Here's what the Keep Family book says about Rev. John Keep (he wasn't the first Rev. John Keep, however - there was one born at Longmeadow, MA March 10, 1749. He graduated from Yale in 1769, being the first of the fmaily to have a collegiate education. He served a church at Sheffield, MA until he died Sept. 3, 1784. He served in the Rev. War as a Chaplain in Col. Jonathan Smith's Regiment.)
Now, about YOUR "Rev. John Keep (Samuel 4, Samuel 3, Samuel 2, John 1), born at Longmeadow, MA April 20, 1781. He remained at home assisting his father on the farm until he was 17 years old, when he entered Yale College. He graduated in 1802, in a class of sixty, all of whom he outlived. After a year spent in teaching he studied for the ministry under Rev. Asahel Hooker, of Goshen, CT. Having received a call from the church in Blandford, MA, he was in June, 1805 approved by the North Litchfield, CT Association as a candidate for the ministry. While staying at Goshen, he with other students boarded in the family of Judge Nathan Hale. Mrs. Hale was an invalid and Lydia, the oldest daugher, had much of the care of the house. John, being of a helpful disposition, generally built the fire in morning and when Lyndia came down they would talk and sing together. In the spring, when he was about to go before the Association for approval, he ventured to state his thoughts and wishes to her, giving her a week in which to formulate her answer. Before the time expired, she put into his hands a paper, mostly blank, with her name near the bottom and this postscript: 'I accept your proposal and that you may make your arrangements unembarrassed you may put above my name any words you choose expressive of my affection for you and I will redeem the pledge.' They were married June 2, 1806, and enjoyed most happy companionship together for almost sixty years.
The church at Blandford was composed mostly of Scotch-Irish and by reason of opposing factions, was not harmonious at all times. On one occasion the pastor had been borne to the pulpit in triumph after a fight at the church doors.
But the seal of the congregation was not shown in the erection of the church. The frame was put up in 1740, the floor laid in 1753, the walls plastered in 1786, and the edifice was finally completed in 1805, having been 65 years in building.
The trustees of the church had invited Mr. Keep to preach and the members of the church came prepared for disapproval. To such a church was his first sermon preached, and the happy result that all factions were pleased, and the call for his ordination was unanimous. After 16 years of arduous labor among them, he received calls to go elsewhere, and, when he had decided to leave Blandford, the vote of the congregation was unanimous for him to remain.
When Mr. Keep first went to Blandford it was estimated that there were fifty hogsheads of spirituous liquors sold each year among a population of 1500. In the History of Blandford by Wm. H. Gibbs (1850) the following occurs regarding this subject: 'But that period has passed away, ... the ministry did much in bringing about a reform. The name of Keep, a noble name, and borne by a no less noble man, can not be here omitted without dereliction of regard and duty. Twelve years before the great temperance reform he took the lead in this grand enterprise, and has imposed upon the inhabitants a lasting debt of gratitude. Let his name be embalmed as a most precous relic in the memories of all the people. The names of others might be mentioned who aided in this glorious cause; but after the time of the Rev. John Keep none operated single handed and alone.'
When he went to Blandford the town had a resolution on record that they would not allow the use of the pulpit to any minister to solicit money for missionaries, but before he left the cause of missions received a liberal support.
While in Blandford Mr. Keep was one of a company of ministers who met to organize the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1810, and he outlived all others of that company....
In May, 1821, he received a call from the church at Homer, NY, and also a call from the church in Brunswick, ME, the later included 'teacher of moral philosophy and preacher in Bowdoin College.' He accepted the call from Homer. The church membership of 400 and congregation of 600 was scattered over an area of ten miles square. In addition to his other ministerial duties, he maintained for five years prior to leaving, the charge of five Bible classes in different localities and in attending these classes it is stated that only in one instance did he fail to meet the class promptly at the appointed time. During his 12 years pastorate there were 500 added to the church membership. Soon after settling in Homer he was chosen a trustee of the academy and afterward was president of the board. Through his efforts, a department for ladies was added to the academy and the attendance greatly increased. He was elected a trustee of Auburn Theologlical Seminary, and also of Hamilton College located at Clinton, NY. At Homer, as at Blandford, under his leadership the church took strong ground for temperance.
In 1833 he tendered his resignation to the church in Homer, having before him two calls, one to an agency in New England of the American Colonization Society, and the other from a church in Cleveland, OH. He chose the latter and was for one year pastor of the Stone church, now the First Presbyterian Church.
