Note: Despite the similarites in names and geography, I know of no relationship to John Keating. However, having said that, I would love to find a familial link to this distinguished family. At the bottom of this article, I’ve included a family tree that I derived during the course of the transcription. It may help to have it handy when reading the article, as J. Percy does occasionally backtrack and foreshadow. Any errors in the transcription or the chart are my own. – John W. Keating III
JOHN KEATING AND HIS FORBEARS
BY J. PERCY KEATING, ESQ.
Some years ago the late Martin I. J. Griffin called upon the writer seeking information regarding John Keating’s connection with an early land settlement in Pennsylvania which was known as the Asylum Company; and in the course of the conversation he expressed his surprise that no member of the Keating family had ever taken the trouble to “write up” so interesting a personality. In his article subsequently published in the American Catholic Historical Records he has this to say: “Of John Keating, much could be said but little as been published concerning this foremost and most venerable old—time Philadelphian. The name is familiar and a household one in our city. It is to be hoped that his descendants will soon make public recognition of the wealth of their progenitor, a truly representative Catholic. … Just read the tribute of Liancourt to his worth and then wonder why more has not been given in recognition of it by those who could do so.”
Unfortunately John Keating did not leave many papers from which to gather the details of his career in America. For a few years he kept a diary, but almost solely for the purpose of recording the virtues of his beloved wife whom he lost after a short married life. The death of his two sons and son—in—law during his own lifetime, and the subsequent busy professional career of his only grandson, which left little time for leisure pursuits, precluded the usual course of transmission of the many passing incidents of his daily life which might now be of interest to his own and possibly to other people of this day and generation. There are, however, old documents and papers having reference to the earlier history of his family and to his own career before his emigration to America which are not without interest, and to the facts as thus derived have been added herein such scraps of information as could be gathered here and there from copies of his own correspondence, if only with a view to discharging as far as possible at this late date the duty which Mr. Griffin’s words would seem to impose.
As regards the old family papers referred to, it can hardly be doubted that if all the buried and forgotten personalities and associations of earlier days were brought to light and submitted to inspection from our more modern point of view, there would be found in every family history, however obscure, characters, incidents and associations which would excite human interest. And so it is with these old papers of John Keating. Through them his forbears and their doings are traceable farther back than is the case with many families laying legitimate claim, according to the usual tests of popular distinction, to greater importance than his own. And their contents would seem to possess sufficient interest to warrant a fuller and more detailed reference to John Keating’s antecedents than is usually made in short biographies such as this paper is intended to cover. The collection and preservation of these papers was due in large part to the emigration of the Keating family from Ireland to France in the eighteenth century. At that time it was of importance, owing to the deference paid to caste in that country, to supply the proper authorities with particulars as to origin gathered from the public offices and the private registers than extant.
It thus happened that upon the arrival of John Keating’s father in France in 1766, in order to establish his social status in the land of his adoption, he brought with him proofs of his paternal and maternal ancestry for ten preceding generations, and these in part have been preserved, though some were destroyed as a measure of protection during the French Reservation. Thereby he not only gained official recognition of his rank from the Crown, but , what is of more interest at the present day, confirmed the racial origin of his particular family line as traced in its own traditions. The purely Gaelic families of Ireland, of course, need no such proof, nor indeed do some of those of Anglo—Norman stock whose names alone indicate their origin, such as the Eustaces, Cruices, Purcells, Montgomerys and Graces; but the Keating name, because of its Irish derivation, might prove misleading, especially as all who bear the name in our day are not, as it seems, of the same race.
It was through this means, therefore, that it was established that John Keating’s family is of Anglo—Norman descent, by which are indicated those families of Norman stock who preceded or accompanied Henry II of England in his invasion of Ireland in 1169, or who followed him, once his rule was established. These families, traceable to the County of Wexford, where the expedition landed, while retaining in part the traditions of their race and living to a large extent within what was known as the English Pale, intermarried not only within their own race, but also with those of pure Irish blood, and though intermediate between the native Irish and the English of the Pale, gradually became identified with the Irish people in their later struggles, especially because of their adherence to the ancient faith, thereby giving rise to the popular expression that they were “more Irish than the Irish themselves.” At their head stood certain great families, such as the Kildares and the Desmonds of the Geraldine line, being descended from Maurice Fitzgerald who accompanied Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke, surnamed Strongbow, in the advance guard of Henry’s expedition. The history of these families is imperishably associatetd [sic] with the struggle for Irish freedom against English oppression.
