Biography – George James Keating (1840 – 1888)

George James Keating

KEATING, George James, merchant and philanthropist, was born in Halifax, N. S., Jan 7, 1840, son of William Henry and Eliza Walford (Forbes) Keating. His father was a well-known member of the bar at Halifax, and his mother, a native of Gibraltar, was a woman of strong character, who educated her eighteen children with strict regard for their moral and mental welfare. George was from childhood handy and active, taking great pleasure in all athletic and out-of-door sports. His education was received in private schools in Halifax, in Dalhousie College and Marriott’s Normal School and at the age of sixteen he became junior clerk in the shipchandlery house of Stair’s Sons & Moiron. Here he remained for about a year, performing minor duties and learning the business, a privilege for which his parents paid the firm the sum of £10 per annum. But the boy was ambitious to make a place and fortune for himself in another country, a desire which his parents did not encourage, and when seventeen years of age he determined definitely to leave home. Obtaining the consent of his father with some difficulty, he took passage for the West Indies, on the voyage applying himself to the study of seamanship and navigation, although with no idea of adopting the calling of a sailor. After about two months at Porto Rico, he decided to return, and, sailing for New York city, arrived with just money enough to take him to Illinois. Settling in Peoria county, he taught school for a time, and saved enough to take him to Lawn Ridge, where he went with a letter of commendation from Bishop Philander Chase of the Episcopal diocese of Ohio, to A. G. Trowbridge, an extensive farmer. After spending some time in the employ of Mr. Trowbridge, Mr. Keating became agent for a map publisher. He next secured a position as traveling salesman for Furst & Bradley, wholesale implement dealers of Chicago, but very shortly afterward formed a partnership with W. J. Smith for the purpose of engaging in the wholesale implement business on his own account. After some hesitation the new firm located in Kansas City, and in 1866, with the modest capital of $4,000, opened the first agricultural implement house of that section. From this small beginning the pioneer venture grew tremendously, and in twenty years was the largest house in its line in the world, representing in 1886 a capital of $600,00. Mr. Keating’s business capabilities were remarkable. He was energetic, honost, and frugal; conservative in his ventures when in doubt, yet bold and daring when convinced of success. From time to time he invested in real estate in Kansas City, and his holdings enhanced so rapidly in value that his fortune was soon estimated at nearly $2,000,000. Aside from his immediate business he was interested in various public and private enterprises, being one of the projectors of the first cable railway of Kansas City. His charities were generous and constant, and his various benevolences were performed with no ostentation, yet with the greatest wisdom. In 1886, owing to a severe attack of inflammatory rheumatism, he was compelled to leave Kansas City for a more congenial climate, and finally located in San Diego, Cal. With characteristic foresight he invested largely in real estate, and planned the erection of a large business building and a handsome residence. These plans, however, he was not permitted to execute, for death from rheumatism of the heart suddenly and unexpectedly ended his well-spent life. Mr. Keating was twice married: first in 1860, to Elizabeth Smith, sister of his partner; and second in May, 1882, to Fanny Letitia, daughter of Henry Thomas and Esther Woodward of Medina county. O. Her father was a native of Dromborrow, near Kills, county Meath, Ireland. Mrs. Keating has faithfully carried out her husband’s ideas of benevolence with judgment and ability. She resides in the home planned by him and built by herself in accordance with his desires. Mr. Keating died in San Diego, June 28, 1888.

Source: The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States, Volume VIII, published in 1900 by James T. White & Company, New York, pp. 397-398. Available via

One Reply to “Biography – George James Keating (1840 – 1888)”

  1. The correct name of the company George James Keating would have worked at in Halifax NS would have been “William Stairs, Son & Morrow”, not “Stair’s Sons & Moiron”.

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