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Keck, Joseph


Posted By: mjv (email)
Date: 7/28/2021 at 11:43:09

Joseph Keck. Among the solid business men of Washington County non deserve more notice in this work than the subject of the present sketch, who is numbered among the pioneers of 1842, and who has not only witnessed the remarkable growth of town and country, but who has contributed to its development as much as any other man within its borders. Joseph Keck was born Nov. 29, 1819, in Huntingdon County, Pa. In 1838, his parents moved to Delaware County, Ohio, where they remained some years, and then moved to White County, Ind., where they resided till their death a few years ago. They were the parents of ten children, five sons and five daughters, and religiously, were connected with the German Baptists, better known as Dunkards. They lived simple Christian lives, such as are peculiar to the religious body with which they were identified, and died in the faith.

The educational advantages of the subject of this sketch were limited indeed, confined principally to the old log school-house, with its well-known puncheon floor, slab seats and writing-desks, with fireplace occupying almost one entire side of the house, and the birch rod just above the masterís desk. A description of the old log school-house often affords amusement to those educated in the more modern buildings, but from just such educational institutions have graduated many of the most noted men of the Union, such as Abraham Lincoln and others. The little knowledge acquired therein often served but as the basis for more extended readings, culminating in the well-read commonsense lawyer, minister, physician or business man. As in the case of many others, so it has been in that of Mr. Keck; he has made proper use of all the helps placed in his way, until he possesses a practical knowledge of men and events far better than any other mere theory could be.

On the removal of the family to Ohio, Joseph was apprenticed to a cabinet-maker for two years, that he might learn the trade. For his services he received with board $20 for the first year, and $30 for the second. Out of this amount he had to purchase his clothing, leaving him but a small sum at the end of the time with which to begin life. But he had what was still better, strong arms, a firm will, and determination to make something of himself. At this time he had a brother living in Western Illinois, who advised him to come West, as the opportunities were much greater for acquiring a competency in that State or in Iowa than in Ohio. Accordingly, in 1842, he started upon a prospecting tour, and after visiting several places finally decided to locate in Washington, the county seat of Washington County. Here he started the first cabinet-shop, and with that energy and push that have since distinguished him, soon succeeded in establishing a large and lucrative trade. In this business he continued for eight years, when he sold out and engaged in buying and selling real estate. The same success that attended him in the cabinet trade followed him in this latter business, notwithstanding the hard times of 1857 and the years that followed it. In 1859 a branch of the State Bank was established here and Mr. Keck became one of its largest stockholders and a Director. In 1861, he was elected President, which position he held until the bank was merged into the First National Bank, in 1864. On the organization of the latter institution, he was elected President, and with the exception of a year or two has since held that office.

On the 26th of March, 1844, Mr. Keck was united in marriage with Elizabeth Jackson, a native of Pennsylvania, and daughter of John and Jane Jackson, who were also numbered among the pioneers of Washington County. Five children were born to them: Irving N., now in Florida; Mary C., now the wife of Wayne G. Simmons, of Santa Fe, N. M.; Viola I., now the wife of Albert Phelps, of Washington; Luella C., now the wife of Eugene Crandall, of Red Willow County, Neb.; Charles H., Assistant Cashier of the First National Bank, Washington, Iowa. Mrs. Keck was a lady highly esteemed for her social qualities, a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Washington, and died in February, 1879, mourned alike by family and friends. Mr. Keck was the second time united in marriage, July 30, 1882, to Fannie Hale, of Washington County, and daughter of John and Amanda P. Hale. With his wife, he resides in a beautiful home three blocks west of the square.

As remarked in the beginning of this sketch, no man in Washington County is more worthy a record in this volume than Joseph Keck. He is a man of superior judgement, a close observer and a gentleman in every respect. In the building up of city and county, he has contributed liberally of his means and deserves that which he has, the good opinion and respect of every citizen of the county. An excellent portrait of Mr. Keck will be seen upon and accompanying page.

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Washington County, Iowa (1887). Excerpt from Biographical Sketch of Joseph Keck, pages 309-310. Portrait on page 308.


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