The Keating family is of this stock, and its tradition, as set forth in an ancient narrative still in possession of the family, traces the name to an incident occurring during Strongbow’s Expedition. A young man in charge of a detachment was sent ashore on the coast of Wexford, with orders to light fires in case he should land unopposed. In effecting his purpose he put to flight a wild boar which lay hid in a laurel bush. In commemoration of his successful adventure he afterwards assumed the nameÂ Kiadtinneh (soon after modified to Keating), which is said to be the Gaelic for many, or a hundred, fires, and quartered his arms with four laurel leaves surmounted by a wild boar as a crest. The family tradition makes him one of the Fitzgerald clan. As to the meaning of the name, it can only be said that it was so interpreted at least as far back as the time of Queen Elizabeth; for when certain members of the Keating family were driven by the religious persecution of that day to seek refuge in Spain and Portugal, they translated their name into Spanish and became known as the family of Cienfuegos, which has the same meaning, their coat—of—arms being also the same as that of the Keatings of Ireland, to wit, the four laurel leaves surmounted by the boar. And as regards the descent, it may be noted that in O’Hart’s Irish Pedigrees, vol. 2, p. 216, the Keatings of Wexford are stated to be descended from Griffin or Griffyth, son of William de Carew, who was a brother of Maurice Fitzgerald above mentioned. At all events, the name in its Anglicized form appears in the chronicles of the times shortly after the invasion of Ireland as identified with the County of Wexford, where the Keatings appear to have held high rank among the Anglo—Norman settlers, though certain Irish families afterwards, in assuming Anglicized forms of their own Gaelic patronymics, took the name of Keating, and are therefore not of the same blood.
The stock from which John Keating was descended, however, is clearly traceable in the family record before mentioned to the Wexford Keatings and is always associated in the histories of the times with the Geraldines as represented by the Earl of Kildare, of whom they were devoted adherents. The first of the name who appears on the beautifully illuminated old genealogical tree drawn up in 1767 and still in possession of the family, is Henry Keating, Knight, of Wexford, who lived in the fourteenth century and from whom John Keating was tenth in direct descent. Those were the days of Edward III and the Black Prince – of Crecy and Poitiers. The king drew largely from Wexford for his army at that time, and it would not be improbable, though there is no record of it, that Henry Keating, a knight of English descent, should have participated in the taking of the little city which four hundred years afterwards received his direct descendant as an exile.
The most interesting, though perhaps not the most devout, member of the family of that period was James, the grandson of Henry and brother of John’s eighth ancestor. He was Prior of Kilmainham, a priory of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, afterwards known as the Order of Malta, and subsequently Grand Prior of the Knights Templar of all Ireland and one of the Thirteen Knights of the Order of St. John, a military confraternity instituted by the Irish Parliament about the year 1470 for the defence of the English Pale against what were termed the “wylde Irish”. In the Wars of the Roses, Keating sided with the White Rose, or the House of York, whose cause was espoused by the Earl of Kildare, then Lord Deputy, and was involved in the great struggle with the House of Lancaster. More than this, he was accused of being unfaithful to his trust and deposed from the office of Grand Prior. According to Webb’s Compendium of Irish Biography, upon the appointment of Lord Grey as Lord Deputy in place of the Earl of Kildare, Keating, who was then Constable of Dublin Castle, broke down the drawbridge and defied the new deputy with his 300 archers and men—at—arms. He was finally subdued and stripped of his offices and honors on the accession of Henry VII of the House of Lancaster, and died in poverty and disgrace. Inasmuch as the then Archbishop of Dublin and the Chief Justice of Ireland both suffered with him, it may charitably by supposed that he was not as black as he is painted in the quaint chronicles of the times, and especially in Sir James Ware’s Antiquities of Ireland. Nicholas Keating, the oldest son in the seventh generation preceding John and nephew of the recalcitrant James, was summoned to the Irish Parliament as a baron of the realm – the only way by which barons were created in those days – but lost his title and possessions for rebellion under Queen Elizabeth in company with several others of his kinsmen. It was this claim of title, which had reverted to the line from which John sprung by reason of failure of descendants from Nicholas, which Louis XVI recognized when John’s father sought recognition from the French Crown on his arrival in France. The younger brother of Nicholas, William by name, who was John’s direct ancestor, seems to have also been a person of note in his day. By letters patent from Henry VIII he was constituted Guardian of the Marches or waste lands lying between the English Pale and the territory of the native Irish. The Pale, wherein the English rule andÂ system of land tenure prevailed, consisted at that time of the seaport counties of Louth, Westmeath, Dublin, Kildare and Wexford. The rest of Ireland was unequally divided among sixty Irish chiefs and and thirty chiefs of English origin living under the Breton or tribal law which recognized no land titles save those of the tribe or clan. Many Irish, of course, lived within the Pale and many Anglo—Irish lived without; and the intervening waste land, which served as a protection to the inhabitants of the Pale, had to be guarded and policed. The Guardians of the Marches were vested with this duty, Keating’s force of light armed infantry being known as the Keating Kerne. His sense of allegiance to the Crown did not at times, however, press very hard upon his conscience, for in Bagewell’s England under the Tudors he is referred to as having sided with Lord Ossaly, the son of the Earl of Kildare, in 1534, in a rebellion which originated in a rumor which spread through Ireland that the Earl, as Lord Deputy, who had been summoned to England, had been summarily executed on his arrival. The rumor was unfounded, however, and Keating with his whole force was captured, but suffered to return to his allegience; and his office was continued in his descendants until the time of the great rebellion under Charles I.
