The Keith family of the region of country in and about the Bridgewaters, members of which have been most prominent and influential there from the beginning, is as ancient as are the settlements there. Bridgewater, as originally, was the first interior settlement in the Old Colony, the grant of the plantation being made in 1645, but the actual settlement was not commenced until after 1650, the first lots being taken up in the West Parish, and there the first house was built and the first improvements made, the proprietors and inhabitants practically all coming from Duxbury. From the ancient town of Bridgewater have since been set off the towns of East Bridgewater, West Bridgewater and North Bridgewater, the latter since becoming the thriving city of Brockton. The first settlements being made in the West Parish, the first church was built there. While the settlement was thus early made and the church formed, the society had no regular settled pastor until the coming thither, in 1661, of Rev. James Keith, who was born in Scotland, and emigrated to this country at the age of eighteen years. From the Rev. James Keith have descended practically all those bearing the name in this Commonwealth.
Across the sea the Keiths were among the most ancient families in Europe. Of the nobility of Scotland, while some were originally Scots, others at different times came thither from foreign countries. To the latter class belonged the Keiths, it being the supposition that the ancient family derived its origin from one Robert (who was of German origin), a chieftain among the Catti, from which it is said came the surname Keith. At the battle of Panbridge, in 1006, he slew with his own hands Camus, general of the Danes, and King Malcolm, perceiving this achievement, dipped his fingers in Camus’ blood and drew red strokes, or pales, on the top of Robert’s shield, which have since been included in the armorial bearings of his descendants. As a reward for this signal bravery King Malcolm bestowed upon him several lands, particularly the Barony of Keith, in East Lothian, called after his own name, and from which his posterity assumed their surname. In 1010 the King appointed him hereditary Great Marischal of Scotland, which high office continued in the family until the year 1715, when the last Earl Marischal engaged in the Rebellion, forfeiting his estates and honors (he was pardoned by George II in 1759 and restored to his estates); with his attainder, in 1716, the dignity became obsolete in Scotland and thus ended the family’s tenure of the office, after having served their country in a direct capacity upward of seven hundred years. The last and tenth Earl was colonel of the Guards under Queen Anne, but after his service in the Rebellion in 1715 he joined the service of the King of Prussia, and died unmarried near Potsdam, Prussia, May 28, 1778, in his eighty-sixth year. His brother James became a field marshal in the service of Peter the Great of Russia, afterward served with the same rank in the Prussian army, and after many signal services was killed at Hochkirch, in a battle with the Austrians, in 1758. A superb monument erected to his memory at Berlin, by order of the King of Prussia, testifies to the estimation in which he was held by that illustrious monarch.
As will be noted in the foregoing, a family dating back to the tenth century, enrolling among its members the names of many noted and famous characters in the history of the Old World, has good claims to the consideration of its descendants.
This article is to particularly treat of the branch of this family to which belonged the late Franklin Keith, one of the highly honored and respected citizens of the community, and who was the head of a family which has figured so conspicuously in the business history of Brockton, the father of sons whose careers have been marked in mercantile, moral and social circles, and whose generous deeds and good qualities are universally conceded and commended. The ancestral line of this branch of the family, which follows, is given in chronological order.
Family of Rev James Keith of Bridgewater MA
(I) Rev. James Keith was born in 1644, was educated at Aberdeen, Scotland, where he was graduated, likely from Marischal College (educated, as tradition says, at the expense of a maiden aunt), his name appearing on the roll in 1657, said college having been founded by George, the fifth Earl of Keith Marischal, in 1593. At the age of eighteen years he emigrated to this country, arriving in Boston in 1662. He was introduced to the church at Bridgewater by Dr. Increase Mather, whom he always esteemed as his patron and best friend. Rev. Mr. Keith is referred to in the records of the church as “a student of divinity, having some competent time improved his gifts amongst them in the work of the ministry, and having also due approbation, by the testimony of the Reverend Elders of other churches of Christ, to whom he was known.” His settlement in Bridgewater took place Feb. 18, 1664, upon the following terms: “A double house lot of twelve (12) acres, with a house built thereon; a purchase right, so-called, being a fifty-sixth part of the original grant; and 40 pounds annual salary, 20 pounds in Boston money and the other half at home.” The house in which he lived and died is still standing, and is situated on the north side of River street, near the intersection of Forest street. It was originally built in 1662, in 1678 enlarged, in 1837 remodeled, and remains substantially the same at the present time. The text selected for his first sermon was from Jeremiah 1:6: “Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a child,” and it was said to have been delivered from a rock in the “mill pasture” near the river. His advice and influence with the civil authorities of the Colony seem to have been considerable, instanced in the case of the Indian chief King Philip’s wife and son; when the question as to what should be done with the son was in agitation he stated in a letter to Rev. Mr. Cotton that he “was in favor of mercy,” and though differing from most others his opinion had great weight, if indeed it was not decisive in sparing the boy’s life. Rev. Mr. Keith preached the sermon at the dedication of the new meetinghouse in South Bridgewater, in 1717, two years only before his death, which was printed in the Bridgewater “Monitor,” and contained some pertinent and impressive remarks on the subject of intemperance.
On May 3, 1668, Rev. Mr. Keith married Susanna Edson, daughter of Deacon Samuel and Susanna (Orcutt) Edson, the former of whom was born in England in 1612, and emigrated to this country, settling first at Salem, whence he removed to Bridgewater, where he erected the first mill in the old town, and was deacon of the church presided over by Rev. Mr. Keith. To this union were born children as follows:
- James Keith, Jr. (Dec. 5, 1669)
- Joseph Keith (Feb. 14, 1675)
- Samuel Keith (1677)
- Timothy Keith
- John Keith (1688)
- Josiah Keith
- Margaret Keith
- Mary Keith
- Susanna Keith
The mother of these children died Oct. 16, 1705, aged sixty-five years, and he married (second) in 1707 Mary, widow of Thomas Williams, of Taunton. Rev. Mr. Keith passed away July 23, 1719, aged seventy-six years, in West Bridgewater, having labored in the ministry of the town for fifty-six years and proved himself a worthy man and a faithful shepherd over his infant and feeble flock.
