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.
HARBERT J. KEISER
, was born September 1st, 1833, in the village of Siebestock, Holtland, East Friesland, Hanover. At the time of his
birth Hanover belonged to the English crown, and accordingly he was born as a subject of England. After the death of the
English king, George IV., Hanover became a part of Germany, and Esquire Keiser became a German subject. He was the
oldest of a family of six children. His father was John Harbert Keiser, and his mother's name before marriage was Jane
Juergena. He attended school in his native village till fourteen years old, and then entered the normal school at Hesel, with
the purpose of fitting himself as a teacher. At Hesel he studied the Latin, the French, and the English languages, the last
of which he learned to read with ease, though he was never able to employ it in conversation till after coming to America.
After qualifying himself as a teacher, he took charge in 1849 of a school at Siebestock, where he was born.
His father's position during the rebellion of 1848 was the cause of the emigration of the family to this country.
The rebellion had not extended to the Kingdom of Hanover, and his father took no active part in the struggle, though his
sympathies were strongly on the side of those whom he believed to be fighting for free government and human liberty. He
did nothing to render himself liable to any penalty at the hands of the government authorities, still, after the suppression
of the insurrection in other parts of Prussia, he concluded his wisest course would be to emigrate to a land whose
atmosphere would be more congenial to his liberty loving spirit. Leaving their native country the last of August, 1851,
after a voyage which lasted seven weeks and two days, the family reached New Orleans the following October, and from
there came up the Mississippi to Alton. They first found a house in Madison county seven miles from Bunker Hill, and in
1853 purchased land in Staunton township, in section ten, near Mount Olive.
Mr. Keiser's father was a man whose memory is well worthy of preservation. He was born at Firrel, in Hanover, in
1806. He was well educated, and was a teacher by profession, having taught in the German schools from 1824, when he
was eighteen years old, till the time of his coming to America. He was a man of decided convictions and force of character.
He was of liberal and progressive mind, and possessed a strong love for freedom. During the progress of the agitation in
Germany which led up to the rebellion of '48, he made several speeches throughout the province against the encroachments
of the government on the natural rights and liberties of the people. On coming to America he took a warm interest in
political questions, and on its organization became a strong supporter of the republican party. He was one of the original
charter members of the Union League organized at Mount Olive during the late war of the rebellion, and was an able and
intelligent speaker on the questions of the day. He was one of the most worthy citizens of Staunton township till his death
Esquire Keiser bought land in Staunton township in 1853 at the same time with his father, and in the same section.
February 2d, 1854, he married Gretje Arkebauer, who was born at Firrel, Hanover, and who came to this country with her
father, Gerd. Arkebauer, in 1846. After his marriage he moved on his land, which was only partly improved, and began to
put it under cultivation. He farmed there till 1863, when he moved to his present residence in section two, now included
within the town limits of Mount Olive. In 1873 he built his present residence, which forms one of the illustrations to this
work. On the establishment of the parochial school connected with Zion Lutheran Church at Mount Olive, he took charge
as teacher, and held that position from 1863 till March, 1877. The school numbered an average of one hundred pupils, and
to conduct it successfully required no small amount of labor and administrative ability. Mr. and Mrs. Keiser have been the
parents of twelve children. The two oldest died when infants. The others are Tetta G.,; Jane, who died when a year and a
half old; another daughter of the same name, who grew to be twelve years old, and then died; Gerhard, Anna, John,
Christina, Wuebke, Hermann and Katharina.
He has filled several public positions, and has been relied upon to transact a large amount of the business done
at Mount Olive. He has been notary public since October, 1870. In the fall of the same year he was elected justice of the
peace, and was re-elected to that position in 1873 and again in 1877. Ever since the adoption of township organization in
1871 he has been assessor of Staunton township. On the incorporation of the village of Mount Olive in 1874 he was
chosen clerk, and has filled that position from that time till now. His continued election to these various offices of trust
and honor speak more plainly than any words can do of the estimation in which he is held by the people of his part of the
county for his ability as a public officer, and his genial and social traits as a gentleman. From the time he first came to
America his convictions prompted him to oppose slavery, and he was one of the early adherents of the republican party.
His first vote for President was cast for Abraham Lincoln in 1860. In 1873 and again in 1877 the republicans of Macoupin
county made him their nominee for county treasurer. In spite of the customary heavy democratic majority, the first time he
was a candidate, he came within a few votes of being elected. He is a public spirited citizen, and was one of the men
interested in founding the town of Mount Olive, to which, in connection with Meint Arkebauer and John C. Nieman, he
has made two additions. He is also one of the stockholders in the Mount Olive coal company. He is a man who could not
well be missed in the business affairs of Mount Olive, and few men are better respected or more highly esteemed by those
who know him best.
Index to Biographies
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