In Queen Mary’s reign King’s and Queen’s Counties were formed out of districts acquired from the Irish lands, and Queen’s County was divided – the Irish under their tribal law being assigned to the western half and the English to the eastern half. A few natives whose services as captains of Kerne had deserved recognition were accorded grants of land out of the English section. Queen Mary died, however, before the transaction was completed, and it was not until shortly after Elizabeth’s ascension that William Keating’s son, Thomas, became vested under royal patent with the estates of Crottentegle and Farraghbane in the parish of Killabin, Queen’s County, which became the family domain and remained so until their forfeiture by Cromwell upon his invasion of Ireland a hundred years later. It is not to be supposed, however, that their enjoyment of their possessions was altogether undisturbed. William Keating’s direct descendants intermarried with families of both Norman and Irish stock, the O’Dempsies, Hoares, Purcells, O’Regans, Eustaces, Fitzgeralds, Quins and Creaghs, all devoted adherents of the ancient faith. And from the time of Elizabeth the one aim of the English crown was to stamp out the Roman Catholic religion. For a long while the priests were the special object of attack, because the loyalty of the laity in the English section was a great asset in subduing the native Irish; nor was it the in the power of a handful of Protestants, as Lingard tells us, to deprive a whole people of their religion. It was perhaps fortunate also for the Keating family that the scion of their house was for the greater part of the reign of James I a minor. Then came Charles I, and it might seem surprising that he should have seen fit to confirm by letters patent dated May 15, 1636 unto another Thomas Keating, John’s great-great-grandfather, the privilege of holding his own land. The explanation lies in the fact that Charles was much pinched for funds, and Lord Strafford, his then Viceroy, seized upon the pretext of flaws in the titles to Irish lands in general to compound with their owners under threat of forfeiture. And the very flattering terms made use of in describing the Keating family in the letters patent would seem to indicate that Thomas paid a pretty high price for his peaceable possession of his own.
But it was not to be for long. The headstrong King in pursuance of his shifting policies was alienating both sides in the fierce struggle which was then impending, and losing his hold upon the affections of the Irish people upon whose fidelity, despite their past treatment, he could have relied. Both within and without the Pale they stood for him as long as he showed any inclination to yield them the free exercise of their faith; but his vacillating conduct in making promises in return for their support, only to be broken to suit his purposes, gradually forced them into a position where religion took precedence, and this resulted in the King’s undoing as well as their own. Thomas Keating naturally sided with all his kin and suffered with the rest. His eldest son, a lieutenant of horse, was killed in the first uprising. His second son, Redmond, John’s great—grand—father, raised a troop of horse at his own expense to assist the King. Then as the situation gradually developed into a religious war, the Anglo—Irish drew towards their Celtic compatriots and upon Cromwell’s invasion they were swept away. The Keating lands were forfeited and turned over to one of Cromwell’s generals by name of Gale, the family being suffered during the reign of Charles II to occupy a small portion of the old estate. And this was all the recompense they had upon the restoration – a fate which befell thousands of their countrymen besides. Here they lived until the close of the reign of the unhappy James II. When William of Orange invaded Ireland Redmund Keating, John’s great—grandfather, who in 1653 had married Elizabeth Fitzgerald, a direct descendant of the great Earl of Desmund, was still living in the small section of his ancient patrimony above referred to. He had many sons, all of whom were in King James’ army. One was killed at the battle of Aghrim, another at the battle of the Boyne, but Geoffrey (or Jeffrey), the grandfather of John, survived, and his history is sufficiently interesting and romantic to warrant mention here. After the battle of Aghrim, as captain of horse he retired with King James’ army to Limerick, where they made their last stand. Before withdrawing into the city itself, Geoffrey was stationed with his company at Adare, situated about seven years from the city, where dwelt Thadeus, or Thady, Quin, the possessor of a fine estate – the site of an old abbey the ruins of which are still extant. He had a daughter Mary by his first wife – who was a Rice, of the family now represented by the Spring Rices. She was about 16 and he 22 years of age. Her father insisted upon Geoffrey’s taking up his lodgings at Adare House, with the usual result that the young people found that neither could live without the other. A proposal of marriage was accepted and the situation admitted of no delay. The marriage had no sooner taken place than the General, being appraised of the approach of the enemy, called in all the outposts, including the young captain, and Limerick was besieged. The world—renowned capitulation followed, when almost the entire Irish army, being given the option whether to enlist in the English army or accept exile abroad, chose the latter, and rendezvoused for the purpose on the Quin Estate. Captain Keating then bade good—bye to his young wife, and neither of them saw nor heard of the other for six years. The Irish army was incorporated into the famous Irish Brigade, which gave such a good account of itself for years on the continent under Louis XIV.