Family of Timothy Keith of Bridgewater MA
(II) Timothy Keith, the fourth son of Rev. James Keith and his wife Susanna Edson, was born in 1683, and became one of the first settlers of the North Parish of Bridgewater, now Brockton, early in the eighteenth century, where his descendants have been numerous and prominent and influential citizens. There were no permanent settlements in the North Parish until after the year 1700, the first settlers being principally descendants of the first settlers of the mother town of Bridgewater. Timothy Keith married Feb. 1, 1710, Hannah Fobes, daughter of Deacon Edward Fobes, and to this union were born four children, as follows:
- Timothy Keith, Jr.
- Abiah Keith
- Nathan Keith
- Hannah Keith
The mother died May 23, 1765. Timothy Keith died Nov. 8, 1767, aged eighty-three years, and is buried in the burying ground on Main street, opposite Grove street, Campello, his grave being marked by a granite monument which was erected in 1881 by his descendants. He is described as having been a man small in stature, and of a frail constitution. He was a man who figured conspicuously in town affairs, being one of the original petitioners for the establishment of the North Precinct, the moderator of the first meeting held after it became a precinct, one of the committee of three to consult with Rev. Mr. Porter in relation to a settlement with them as a minister of the Gospel, all of which indicate him to have been a man of influence in both civil and religious matters.
Family of Timothy Keith, Jr. of Bridgewater MA
(III) Timothy Keith, the eldest son of Timothy and Hannah (Fobes) Keith, was born Jan. 27, 1711, and married June 2, 1737, Bethiah Ames, daughter of William Ames, and they were the parents of two children:
- Levi Keith, born Aug. 25, 1738
- Timothy Keith, born July 24, 1740
The father died in 1740, aged twenty-nine years, and is buried beside his father in the Campello lot.
Family of Levi Keith of Bridgewater MA
(IV) Levi Keith, the eldest son of Timothy and Bethiah (Ames) Keith, was born Aug. 25, 1738, and married Nov. 8, 1759, Jemima Perkins, daughter of Mark and Dorothy (Whipple) Perkins, the former of whom became a settler of North Bridgewater in 1741, and to this union were born children as follows:
- Bethiah Keith, born in 1760
- Timothy Keith, born in 1761
- Reuben Keith, born in 1762, who died in 1768
- Benjamin Keith, born in 1763
- Jemima Keith, born in 1765, who died Jan. 20, 1766
- Jemima Keith (2), born in 1767
- Molly Keith, born in 1769, who died Oct. 2, 1769
- Levi Keith, Jr., born in 1773
- Molly Keith (2), born in 1775
- Anna Keith, born in 1781, who died in 1814
Levi Keith, the father, died in 1813, in his seventy-sixth year. He was a tanner and shoe manufacturer. His tannery was located at the corner of Montello and Garfield streets, and in excavating for the foundation of the “Garfield House,” in 1880, remains of the vats were found in a good state of preservation. His home was situated at the corner of Main and Plain streets, on the site now occupied by the handsome residence of Mr. George E. Keith. This house, which was built in 1746, was originally a square house, and in 1838 an addition was made thereto, a part of which was used as a shop and was known as the “Old Red Shop,” in which many of the Keith name first learned the art of shoe-making. Levi Keith was a man of considerable property and influence in the community. He was, without a question, the pioneer of the shoe industry in the vicinity, which at present employs so large a proportion of the population, and the “Old Red Shop,” which is still remembered by many, was the original shoe factory from which has sprung this immense industry. In his old account book are to be found the names of nearly all the families then living in the community, whom he supplied with boots and shoes.
Family of Benjamin Keith of Bridgewater MA
(V) Benjamin Keith, son of Levi and Jemima (Perkins) Keith, was born Nov. 18, 1763, and married Dec. 18, 1788, Martha Cary, daughter of Col. Simeon Cary and his wife Mary Howard, the former of whom was a descendant in the fourth generation from John Cary, who came from Somersetshire, England, and settled in Duxbury, Mass., in 1639, later becoming one of the first settlers of Bridgewater, where he was the first town clerk; and the latter a direct descendant in the fourth generation from John Howard, who came from England and settled first at Duxbury, later becoming one of the first settlers of the West Parish of Bridgewater in 1651. Col. Simeon Cary was a captain in the French and Indian war in 1758 and 1759, and was a colonel in the Revolutionary war in 1776. To Benjamin and Martha (Cary) Keith were born children as follows:
- Ziba Keith, born Nov. 10, 1789, married (first) Sally Cary and (second) Polly Noyes
- Arza Keith, born May 10, 1791, married Marcia Kingman
- Bela Keith, born Feb. 2, 1793, married Mary Kingman
- Charles Keith, born Aug. 8, 1794, married Mehitable Perkins
- Polly Keith, born Oct. 9, 1798, married Franklin Ames
- Jason Keith, born March 6, 1801, married Susan Smith and (second) Catherine Porter
- Benjamin Keith, born Feb. 6, 1803, died in March, 1803
Benjamin Keith, the father, was principally a farmer, owning quite an extensive tract of land on the west side of Main street, and also operated the tannery which had been conducted by his father, located on the present site of the “Garfield House,” and was as well engaged in making and repairing shoes. At this period (1800) the ownership of all the territory “Comprising what is now called Campello was vested in the Keith family. Mr. Keith died Sept. 9, 1814, aged fifty-one years, while his wife attained the ripe old age of eighty-six years, dying June 10, 1852.
Family of Capt. Ziba Keith of Bridgewater MA
(VI) Capt. Ziba Keith, the eldest son of Benjamin and Martha (Cary) Keith, was born Nov. 10, 1789, and married Nov. 25, 1813, Sally Cary, daughter of Jonathan and Abigail (Perkins) Cary, the former a direct descendant in the fifth generation from John Cary, who was one of the first settlers and first town clerk of the mother town of Bridgewater; and the latter a direct descendant in the third generation from Mark Perkins, the son of Luke, who came from Ipswich, Mass. to North Bridgewater in 1741. To Capt. Ziba and Sally (Cary) Keith were born the following children:
- Benjamin Keith, born Oct. 19, 1814, married Seraphina W. Lothrop, of West Bridgewater.
