Biography of William Keeler

The history of William Keeler has to do with one of the important business enterprises of Oklahoma, for through many years he was actively connected with the cattle industry in Nowata county. He was a native, son of this state, his birth having occurred November 5, 1875, on a farm about four miles south of Bartlesville. His father was George B. Keeler, one of the prominent residents of Bartlesville, identified with the up building and development of that city and of Oklahoma for many decades.

He was one of the first white settlers in the Cherokee Nation and from that time forward took a helpful part in promoting Washington county and in utilizing the natural resources of the state, leading to its substantial growth and progress. He became a Cherokee by adoption and marriage and he was well known as a banker, oil man and real estate dealer.

At all times his life was characterized by high purposes and absolute integrity. A native of Illinois, he was born at Hennepin, Putnam County, February 7, 1850, his parents being Alson and Ann (McNamara) Keeler, who in 1856 removed to Wisconsin, so that George B. Keeler was a resident of that state for about ten years. He afterwards returned to Illinois, settling at Belvidere, and his education was obtained in the town and country schools near his father’s home. In 1871 he arrived at the Osage agency, in the Indian Territory, and began clerking for Lewis P. Chouteau, an Indian trader. It was in October, 1871, that he began working and his employer was killed the following December.

Later Mr. Keeler was employed by the First Bank of Dunlap & Flora, Indian traders, and for part 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 he married Josie Gilstrap, a member of the Cherokee Nation. About three years later he began handling cattle on the open plains and continued farming and cattle raising until 1884. His next venture was with William H. Johnstone, under the firm style of Johnstone & Keeler, proprietors of a general merchandise establishment in Bartlesville, where they built the first store and in connection with this they did an extensive business in handling cattle.

After twelve years Mr. Keeler purchased his partner’s interest and continued in merchandising alone until 1905. In 1900 he became one of the directors and vice president of the First National Bank of Bartlesville, on its organization, and in 1903 he became an active factor in connection with the oil industry. Other business interests profited by his cooperation and sound judgment and a notable monument to his enterprise is the Sutton-Keeler building, a six-story reinforced concrete structure which was erected in the spring of 1915, being built and owned by Mr. Keeler and three business associates. Mr. Keeler also became a director of the Bartlesville Water Works and was vice president of the Bartlesville Interurban Railroad. In politics he was a lifelong republican, also a thirty-second degree Mason and a member of the Woodmen of the World and of the Elks lodge.

By his first marriage George B. Keeler had several children, of whom William Keeler was the eldest. William Keeler’s youthful days were spent under the parental roof and his education was largely acquired at Vinita, Oklahoma. He early became familiar with farming and cattle raising and after attaining man’s estate, became actively identified with the cattle business in Nowata county. There he carried on his operations to the time of his death and the successful management of his interests made him one of the prosperous residents of the district. He was also greatly interested in the oil industry as a producer.

In the year 1899 William Keeler was united in marriage to Miss Lulu Carr, a daughter of N. C. Carr, who is now living in Bartlesville, where he has long been prominently known. He has been termed “the pioneer of Big Caney,” owing to the fact that he was the first white settler of any real importance along that river.

He was born in Wilton, Saratoga county, New York, September 2, 1844, and was reared on a farm at Fort Scott, Kansas, where both he and his mother entered a quarter section of land, his father having previously passed away. He was only fifteen when he located on that property and at the age of sixteen he enlisted for service at Fort Scott in July, 1861, becoming a member of Company B, of the Sixth Kansas Regiment, which in March, 1862, was transformed into the Sixth Kansas Cavalry. When the war was over he became an employee in a store at Fort Scott, and in 1865 returned to the state of New York, where he spent six months in study.

In September, 1865, he again went to Kansas and was once more employed in Fort Scott until February, 1866. He was afterward a pioneer of Oswego, Kansas, and he also owned a half interest in the trading post.

A strong friendship sprung up between Mr. Carr and a Cherokee Indian named Rogers and, eventually, Mr. Carr visited the Rogers’ home, where he first met Miss Annie Rogers, the daughter of his Indian friend. They were married on the 25th of August, following, and removed from Oswego to Big Caney. There they experienced all the hardships and privations of pioneer life, but they bravely met the conditions and prosperity came to them as the nears passed by About 1907 Mr. Carr built a comfortable home in Bartlesville and afterward purchased a more commodious and handsomer residence. Mr. and Mrs. Carr and their family have exerted a wide influence over the material, intellectual, social and moral progress of their community and state. Mr. Carr belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic and has been a Mason since 1866. He is also a member of the Baptist church. The history of himself and his estimable wife is inseparably interwoven with the record of progress in Bartlesville and in Washington County.

The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. William Keeler was blessed with three children: Mrs. Blanche Adams, who is a resident of Bartlesville; Wayne, thirteen years “of age; and Joe, a little lad aged three. The family circle was broken by the hand of death when on the 10th of May, 1921, Mr. Keeler was called to his final rest, his demise being deeply regretted by many friends, for his sterling worth of character had gained for him the respect, confidence and goodwill of all who knew him. Mrs. Keeler is a member of the Baptist church, in which she is an active worker and she also belongs to the Eastern Star. Like her husband, she is a representative of one of the old and honored pioneer families of Oklahoma and has long occupied an enviable social position here, her home being the abode of warm-hearted hospitality which is greatly enjoyed by a legion of warm friends.



Benedict, John Downing. Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma: including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

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