The vessel in which the young captain sailed for France was wrecked off the coast of Denmark; his troop was dispersed and separately sought their way as best they could through the low countries to France. He relates in his own narrative that being reduced to great distress and having the last penny he had and sold all his effects, “even his silver buckles,” and walking carelessly on the high road he stumbled upon something which he discovered to be a purse which contained enough money to defray his expenses to St. Germain, where he found King James and his family established. There he learned that his regiment was in garrison at Bapaume (the scene of such terrible strife in the current war) and had taken the name of the Dorrington regiment after its colonel, a custom prevalent in those days. It was the same regiment in which John Keating served a century later. The regiment was then sent to reinforce Marshal Catinat’s army in Italy in its campaign against Prince Eugene, and on St. Francis’s day, October 4, 1693, Captain Keating was made major of his regiment on the field of battle at La Marsaille in Piedmont for valor in rushing into the midst of the enemy and rescuing a standard of colors which had been taken at the beginning of the battle.
In 1696 he obtained leave to return home. In order to secure entrance to England he disguised himself as a Flemish merchant, but was arrested on entering London and thrown into the Tower. After some six months’ imprisonment, nothing suspicious having been discovered on his person, he was visited by an old companion in arms who had entered the English service and was then under—secretary of state, who besought him to abandon the Stuarts and accept an equivalent rank in the English service. This he refused to do, asking only that he be allowed to visit his wife in Ireland, and the permission was secured. And the old narrative states upon his altogether unexpected arrival in 1697, she “fainted away and was some time without giving signs of life.” He then quitted Louis XIV’s service and received a grant of land for a hundred years’ duration from his father—in—law, which was supposed to represent his wife’s interest, through her mother, in the Rice Estate, and which was called Baybush.
Thady Quin remarried, and his descendants byÂ his second wife subsequently became Lords of Adare and Earls of Dunraven, from whom the present earl descends. Geoffrey settled down at Baybush and had three daughters and two sons – Redmund and Valentine. Owing to his Stuart leanings he was under constant suspicion, and was once tried for high treason on a trumped—up charge, but was honorably acquitted. The circumstances, as narrated by his grandson in a paper still extant, are sufficiently interesting to warrant insertion here. “Sitting by the fireside with his wife and children, then very young, on a winters’ night he heard a great rap at the door. Surprised at a visit at so late an hour he went himself to know who the stranger was, and received for answer that he was come by order of the Government, and summoned him in the King’s name to open the door; which having done, he saw a young officer, who told him in the most polite manner that he was very sorry to be under the necessity of executing the disagreeable order he received from the Governor of the City of Limerick – that he had thirty soldiers under his command, that the house was surrounded, and that all resistance or attempt to escape would be vain, and that he must conduct him immediately to that city. Major Keating begged he would not alarm his wife and family, gave him his word of honor that he would follow him the next morning, and invited him to supper and to take a bed at Baybush. The offer was immediately accepted by the Lieutenant who commanded the detachment; all the soldiers were invited to enter the house and to eat and drink, and the day following the Major and his servant, an old soldier, set out with the escort for Limerick, where they were confined for some days and thence transferred to Dublin. There he learned for the first time that he and his servant were accused of high treason for having, with many other persons all unknown to him, entered into a plot of subverting King William’s Government, and he was, moreover, particularly accused of being commissioned to raise 60,000 men for Louis XIV’s service. They were all brought to trial, all the facts were sworn to, and the jury was about to deliberate, when one of the witnesses, struck with remorse of conscience, rose up and declared publicly that they were all suborned; that their accusation was false and dictated by a spirit of revenge and hatred against some of the prisoners; that the names of Major Keating and his servant were added to the list in order to give more probability to the indictments, and that all the papers concering this affair were deposited in a press or closet in a certain house in Dublin. These documents having been found and laid before the Court, the prisoners were discharged, the false witnesses punished; but the instigators of this foul plot were so powerful that their names were not even mentioned.”
Geoffrey died in 1741. His eldest son, Redmund, studied for the Bar, and acquired a good practice in Dublin. Valentine, the second son, after being educated with his brother in France, married Sarah Creagh, of an old Irish family whose estate, Tiervon, on the banks of the Shannon in the County Limerick, had been forfeited during the rebellion. They lived at Baybush, where all his children, including John, were born. The penal laws against Roman Catholics were strictly enforced in those days, and the prospect for his children, all strictly reared in their ancestral faith, was most discouraging. His elder brother Redmund, who had never married and was devoted to his brother’s family, finally abandoned his practice and agreed to join him in emigrating to France, where the Irish had always met with a favorable reception from the Crown and the people and where the Catholic faith prevailed. Accordingly in 1766 they relinquished their holdings at Adare and embarked at Cork for Havre, proceeding thence to St. Germain, whither old Geoffrey Keating had directed his steps some seventy—five years previously, and where several Irish families were still living to whom Louis XV, after the example of his ancestor Louis XIV, had assigned apartments in an old castle.