- Franklin Keith, born Jan. 28, 1816, married. Betsey Bailey, of Sidney, Maine.
- Martha Cary Keith, born Dec. 6, 1817, married Henry Jackson, of North Bridgewater.
- Martin Keith, born Sept. 12, 1819, died Nov. 26, 1820.
- Martin Luther Keith, born Feb. 8, 1822, married (first) Mary Keith and (second) Mrs. Isabella Clark.
- Nancy Cary Keith, born April 14, 1824, died Jan. 30, 1838.
- David Keith, twin, born May 12, 1826, died Sept. 23, 1826.
- Jonathan Keith, twin, born May 12, 1826, married (first) Lavina Ames and (second) Olive P. Foster.
- Levi Watson Keith, born April 9, 1830, married Amelia S. Ripley.
The mother of these children, one of a family remarkable for their domestic attachment, passed away after a lingering illness Sept. 26, 1832, and the father married (second) March 13, 1834, Polly Noyes, daughter of Daniel and Huldah (Jenkins) Noyes, of Abington, Mass., and to this union were born children as follows:
- Daniel Noyes Keith, born April 29, 1835, married Mary Howard, of North Bridgewater.
- Edwin Keith, born Aug. 21, 1840, married Ellen R. Howard.
- Ziba Cary Keith, born July 13, 1842, married Abbie F. Jackson, of North Bridgewater.
Capt. Ziba Keith was born in the old homestead on Main street, and being of strong, robust build was, physically, well fitted for the occupation which he mainly followed, that of a farmer. He early learned to” make and repair shoes under his grandfather, Levi Keith, and for some years, during the winter months, continued this business, inherited from his ancestors, in the “Old Red Shop.” As his sons became of age, they were likewise instructed in the art of shoe-making; and the entire number were in due time graduated from the benches beneath its roof. By a provision of his grandfather’s will, he came into possession of the property at the corner of Main and Plain streets in 1813, and upon the death of his father, in 1814, he was appointed administrator of his estate, and also administered several other estates. On May 29, 1816, he was commissioned, by Governor Brooks, as an ensign of a company in the 3d Regiment of Infantry, 1st Brigade, 5th Division, and on Dec. 5, 1822, was promoted to a captaincy in the same company; which title, then acquired, attached to him through life. As a man Captain Keith was upright and just in all his dealings; as a neighbor, kind and respected by all, willing always to bear his share of private and public burdens; and as a father, considerate and forbearing, fulfilling the summary of the whole law, “serving God and keeping His commandments” and “doing unto others as he would they should do unto him.” Capt. Ziba Keith died Sept. 28, 1862, in the seventy-third year of his age, his widow surviving him, dying June 14, 1882.
Family of Franklin Keith of North Bridgewater MA
(VII) Franklin Keith, the second son of Capt. Ziba and Sally (Cary) Keith, was born Jan. 28, 1816, in North Bridgewater, now Brockton, Mass., and obtained his education in the district schools of his neighborhood. Like his brothers, he was a graduate of the “Old Red Shop,” and pursued the business of shoe-making for many years, until the rapidly developing manufacturing interests absorbed his time and attention and established him, in 1856, as a partner in one of the largest shoe manufacturing firms then existing in North Bridgewater. Like his elder brother, he also brought his newly wedded wife to, and for a while made his home in, the old family homestead, until he became able to provide a house of his mm. The happy custom prevailed here, as elsewhere, of locating the sons in the immediate vicinity of the old homestead; and in 1843 he built and occupied what proved’ to be a permanent and happy home, on a lot adjoining the homestead on the north. Here he labored for many years for E. N. Holbrook, of Randolph, until he became a partner in the firm of Martin L. Keith & Co., in 1856, then one of the largest shoe manufacturing concerns in the community. Their trade was largely Southern, and upon the commencement of hostilities, in 1861, with its suspension of trade relations and collections, they were compelled to compromise with their creditors, terminating this partnership and discontinuing the business. After the war Mr. Keith, however, again engaged in the manufacture of shoes in a small way, in a shop on Garfield street, continuing thus engaged until nearly the close of his life. Mr. Keith was an industrious man and intense in business affairs. He was ever actively interested in the public affairs of his native town, and being a man of strict integrity and probity commended himself to the people, being chosen selectman, assessor and overseer of the poor, serving in that capacity in 1856, 1857 and 1858. In political faith he was in early life an old-line Whig, and upon the organization of the Republican party, in 1856, allied himself with the latter party, continuing a stanch supporter of its principles until his death. Mr. Keith was prominently identified with the affairs of the South Congregational Church, of which he was an active and consistent member, and for several years was a member of the standing committee of the church. He was a man whose kindness of heart and whose warm and generous sympathy were always in evidence, which made him beloved and esteemed by all who knew him.
On Oct. 8, 1840, Mr. Keith was united in marriage to Betsey Bailey, who was born in Sidney, Maine, daughter of Paul and Betsey (Thayer) Bailey, formerly of West Bridgewater, Mass. Mr. Keith passed away in Brockton, April 7, 1877, in the sixty-second year of his age, being survived by his wife, who lived to share the success of her sons. She was a devout, earnest Christian, and her lovable qualities as a woman and mother endeared her to all who knew her. Mrs. Keith died in Brockton June 22, 1903, aged eighty-two years. To Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Keith were born children as follows:
- Adelbert Franklin Keith, born Aug. 2, 1841, married Eliza C. Baker.
- Helen Maria Keith, born Oct. 22, 1843, married Sidney E. Packard, of North Bridgewater, and died Dec. 21, 1894, in Gallup, New Mexico.
