JEFFERSON COUNTY ILLINOIS
BIOGRAPHIES

CHARLES R. KELLER
This representative business man and ex-county official fills a 
conspicuous place in the public life of Mount Vernon and it is 
with no little satisfaction that the following brief review of 
his career is al lotted a place among those of the leading men 
of his city and county. The family of which Charles R. Keller 
is an honorable representative, is of Southern origin, and early
in the eighteenth century the name was familiar in various parts 
of North Carolina, the state in which the subject's grandfather, 
John Keller, was born and reared. This ancestor, whose birth 
occurred on July 17, 1804, moved with his parents to Bedford 
county, Tennessee, in 1814, and after a residence of about 
twenty years in the latter state he removed with his family to 
Jefferson county, Illinois, settling in 1841 in Elk Prairie township
where he purchased land and engaged in agricultural pursuits. In 1847 
he joined the United States army to take part in the war with Mexico, 
but shortly after reaching the scene of action contracted a disease 
which resulted in his death at the city of Jalapa, in January of the 
year following his enlistment. 

Mary Nees, wife of John Keller, was born in Lincoln county, Tennessee, in 1805, and departed this life in Jefferson county, Illinois, December, 1869. She bore her husband ten children, among whom was a son by the name of Willis A. Keller, whose birth occurred in Lincoln county, Tennessee, July I, 1826, and who in 1841 accompanied his parents to Jefferson county, Illinois, and grew to maturity in Elk Prairie township. Owing to unfavorable circumstances his educational training was but limited and at the age of ten years he left home to make his own way in the world, by working on a farm at very small wages. After continuing this kind of labor until his nineteenth year he married and set up a domestic establishment of his own on rented land, the lady who became his wife being Miss Mary Dodds, and the date on which the ceremony took place, the 7th of January, 1846. 

Willis A. Keller began farming for himself under circumstances which to most men would have been considered decidedly discouraging, but to one of his energy and optimism, the future ap peared bright with promise, notwithstanding the sum total of his earthly capital at that time amounted to less than ten dollars. With a determination which knew no such word as fail, he resolutely addressed himself to his labors, and in due time succeeded in bettering his condition and laying the foundation of a career which ultimately resulted in one of the largest private fortunes in his township and eaming for him much more than local repute as a progressive farmer and public-spirited citizen. Mr. Keller' s industry became proverbial in his neighborhood and his economy, sound judgment and excellent management bore their legitimate fruits in a competency which not only placed him in independent circumstances but as stated above made him one of the financially solid and reliable men of the county. From the modest beginning alluded to he added to his savings until able to purchase land of his own from which time his advancement was more rapid and some idea of his success may be obtained from the fact of his having accumulated a large and valuable estate ere he passed the years of his prime, his realty at one time in Jefferson county amounting to considerable in excess of one thousand acres of land to say nothing of valubale personal property and other private interests which tended to augment his fortune. Mrs. Mary (Dodds) Keller, who was born in Kentucky, November 29, 1829, died in Jefferson county, Illinois, July, 1865, leaving these children, namely: Sarah E., wife of George W. Yost; Judge C. A. Keller, of San Antonio, Texas; Amanda, who married Robert Lloyd, and Minnie, now Mrs. Julian Frochock, and Carrie Fly, wife of W. S. Fly. 

In the year 1866 Willis Keller was united in marriage with Mrs. Lucy Jane (Adams) Rentchler, who bore him children as follows: Mrs. Mary J. Maxey, Mrs. Luphemia Jones, and Charles R. Keller, whose name introduces this sketch, all living in Mount Vernon and highly esteemd by the best people of the city. 

Charles R. Keller, to a brief review of whose career the reader's attention is herewith respectfully invited, was born in Mount Vernon on the 18th day of April, 1872, and spent his early life in the city and on his father's farm, his experience in the country having a decided influence in fostering habits of industry and teaching les sons of self-reliance which subsequently resulted so greatly to his advantage. At the proper age he entered the public schools of his native place, between which and the country districts he devoted the time until completing the prescribed course when he became a student in the Southern Illinois Normal School at Carbondale, where he prosecuted his studies for a period of two years, during which time he made commendable progress and earned a creditable record. On leaving the above institution Mr. Keller yielded to a predilection in favor of a business life, accepting a clerkship with the mercantile firm of Culli Brothers & McAtee, of Mount Vernon, in whose employ he continued from 1890 until 1896, when he resigned his position to enter upon his duties as Clerk of the Circuit Court, to which office he was elected in the fall of the latter year. From his youth he had manifested a lively interest in public affairs and on attaining his majority became influential in political circles and one of the rising young Democrats of Jefferson county, and when it became necessary to select a candidate for the important and responsible office of Circuit Clerk, attention was directed to him as the most available man to select, and it was not long until his party friends rallied to his support and his nomination, his election following as a matter of course, not altogether, however, on account of the normally large Democratic majority but by reason of his great personal popularity and eminent fitness for the position as well. 

Mr. Keller s official career proving creditable to himself and acceptable to the public he was renominated at the expiration of his term and in the election of 1900 was again victorious, defeating his competitor by a decisive majority and during his second incumbency proving an able and faithful public servant whose record fully met the expectations of the people. On retiring from the clerkship Mr. Keller devoted two years to the grocery business but at the expiration of that time severed his connection with merchandising and in 1906 entered the Ham National Bank as assistant cashier, which position he still worthily holds. In his present capacity as in his official relations with the public he discharges his duties in the faithful and conscientious manner characteristic of the man, demonstrating clerical abilities of a high order and a familiarity with finance and matters relating thereto which render his services especially valuable to the management of the institution with which he is identified. 

Mr. Keller is a gentleman of high character and strict integrity whose worth has been duly appreciated and rewarded and whose name has ever been above the suspicion of dishonor. The universal esteem in which he is held by the people of his city and county bears eloquent testimony to his many sterling qualities while the honors conferred upon him by his fellow citizens and the confidence reposed in him by his present employers show him to be loyal to every trust and worthy of the support and confidence with which he is regarded. Despite the fact of his never having assumed the duties and responsibilities of the marriage relation Mr. Keller is an influential factor in the social life of Mount Vernon and takes an active interest in all movements having for their object the amelioration of the human ills, and the general prosperity and welfare of the body politic. Fraternally he is identified with the Knights of Pythias, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Fraternal Order of Eagles, in all of which organizations he takes a leading part besides being honored with important positions from time to time. Source: History of Jefferson County, Illinois John Wall 1909 Submitted By: Misty Flannigan Oct 2002


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