The Keating family had no need of support or assistance from their new—found friends upon their arrival in France, as Redmund Keating had acquired what was considered a handsome property from practice of law. After a short stay at St. Germain, therefore, they moved to Poitiers, where the sons had formerly attended the Jesuit school. There, Redmund having relinquished his right by primogeniture, letters patent of nobility were granted Valentine by Louis XV in recognition of his rank in Ireland. They purchased an estate in the neighborhood of the town, known as Cicogne, and there Valentine and Redmund lived and died. The family consisted of nine children, five boys and four girls. The oldest, Geoffrey, upon whom, at his fathers’ death, the title devolved, followed a mercantile pursuit, married into an old French family, lived with his wife on her estate in Poitou, and died childless. The second son, Thomas, entered the French army, was given a commission in the Walsh (formerly Dorrington) regiment of the Irish Brigade – the same in which his grandfather had served. John and William, twins, born September 20, 1760, were sent to the College of the English Benedictines at Douay in Flanders, and the daughters in time were suitably married to scions of French nobility. After graduating, both John and William obtained commission in the same regiment of Walsh, and finally, after France had declared war on behalf of the American Colonies, the youngest son, Redmund, secured a like commission. So there were at the time four brothers, officers in the same regiment. Count Walsh Serrant was the colonel of the regiment, himself of an old Irish family and ever afterwards John Keating’s intimate friend. The battalion in which the brothers served was included in a fleet of 150 vessels which sailed for Martinique under Count de Guichen in January, 1780. Thomas took part in three engagements with Admiral Rodney, was captured and afterwards exchanged, while Redmund and John were engaged in the capture of the Island of Tobago. Soon afterwards preperations were made for an expedition the object of which was kept secret. Several detachments of different regiments were ordered to be ready. Twelve hundred men were put on board three frigates and smaller vessels. John’s being among them, and the fleet sailed under the command of M. de Bouillé, it being the general belief that the destination was North America. After they had proceeded some distance they were met by a sloop—of—war sent by Count de Grasse, to inform them of the taking of Yorktown and surrender of Cornwallis. Thereupon they changed their course and made for the Island of St. Eustatius which had recently been taken from the French by Admiral Rodney. This they stormed and captured, taking 700 English prisoners. John’s description of the fight is interesting as indicating the primitive mode of fighting as compared with ours, in those days. It is as follows:
“The Irish detachment were to pass themselves for British troops sent for the benefit of their health from the Island of St. Lucy to St. Eustatius. We were provided with mattresses to throw upon the thorny, prickly pears that grew in the ditches that surround the fort, for the escalading of which we had ladders. All seemed well calculated. Our information, however, proved false to the last degree. The bay we landed in was crowded with rocks; every boat was stove in; the men had to wade in the water; our cartridges were wet; we were surrounded by high mountains and no means of getting up to the top but by a ravine formed by the rains. We fortunately had two or three ladders with us without which we could not have reached the top. We had taken them to escalade the fort. About four o’clock in the morning of November 25, 1781, M. de Bouillé mustered the troops, gave no sign of dismay and only said, ‘Le vin est tiré, il faut le boire.’ He marched at the head of the Irish. We had to pass in view and under a high hill called Panga, where a watch of a few men were stationed to keep a lookout, and by firing of guns give signals of the approach of vessels. One or two of them had slept in town, contrary to orders, and the others were seized asleep by surprise. To this may be attributed the success of the expedition. We continued our march and at sunrise we got a view of the town and of the troop that was going to mount guard. The road was imbedded in thick and high hedges; our arms were carried horizontally to prevent the sun shining on them. We ran along bent almost in two till we came to an opening into the field where the British troops were parading. We immediately drew up in battle and marched towards them. Our poor and scanty firing was the first signal of an enemy – unprepared and astonished, they fled in every direction.
“The Governor, Col. Cockbrun, who was distinguished for his bravery in North America, having seen vessels far out at sea, and nevertheless no signals made, galloped for his usual ride to the parade ground and addressed himself to us to know what was the matter. Being told by one of our officers, Mr. Trant, that he was a prisoner, he made off, but, being fired on, surrendered. The fort was immediately attacked; the point levis was not drawn up, there was a hard struggle there, but some French officers bore it down and opened a passage to their men. The fort was then surrendered. The English troops, amounting to about 600 or 700 men of the 13th and 15th Regiments that had served in North America, were taken successively; they were quartered with the inhabitants, had no general place of rendezvous, were so bewildered on seeing an enemy of whose landing or approach they had not the least ideaÂ and whose numerical force was announced to be some thousands, whereas there were not aboveÂ 400. … I remained on the island. There was a considerable sum of money remaining in the hands of the Governor, the proceeds of sales of prizes made by Admiral Rodney. This sum was divided amongst the fleet and army, the first instance of land forces receiving any prize money. All other moneys found in the Governor’s house in bags with the owner’s names were restored to them, as also the keysÂ of their cisterns; every kind of vexation was done away with. The island was held by the French for the Dutch, for whom a civil governor, M. Chabert, was named. The garrison was commanded by Captain Fitzmaurice of Walsh’s regiment.”
