Putnam County, Illinois History and Genealogy


Henry B. Kays
Rachel (Read) Kays
John A. Kays
J. H. Hartenbower
Anna A. (McCaleb) Hartenbower

On the roll of Putnam County's honored dead we find the name of John A. Kays, who was born on the farm in Magnolia Township where his widow now resides, his natal day being March 7, 1851. His father, Henry B. Kays, was a native of Indiana, and from that state removed to Knox County, Illinois, but later came to Putnam County, making his home on the farm just mentioned until his death, which occurred in 1877. He left an estate of over eight hundred acres. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Rachel E. Read, was born in Indiana in 1820, and is also now deceased. In their family were seven children, but Mrs. Jane Bobbitt, of Magnolia, M. B. Kays of Tonica, Illinois; and Mrs. Clara Cole, of Ottawa, are the only ones now living.

During his boyhood John A. Kays attended the district schools near his home and for a time was a student in the old academy at henry, after which he pursued a business course at Poughkeepsie, New York. Having thus acquired a good practical education he engaged in teaching school for several years and later turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, becoming a most progressive, enterprising and successful farmer. He continued to follow that occupation throughout the remainder of his life, and at his death, which occurred on the 20th of February, 1906, he left a valuable farm of four hundred and fifty-three acres supplied with all modern improvements.

In 1881 Mr. Kays was united in marriage to Miss Mary A. Hartenbower, who was born in Putnam County and still survives her husband. She is a daughter of Hon. J. H. Hartenbower, who was born in Kentucky in 1828 and died in Wichita, Kansas, October 28, 1903. He was at one time a very prominent citizen of Putnam County and was a prosperous farmer. In 1850 he made a trip to California, and after spending some time on the Pacific slope returned east by way of the Isthmus of Panama. For twenty years he lived in Kansas, but previous to this time he resided in Iowa and Minnesota where he served in the legislature. He married Miss Anna A. McCaleb, a native of Putnam County, whose parents came here in 1832. She died in Iowa in 1867. In their family were seven children.
Unto Mr. and Mrs. Kays were born six children, namely; Victor C., who was for two years a student at Champaign University and was called home by the death of his father and now assists in the operation of the farm. He takes quite an active interest in public affairs, has served as school director and took a prominent part in the consolidation of the three districts into the John Swaney School. Lois L., the next of the family died at the age of two years. Donald J., a graduate of the Northern Illinois Normal at De Kalb, is now engaged in teaching in the high school at Rockford. Albert R. is attending school in De Kalb. Mark E. and Lora G. are at home with their mother.

Mrs. Kays and her son, Victor C., now carry on the farm, and are meeting with excellent success in its management. The family is one of prominence in the community where they reside, and wherever known are held in high regard. By his ballot, Mr. Kays supported the men and measures of the democratic party and took a very active part in local politics, being at one time the candidate for county judge on his party ticket. He was one of the leading and influential citizens of Magnolia Township and no man in the locality was held in higher esteem.
[Source: Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties, By John Spencer Burt and W. E. Hawthorne, Printed by the Pioneer Publishing Company, Chicago, 1907, Page 172, 175]

