Stephenson County


LEVI KEISTER, Rock Grove Township. The subject of the following biography comes of excellent Pennyslvania stock, and was born in Union County, that State, Dec. 31, 1833. His father, Benjamin Keister, also a native of the Keystone State and born in 1799, after the labors of a long and worthy life, closed his eyes upon the scenes of earth at his home in Lena, this county, Feb. 21, 1872. The mother, formerly Miss Catharine Cotherman, was born in Union County, Pa., and died at her home in Rock Grove Township in 1850.

The father of our subject, during his early manhood, was employed in a sawmill in his native county and also learned blacksmithing. After reaching his majority, he departed from the home roof and, purchasing a farm in Union County, followed agriculture, in connection with his trade, until the spring of 1844. In the meantime he had been married, and now, with his wife and family, decided to seek a permanent home farther west. They started on the journey overland, equipped with four horses and two wagons, and after a journey of ten weeks, pitched their tent in Rock Grove Township, this county. They did not remain here, however, very long, but subsequently migrated north into Wisconsin, and were residents of Green County for the following eighteen months. Mr. Keister then came back to Illinois and purchased a tract of wild land in Rock Grove Township, where he put up a log house and commenced breaking prairie. The nearest market at that day was at Mineral Point and around the lead mines of Galena, and occasionally the farmers haul their produce to Chicago. Transportation was effected by horse and ox teams, and the father of our subject experienced, in common with his brother pioneers, all the hardships and difficulties of life in a new country. He possessed the qualities of perseverance and courage, and in due time enjoyed the reward of his labors. He watched with interest the development of the country around him, and contributed his full quota to its advancement and prosperity.

The mother of our subject was the daughter of Jacob Cotherman, a native of Germany, who emigrated to this country during the early settlement of Pennsylvania. During the Indian war of that period he was captured by the savages and held a prisoner seven years. He had already been married, and was the father of a family, and both he and they suffered all the terrors of anxiety and apprehension during the period that the husband and father was absent from his family and his fate practically unknown. He was exchanged, however, after the troubles had ended, and at length rejoined his family. Benjamin and Catharine Keister became the parents of ten children, of whom five sons and three daughters grew to maturity, and two died in infancy. Mr. K., early in life, identifies himself with the old Whig party, but afterward endorsed the principles of the Republicans. He was a devoted member of the German Reformed Church, while the mother belonged to the Evangelical Lutheran.

The subject of our sketch remained a member of the parental household until reaching his majority, when he began an apprenticeship at the carpenter’s trade. He was a natural mechanic, and after six months received a journeyman’s wages. He continued at his trade about five years, and then determined to change his occupation. His father offered him good terms if he would rent the old homestead, which he accepted, and occupied it for a period of eight years, engaged in farming, and obtaining money to purchase property of his own. He selected 152˝ acres on sections 19, 20, 29 and 30, in Rock Grove Township, which comprises his present homestead, and upon which he has made good improvements, including a substantial farm residence, a good barn and all other necessary buildings. In addition to general farming he has of late years given much attention to the culture of bees, and at one time had 130 hives.

The marriage of Levi Keister and Miss Mary J. Runkle took place at the home of the bride, in Rock Run Township, Feb. 7, 1858. Mrs. K. was born April 17, 1843, and was only sixteen when she became a wife. Her father was Samuel Runkle, a native of Pennsylvania, and of whom a sketch appears elsewhere in this work. This marriage resulted in the birth of five daughters and one son: Elizabeth C., born March 16, 1859, became the wife of D. Cotherman, who is engaged in farming and teaching in Rock Run Township; Esther L. died in 1864, the age of two years, seven months and ten days; Amelia J. was born Dec. 23, 1864, and continues at home with her parents; John G. was born Nov. 20, 1868, and is now a promising young man of twenty years, making his home with this parents and engaged in farming; Martha L., born Feb. 26, 1873, and Anna D., Nov. 13, 1876, are intelligent and interesting young ladies, and assist greatly in making the sunshine of the home circle. The parents and children are all connected with the German Reformed Church. Mr. Keister, politically, is a decided Republican, and has held various local offices of his township, serving as School Director six years, and giving his time and attention otherwise to its moral and intellectual advancement.

Contributed by Carole Parrish - Portrait and Biographical Album of Stephenson County, Ill. 1888

Back Home