- Flavel Bailey Keith, born Nov. 8, 1845, married Ella Stevens, of North Bridgewater, where he was engaged in the manufacture of shoes for a number of years after the war of the Rebellion, in which he participated as a member of Company C, 60th Massachusetts Regiment, Volunteer Infantry, and where he died Jan. 1, 1886, in the forty-first year of his age.
- George Eldon Keith, born Feb. 8, 1850, married (first) Anna G. Reed and (second) Susan Elizabeth Archibald.
- Dennis Cary Keith, born May 11, 1852, married Jennie G. Wilkins.
- Myron Lee Keith, born March 26, 1859, married L. Ada Cummings.
Family of Adelbert Franklin Keith of North Bridgewater MA
(VIII) Adelbert Franklin Keith, eldest son of the late Franklin and Betsey (Bailey) Keith, was born Aug. 2, 1841, in North Bridgewater (now Brockton), Mass., under his grandfather Keith’s roof, at the corner of Main and Plain streets. His early educational training was acquired in attendance at the common schools of his neighborhood, and by diligence in his studies he became a good scholar. At an early age he was strongly inclined to prepare himself for the ministry, but deciding otherwise for the time, he became bookkeeper for Martin L. Keith & Co., then one of the leading shoe manufacturing concerns of the community, and he continued in that capacity until 1862, when he procured a clerkship in the war department at Washington, D. C., which position he held until 1864. He then returned to Campello and commenced the manufacture of shoes in partnership with his father, this partnership continuing for about three years, until 1867. Strong convictions of duty still following him, he entered the Theological Seminary at Hartford, Conn., where he prepared himself for the “ministry, and from which he was graduated in 1870. He then married, and accepting a call from the Congregational Church in Windham, Conn., he was ordained Oct. 26, 1870. Here he continued to preach with great acceptance to his people until 1874, when he requested and was granted dismission. He was then invited to become pastor of the Congregational Church at Danielsonville, Conn., accepted and preached to this people for a period of three years. He then accepted the call extended to him by the North Congregational Church at Providence, E. I., in 1877; this society at that time being a feeble one, the outgrowth of a mission, it afforded its pastor a welcome field for the work which he loved and for which he was so well fitted. How faithful these labors were is witnessed by the growth from feeble beginnings to its present sturdy proportions, and by the erection of a beautiful and commodious church. Owing to impaired health, and with a feeling that “the world was the true field,” Rev. Mr. Keith asked for his release from this pastorate in 1884, which was granted, and he then accepted an invitation to preach at Middlebury, Vt., remaining there for a period of about three years. On account of continued ill health and throat trouble, he then retired from the ministry, and returning to Campello accepted a clerical position with the George E. Keith Company, in which capacity he remained for about four and a half years, when he went to California in hopes of regaining his broken health, and there he resided for about two years, until his death, which occurred Nov. 29, 1897, at Corona, California.
As a minister of the gospel, Rev. Mr. Keith was always earnest and direct, making the way of salvation plain and urging immediate duty. His doctrine was sound and uncompromisable; his sermons were practical and always rich in saving common sense. With him it was a work of faith and entered upon with a sense of love and duty. He was a great-hearted man, who believed in the future and went forward manfully to meet it. He began with the Sunday school and always made much of it, and while residing at Campello served for several years as superintendent of the Sunday school of the South Congregational Church. Seldom absent from this charge, he always put his best efforts into the work, the constant additions to his various charges bearing witness to his faithfulness.
On June 22, 1870, Rev. Mr. Keith was united in marriage to Eliza Gillett Baker, daughter of William A. and Frances (Gillett) Baker, of Hartford, Conn., where her father was for many years general ticket agent of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Company. Since the death of her husband Mrs. Keith has made her home in Campello. To Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Keith were born three children, as follows:
- Fannie Baker Keith, born Nov. 4, 1873, who died Nov. 14, 1877
- Edward Adelbert Keith, born Sept. 1, 1876
- Esther Frances Keith, born June 11, 1881
Family of Edward Adelbert Keith of Brockton MA
(IX) Edward Adelbert Keith, only son of the late Rev. Adelbert Franklin Keith and his wife, Eliza Gillett (Baker), was born Sept. 1, 1876, at Danielsonville, Conn., and acquired his early educational training in the schools of the towns in which his father was located in the ministry, supplementing the same by a three years’ attendance at the Brockton high school. After spending a season in tutoring at Ashburnham Academy, he entered Amherst College with the class of 1898, but on account of accompanying his father to California, did not graduate until the following year, when he received the degree of A. B. from that institution of learning. Returning to Campello, he then entered the office of the George E. Keith Company as associate credit man, having charge of the foreign trade of this shoe manufacturing concern, in which capacity he has since continued with efficiency.
Fraternally Mr. Keith is a member of the Masonic organization, holding membership in St. George Lodge, A. F. & A. M., of Campello. He also holds membership in the Brockton Country Club.
In political faith he is a Republican, and has served in the city government from Ward Three, in 1907 and 1908 as a member of the common council, and in 1909 as a member of the board of aldermen, during which service he was a member of the Finance committee, and took an especially active interest in the municipal government through his committee work.
As have been his ancestors for several generations, Mr. Keith is an active member of the South Congregational Church at Campello, and for several years he has served as chairman of the Parish committee of the same. He is also an active and earnest worker in the Young-Men’s Christian Association, of which association he is a member.
On Oct. 5, 1904, Mr. Keith was united in marriage to Grace Coggins, of Hancock, Maine, daughter of Wallace and Maria (Wooster) Coggins, and this union has been blessed with two sons, as follows:
- Edward Gordon Keith, born July 8, 1905
- Stanton Baker Keith, born Jan. 16, 1909
In 1911 Mr. Keith made a trip around the world in the interests of the George E. Keith Company, spending several months in the Old World, during which time he visited and exhibited the product of this extensive shoe manufacturing concern in every civilized country of the globe.
