especially of good schools,
of good roads and of good farming. For a number of years he has been County
Correspondent of and Re-porter for the U. S. Department of Agriculture at
Washington, under a commission from the secretary of agriculture. At all the
general elections he is either a clerk or an election commissioner, and has
been a notary public for tvelve years. He is a Prohibitionist in principle
and practice, and a Republican in politics: -an upright, active, useful and
appreciated citizen.
In 1865, he married Miss Lucy Stacy of Saco; Me., whose ancestry, as well as
that of Mr. Keely, is traced back to the seventeenth century. Their six
children, all now in active callings, are Elizabeth and Madeline, teachers in
the City Schools; Josiah, for ten years principal of the State Preparatory
Schools at Montgomery, now superintendent of the Ownings Mine of the
Consolidated Coal Co., near Shinnston; John, a former bookbinder, now a
settled pastor in Massachusetts; Urania and Abby, teacher and accountants.

GEORGE KEELY, when quite a youth, was sent for a prolonged visit to an uncle
in Haverhill, who had a private school at his residence; and George combined
farming with a course of study. Returning to Saco, he continued his school
work,-his summer vacations being given to farming and harvesting for the
parishioners of the Rev. Keely; later, he was a student at Colby Institute
(Waterville, Me.). He was graduated from the Saco High School and entered
Colby (Waterville) College in 1859.
During his high school course he gave part time to medical study, while
employed as apothecary clerk; he taught school the winter of 1859 at
Charleston, Me., about 20 miles from Augusta, the capital of the State. The
neighborhood was primitive, and the 26 scholars had 24 different kinds of
readers,-requiring 24 recitations each day; his salary was meagre, and he
“boarded round.” Failing health in college compelled Mr. Keely to seek more
active employment; and going to the Aroostook country in the Northern part of
Maine, he engaged as clerk in a village store. Later, the Civil War being
already in progress and many of his student friends having enlisted, he
returned to Saco in the fall of 1861, and enlisted as a private with his
brother William in Co. K, 13th Maine Volunteer Infantry. In 1863, the
hospital steward of the regiment was made a surgeon, and Mr. Keely was
recommended for the position, and was hospital steward during the remainder
of his term of service in the Red River campaign and after the regiinent was
transferred to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He was honorably discharged
January 6, 1865,-having served more than his three years’ term.
Mr. Keely again took up his studies, entering the New Hampton (Vt.)
Theological Institute, and, later, completing at Hamilton Serninary; he
preached during the time to the small adjacent village churches in New York
State. Completing his studies he returned to the Aroostook country, and
engaged in colporteur and pastoral work at Linneus, Linden and Smyrna, Me.,
and remained in the county preaching and farming until March, 1876.
In 1868 he married Louisa J. Adams, an efficient and prominent school teacher
and teacher of music in Aroostook County. Her sister, Miss Marada Adams of
Portland, Me., has been principal for years of the Emerson Grammar Schools of
that city, and is a woman of remarkable tact and ability as superintendent
and instructor.
The experience of Mr. Keely and wife among the people as they went from place
to place revealed a primitive condition of things in some of the homes,-both
in want of culture and the the proper conception of pastoral support; so that
the pastor was often found without money or material to keep the wolf from
the door in the long severe winters in the Aroostook. Wonderful dreams began
to trouble the wife, and she had a vision of mysterious meaning, in which she
saw the words of Scripture recorded in the Revelation, “Come out from among
them, and BE YE SEPARATE,”-which decided their action in leaving the Baptist
faith, and they sought for new light.
An uncle learning of their extreme financial straits and of their
environments, and who had taken a deep interest in the two “boys” (George and
William) since the death of the father in the army, proffered help; George
also wrote his brother William about his decision religi-ously; later, the
brother taking up the matter and the situation with the uncle, it was decided
that Mr. Keely and his family should move to West Virginia. They arrived in
March, 1876, remaining on the farm of his brother William during the
management of the Snow Hill Salt Furnace, when he occupied his adjoining
property of 34 acres, which had been purchased,-on which the family of eight
living children have since resided. In their religious searching for new
light they were led to choose the faith of the Society of Friends. The
children were all matriculated at the Friend’s School at Westtown, Pa.,
except Frank, deceased, who was graduated from the Charleston High School,
and was fitting himself for forestry. George, the eldest, married, and is
with a Leather Belt manufacturer at Wilmington, Del.; Louisa and Jennie are’
at home; Mary, married, and has a nice home at Patten, Me.; Faith, a teacher;
Mercy and Truth are efficient graduate trained nurses; Thomas, married, and
is a truck-gardener; the wife and mother still teaches at the home, and many
of the neighbors’ children and grandchildren are pleased to say that they
went to school to “Aunt Louisa.”
As the years have gone by, either the father or the mother have alternated in
attending the Yearly Meeting of Friends at Philadelphia. The influence from
this good family is widely felt and appreciated.