The Cheshire Historical Society
Hitchcock Phillips House
43 Church Drive Cheshire, Connecticut 06410 USA Telephone: 203-272-2574
THE KEELER FAMILY IN CHESHIRE - HISTORICAL INFORMATION
"GEORGE KEELER HOUSE AND STOVE SHOP"
"George Keeler House" and "Stove Shop" - photo from 2008.
The Stove Shop has since been demolished.
"The George Keeler House" The Residence (166-168 South Main Street): This is a wood frame structure on brick foundation. Architecturally significant as an example of the Italianate Style, with characteristic features of shallow roof, ornate porch, and round-arched shapes. This is historically significant as the home of George Keeler, tinsmith and proprietor of the stove shop next door. The residence has an entry in the right of a 3-bay facade. The porch has square posts, brackets with cut-outs of elongated hearts, frieze with round cutouts There is a shallow-pitched roof; two round-arched attic lights. There are bracketed bay windows to the right rear, in front of a cross-gabled rear ell.
Photos of pulley system on third floor (below) and example of one of the wood joints (right) in the Keeler Stove Shop (photos from May 2008). The Keeler Stove Shop has since been demolished.
"Keeler Stove Shop" The Store (158 South Main Street): This two and a half story building has center, double-door entry between large, fixed-pane windows to either side. There is an open porch on square posts with neck moldings. Loading door is located on the second floor, right side. There is a three-story rear extension with loading doors on each floor. The building is historically significant as the site of George Keeler's stove shop. Keeler, a tinsmith who lived next door, made his products in the rear and sold them in the front (George Keeler). George W. Keeler (son of George Keeler) was also an undertaker using this same building for his business needs.
Keeler tombstone - From Section E, Hillside Cemetery
THE KEELER FAMILIES: George Keeler (1831-1924) and Sarah (Ells) Keeler (1841-1915)
1858 Keeler came to Cheshire from Waterbury, where he had been learning the tinners' and plumbers' trade and at once commenced the business for himself 1860's... house and shop were built or some part of these structures were built.
From Section E, Hillside Cemetery
1861 - George Willis Keeler was born - the first of three children: George W. (1861-1944), Edwin J. (1865-1941) and Mary (and Theodore, who died as an infant)
1861 - George Keeler (the father of George W.) volunteered for Union army
1864 - George Keeler received a disability discharge from the Union Army.
1873 to 1876 - George W. Keeler attended Cheshire Academy (began at 12 years of age)
1887 - His father " took him into business along with himself. They carried on an undertaking business under the name of George Keeler & Son
1888 - George W. wed Ellen Gilless (1857-1940; parents originally from England - John Gilless father)
1901 - George W. was representative in the legislature and helped obtain a charter for the Cheshire Street Railway Company.
1922 - George W. helped with fund raising to purchase a fire truck for $2,200 for the Cheshire Fire Department.
1924 - George Keeler died. His son, George W., was listed as that year's Director of the CT Funeral Director's Assoc.
1940 - George W. Keeler's wife, Ellen, died.
1944 - George W. Keeler died.
GEORGE KEELER (1831-1924)
Newspaper clipping from the Cheshire Historical Society archives:
Funeral of Deacon Keeler at Church This Afternoon
TRIBUTE TO THE DECEASED
Coming to Cheshire in 1858, Town and Church has Benefited by His Presence.
Cheshire, September 30 
The funeral of Deacon George Keeler took place this afternoon services being held at the Congregational church at 2 o'clock. Rev. J.H. Bainton officiated and the burial was in this town.
Deacon George Keeler died at his home on Main street, on Sunday afternoon, after an illness of nine weeks, aged 93 years and three days. During life's last moments his family gathered around his bedside and a faithful and efficient nurse tenderly watched over him as life was ebbing away. During the last moments he was heard to repeat the Lord's prayer, as the last accents of expiring breath, but we were assured there were other watchers, that "Angels watched the sweet repose." and that a crown of glory awaits him at the hands of his Savior, whom he faithfully served, on the other shore.
Deacon Keeler came to Cheshire in the year 1858 from Waterbury, where he had been learning the tinners' and plumbers' trade and at once commenced the business for himself which he carried on until age and infirmity prevented active service. He was faithful to his chosen business. His strike of the hammer in his work was often heard by his neighbors, early in the morning and until late at night. With his son, George W. Keeler, he has been an undertaker of this town for many hears and his words of sympathy and gentleness of service in many homes where suffering and death had entered will long be remembered by those from whose homes, he has tenderly borne loved ones to their rest in the grave.
When the bugle note "To Arms," was sounded in 1861,he left his prosperous business and his infant son in the cradle and with his gun on his shoulder hastened to the scene of conflict for the preservation of the Union and was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic" at the time of this death.
He joined the Congregational church here, by letter from the First Congregational church in Waterbury in August, 1858 and at once identified himself with its interests and services. He was chosen a deacon of the church in 1870 and most faithfully and efficiently filled that position -- with the exception of a few years -- at the end of life. His seat was seldom vacant in the sanctuary at the Sunday services and all services of the church, especially the meetings for prayer and conference, seldom failed to witness his presence and he seldom failed to bear a part. His humble prayers at the meetings of the church and in the little red schoolhouses in the outlying districts, have been a benediction and comfort to many waiting hearts. He was a member of the Sabbath school and one of its teachers until he reached 90 years of age.