Few satisfactions in life can equal the knowledge that one is directly responsible for having made a richer, fuller, more useful life available for thousands of his fellow men. Victor C. Kays certainly has cause to experience that satisfaction to the full, for it is he who guided the affairs of Arkansas State College from that October day in 1910 when, as a small agricultural school, the college opened in temporary quarters in the city of Jonesboro, Arkansas; now it has acquired full status as an accredited, four-year college, offering training not only in agriculture, but also granting degrees of Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, and Bachelor of Science in Education and Engineering. Victor C. Kays was President of the college from 1910 until 1942, when he retired as President and became President Emeritus business manager for the duration of the war.
When Victor C. Kays assumed the presidency of the infant Arkansas State College in 1910, he was a young man only twenty-eight years old, who already had shown that he possessed the qualities of dynamic leadership, a broad understanding of human nature and the problems of young people, and good, sound common sense. He had an excellent practical and cultural education, and a background of accomplishment in the educational field, particularly with reference to scientific agriculture. He possessed the qualities most needed to give the necessary impetus to a new educational institution designed to give to the young people of Northeastern Arkansas the opportunity to learn the things which would add richness to their own lives and improve the standards of living of the entire section.
Victor C. Kays was born in Magnolia, Illinois, on July 24, 1882. His father, John A. Kays, was born in Magnolia, Illinois in 1851, and had the distinction of serving his county in practically all of the county offices, while he operated a large farm. John A. Kays died in 1906. Mary E. (Hartenbower) Kays, the mother of Victor C. Kays, was born in Minnesota in 1859 and died in 1933.
When Victor C. Kays graduated from the Henry High School at Henry, Illinois, he enrolled in the Northern Illinois State Teachers College at DeKalb, Illinois, graduating from that college in 1902. In 1906 he graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana, Illinois, with a B. S. degree. He received a Masters Degree of Science in Agriculture at the State College of Agriculture, Messilla, Park, New Mexico, and did post graduate work at Iowa State College at Ames, Iowa and the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. For a short time he operated a farm at Magnolia, Illinois, and then taught Agriculture at the College of Agriculture in New Mexico. He also taught at the Township High School in Savannah, Illinois, and was an Agricultural Director of the Agricultural School at Wetumpka, Alabama. In 1910 he came to Arkansas as President of the State School of Agriculture at Jonesboro, Arkansas, and his connection with that school, now Arkansas State College, has continued without interruption since that time.
Mr. Kays is a practical scientist and educational leader, and he is also identified with the social and civic life of Jonesboro. He participates actively in the civic affairs of the community, and is well known and well liked off the campus as well as in educational and college circles. He is a member of the Masonic Order, with membership in the Royal Arch and the Knights Templar, and is in addition a member of the Jonesboro Lions Club and of many educational and professional organizations.
On June 21, 1917, Victor C. Kays married Bertie B. Hale of Paragould, Arkansas. Their only son, Victor Hale Kays, was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, on November 23, 1919. He graduated from the Arkansas State College High School and Arkansas State College, specializing in Engineering. Post-Graduate work in electrical engineering and civil engineering at the University of Illinois followed. Victor Hale Kays served with the procurement division of the United States Air Corps, located in New York City and Buffalo. He is now a member of the U. S. Engineers on the Bull Shoals Dam Project near Mt. Howe, Arkansas.
Victor C. Kays has large farming interests. He can speak as an authority on agricultural matters, as he is keenly interested in experimentation and follows all new developments with care. His contributions to scientific agriculture and education have been great, and Arkansas State College has become a thriving, modern educational institution under his wise guidance. [Source: "Annals of Arkansas," by Dallas T. Herndon, published 1967; transcribed by G.T. Transcription Team]

William A. Kays

Taken from the Past and Present of Putnam and Marshall Counties - Biographical, 1907, Page 132, 135

William A. Kays, a resident of Putnam county for more than a half century, was born in Indiana, September 2, 1828, a son of William Kays, a native of Kentucky, who came to Illinois in 1835, locating in Knox county, where his subsequent years were passed. William Kays, Sr., the grandfather of our subject, lived for several years in Putnam county, dying at the home of his son Henry, near Magnolia.

William A. Kays was a youth of only seven years when his parents removed from Indiana to Illinois, and his boyhood days were spent upon the home farm in Knox county, while in the country schools he acquired his early education and later attended a Presbyterian high school. When twenty-one years of age he became a factor in commercial life by establishing a grocery business, which he conducted at Saluda, Illinois, for about three years. Prior to this he made a trip to the west, traveling through Kansas, and slept one night in the home of John Brown, the noted abolition leader, who was then living between St. Louis and Kansas City. In 1850 Mr. Kays arrived in Putnam county in company with an uncle, Henry Kays, and in the succeeding winter made for him eleven thousand rails. He then rented land and engaged in farming on his own account, and when his labors had brought to him sufficient capital he made purchase of eighty acres of land, upon which he resided until about twelve years ago, when he sold out and bought one hundred acres, where he now lives in Hennepin township. Throughout the period of his residence in this county he has carried on general agricultural pursuits, which he has found to be a profitable source of income, as his labors have been directed by sound judgment and characterized by unremitting diligence.

