Biography of William Keal

William Keal. While Champaign County has long been noted for its material riches and its magnificent assets as an agricultural district, its real wealth consists in its men and women, its families and homos, their standards of comfort and civic and domestic virtues, and in those associations which afford color to the material background of existence.

Of those families that have longest been identified with the county that represented by William Keal, a resident of Rantoul Township, has more than ordinary interest.

Mr. Keal was born in Prussia, Germany, and was seven years of age when he accompanied his parents to America. He is a son of Frederick and Louisa (Dahms) Keal. Altogether there were eight children, four born in America and four in Germany. Frederick and Louisa Keal possessed the substantial German characteristics of ambition and thrift. To better their fortunes they determined to come to America. After landing in New York they proceeded directly to Champaign County, Illinois, where Frederick Keal had two sisters living, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Seams. For several years they lived at Champaign and worked largely as wage earners. Frederick Keal at one time farmed a portion of the land now included in the university farm. By the strictest attention to duty and by many sacrifices they were finally able to buy forty acres seven miles southeast of Rantoul. Mrs. Keal possessed energy and industry to as great a degree as her husband. In those early days Champaign County was noted for its production of broom corn. Mrs. Keal with other women did the heavy work involved in sorting the broom corn. The industry of herself and husband had its reward. After buying their first home they were able from time to time to add to their landed estate until they eventually owned 100 acres of as fine land as can be found anywhere in Illinois.

The names of their children were: Frederick C., deceased; William; Mrs. Sophia Wallen; Charles G.; Minnie; Louisa; Anna; and Lilly. The two last are now deceased. Lilly was Mrs. Tibbets, and she died in Urbana. All these children were educated in the district school at Maple Grove.

Mr. William Keal also attended school in the East Side High School at Champaign. His early experiences were as a farmer, and he had reached the age of twenty-three when, on December 25, Christmas Day, 1878, he laid the foundation of his own home and fortune by his union with Miss Frances M. Harris. She is a daughter of Marvin B. and Melissa Harris, the former a native of New York and the latter of Indiana. Marvin B: Harris moved from New York to the vicinity of Honey Creek, Indiana. The Harrises were of Scotch-Irish descent. In the family were three children, William, Albert and Frances. All were born at Honey Creek, Indiana, and for a number of years’ they had their home south of Terre Haute. Then the death angel came and took away the mother and after her death Frances Harris spent three years with her uncle, John S. Brookbank, who is still living at the age of ninety. Mr. Brookbank moved from Indiana to McDonough County, Illinois, thence to Warren County and finally to Champaign County. Eventually Frances returned to Indiana to live with her father, who had married again. Mrs. Keal’s father served gallantly as a soldier in the Civil War. At the close of the war he returned home and married, in order that he might furnish his daughter a home. Later Frances returned to Champaign County and kept house for her two brothers on a farm until her marriage to Mr. Keal.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Keal began in Rantoul Township on a rented farm. In order to see more of the country they subsequently took a trip to Iowa, but their investigations proved to them that no country was quite so satisfactory as Champaign County. Returning, they bought eighty acres in Rantoul Township, and with that strict application, energy and good management which are the fundamentals of success as farmers they increased their prosperity from year to year. At the present time Mr. and Mrs. Keal have an estate of 280 acres, including some of the richest and most productive land of Champaign County.

Into their home were born four children: Rose B., Thomas A., Charles W. and John Harold. These children were all given the advantages of the local district school and subsequently the high school at Rantoul. Rosa B. Keal married Arthur Hadler, a farmer whose home is five miles west of Rantoul. Their three children are named William Harris, Henry Kenneth and Frances Caroline. Charles W. Keal married Stella Tweedy, and they live on a farm south of Rantoul. John Harold Keal married Cecil Cornelia Baker on May 29, 1917. They are living at the Keal homestead. Thomas is still at home with his parents.

Politically Mr. Keal has come to prefer the man to the party and is exceedingly broad’ minded in his attitude and views of public questions. He believes that the honors of politics should go as a reward for real service and that only the men of tested honesty and ability should be preferred for public positions. Mr. Keal is also a strong prohibitionist and looks forward to the time in the not far distant future when the state and nation will be irrevocably committed to the prohibition of the liquor traffic.

Mr. and Mrs. Keal and their children all attend the Christian Church. Mr. Keal was for many years an elder in the church. His community has bestowed upon him many marks of esteem and confidence, and for a number of years he served as a member of the school board and has done all he could to secure the best advantages not only for his own children but for those of his neighbors. Fraternally he is affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America. They come in close touch with the social life of Rantoul, and their home is a place of unbounded hospitality for their friends both in the country and in the town. Mr. and Mrs. Keal reside on one of the fine places in the splendid agricultural district two miles south of Rantoul.

Before closing some mention should be made of a souvenir possessed by Mrs. Keal, which has some historic interest. It is a letter written from her great-grandmother to her grandparents. It was written at that picturesque spot of Lewiston in Niagara County, New York, and was dated January 26, 1828. The letter was written and was folded according to the old custom, without envelope, was sealed with sealing wax, and the rate of postage stamped upon it was 25 cents.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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