In 1834 with a colony from this church, he organized the church which is now the First Congregational Church, West Side, in Cleveland, and was its pastor for two years. In the spring of 1834, he was elected a trustee of Oberlin College and president of the board. At this time, although but 53 years of age, he was called 'Father Keep,' by which title he was ever afterward endeared to Oberlin. He was always opposed to slavery and was active in behalf of the colored race. While in Blandford, he had interested the people of the town in behalf of some negro families there and a school was organized for their benefit. When the board of trustees of Oberlin College considered the proposition to admit colored students, the vote was a tie, and as president of the board, John Keep gave the casting vote and determined the position of the college and community on the side of the colored people. To show his faith in his convictions, President Fairchild, in preaching his funeral sermon in 1870, said: 'More than 30 years ago, when the modern anti-slavery movement was in its infancy, I heard an ardent young abolitionist from Lane Seminary ask him how long he thought it would be before slavery would be abolished. 'Twenty years,' was his reply. When the 20 years had pased away, slavery seemed yet as strong as ever; but another year brought the beginning of the end and he lived to see more than the realization of his hopes.'
In 1836 he resigned his pastorate at Cleveland and accepted the financial agency of Oberlin College. He began his work by subscribing $1,000 and securing 12 other such subscriptions in Cleveland.
Within a year...he obtained pledges to the amount of $64,000. Then came the financial crash of 1837. These pledges almost wholly failed. Only three of the subscriptions in Cleveland were ever paid, and one of these was his own.
For two years, he again took up ministerial work but in 1839 in connection with Wm. Dawes, a trustee of the college, he undertook a mission to England, and after 18 months work, brought to the college $30,000 collected by personal solicitation, in small amounts, mostly under 50 pounds.
While in London in 1840, he presented the cause of Oberlin at a meeting of the city council, asking for a gift of 250 pounds, and they came near getting it on account of the sympathy with the position that Oberlin had taken on the slavery question. For the next 10 years he was engaged in preaching. In 1850 he made Oberlin his permanent home and again became financial agent for the college, raising $100,000 by the sale of scholarships.
From that date he devoted his time to the interests of the college and the town. His gifts to the college and to benevolent causes were more than those of many persons who had tenfold his resources. He aided in the establishment and erection of the Second Church and was its acting pastor in the beginning. His labors for the college were practically without compensation as he accepted only $100 and a plat of land valued at $400.
Rev John Keep was a man of vigorous constitution, great energy and perseverance, quick to grasp circumstances and conditions, and was possessed of a remarkable foresight, all of which enabled him to carry forward his plans to successful completion. His activity was not confined strictly to church matters. At all times he was deeply interested in the social as well as the religious welfare of the people. Of cheerful disposition and sound judgment, he was always ready to give counsel and encouragement to young and old alike. His sagacity, prudence and economy were such that his friends often remarked that had he turned his attention to commercial pursuits he would undoubtedly have attained great wealth and prominence. He was conspicuous for his courage and fidelity in maintaining his convictions of what, at the time, might be termed unpopular truths. It was his great aim in all his doings to apply the truths of the gospel to all the relations and affairs of men....
John Keep attained a grand old age, active, kind and cheerful, beloved by all.
In a letter which he was writing to a relative and which, on the day that he died, he said that he expected to finish on the morrow, he wrote: 'Having reached the last quarter of my 89th year without having by sickness been confined from public service, and now for the first time confined by general debility.' He was never confined to his bed a single day save the last one of his life. He did not secure this result by any peculiar regimen, or is there any special explanation of the fact unless it is that 'a cheerful heart doeth good like a medicine.'
He married June 2, 1806, Lydia Hale. She was born March 4, 1781 and died at Oberlin, August 10, 1865. Rev. John Keep died at Oberlin, Feb. 11, 1870.... He had but one child. Rev. Theodore John Keep, born July 31, 1809."
Lynda - if you want me to copy any pages from the book relating to Rev. Keep's son, Rev. Theodore John - or any of his ancestors, I would be happy to send them to you. In the book, there is also a photograph of Rev. John Keep, taken at the age of 89, shortly before he died, which I would be happy to photocopy, if you want it.
Oh, you asked if the two John Keeps were related. Yes, they were both descendants of the first John Keep of Longmeadow, MA. Even I am distantly related to that first John Keep, through his son Samuel, who married my ancestor Sarah Colton.
Hope this is helpful.
Sandy Di Nanni
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