Published by Brink, McDonough & Co., Philadelphia
HISTORY OF MACOUPIN COUNTY, ILLINOIS
DESCRIPTIVE OF ITS SCENERY,
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF SOME OF ITS PROMINENT MEN AND PIONEERS.
COBUS J. KEISER
who is largely interested in the business affairs of Mt. Olive, is a native of Germany, and was born at Holtland
der Neucks, Hanover, September 4th, 1841. His father was John H. Keiser, and his mother's maiden name was Geske Wilms
Heien. His father was a farmer, who had five children, four sons and one daughter, and Cobus J. Keiser was the second.
In 1854 the family emigrated from Germany to America. The winter after their arrival here was spent in Madison county,
and in the spring of 1855 they settled in Staunton township, one mile south of Mt. Olive. His father had owned land in
Germany, but emigrated to America with the view of benefitting his family and giving his children homes of their own. He
bought one hundred and twenty acres of land south of Mt. Olive. A few months after settling there, he died )on the 6th of
September, 1855), leaving a widow and five children, the oldest of whom was sixteen years of age. Mr. Keiser's father was a
man of industry and many excellent traits of character. He was a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and brought
up his children to industrious and sober habits.
He was very temperate, used tobacco in no shape, and regulated his life by the strictest principles of sobriety. He
had a strong natural love for music, and took much delight and comfort in the indulgence of his musical tastes. He was
particularly fond of the flute, and played upon it with great skill. He was the leader of the musical services in the church,
and his assistance in this direction was important. He was thirty-nine years of age at the time of his decease. After her
husband's death, Mr. Keiser's mother took charge of the family. She is a woman of superior strength of mind and business
management, and was more than usually successful in raising her children. She is still living, comfortably situated in this
life, as far as this world's goods and comforts are concerned, with the satisfaction of knowing that her sons have grown up
to become useful citizens and men of mark and influence.
Mr. Keiser was thirteen years old when he left Germany. He had acquired a good elementary education in his
native country, and went to school but little after coming to Illinois, till 1863, when he became a student at the state
university at Springfield. He attended the university two years, when his health became bad, and he returned home. He
was living on the farm, and was employed in its management till 1866. On November 9th of year he married Mary C. Nieman,
the oldest daughter of John C. Nieman, one of the earliest German settlers of Macoupin county. Mrs. Keiser was born
January 21st, 1848. She was brought up in the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran church, with an earnest desire to lead
the life of a true Christian and during her married life has exhibited all the excellent traits of character which made a good
wife and kind mother.
During the year 1866, in partnership with his father-in-law, Mr. Nieman, Mr. Keiser erected the store which he still
occupies, and in the spring of 1867 began a general merchandising business. The same spring he was appointed
postmaster, and has held that position ever since. On the opening of the Toledo, Wabash and Western railway in 1870, he
received the appointment of general ticket and freight agent at Mr. Olive (the station was then called Drummond), and
performed the duties of that office till 1877, when he was obliged to resign from the press of his other business
The history of Mr. Keiser is principally a record of the business enterprises of Mt. Olive; for he has been the
active spirit which has set in motion the various movements which have benefitted and built up the town. He was one of
those principally instrumental in opening the coal shaft, which has been the chief source of the prosperity of the place.
The enterprise was first started in 1874. On the organization of the company, he was elected superintendent, and assumed
the active business management. The mines were successfully opened in 1875, and since then the works have been
enlarged and perfected. The second shaft was completed in the spring of 1879. A superior quality of coal is obtained ,
and the working of the mines has been an important factor in the growth and development of Mt. Olive. Mr. Keiser is one
of the twelve original stockholders, who have owned the works since the beginning of the undertaking, and his business
habits and executive ability have principally contributed to the success of the enterprise.
In his efforts to build up the town of Mr. Olive, Mr. Keiser saw that a flouring mill was much needed, and
accordingly in 1876, in partnership with Henry Prange, at a cost of about twenty thousand dollars, he built the Anchor
Mills. These mills have been operated successfully, and produce a grade of flour which enjoys an excellent demand in the
market. The firm under which the mercantile business has been carried on has, since January 1st, 1878, been known as
Keiser, Niemeyer & Co., composed of Mr. Keiser, William Niemeyer and William Wellenbrink.
Mr. and Mrs. Keiser have been the parents of four children; three, named Lydia, Emma and Ida, are now dead;
Paulina, the only one now living, is about two years of age.
From the time he was old enough to take any interest in political affairs, his sentiments have inclined him to
support the principles of the Republican party, whose candidates and measures he has supported from 1864, when he
voted for Abraham Lincoln for President. He is not, however, a partisan but a man of much liberality of mind. He carries
no prejudice into politics, and has always felt himself free to vote for the best men for office when only local issues were
involved. Since 1865 he has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the town of Mt. Olive, and also from the same date
has acted as President of the board and Mayor of the city. The lot on which stands the town hall and library was donated
by Mr. Keiser, and is one of the most valuable building sites in Mt. Olive. The upper part of the building is used as a
library and reading room, and the lower part as a town hall. He has been intimately connected with the business interests
of Mt. Olive in other capacities, and has held various positions of trust and honor, performing the duties of all of them in a
manner which has won the regard of the community, both for his business ability and strict integrity. With the Evangelical
Lutheran church he has been connected from boyhood. He was chosen superintendent of the Sunday schools connected
with that church at Mr. Olive when only eighteen years of age, and so acted for about four years. He has taken an active
part in advancing the interests of the Mt. Olive congregation, and assisted materially in building the present church edifice.
It may be said in justice, that to him, more than any one else, is due the present prosperity of Mt. Olive.
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