In the meantime Thomas Keating also became aide—de—camp to the Governor of Tobago and Redmund was sent to a port where three of his predecessors had died of fever, and he soon succumbed himself. Thomas at this time must have seen service in the United States also, though there is no mention of it; for he was afterwards elected an honorary member of the Rhode Island Society of the Cincinnati, which could not have been the case had he not been associated with the Revolution. Then in 1783, after peace was concluded, the two brothers returned with their regiment to France and in 1788 the regiment received orders to sail for Mauritius, otherwise known as the Isle of France, in the Indian Ocean. John and William were included in the orders, John sailing aboard the Penelope, a fine frigate of 44 guns. She ran ashore at the Cape of Good Hope and became a total loss, thirty—five men and the second in command being lost. The remainder continued the voyage in another frigate. After a year’s stay on Mauritius, the regiment was ordered to return to France.
In the meantime William Keating, John’s twin brother, being stationed with a detachment in the District of Grand Port on that island, met with the daughter of a prominent planter by the name of Rochecouste, a native of France, and fell in love with her. He resigned from the army, married her, settled on the island, and left a numerous progeny, many of whom still survive in France and in the island of Mauritius and in the United States. His eldest son, as will later be seen, was sent to Philadelphia to his uncle John to be educated, and there married John’s daughter, his cousin, and from him are descended the present Keating family of Philadelphia. John Keating sailed from Mauritius with the regiment. They were driven out of their course by contrary winds, and through failure of provisions were forced to land in Martinique in the West Indies, but not without being put into peril by fire which broke out amidships and came near destroying the vessel. There at Martinique they got their first news of the outbreak of the Revolution and took the tri—color cockade. There too, John Keating was introduced to Madame de Beauharnais, the future Empress Josephine who it will be remembered was a native of Martinique and had not yet entered upon her wonderful career. Sailing thence to France, after a voyage of six months from Mauritius, they found the most extraordinary change to have taken place since their departure. John describes it in the following words: “We found the country in a great state of consternation and confusion and were astonished to see and hear all that was going on. We had to yield to the impulse given and to submit to the dictates and caprices of demagogues scarcely known before the Revolution. Our own station was in Britany, and of course close to the seaport; we received orders in the end of 1791 to embark for San Domingo where the greatest troubles were threatening that fine island with desolation and murder. Previous to my departure I received the cross of St. LouisÂ by commission dated November 27, 1791.”
Thomas Keating did not accompany the regiment. He had been promoted to the colonelcy of the 87th or “Dillon” regiment of the Irish Brigade. From that point his subsequent promotion was rapid until he became a general of brigade. He participated in the whole campaign in Belgium in 1793, in command of a portion of the Army of the North which acted as advance guard under La MarliÃ¨re, in the taking of Antwerp and in battle of Nerwingham, and he was temporarilycommandant at Ruzimonde, Boulogne, Montreuil and Mesdin. Then, as might well be expected, owing to his family affiliations, notwithstanding the universal testimony of his brother officers of his loyalty to the army, he began to be suspected of monarchical sympathies. He was removed from his command and thrown into the prison of La Force, where he remained eighteen months during the Reign of Terror, and but for Robespierre’s downfall would have been guillotined with the other victms. The testimonials of his brother officers are among the family papers and indicate his great popularity in the army. He died at the family home in Cicogne in 1795 at the age of forty—two, a victim to lung trouble brought on by his imprisonment.
