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Ewald Henry Keller

The Denison City Directory for 1901 carried this listing: "Keller, Ewald H., carriages, buggies, phaetons, harness, saddles, 404 West Main ... Residence in Fort Worth, Texas. Benjamin F. Shepherd, manager." Some years later, a pictorial book, Industrial Denison, included a photograph with this caption: ""Depository No. 2, E. H. Keller." The 1900 Census listed Benjamin Franklin "Frank" Shepherd (1858–1943) as "merchant, buggies." He and his wife Eva lived at 700 West Gandy Street. These references suggest that Ewald Keller's Denison "repository" was a short-lived branch of his main business at his home city, Fort Worth.


"Depository No. 2, E. H. Keller."
Robinson, Frank M., comp. Industrial Denison. [N.p.]: Means-Moore Co., [ca. 1909]. Page 35.

The Keller outlet at 404 West Main Street perhaps was in operation as early as 1900 and closed before 1909, when the photo was published. The 1907 Denison City Directory no longer listed the Keller business and indicated that Frank Shepherd had formed a partnership with Harry W. Lingo, "Lingo & Shepherd, broker."

There is no evidence that Ewald H. Keller ever lived in Denison, but Shepherd spent most of his adult life there, as a merchandise broker, real estate agent, and insurance agent. Even so, to understand the significance of the Keller operation in Denison, it is useful to have some background about Ewald's life and his role in the changing face of transportation in this period in North Texas.

No man of his age and opportunities has had a more wonderfully successful career than has Ewald H. Keller, the prosperous carriage manufacturer of Fort Worth, Texas.

He was born in Texas, October 22, 1855. His father, Joseph Keller, was a native of Prussia, Germany, from whence he came to Texas, where he and his wife became the parents of two children, Ewald H. and Emma Ida. The Kellers were a prominent family in the old country. Several of Joseph Keller's relatives were officers of high rank in the Prussian army.

Ewald H. Keller had been attending school only a short time when the Civil War broke out, and during the war his schooling was suspended, but, boy as he was, his pluck and energy asserted themselves, and he employed his time selling newspapers, often making $25 a week in this way. He spent two and a half years working in a bakery. After that he began learning the carriage and blacksmith trade under the instruction of W. H. Williams, of Galveston. There he served an apprenticeship of three years, paying all his expenses except board with money he had saved while selling papers. Then for one year he worked at the same place and received small wages. Having completed his trade, he started for Fort Worth via Dallas, and from Dallas he completed the journey on foot, his means being exhausted. This was in 1873. Here he secured work at his trade, at one dollar a day, and continued thus employed one year, but as his salary was small he could save nothing, so he sold a bicycle he had traded for in Galveston, and with the money thus obtained left the town.

Next we find him at Calvert, Texas, where he was employed by Gillam & Stanger until March 1875. He began work for them at $2.50 per day, and was receiving $4 at the time he left and went to Austin. At Austin, however, the only position he could obtain was at $7 per week, and after he had worked there a year he was discharged, because the proprietors said they did not want a boy who could do finer work than they could. At this juncture he resolved to try his fortunes in Fort Worth again, and accordingly came hither and resumed work for his old employer, Mr. Williams, at $2.50 a day. He remained with him until 1876, when the firm failed, and he lost every dollar of his savings he had left in the hands of his employer. Again we find him stranded, but with courage undaunted. He had intended to go into business for himself had not his savings been lost.

About this time, a friend offered him a position at Galveston as bookkeeper, at $75 per month. He replied that his desire was to go into business at Fort Worth. The friend asked the sum needed and was told that $75 would be sufficient. He sent him $100. Mr. Keller offered his note for the amount, but his friend refused to accept it, saying his word was enough. With this $100 he began business on the corner of Tenth and Main streets, where he purchased a lot of Captain A. M. Doggett for $500, on two years' time. With the cash on hand he purchased lumber to build his shop, hauling the lumber from Dallas with an ox team. The shop he built was twenty feet square. His first stock of material was purchased from Wadsworth, Griffith & Company, hardware dealers of Dallas, on sixty days' time. He himself carried the brick and mortar with which to build his forge, and he gave his note to the brick mason for doing the work. The sum was $7. His promptness and the quality of his work were his best advertisements, and his business prospered from the start.