In 1850 Mr. Kays was married to Miss Olive Haley, a native of Putnam county, who died April 29, 1900. He later wedded Miss Nancy Mills, of Putnam county, who still survives. By the first marriage there were eight children: Ellen, now deceased; Mrs. Sarah Purviance, now living in Kansas; James B., of Missouri; Mrs. Amanda Burns, of Kansas; Alice, the wife of H. H. Edwards, of Hennepin township; William H., of Tonica, Illinois; Olive, the wife of J. B. Davis, of Peoria, this state; and Mary Belle, deceased. By the second marriage there is one son, Wesley Kays.

In early life Mr. Kays joined the Methodist Episcopal church, and has ever endeavored to follow closely the principles and precepts of Christianity. For thirty-two years he has been secretary of the Mineral Springs Association, which holds a camp meeting at McNabb each year. He purchased the land for this purpose through an order of the conference of the Methodist Episcopal church and held it until the association was able to repay him. He has always been very active in religious and political life. His first presidential vote was cast for Franklin Pierce, and he has always been a staunch democrat where national issues are involved, yet at local elections often casts an independent ballot. He is now and has been for forty-seven years chairman of the democratic county central committee, and has done effective work in behalf of the party, being recognized as one of its leading representatives in this part of the state. He was also chairman of the central committee while living in Knox county, and was on the stage with Lincoln and Douglas when they held their joint debate in Galesburg.

His father enlisted and fought in the Mexican war, and at the time of the trouble with the Mormons in Illinois, William A. Kays enlisted and served for four months with the company that fought Joseph Smith and compelled him to come to Peoria for trial and later to leave Illinois. At the time of the Civil war he drilled for three months, intending to join an Illinois regiment, but the troops were gone when he arrived at Galesburg and he did not therefore have the opportunity of going to the front. He has in his possession, an adz used by a man of the name of Humiston in trying to find the stone tablets left by the Mormons.

Mr. Kays has closely followed the golden rule, doing unto tohers as he would have them do unto him and no man is spoken of in higher terms by his neighbors than the subject of this review. He receives the respect and veneration which should ever be accorded to a man of his years whose life has been exemplary and whose principles have been most commendable.

Taken From the Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties
By John Spencer Burt and W. E. Hawthorne, Page 132, 135
Printed by the Pioneer Publishing Company, Chicago, 1907

George B. Keeler

One of the principal streets in Bartlesville is Keeler Avenue. It is only one of many memorials testifying to the prominent position occupied by George B. Keeler in that section in the present State of Oklahoma for more than forty years. Mr. Keeler was one of the early white settlers in the Cherokee Nation, and his enterprise has been identified with all the 'important developments in Washington County. He is well known as a banker, oil man and real estate developer, and is a Cherokee by adoption and marriage.

That life is not without credit which "pulls its own weight.'' But it is given to some men not only to pay their own way through the world but to serve as a constructive force, or as it were the primary impulse to the tide which carries along with it many men to fortune and prosperity. A little casual inquiry in the Bartlesville community reveals the fact that George B. Keeler has been such a character. He has not only been one of the real builders of Bartlesville, but it is reliably reported that he has pulled the heaviest part of the load in any association with others in business affairs or in carrying a public movement to success.