John’s trip with his regiment to San Domingo was anything but pleasant. Meeting with contrary winds, and compelled to seek the Canary Islands for shelter, obliged to seek another ship on account of unseaworthiness, confronted with mutiny among the soldiers owing to their having imbibed the principles of the Revolution, their progress was slow, and it was six months after their departure from France before they reached their destination. John’s experience on his arrival and his subsequent actions may be best explained in his own words. “I soon perceived from what I witnessed and from what I learned from the officersÂ who had been for some time on the Island that it was impossible that the military and civil commissioners Polverel and Santhonax, sent by the Convention, could agree, and that some great blow was unavoidable. The moment was at last come, the military seemed to predominate, and determined at the end of September (1792)Â to seize the Commissioners and send them to France. In less than half an hour, when all the military corps were under arms, they turned their backs on their officers, sided with the commissioners and forced all their officers to embark for France. Amongst them were the Governor, Lt. General Count d’Esparbes, M. de Blancheland and M. Tousard, well known in the United States. At the demand of the 92nd Regiment, backed by the Commissioner Santhonax, I had to take the temporary command of the Regiment. I was resolved, however, to give it up as soon as possible and leave the Island.” And in another place he says: “A few days were sufficient to convince me that there was nothing to be gained by a stay on that Island owing to the divisions prevailing among its inhabitants and the troops. The blacks were in full insurrection. The whole country was in their power. The plantations had all been burned, the whites and the troops were confined to the town; there was no union, no confidence. The whole population divided into parties and factions, and all complaining and condemning one another. The arrival of a large body of troops did not allay the discontent. the 92nd Regiment insisted upon my remaining to take the command, which I complied with by order of the Civil Commissioner, but on condition, as my commission mentions, that it should be but a temporary act, as I could not acknowledge any right in troops to dismiss and name their officers at pleasure. All my efforts now tended to facilitate my departure. I obtained permission from M. Santhonax and from General Rochambeau, who had succeeded to the Government of the Island, to go to France or to the United States. I preferred the latter. … My reason for preferring the United States was that I was very doubtful, notwithstanding the opinion of many, whether the Prussian army under the Duke of Brunswick had reached Paris and put an end to the Revolution. Though the Civil Commissioner Santhonax had been universally looked upon as a very bad character and as having been the greatest promoter of the misfortunes which have befallen San Domingo. I must say that during the five or six weeks in my official capacity I had to do business with him directly I found him much better disposedÂ than I had any reason to expect; he granted me everything that I called for. He promoted those that I represented as victims of insubordination of the soldiers and facilitated to some the means of leaving the Island.Â As respects myself, he rendered me every service I asked for.”
John Keating was at this time thirty—two years of age, a captain in the French service, placed in temporary command of the troops in San Domingo but on the eve of dissociating himself for good from his past environment and entering upon an entirely new career in the land of promise. “I sailed,” says he, “from Cape FranÃ§ois at the end of November, 1792, on board a frigate with M. de Blacons. We got up to Philadelphia the eve of Christmas, which was then kept very strictly. We were received at the widow Papley’s the day after Christmas.” The widow Papley’s was a well—known boarding—house in those days, and a resort of many of the prominent emigrés fleeing from the horrors of the French Revolution. “I must add,” he says, “that when I landed in the United States all my means of support did not exceed $280 and all my recommendations or introductions were two letters: one from General Rochambeau to General Washington and another from M. Santhonax to M. de la Forest the French Consul at Philadelphia. My only acquaintance was my fellow—traveller the Marquis de Blacons, by whom I got acquainted successively with the emigrants of note from France, especially with M. de Talon and Vicomte de Noailles.” General Washington was, of course, at the time President of the United Statesand the capital was at Philadelphia; so it is assumed that the letter of introduction from the son of an old associate in arms, Rochambeau, was duly presented to the President, but John Keating makes no reference to the incident. As to de la Forest, the letter of introduction was the beginning of a friendship which became closer with the lapse of time and descended from father to son for three generations.
Inasmuch as the association with Messrs. Noailles and Talon had much to do with John Keating’s subsequent career, a brief metion [sic] of them may not be out of place. Noailles had come to America with his brother—in—law, Lafayette, and was the officer designated by Washington to receive on the part of the French the sword of Cornwallis at the surrender. After our Revolution he returned to France, was a deputy of the nobility in the States Generalin May, 1789, and as a member of the National Assembly on August 4 of that year proposed the acts whereby the whole feudal system was swept away. Falling, it is said, under the displeasure of Robespierre, his estates were confiscated and he was sentenced to death. He escaped to England and thence sailed for the United States, where he lived for a while in Philadelphia, having formed a partnership with William Bingham. After the Revolution he returned to France, served under Napolean and lost his life in a naval engagement off Havana. Omer Talon was just John Keating’s age. He was a royalist member of the National Assembly in France, escaped to Havre, where his friends put him in a cask and took him aboard an American vessel bound for Philadelphia. There he became an American citizen and kept open house for his exiled countrymen.
Talon and de Noailles at the time of John Keating’s arrival in Philadelphia were interested in projects having to do with the acquisition of large bodies of land in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and the settlement of refugees then arriving in large numbers from France and San Domingo. They asked John Keating to join them, though he was of course without means, and, as he says, they had never known him before. The Asylum Company was the project then in hand, and inasmuch as Mr. Griffin’s article and the very interesting book of Mrs. Louise Welles Murray entitled “Azilum” give the fullest particulars as to its origin, management and outcome, only a word need to be said about it here. Robert Morris, the financier of the Revolution, and John Nicholson owned enormous tracts of land in the eastern section of the United States which they desired to develop. With these two Frenchmen, for the purpose of attracting foeign settlers, they formed in 1794 the Asylum Company, of which Morris was made president, and proceeded to secure a large tract on the North branch of the Susquehanna River, now part of BradfordCounty; and John Keating was made one of the three managers and the intermediary between the owners in Philadelphia and those on the ground, dividing his time between the two places. Many colonists resorted thither and for a time it was a thriving settlement. It was generally supposed that Asylum was planned for Queen Marie Antoinette, for some of the houses were known as the “Queen’s houses.” But the poor Queen was guillotined late in 1793, long before her accommodations were in readiness for her. The project finally failed, not only for want of financial backing, but because, as I apprehend, the emigrés were not an agricultural people and could not therefore adapt themselves to a life in the wilds of Pennsylvania. Accordingly, when Napoleon invited the emigrés to return to France, the days of Asylum were numbered.