Family of George Eldon Keith of Brockton MA
(VIII) George Eldon Keith, son of the late Franklin and Betsey (Bailey) Keith, was born Feb. 8, 1850, in North Bridgewater, now Brockton. He had the advantages of the common schools of his native town and of the high school, in acquiring his early educational training, being a member of the first class at the opening of the high school in North Bridgewater in 1864. His father being engaged in the boot and shoe business, it was but natural that the son, as he grew up, imbibed a knowledge of the business, and while yet a student at school his mornings and evenings were spent at the bench, where he early acquired a thorough knowledge of the making of shoes. After leaving school he continued working at the bench, making boots and shoes, until July, 1874, on the 1st of which month, associated with the late William S. Green, he began business on his own account, manufacturing boots and shoes, under the firm style of Green & Keith; they established themselves in the factory formerly occupied by Mr. Keith’s father. This partnership continued until 1880, at which time Mr. Keith sold his interests in the business to his partner. But this was not to discontinue the industry for which his talents and tact had proved him adapted and fit, he having already made a success of the business; it was for the purpose of giving his genius and ambition fuller play. He at once erected a large factory building on Perkins avenue, in which he continued in the manufacture of shoes on a much larger scale. This factory was the nucleus of his present extensive and eminently prosperous business, and from this small beginning, his first six months’ sales amounting to a little over $7,000, the business has grown steadily and rapidly until today the George E. Keith Company, incorporated, of which he is the president, is the foremost and most extensive shoe manufacturing concern in the State if not in the world, the sales in 1910 amounting to $12,000,000, and the payroll reaching $3,000,000. As his business has increased and expanded, requiring more factory room, Mr. Keith has been obliged to make numerous additions to his original plant, which is located at Campello, in which part of the city he was born and where he has always resided, until today his immense plant occupies several acres of ground, and instead of the one factory, as originally, he now occupies seven distinct buildings, as well as having four additional factories in other parts of the State, one at Middleboro, one at North Adams, one at East Weymouth, and another at Boston, the latter two being used for the manufacture of ladies’ shoes. In 1898 the business was incorporated under the laws of Massachusetts as the George E. Keith Company, with a capital stock of $1,000,000, Mr. Keith becoming president of the corporation, in which capacity he has since continued.
This enterprising concern gives employment to about five thousand hands, who produce from fifteen thousand to twenty thousand pairs of shoes per day. The George E. Keith Company’s product, known as the “Walkover” shoe, is well and favorably known the world over, the firm having salesrooms in many of the large cities of this country, and their shoes being also shipped to foreign countries, they having established stores in various cities of the Old World, nine of which are located in London, England. As a producer of shoes for the multitude in every land and clime of the civilized world, the George E. Keith Company has unique distinction. Their stores cover every known land where civilized people reside. All through the cities, towns and countries of Europe are scattered stores selling the Walkover shoes, and the rapid growth of this business abroad has been marvelous. In supplying its foreign trade through these retail stores the George E. Keith Company stands today as one of the largest — if not the largest — exporters of American made shoes. Their business at the present time comprises nearly one tenth of the entire export trade of this country. With the foreign business of the concern on such firm standing the George E. Keith Company is still reaching out to other countries which are yet open to invasion, their most recent expansion of business being in parts of South America.
Thoughtfulness and consideration for the comfort and welfare of its employees have always been dominant features in the management of the George E. Keith Company, this being one of the causes — more eloquent than words — why the spirit of loyalty is so strong among the concern’s army of workers. For the convenience of the employees an up-to-date restaurant is maintained, under excellent sanitary conditions. It was installed in October, 1889. A noon-day meal is served at a nominal sum, a novel idea, original with Mr. Keith, who with his accustomed liberality donates the profits derived therefrom to the direct benefit of his employees, the money being used as fund for the sick under the direction of a committee made up of one representative from each department in the factory. The opening of the new and commodious executive office building on Jan. 31, 1911, at Campello, marked an epoch in the remarkable growth of the business of this concern. This building, which has five stories and a basement, is of fire-proof construction, brick, steel and cement being the principal materials used. It is believed to be the finest and most completely equipped executive building anywhere in the shoe trade, and nothing has been overlooked that may contribute to the comfort of its three hundred or more occupants, while at the same time providing for systematic time-saving in business details. This executive building is thoroughly equipped with every known convenience, and besides containing the handsomely furnished private offices of the heads of the corporation and the heads of the various departments, the fifth floor contains a banquet hall and lunch parlors, adjoining which are the kitchen and pantries, all thoroughly up-to-date, while the basement contains bowling alleys and gymnasium for the use of the employees.
It is worthy of note that Mr. George E. Keith, who was the founder of this enterprising concern and who has remained its dominant head, has through the force of his own make up risen from the bench, in 1874, when he began business on his own account with but a limited capital and some twenty hands, to the position of the foremost shoe manufacturer in the State of great shoe industries, and to wealth and prominence among his fellow men.
In political faith Mr. Keith is a stalwart Republican, but although a prominent factor in the councils of that party has never felt inclined to let politics interfere with his extensive business interests. When the town of North Bridgewater became the city of Brockton, in 1882, he permitted the use of his name as a candidate for member of the first board of aldermen, in which body he served with distinction, from Ward Four. For several years he has been a member of the board of park commissioners of the city. In 1900 he also served as a delegate from the State of Massachusetts to the National Republican Convention, held in Philadelphia, Pa., at which convention the late lamented William McKinley received his second nomination for the Presidency of the United States. In 1909 Mr. Keith was earnestly solicited by scores of prominent Republicans throughout the Fourteenth Congressional District to allow his name to be presented as a candidate for the office of Congressman, they in common with many others having the assurance that he would be unanimously nominated and elected by a large majority, but Mr. Keith, as on various other occasions, respectfully declined to have the honor bestowed upon him, saying, in his letter of declination, “I still feel that I can be of greater value to my own city by remaining at home than by spending one-half of my time in Washington.”
Mr. Keith has been prominent and deeply interested in all religious matters. Since he was sixteen years of age he has been an active and consistent member of the South Congregational Church and Society, serving as clerk of the church for a period of about ten years, and for a like period was also superintendent of the Sunday school. He also took a very prominent part in the organization of the Young-Men’s Christian Association, and was the first president of the association, serving in that capacity for several years, and has labored ardently to promote the cause in every possible way, its pronounced success being largely due to his efforts. In all projects having for their object the betterment and welfare of the community, Mr. Keith is found taking an earnest interest and giving freely of his means, and though of a generous nature his giving is done always with an unostentatious hand.