In 1884, on account of failing health, Mr. Keller sought a change of climate and went to California. He felt, however, that Fort Worth held his best prospects, so he returned to Texas in May, 1889, and leased the ground where he now does business. He now owns the lot, 100 x 120 feet, situated on the corner of Throckmorton and West Second streets, which is nearly covered with shops and storage rooms, the property being valued at $14,500. In 1890 he sold his first shop. That same year he began handling the Columbus buggies and carriages, and is now [1895] the only dealer in these celebrated vehicles at Fort Worth. Indeed, his establishment leads in the manufacture and sale of spring-wagons, buggies, carriages, harness, etc., at this place. He employs from thirteen to thirty-two hands in conducting his business.


E.H. Keller
Ft. Worth, Texas

During his comparatively brief business career, Mr. Keller has accumulated considerable property. He has an elegant residence on Second and Burnett streets, valued at $14,000, and owns other property, which he rents. He is president of the Mutual Building and Loan Association, a director in the Gazette Building and Loan Association, and is also a director in the Farmers' National Bank. In 1892 he attended the Southern Carriage Building Association, held at Atlanta, Georgia, and was chosen second vice president of the association. He is now first vice president. It is his desire to merge this organization into the National Carriage Builders' Association, which he believes will be mutually beneficial.

Mr. Keller is recognized in Fort Worth as one of the leading and influential citizens. His enterprise and energy, and well-known character [sic] for honesty and integrity have given him a reputation second to none in this city. Broad-minded and public-spirited, he is always found on the progressive side of all public questions, and is always ready to lend his aid and influence to all movements calculated in advance the interests of his adopted city.


E. H. Keller Letterhead
January 9, 1904

Mr. Keller was married March 24, 1880, to Miss Carrie M. Turner, daughter of Charles Turner, and a granddaughter of Captain E. M. Doggett. Her father was one of the first settlers of Fort Worth. They have three children: Carrie Ida, Emma Corinne, and Ewald H., Jr.

He and his wife are members of the Episcopal Church, and are liberal supporters of the same. He is a prominent Mason and a member of all the branches of Masonry, including Knights Templar, and is Captain General of Fort Worth Commandery, No. 19. He is also a member of the Knight and Ladies of Honor, and of the Sons of Herman.

Source: History of Texas, Together with a Biographical History of Tarrant and Parker Counties (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1895).

"As the nineteenth century ended, the story of five men is the story of Fort Worth—and of America in general.... [One of them,] Ewald Henry Keller had come to Fort Worth as a blacksmith in 1873. In 1876 he opened a stable. Then he began making carriages, wagons, and buggies.... By 1914 Ewald Henry Keller had converted his wagon works to an auto works, repairing, upholstering, and painting horseless carriages."


E. H. Keller
 
Fort Worth
1914

Source: Excerpt from "Hometown by Handlebar," blog post called "Once Upon a Flivver Fever (Part 1): Ramblers and Ropers," posted January 12, 2013. Accessed at http://hometownbyhandlebar.com/?p=4650

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Singer of Rare Ability

Miss Carolyn Keller Wins Her McKinney Hearers

Miss Carolyn Keller [1883–1974], who sang the bridal song at the Clifton-Speight wedding here Wednesday afternoon, is a young singer of rare ability. She touched her listeners with her tender and sympathetic interpretation of the song "All for You," and with the graceful swing carolled out her deep, rich, limpid notes like another wood bird calling to its mate. Miss Keller looks toward artistic attainments and promises a rich future. She does her first concert work on Monday night next at Stephenville, Texas.

Concerning her, the Fort Worth Record of a few days since, said: "Miss Carolyn Keller, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. E. H. Keller, is one of Fort Worth's most talented singers. After studying under Professor David Ross of Toronto, she took a two years' course under Saenger of New York City and expects to leave next month to resume her study under this great artist."

Miss Keller has the distinguished honor of being the singer of the evening at the banquet at the Oriental Hotel at Dallas, Oct. 21, given in honor of General Atterson of Nashville, Tenn.

[Source: Weekly Democrat-Gazette (McKinney, Tex.), October 31, 1907]

 


 
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