His life has certainly had more than the usual eventfulness, and throughout it has been characterized by high purpose and absolute integrity. George B. Keeler was born at Hennepin, Putnam County, Illinois, February 7, 1850, a son of Alson and Ann (McNamara) Keeler. His father was a merchant at the interesting old Town of Hennepin on the Illinois River, but in 1856 when George was six years old he moved to Wisconsin, spent about ten years in that state, three or four of which were devoted to farming, and then moved to Belvidere, Illinois. The mother died at Belvidere when George B. Keeler was eighteen years old. After that his father moved out to Iowa, and later to Los Angeles, California, where he died about thirty years ago. With the exception of the brief period spent as a farmer in Wisconsin he was a merchant practically all his life.

George B. Keeler was the second in a family of three sons and three daughters. His first twenty years were spent at home, and his education came from both country and town schools. In 1871 he arrived at the Osage agency in Indian Territory as clerk for L. P. Chouteau, an Indian trader. When it is recalled that in 1871 the first railroad was being constructed across the eastern half of what is now the State of Oklahoma, it will be seen that Mr. Keeler made his entrance at a time which really constitutes him a pioneer. In October, 1871, he began working for trader Lewis P. Chouteau, and the latter was killed in the following December. Mr. Keeler then settled up the traders' estate, and was next employed by Dunlap & Flora, Indian traders. For parts of two years he was on the Western plains engaged in buying buffalo hides and robes, and was also employed on the reservation at Osage Agency.

In 1872 Mr. Keeler married Josie Gilstrap, a member of the Cherokee Nation. During a portion of the year 1874 he was clerk and collector for Jacob H. Bartles whose name is now honored in the City of Bartlesville. During the spring of 1875 he was employed on a farm, and then began handling cattle on the open range and continued as a farmer and cattle man for himself until 1884. Next came a partnership with William H. Johnstone under the name Johnstone & Keeler. He supplied many of the qualities which enabled this firm to make its surprising and remarkable success. It built the first store on the present site of the City of Bartlesville. This was a general merchandise establishment, and not only sold goods of all classes but did an extensive business in handling cattle. The partnership was one of twelve years' duration, at the end of which time Mr. Keeler bought out his associate's interest and continued as an individual merchant until 1905.

For the past fifteen years or so Mr. Keeler's enterprise has been reflected in a number of the larger and more conspicuous institutions of Bartlesville and surrounding territory. In 1900 the First National Bank of Bartlesville was organized with Mr. Keeler as a director and vice president, positions which he has held continuously for fifteen years. His activities have been directed to the oil industry since 1903, and he has developed many paying wells and has also handled large leases and other business transactions in connection with the industry. At different times he has been an interested principal in several of the well known companies operating in this district, and is now a director in the New York Oklahoma Oil Company. He is a director in the Union Machine Company, having been with that concern since its organization, and owns a large amount of local real estate.

A notable monument to his enterprise is the Sutton Keeler Building, a six-story re-enforced concrete structure completed in the spring of 1915. It was built and is owned by Mr. Keeler, A. D. Morton, Dr. G. W. Sutton, of Cleveland, Oklahoma, and Dr. F. R. Sutton, of Bartlesville. This is one of the handsomest buildings in Northern Oklahoma and on the main floor the finest banking room in the state is occupied by the First National Bank. Mr. Keeler is also a director in the Bartlesville Water Works. He was vice president of the Bartlesville Interurban Railroad when it was built and held that position until the property was sold to New York capitalists. These interests and connections need no further explanations to indicate the many ways in which Mr. Keeler has come in close touch with the life and upbuilding of his home locality.

In politics he has been a lifelong republican, is a thirty-second degree Mason and also affiliates with the Woodmen of the World and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. By his first marriage his children are: William, of Bartlesville; Fred, of Bartlesville; Lillie A., wife of Vilas Hinkle, of Bartlesville; Maude, of Paola, Kansas; Frank, of Osage County. The mother of these children died in 1893, after a marriage companionship of over twenty years.