In addition to his responsibilities as head of the George E. Keith Company, Mr. Keith has varied financial interests. He was one of the original incorporators of the Brockton National Bank in 1881, becoming a member of its first board of directors, and for a number of years has been president of the bank; an original incorporator of the Brockton Savings Bank in 1881, he served for a number of years as a member of its board of trustees; and was a charter member of the Campello Cooperative Bank, which was chartered in 1877, and of which he served as president for several years. He was for a term of years a director of the Third National Bank of Boston, and is now a director of the Old Colony Trust Company of Boston; is a director of the United Shoe Machinery Company, of Boston, and an official member of various other corporations. He is also one of the vice presidents of the National Association of Boot and Shoe Manufacturers. Socially he is a member of the Commercial Club, of Brockton, and various other social and industrial organizations.
Between the lines of this notice may be read evidence sufficient to show Mr. Keith’s standing in the community, his worth as a citizen, his enterprise and public spirit, and the city of his birth may justly feel a pride in his life’s achievements. He is essentially a self-made man, and well made, and his success is due to an intelligent application of his energies to his chosen calling, and his life an example well worth following by the young man of today.
On Oct. 23, 1877, Mr. Keith was united in marriage to Anna Gertrude Reed, daughter of the late Hon. William Lincoln and Deborah (Chessman) Reed, of Abington, Mass., and a descendant of several of New England’s early settled families, being a direct descendant in the eighth generation from William Reed, who was born in England in 1605, and sailed from Gravesend, in the County of Kent, in the ship “Assurance de Lo,” in 1635, settling in Weymouth, Mass., where he became prominent in the affairs of that town. Mrs. Keith possessed a particularly beautiful character, her disposition ever sunny, and hers was a steadfast and enduring friendship. It was an actual pleasure to meet her at all times and her cheering words were an inspiration. Her life, character and conversation were uplifting, and the spirit of the Master being strongly imbued in her shone out brightly in her daily walk in life. In her death, which occurred in Brockton June 30, 1906, the needy and less fortunate lost a true and generous friend, and her family a kind and devoted wife and mother. To Mr. and Mrs. Keith were born two sons:
- Eldon Bradford Keith, born Oct. 18, 1879
- Harold Chessman Keith, born June 18, 1884
Both sons are associated with the George E. Keith Company in an official capacity. On July 8, 1908, Mr. Keith was married (second) to Susan Elizabeth Archibald, the accomplished daughter of the late William H. Archibald, of North Sydney, Cape Breton.
Whether the elements of success in life are innate attributes of the individual, or whether they are quickened by a process of circumstantial development, it is impossible to determine clearly; yet the study of a successful life is none the less interesting and profitable by reason of the existence of this same uncertainty. So much in excess of successes is the record of failures that one is constrained to attempt an analysis in either case, and to determine the method of causation in an approximate way. The march of improvement and progress is accelerated day by day, and each moment seems to demand a man of broader intelligence and greater discernment than did the preceding one. Successful men must be live men in this age, bristling with activity; and the lessons of personal history may be far reaching to an extent not superficially evident. Mr. Keith is a man who has measured up to modern acquirements, and has not only been eminently successful himself, but has been largely influential in the success of others. Though a man whose mind is so largely engrossed with weighty responsibilities, he is a keen observer, one who notes the little things in life and finds enjoyment in them. He has been an extensive and observant traveler, both in this country and the various foreign countries, and upon frequent occasions has afforded the citizens of his native city a pleasant and instructive evening with lectures descriptive of the places of interest which he has visited, usually illustrated with views of interesting points which were photographed by him personally. Of a literary turn of mind, Mr. Keith is a lover and patron of the fine arts as well as of standard literature, his large and comprehensive library affording him ample opportunity for literary entertainment. A devotee of classical music, he has taken a keen interest in the affairs of the Brockton Choral Society, of which organization he has been president for several years. The position of Mr. Keith as a business man, citizen and individual is but the result of his great energy, executive ability and intelligent application of purpose. A good judge of men, he has surrounded himself with an able corps of lieutenants, the work of any one of whom he is instantly able to judge intelligently. His intense familiarity with the multifarious details of his business not only enables him to dispose of a great amount of work, but he also maintains a remarkably close personal knowledge of affairs in general. Progressive, up-to-date, he is ever ready to exert his influence and aid in all movements in the interest of better conditions, good government, the promotion of the city and the best means of advancing its prosperity. Socially Mr. Keith is genial, and of an even temperament, sympathetic, charitable, warm in his impulses, accessible, and polite to all, without regard for outward conditions or circumstances. However, he holds himself aloof from such as he deems unworthy of honorable recognition. He is deservedly popular in the highest sense, having hosts of friends who regard him as a gentleman of ability, strictest integrity and incorruptible character. Mr. Keith’s handsome residence, which he erected in 1889, is on the site of the old Keith family homestead, at the corner of Main and Plain streets, Campello, where lived his ancestors for so many years.
Family of Eldon Bradford Keith of Brockton MA
(IX) Eldon Bradford Keith, the eldest son of George Eldon and the late Anna Gertrude (Reed) Keith, was born Oct. 18, 1879, in Brockton, Mass. His educational training was begun in the common schools of his native city, after which he became a student in the high school, graduating from the latter with the class of 1898. He then entered Amherst College, from which institution of learning he was graduated with the degree of A. B. with the class of 1902, attaining the honor of Phi Beta Kappa. Mr. Keith, after finishing his course at college, immediately entered the employ of the George E. Keith Company, and was soon admitted a member of the corporation, assuming the position of assistant treasurer, in which capacity he remained until in November, 1907, when upon the resignation of his uncle, the late D. Cary Keith, as treasurer, he was elected treasurer of the George E. Keith Company, which official position he has since faithfully and efficiently filled. In political views Mr. Keith is a supporter of the principles of the Republican party, and has served his native city as a member of the school committee for several years. Fraternally he is a member of the Masonic organization, holding membership in St. George Lodge, A. F. & A. M.; Satucket Chapter, E. A. M.; Brockton Council, E. & S. M.; and Bay State Commandery, Knights Templar, of Brockton. Mr. Keith is also officially identified with the financial institutions of the city, being a director of the Brockton National Bank, and a trustee of the People’s Savings Bank. “A worthy son of noble sire,” like his father he has taken an active interest in religious matters and in the affairs of the Young Men’s Christian Association, of which he has been a director for several years, and was president of the association for a period of two years. Mr. Keith is also an active member of the South Congregational Church of Campello, taking an earnest interest in the work of the same.
