Lee County Biography

Frederick Keister
Nelson Township


Frederick Keister was a member of an Illinois regiment during the Civil War, and fought nobly for his adopted country. He is now serving it equally as well in his capacity as a tiller of the soil, his farm of forty-five acres of well-improved land lying on sections 20 and 21 Nelson Township. He was born in Hanover Germany, December 31, 1844. His parents, Augustus and Vermenia Keister, were also natives of the Kingdom of Hanover. They were there married, and, after the birth of five children, emigrated to this country,where they hoped to do better by their family than as possible in the Fatherland. They sailed from Bremerhaven in the spring of 1856, and six weeks and four days later landed at New York. They immediately came Westward as far as this State, Dixon being their destination. They were very poor at that time, but were strong and capable, and after some years the father made his first purchase of land in 1865, on section 21, Nelson Township, he having previously farmed as a renter. He has prospered, and now owns a good farm of two hundred acres, free from encumbrance. He and his wife are people of sterling merit, and in them the Lutheran Church finds two of its most faithful members.

Our subject came to this county first in 1856. He subsequently saw four years of hard service in the South during the Rebellion. After that he came back to this township, and has been a resident here since 1865, with the exception of a few years spent in Nebraska. He has owned his present farm eight years, and has toiled hard to put it into the fine condition it is in today.

Mr. Keister has been twice married. His first wife was Ellen Woolford, who was born in Maryland, and came to Illinois in 1864 with her parents, who are now deceased. She was quite young when the family removed to this State. She was married to our subject in 1870, and died in 1880, leaving three children: Carrie, Fred and Anna. Mr. Keister was subsequently married to Miss Ida Page in Jordan Township Whiteside County. She was born in Dixon, and passed the early years of her girlhood in that city until she went to Whiteside County, where she lived until her marriage. Her parents, Henry and Phebe (Groh) Page, died when middle aged on the farm in this county. Mr. Page was a German by birth, and came to this country when a young man. He was married in Lee County, Ill., Mrs. Page being a native of Pennsylvania. Mr. Keister and his wife have had thr~e children: Walter, now deceased, Harry and ,Jesse Leroy. Mr. and Mrs. Keister are members of the Lutheran Church, and their thoughtfulness for others, true neighborliness and social qualities give them an important place in the community. Mr. Keister is in full sympathy with the doctrines of the Republican party. He holds the office of Justice of the Peace of the township very acceptably.

We should be doing but scant justice to our subject, did we not refer to his career as a soldier. Shortly after the late war broke out, he entered the Union Army, with the patriotic motive of helping to fight the battles of the Government under whose institutions he had come to live. His name was enrolled as a member of Company A, Thirty- fourth Illinois Infantry, which was under the command of Col. Kirk and Capt. W. C. Robertson. His regiment was organized in September, 1861, and was dispatched to the front to join the Army of the Tennessee. Mr. Keister was scarcely more tban a boy when he enlisted, but his fidelity to the cause, his efficiency and promptness in the discharge of his duties, and his bravery, made his services as valuable as those of many a battle-scarred veteran, and on numerous occasions the youth won the commendations of his superiors. He was in many important engagements, scaling the heights of Missionary Ridge in the famous battle fought there, accompanying Sherman on his march to the sea, assisting in the capture of Atlanta, and again facing the enemy at Bentonville, N. C., and finally taking part in the Grand Review at Washington in May, 1865. Through all those terrible years he miraculously escaped unwounded, but in the forced march from Raleigh, N. C., when the infantry had to trudge forty-five miles a day in the intense heat, and suffering from a scarcity of water, he succumbed to a sunstroke near Richmond Va., May 15, 1865, from the effects of which he has never fully recovered. He was honorably discharged with his regiment in July, 1865, and since leaving the service has been pensioned by a grateful Government for what he suffered in its defense.

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