P. J. KELLER. For many years actively identified with the advancement of the agricultural interests of Jackson county, P. J. Keller, through industry and good management, has acquired a fair share of this world's goods, and is now spending the sunset years of his long and useful life in pleasant leisure and true comfort, enjoying the fruits of his early labors. A native of Germany, he was born near the river Rhine and in close proximity to the border line of France, his birth occurring December 7, 1838. He is a son of the late Andrew Keller, and is of French ancestry, the Keller family having originated in France. His grandfather Keller served as a soldier in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte, his home having been on the French line. His great-grandfather on the paternal side, a refugee from France, fled from Paris to Switzerland, Frederick the Good having urged the refugees to populate his country.
Andrew Keller was born, in 1812, in Germany, near France, on der Rhinefels, and there grew to manhood and married. With his family he afterwards immigrated to America, settling first in Waterloo, Illinois, where he lived a few years. Locating near Red Bud, Randolph county, in 1853, he was for a time engaged in agricultural pursuits. Disposing of his farm, he went from there to Jackson county, and later to Perry county. His first wife dying in 1846, he subsequently lived in various places, moving frequently. During the Civil war, although then an old man, he responded to the last call for volunteers, enlisting in the Eighty-first Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and died while with his regiment, his body being laid to rest in the National Cemetery at Corinth, Mississippi. A man of strong personality, liberal-minded and progressive, he invariably commanded the respect and regard of his
neighbors and associates, and in whatever community he lived was always a leader.
Andrew Keller was twice married. He married first, in his native land, Elizabeth Hoch, who bore him six children, as follows: Philip, deceased; Barabara, deceased; Phoebe, deceased; P. J., the special subject of this sketch; John, deceased; and Peter, a resident of Willisville, Illinois. She died in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1846. He married again, in 1847, Catherine Havel, a native of Germany, and of their union two children were born, namely: Henry; and Elizabeth, deceased. Of his third marriage there was one child, a daughter.
A lad of seven years when he crossed the ocean with his parents, P. J. Keller had but limited educational advantages, his book knowledge, with the exception of an attendance of three months at a subscription school, having been acquired by careful home study and intelligent reading. Through his own efforts he has become well versed in law, but his professional practice has been confined to the local justice courts. Soon after attaining his majority Mr. Keller, who had been brought up in Monroe and Randolph counties, came to Jackson county, and for a time followed the carpenter's trade. Soon after the outbreak of the Civil war he responded to a call for troops, and was mustered into Company C, Eighteenth Illinois Infantry, and at the expiration of his term of enlistment was mustered out, by consolidation of the companies, of Company A, of the same regiment. He was listed to promotion from the ranks of his superiors, but having refused to join the Knights of the Golden Circle he was refused a commission.
Returning home after the war, Mr. Keller embarked in agricultural pursuits, and was actively and prosperously engaged in general farming until 1899, when, having accomplished a satisfactory work, he retired from business pursuits, although at times he still practices law to some extent. For many years he was one of the wide-awake, successful auctioneers of the county, and cried sales throughout a large territory.
Politically Mr. Keller is a Democrat, but he has never been an aspirant for official honors, being, in fact, strenuously opposed to office holding. He is a true optimist, being firmly convinced that everything in nature and the history of mankind is so ordered as to produce in the universe the best possible conditions only, and the highest good. He is a friend of the people, and is held in the highest esteem, being looked upon by his neighbors as a sort of "patron saint." His religion, he says, is to do right as God has given him light to interpret the right, a doctrine that if followed surely adds to the betterment of the world and to the uplifting of mankind.
Mr. Keller married first, March 8, 1860, Elizabeth Bradley, daughter of Frank Bradley, a prominent farmer of Jackson county, and of their union six children were born, as follows: W. H., a school teacher in Idaho; P; Ferdinand, of Ava, Illinois; Kent E., of St. Louis, Missouri, a graduate of the Southern Illinois Normal and who read law in St. Louis and was admitted to the bar in Illinois; Harry Bradley, engaged in farming at Ava; Mrs. Effie Afton, of Idaho; and Elizabeth, who died in infancy. The mother of these children passed to the life beyond in 1874. Two years later Mr. Keller married Mrs. Martha Hamilton, and to them two children were born, namely: Mrs. Ida L. Finnegan, living in Old Mexico; and George A., deceased. Mrs. Martha Keller died about ten years after her marriage with Mr. Keller. He subsequently married for his third wife Mrs. Charity Crews, who died in 1891, leaving one child, Louise Keller.