On May 20, 1903, Mr. Keith was united in marriage to Lulie H. Keith, daughter of the late Zephaniah M. Keith and his wife, Charlotte L. (Perkins) Keith, of Brockton, and this union has been blessed with two sons:
- George Eldon Keith, 2d, who was born Nov. 8, 1905
- Eldon Bradford Keith, Jr., born Nov. 23, 1908
Mr. Keith resides in a modern home on South street, Campello, in which locality his ancestors have lived since the early settlement of the town.
Family of Harold Chessman Keith of Brockton MA
(IX) Harold Chessman Keith, the youngest son of George Eldon Keith and the late Anna Gertrude (Reed) Keith, was born June 18, 1884, in Brockton, Mass. His educational training was acquired in the common schools of his native city, and in three years’ attendance at the Brockton high school. Furthering his studies at a preparatory school at Lawrenceville, N. J., he then entered Amherst College, graduating from the latter institution of learning in 1908, with the degree of A. B. He then spent about six months abroad in travel and study, and upon returning to his native city was elected a director of the George E. Keith Company, of which corporation he was also elected assistant treasurer in 1909, in which capacity he has since continued.
Fraternally Mr. Keith is a member of the Masonic organization, holding membership in St. George Lodge, A. F. & A. M., of Campello; Satucket Chapter, E. A. M.; Brockton Council, E. & S. M.; and Bay State Commandery, Knights Templar, of Brockton, and is also a member of Aleppo Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., of Boston.
Socially he is a member of the Commercial Club, the Country Club and the Young Men’s Christian Association, of Brockton, and of the City Club, of Boston. He is also a member of the Chi Phi fraternity, and while at college took an active part in athletics. Like his honored father and ancestors, Mr. Keith is a stanch supporter of the principles of the Republican party.
On April 12, 1910, Mr. Keith was united in marriage to Ethel Middlebrook Bowne, daughter of John Addison and Caroline (Middlebrook) Bowne, of East Orange, New Jersey.
Mr. Keith resides in a handsome residence, erected in 1910, at No. 1383 Main street, Campello, in which vicinity the Keith family has lived since the early settlement of the village, and to the business enterprises of which family is largely due the growth of that thriving section of the city of Brockton.
Family of Dennis Cary Keith of Brockton MA
(VIII) Dennis Cary Keith, son of the late Franklin and Betsey (Bailey) Keith, was born May 11, 1852, in North Bridgewater, now Brockton, and died Nov. 1, 1908, at the age of fifty-six years. In the common schools Mr. Keith received his early education, which was supplemented by a two years’ attendance at the high school. Leaving school when about seventeen years old, he went to work for his uncle, Martin L. Keith, with whom he learned upper leather shoe cutting, remaining in his employ about two years. Going to Easthampton, Mass., in September, 1871, he was clerk in the clothing store of A. J. Chase there for several months. The following spring he accepted a position in a wholesale clothing house in Boston, at No. 72 Summer street, where he remained until the fire of 1872, which destroyed the stock and store, and as well the house where he was rooming. The keys to No. 72 Summer street, which he retained, he prized until his death. Mr. Keith’s next move was to New Haven, Conn., where he was employed about one year as clerk in a clothing store, then being made manager of the branch store in Hartford, Conn., which position he held for another year. Then he went to Springfield, Mass., where he was clerk in the clothing store of S. Packard & Co., until March, 1874, when he returned to Campello and engaged in the clothing business on his own account, fitting up the store known as the Campello Corner Clothing House, in Keith’s block, which he ran for a short time, when he closed it out. In 1877 he became bookkeeper for Green & Keith, shoe manufacturers, his brother, George E., being the junior member of this firm, and continued with them until the dissolution of this partnership in 1880. At that time George E. Keith went into business for himself, and D. Cary Keith became bookkeeper and salesman for him, later also acting as credit man. Upon the incorporation of the George E. Keith Company, in 1897, he became its treasurer, which position he held until November, 1907, when on account of ill health he was compelled to relinquish the active duties of that position. However, he continued as assistant treasurer and director of the concern until his death, although he had not been active. His death was entirely unlooked for, for though he had been so ill for several years as to be unable to attend to business there had been notable improvement in his condition during the last two years, and the very day before the end came he was greatly encouraged by his prospects of returning health.
A man of retiring disposition, devoted to his home and his business, it would be difficult to measure the extent of Mr. Keith’s influence upon the life of the community. He made many firm friendships, and retained the esteem of all who knew him, whether in business or social life. Throughout his busy career he always found time to be genial and kindly, having a pleasant word for all who came in contact with him. Toward the poor and unfortunate he was especially sympathetic, but so unobtrusive in bestowing his gifts that many of his most helpful acts were never known to any but those immediately concerned, and the extent of his charities was realized by few. His ideals of usefulness were so broad that he was an active element in the growth of his town and city, though he had not been in close touch with the public for some years because of his failing strength. In fact, he did not seem to be so much distressed by the physical suffering he underwent as by the fact that it prevented him from doing many things in which he would have enjoyed active participation. Nevertheless, the sorrow with which the news of his death was received was “confined to no particular circle. It was as broad as the city and extended far beyond it. All his life Mr. Keith had been one of those men who. by word and deed, delight in helping others, and many have cause to be grateful to him and hold his deeds in loving remembrance.”