Early in 1895 Mr. Keeler married Josie Catherine Cass. Mrs. Keeler, whose death at her home in Bartlesville in December, 1915, was an occasion for widespread sorrow, had made her position and her character count for good in every relation. She was fifty-eight years of when she died and was a native of Missouri, but has spent most of her life in the Indian country. Her ancestors were among the first settlers in the old Cherokee Nation and her maternal grandfather owned the first library and built the first house in the "neutral land" of Southern Kansas. By her first marriage Mrs. Keeler had two children, Mrs. A. D. Morton of Bartlesville; and Bruce A. Cass, of Los Angeles California. Mrs. Keeler was a woman of strong personality, much business ability and her sympathy and helpfulness were unbounded and it was those elements of her character which made her so much beloved and her death so widely regretted. She was a charter member of the First Presbyterian Church of Bartlesville, was a member of the Woodman Circle, the Rebekahs and the Eastern Star, and the Needlecraft and Tuesday social clubs at Bartlesville. Only a few weeks before her death she was elected first vice president of the Old Settlers Reunion at Dewey.
Mr. Keeler has lived in Washington County practically all the time since 1871. Every movement in its progress and upbuilding he has either witnessed or has participated in. The only whites who lived here when he came were those who had permits from the Cherokee Nation to reside in the territory. As one of the men who married into the tribe previous to 1874 he was adopted as a Cherokee citizen and received his allotment of land as a Cherokee citizen and received his allotment of land from the United States and the chief of the Cherokee Nation. From his own allotment he has platted three additions to the City of Bartlesville and about thirty acres of this flourishing locality are located on land which was once owned by him.
[Source: A standard history of Oklahoma: Volume 3 - Page 1315, Joseph Bradfield Thoburn - 1916 ]

 John A. Koontz

JOHN A. KOONTZ is engaged in general farming, owning eighty acres of land under the government ditch. This tract he has rapidly transformed into a highly cultivated place, its many improvements bearing evidence of his industry and practical methods. He was born in Putnam county, Illinois, April 9, 1858, and is a son of Henry and Lucy (Grubb) Koontz, both of whom were natives of Pennsylvania. The mother died in Putnam county when her son John A. was nine years of age. He was the eldest of six children, the others being Henry, William, Lucy, Charles and Alfred.

John A. Koontz in his early childhood went to live with his grandfather, with whom he remained between the ages of two and seventeen years. He continued in Putnam county until January 22, 1876, when he went to Missouri, where he started in active life on his own account, working at farm labor. He spent twelve years in Missouri and in 1889 arrived in Klamath county, Oregon, where he worked for wages until 1905. In 1893, however, he homesteaded his present place but for twelve years thereafter continued in the employ of others until he felt that his capital and conditions were such as to justify him in beginning the improvement of his own land. He now owns eighty acres of the one hundred and sixty acre homestead and is diligently and persistently carrying on the work of the farm. The government ditch supplies this with water and excellent irrigation is making his fields most productive so that he annually raises good crops. He is a public-spirited citizen and that he does not look only to his own interests and welfare is indicated by the fact that he has given nine acres for the right of way of the Modoc Northern Railroad which is now under construction upon condition that they build a depot and put in a siding here. This will afford excellent shipping facilities for the people of the surrounding country and will prove of inestimable benefit to the ranchers of this part of Klamath county.

Mr. Koontz has been married twice. In September, 1880, he wedded Miss Ella Drummond and unto them was born a daughter, Julia A., now the wife of B. E. Hull, of St. Joseph, Missouri. His present wife was formerly Mrs. Ida E. Greeley, whom he wedded December 29, 1908.

In politics Mr. Koontz is a republican, interested in the welfare and success of his party to the extent of advocating its principles and voting for its candidates, yet he never seeks nor desires office for himself. He is generous in his support of the Presbyterian church and gave an acre of his farm upon which to build a house of worship of that denomination. In fact he advocates all progressive measures that will advance the material, intellectual, political and moral progress of the community and thereby has become a valued citizen of Klamath county.
[Source: The centennial history of Oregon, 1811-1912: Volume 4 - Page 3894 By Joseph Gaston, George H. Himes]

Back to Putnam County Illinois History and Genealogy

Back to Illinois Genealogy Trails History and Genealogy

Back to Genealogy Trails