He was a sincere consistent Christian, to whom to live was Christ. and has left an example worthy of imitation. Those who have been his associates and coworkers in the church and in the community, where his influence was always on the side of right, will long hold him in loving and grateful remembrance. During his last sickness, he often expressed the desire to depart and be with Christ and was ready when the summons came. He is survived by two sons, George W. , and Edwin J. Keeler, one daughter, Mrs. James R. Lanyon and four grandchildren, all of whom can have no higher aspiration in life, than to follow his example and reap his reward.
Sketch of George W. Keeler
GEORGE WILLIS KEELER (1861-1944)
Newspaper clipping from the Cheshire Historical Society archives (date unknown, likely early 1920s based on references to completed trolley line and no mention of fundraising for CFD.):
Hon. George W. Keeler of Cheshire, Conn.
Few citizens of New Haven county are better known than Hon. George W. Keeler of Cheshire, Conn. The following sketch of him will be read with much interest:
"Breaths there a man with soul so dead,
Many of us while admitting a certain amount of enthusiasm for the nation as a whole are either wholly indifferent to the town in which we live or have a malicious pleasure in pointing out its defects, remaining quite blind to its merits. Many esteem it a mark of culture and discrimination to disparage the things, customs, manners, facilities, what all, about home. That shows we have traveled, don't you see, and that we have had a chance to learn something of the world, and see how they do things in places that are worthwhile. And we look down in condescending pity on the plodders who have always stayed at home, and never realize how provincial they are.
Then there are those who shout the loudest, proclaiming from the housetops how fondly their hearts go out for the home town. They will tell you that its every roof-tree is dear to their hearts, and that they do so wish prosperity might come to it, that it might row and shake off its provincialism, and amount to something. Of course, they say, its a little one-horse town, and they don't very much blame outside people for turning up their noses at it, but unfortunately and here they assume an air of conscious virtue - "With all its faults, they love it still: therefore once more, three times three for the old place." And that is the end of it. They have taken it all out in effervescence, and if it occurred to them to do anything about it, the force of their emotion would already have been spent in what shall I say -- patriotic verbiage?
But there is another type of citizen who loves his town at the same time that he is not blind to her faults. He is not narrow and bigoted: he too has traveled, and has seen better ways of doing things. But he applies this experience which he has gained toward making his own more like those other model ones. That is the only true patriotism: the patriotism of deeds, not of words.
Every town has some such loyal sons, whose motto is: my town, right or wrong: if wrong, set her right. Now Cheshire is not the worst place on the map of Connecticut, by many. Neither is it the best, nor the biggest. It numbered a scant two thousand souls at the last census. But the important thing about a town is not, How large is it, but is it growing in numbers, improving in conditions? This can be answered in the affirmative as regards Cheshire, and its citizens will tell you that the cheerful outlook is due in great measure to that loyal citizen, the Honorable George W. Keeler, whom we wish to honor in this sketch. They will tell you down there, that he is one of the best known and most highly respected residents of Cheshire; that he is a man of sterling integrity, of exemplary purposes and a public spirited citizen who would adorn any community by his true worth of character. Mr. Keeler is all Cheshire. He was born there on April 6, 1861. He is a product of the home schools, and Cheshire academy. On completing his course at the latter institution, his father took him into business along with himself. They carried on an undertaking business under the name of George Keeler & Son. The reputation of this firm is excellent throughout the state.
Mr. Keeler is an enthusiastic Republican. We may as well have said, Mr. Keeler is a Republican, for he is enthusiastic in all his undertakes. He has always been a hard worker for the part, never letting a stone remain unturned while he is campaigning. He is a well informed man on public questions, which with the added gift of ready speech, makes him a good debater.
Oftentimes he has been called upon to serve his community in public office, in positions as arduous as honorific. For instance, he has been tax collector for the town of Cheshire for sixteen years. That is no bed of roses, you may well think. While in this position, he has acquired a knowledge of real estate in Cheshire and vicinity second to none. As an authority on realty values and kindred matters he is frequently consulted. He has turned this experience to account during the lat five years by conducting a real estate business, and attracted a large patronage through his capability and square dealing. He has succeeded in locating several good families in Cheshire, thus contributing to the material welfare of the town.
Mr. Keeler was representative in the legislature in 1901, and strove indefatigably to obtain a charter of the Cheshire Street Railway company. This charter was granted after a hard fight. Cheshire and the neighboring towns through which the railroad runs, are the gainers. Many people have taken up their residence in Cheshire, who would not have done so in the absence of a trolley line.
Mr. Keeler is a member of the L.A. Thomas Lodge, I.O.O.F., which is strong in Cheshire. He also belongs to Temple Lodge, F. and A. M., and to the Fraternal Benefit League. In all of these he is popular. He is one who believes that there are plenty of opportunities to promote the well-being of one's home town, if we will only look for them.
New Haven County Biographies page on George Willis Keeler pages / text by Elaine Kidd O'Leary & Anne Taylor-Czapleski (May 2002)
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Cheshire, CT unless noted otherwise.
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