Mr. Keith was a member of St. George Lodge, A. F. & A. M., of which he was secretary for many years, and also served as chaplain; of Satucket Chapter, E. A. M.; Brockton Council, E. & S. M.; Bay State Commandery. Knights Templar, of Brockton, and Brockton Chapter, O. E. S. He was also a member of the Brockton Country Club. In politics he was a stanch Republican. Of strong religious convictions, and an active worker for many years in the South Congregational Church of Campello, it is worthy of note that Mr. Keith passed away on the fortieth anniversary of his union with that church. During all this long period he had been one of its most generous supporters, giving also of his time and influence to the furtherance of its various projects, and his deep spiritual life and earnest zeal were ever a source of inspiration to his fellow workers in the congregation. The pastor, Rev. Albert P. Pierce, D. D., who conducted the funeral services at the house, paid a touching tribute to his many good qualities, but most of all to his high standards and noble character:
“Great men who are great in their sympathies and lofty and noble in their ideals are a source of wealth to any community. Through their influence they lift the standards of living and by their character make the neighborhood worth living in. The loss of such a one takes just so much from the forces of righteousness and leaves its citizens impoverished. The passing away of D. Gary Keith makes such a loss, not only to Campello, but to the entire city as well. He was a man of noble traits and character and life. He was of gentle heart and life, broad in his sympathies and generous to a large degree; he was honest, sincere, straightforward and true; he loved the pure and the good, and was the friend of every righteous cause.”
In accordance with Mr. Keith’s wish, the ceremony at the grave was a simple committal service carried out by the officers of St. George Lodge. The interment was in Union cemetery. The body lay in state for an hour before the funeral, to give old friends, employees and the many who had known and loved Mr. Keith an opportunity to pay their last respects, and all of the George E. Keith factories, in Middleboro and North Adams, as well as at Campello, were closed for the day of the funeral. The pall bearers were relatives and intimate business associates, including Mr. Keith’s two surviving brothers. In the public bequests made in his will Mr. Keith remembered the various associations in which he had been interested liberally, leaving $1,000 each to the South Congregational Church, the Brockton Y. M. C. A. (of which he was a member), the Young Women’s Christian Association and the Brockton Hospital, and $500 to St. George Lodge.
On Dec. 25, 1879, Mr. Keith was united in marriage to Jennie G. Wilkins, daughter of Rufus and Mary J. (Wilson) Wilkins, of Lawrence, Mass., and to this union two children were born, as follows:
- Ethel Wilkins Keith, born May 11, 1885, died May 14, 1885
- Channing Wilkins Keith, born March 2, 1888, died Nov. 22, 1888
Like her husband, Mrs. Keith has been active in the work of the South Congregational Church of Campello.
Family of Myron Lee Keith of Brockton MA
(VIII) Myron Lee Keith, son of the late Franklin and Betsey (Bailey) Keith, was born March 26, 1859, in North Bridgewater, now Brockton, in the old homestead at the corner of Main and Garfield streets. His early educational training was acquired in the public schools of his native town, and later he attended the high school, which he left in 1875 to become bookkeeper for his older brother, Flavel B., who at that time was engaged in the manufacture of shoes in Campello. He continued in this capacity until March, 1883, during the last two years of which period he had also been general manager of the factory, his brother having been in feeble health. He then entered the employ of his brother George E. Keith, as superintendent of the latter’s large shoe factory, serving in that position from March 26, 1883, until the business was incorporated, in January, 1898, under the laws of Massachusetts, as the George E. Keith Company, with a capital stock of $1,000,000. Mr. Keith then became one of the original incorporators and stockholders, and was elected first vice president and director, and also general manager, in which capacities he has since continued, he having full charge of the manufacturing end of this extensive concern, with its several large shoe manufacturing plants, which gives employment to nearly five thousand hands, its products going to almost every country in the world. The George E. Keith Company is a member of the Brockton Shoe Manufacturers’ Association, of which organization Mr. Keith has served for several years as director and vice president.
In political views Mr. Keith is an ardent supporter of the principles of the Republican party, but with his large business interests has not had the time to devote to political affairs, although for a number of years he was clerk of the Republican city committee. Fraternally he is an active and prominent member of the Masonic organization, holding membership in St. George Lodge, A. F. & A. M., of Campello, of which he is past worshipful master; is also a member of Satucket Chapter, R. A. M.; Brockton Council, R. & S. M., of which he is thrice illustrious master, and of Bay State Commandery, Knights Templar, of Brockton, of which he is past eminent commander. Socially Mr. Keith is a member of the Commercial Club of Brockton, and the Brockton Country Club, of which he has served as president for several years, he being fond of golf, which game he plays as a pastime and recreation from the cares of business.
For a number of years Mr. Keith was a director of the Boot and Shoe Sole Laying Company, of Boston. He is a director of the Home National Bank, and an incorporator of the People’s Savings Bank, both of Brockton, and has taken an active interest in the Brockton City Hospital, of which he has been a trustee for a number of years and of which he served as vice president for several years.
Mr. Keith is a consistent and active member of the South Congregational Church of Campello, and also of the parish, having been prominent in the committee work of the same, and for a period of over twenty-five years has served as clerk of the parish. He is liberal in his support of the church, as well as of all charitable and benevolent objects.
On Jan. 6, 1886, Mr. Keith was united in marriage with L. Ada Cummings, daughter of Henry and Katherine M. (Pickett) Cummings, of Boston, and this union was blessed with one daughter:
- Edith Lee Keith, who was born April 23, 1889, and died Aug. 4, 1890
As a man Mr. Keith is noted for his uniform courtesy, democratic manners and personal integrity. Pew men could be less pretentious and yet dignified, and none commands greater respect. He is an energetic, forceful and progressive citizen in his ideas and purposes. Social in disposition and hospitable in his home, which is his abiding place when relieved of the business cares of the day, he has nevertheless traveled considerably, not only in this country, but in foreign lands as well, during which trips he usually devotes part of his time to the interests of business.