SAMUEL E. KEITH is one of the earliest pioneers and oldest business men of Vinton and Benton county, his investments and interests having spread into several states of the middle west. As he is now in 1910, in his eighty-third year, his natural activities are on the wane, although he still keeps his widely extended interests well in hand and his mind is strong and clear. With his cultured and beloved wife, he resides in a comfortable home in Vinton, in which city he owns other real estate, as well as farming property in the county. He is also interested in the Iowa Canning Company and other local enterprises; is president of the First National Bank of Colman, South Dakota, and at the head of a land company at Crook, Colorado; and is connected with the Creamery Supply Company of Chicago, as well as a property owner in that city. It is noteworthy in this connection that all his property has one feature in common; it is free of ineumbrance. With all his success and prominence in business and with all his public spirit, his best friends say that he "will hold an office only long enough to get rid of it."
Mr. Keith was born in Huntington county, Pennsylvania, on March 28, 1828, and is a son of Jacob and Mary (McPheran) Keith. His father, who was born in 1775, died in 1848, and was interested in various mining and iron industries of the state. An able business man, he was still a Scotch gentleman of the old school, and was a worthy descendant of Lord George Keith, the polished and cultured founder of Aberdeen College. The American ancestors of the Keith family were five brothers who emigrated from Scotland and at an early day were instrumental in founding the characteristic industries of Pennsylvania. Samuel Keith, of this sketch, had resided in his native state for twenty-seven years when he entered the period of his western life. On April 15, 1856, while his face was still turned in that direction, he stopped at Iowa City, which was then the terminus of Iowa's first railroad. There he met Harvey Gay, John A. McDaniel, William Loree and Silas Osgood, who, like himself, were bound for the little village of Vinton. They were all young men seeking their places in the untried west, and the subsequent progress of Benton county was much indebted to their various abilities; but of this sturdy, ambitious band only Mr. Keith is now living.
The first three years of Mr. Keith's residence in Vinton were passed as a store clerk, when, having become posted as to the general conditions of western trade and the special features of local business, he founded a general mercantile establishment as well as a furniture store, and became one of the leading men of the locality. He also entered three quarter sections of land in Benton county, and it was only at quite a recent date that he disposed of his farm near Vinton. The large and varied enterprises in whieh he has become interested outside of Benton county and Iowa have already been mentioned.
On October 1, 1857, Mr. Keith married Miss Adelia Beck, daughter of Dr. O. E. Beck of Vinton. She died November 21, 1866, the mother of three daughters, as follows: Missouri, who died in infancy, and Cora and Mollie, who reached womanhood and married. Cora became the wife of Thomas Pierce on August 31, 1882, and died February 19, 1885, leaving a daughter, who now resides at Long Beach, California, wife of James Heartwell, a leading banker of that place. Mollie married George W. Farmer, October 12, 1892, and resides in Chicago, where her husband is engaged in the erection and sale of apartment buildings. On February 24, 1869, Mr. Keith married as his second wife, Miss Emma Whitlock, formerly of New York, but then residing in Vinton. The two sons born to them were: Karl, who is a jeweler and a prominent Mason of Eagle Grove, Iowa, and Victor W. Keith, who is engaged in the newspaper business at Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mrs. Emma Keith died April 14, 1879, and in February, 1883, Mr. Keith married Miss Mina J. Briggs, of Albany, New York, the ceremony occurring in Vinton, at the home of the bride's sister, now Mrs. A. Briggs, of New York city. Two children have been born to this third union, as follows: Leo B. Keith, May 22, 1885, who is cashier of the First National Bank of Colman, South Dakota, and married Mary Shreeves of Blairstown, April 16, 1908; and Genevieve Keith, born April 13, 1889, who was married October 20, 1909, to Dr. G. E. Funston, of Waterloo. Both parents and daughter are active members of the Presbyterian church, and Mr. Keith has long been identified with Masonry, the brotherhood of that order and the fraternity inculcated by the religion of Christ being the brightest guiding stars of his life. Mr. Keith is the only survivor of nine children, the last one, a sister dying in 1909, aged ninety-one years.
Picture of Samuel E. Keith