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Family of Francis Keller



We who today enjoy the conditions which privations of the early pioneers and a high state of civilization have vouchsafed to us, can hardly imagine the trials and vicissitudes of the early pioneers who blazed the way into the wilderness of Mexican Texas.


Imagine this country in 1826 when there was scarcely a white settler in all the northern half of Matagorda county, and but a few of the very first of Austin’s colonists in Matagorda and along the lower Colorado and Caney. It was in 1826 that Francis Keller, recent from Germany, came out from Philadelphia, bringing his goods and chattels and camping outfit on several pack mules, through Louisiana and Texas to the Trespalacios. Here on the west bank of that bank of that attractive stream, he cast his lot, pitched his tent and begun the work of transformation of a bit of the great wilderness into a home for his family, whom he had left behind. Here where the Juanita creek joins its waters with the dear Palacios, is yet an ideal spot for a home. But, the pioneer was never again to greet the wife and children he left behind; truly “Man proposes, but God disposes.” As Francis Keller toiled to make the place habitable for his loved ones, the evil covetous murderer was laying in wait for him. Watching his opportunity when Keller was some distance away from his camp and associates and yet carried with him the closely guarded pouch-purse, which contained the savings of a life-time, a man named Nobles murdered him, and robbed the dead of the alluring gold and notes, to the extent of some seventeen thousand dollars, and made good his escape; for in those days there was little law and few officers. But in after years when the murderer lay on his deathbed, as related to them by old man Gonzales, whose ranch was just north of where Victoria now stands, the murderer Nobles had told the story of the murder of Keller and the robbery, and said he wanted the Keller heirs to have all his lands and cattle, but as legal evidence of the confession could not be secured, nothing ever came of it. Mr. Keller had located his headright, and also patented large tracts further west in this county and in Colorado county.


However, when in response to the call of the pioneer, that “all was ready,” the family came out, they found the beauty spot well prepared with a home, but no husband and father. Here, in the wilds, mid the great live oaks, the widow settled and reared a family. Other pioneers soon joined them and became good neighbors. The Partains, the Wheelers, the Laceys, the Hunters and others. It was the women and children of these early pioneers, who gathered at the Keller home in 1836, when Santa Anna was fresh from the slaughter at the Alamo, and was marching to attach Houston’s army of pioneers–crossing the Colorado above Eagle Ford, while Cos with his part of the army was crossing just a few miles above Midfield,–those women and children, with only one or two of the old men and small boys for their protectors, were gathered for the “runaway” as it was known all along the coast. They went all the way to Galveston Island for safety, just ahead of Cos’ army. The great oak under which those women and children gathered for the flight still stands.


The old Keller homestead is yet one of the most attractive spots in Matagorda county, 90 years old, the birth and home of four generations. Here J. W. Keller, the son of Francis, grew to manhood, and married Mrs. Wheeler, widow of another one of the pioneers, and they reared a large family, of whom there are now living Nolan and J. W. of Midfield and Dr. C. E. Keller of San Antonio. Nolan Keller married Miss Sue Reed and to them were born, N. F., Wm. K., Mrs. T. J. Poole, Sr., and Mrs. Oscar Barber. The Doctor at San Antonio has a family, but J. W. has never discharged his duty to society–he says not his fault, but there are those of the fair, who, we are told, will bear testimony to the contrary.


Nolan Keller of 71 summers, along with Charlie Bruce, 78, John F. McNabb, 77, and John Ryman, 70, counts himself one of the “the boys” of the early days of Matagorda, when they lived on cow ponies and vied with each other as to which could throw and tie a cow in the shortest time.


The family is a large one and embraces some of the most honored and useful citizens of our county past and present, and some of her finest women, and the great-grandchildren of pioneer Keller and quite a number of the great-great-grandchildren live to honor the pioneer who braved the dangers of the unknown west and finally lost his live in planting an American home and establishing the House of Keller on the Trespalacios as the advance guard of a wonderful civilization.


The Matagorda County News and Midcoast Farmer, Friday, September 1, 1916

William K. Keller, Pioneer Resident Of County Succumbs

Funeral services for William Killebrew Keller, 85, of Midfield, were held at 10 a. m. Wednesday in the drawing room of the Bay City Funeral Home with Rev. Claude Cagle of the Markham Methodist Church officiating. Interment was in the family plot in Hawley Cemetery.

A lifelong resident of Matagorda County, he was born near Midfield. He was a member of one of the pioneering families of Matagorda County, his great-great grandfather settling in the county in 1824. Throughout his life he had been engaged in farming and ranching.

Survivors include his widow, Mrs. Alice Jordan Keller of Midfield; five nieces, Mrs. Terry Scarborough of Kenedy, Mrs. Reginald Burbank, New York City; Mrs. Lane Barbour, Mrs. George Burke and Mrs. Cliff Bender of Bay City; three nephews, Abel Pierce of Palacios, Donald Poole and Dr. Mark K. Poole of Bay City.

Palacios Beacon, June 7, 1962


Copyright 2011 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
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Sep. 18, 2011
Sep. 18, 2011