De la Rochefoucauld, in his most interesting Travels through the United States in 1795, a book which was in everybody’s hands a century ago, referring to the settlement, speaks of John KeatingÂ as one of the managers in the following terms: “Mr. Keating is an Irishman and late Captain of the regiment Walsh. At the beginning of the Revolution he was in San Domingo, where he possessed the confidence of all parties, but refused the most tempting offers of the Commissioners of the Assembly, though his sentiments were truly democratic. It was his choice and determination to return to America without a shilling in his pocket rather than to acquire power and opulence in San Domingo by violating his first oath. He is a man of uncommon merit, distinguished abilities, extraordinary virtue and invincible disinterestedness. His advice and prudence have produced extremely serviceable to M. Talon in every department of his business. It was he who negotiated the late arrangement between Messrs. Morris and Nicholson, and it may be justly said that the confidence which his uncommon abilities and virtue inspire enables him to adjust matters of dispute with much greater facility than most persons.” Alexander Grayson, in his Memoirs of his own Times (1846) gives us a little picture of the social side of the project, as follows: “A letter from Major Adam Hoopes of about the year 1790 or 1791 introduced me to Mr. Talon, then engaged with the Viscount de Noailles in establishing a settlement on the north branch of the Susquehanna, to which he gave the name of Asylum. In the course of this business he several times passed through Harrisburg, and never failed on these occasions of giving me the opportunity of seeing him.Â Mr. Talon fully justified in my conception the favorable idea that is given by Lord Chesterfield and others of a Frenchman of rank. I have seldom seen a gentleman with whose manners I was more pleased. … On one of his visits to Harrisburg he was attended by not less than ten or a dozen gentlemen, all adventurers in the new establishment from which they had just returned on their way to Philadelphia. Of these I only recollect the names of M. de Bacon, Captain Keating and Captain Boileau. My brother and myself, who had waited on them at their inn, were kept to supper, and I have rarely passed a more agreeable evening. The refreshment of a good meal, coffee and wine put in motion their natural vivacity, and the conversation, carried on in English, which many of the company spoke very well, was highly animated. Captain Keating was, in fact, an Irishman, and Captain Boileau had been among the troops which had served in this country. … The French Revolution being touched upon, it came into my head to ask Captain Boileau how it happened that he and the other gentlemen who had been in America, and must of course have been foremost in circulating the doctrine of liberty in France, were now so entirely in the background. His answer was interrupted by a loud and general laugh, and Talon, who had probably been averse to the Revolution in all stages and modifications (as he was the person on account of whose courteous reception General Washington had been roundly taken to task by the Citizen Genet), enjoyed the thing so much that he thought it worth remembering, and put me in mind of it in an interview with him a long time afterwards. This gentleman did apparently stand high in the confidence of the King, as on once dining with him at his lodgings he, at the instance of a French lady from St. Domingo, who was present and had observed that I was infected with the regicide mania, showed me his picture on the lid of a box studded with diamonds that had been presented him by his Majesty.”
John Keating became a citizen of the United States January 20, 1795. The land speculations of Morris and Nicholson afforded a very tempting bait to the French emigres, and in one way or another Keating became associated with various enterprises of the kind besides the Asylum project, so that his time was entirely absorbed, and this became the business of his life. People who came over for purpose of temporary residence only until the reign of the guillotine was over, would purchase wild land and vest the title in John Keating, leaving it to him to manage and sell according to his best judgement. A transaction with his friend Noailles gives us a little insight into his doings in those days. John’s twin brother, William, as we have seen was, was settled as a planter in the Isle of France, known as Mauritius, and rearing a large family. Viewing the situation in the French dependencies as precarious owing to the Revolution, he determined to settle his eldest son, Jerome, born in 1792 and then a child of four or five years of age, in America and sent him in charge of a colored nurse only, consigned to Thomas Fitzsimmons of Philadelphia under care of Captain Meany of the brig Rose, to be brought upÂ and educated by his uncle – a long voyage, it must be admitted, for so young a hopeful; but he arrived safely noneÂ the worse for his trip. His father desiring to remit also funds to his brother for the benefit of the son, Noailles informed John Keating that his friend Nicholson had an agent in the Isle of France, and Nicholson agreed to honor any drafts that might be drawn on him in this way. When the draft was presented, however, Nicholson was in financial difficulties, but Noailles, with whom he had business relations, agreed to assume the draft and accept in payment either certain lands in Tennessee or shares of the Asylum Company at his option. Nicholson and Morris were in such financial straits at the time that they were obliged to shut themselves off from their creditors by occupying a little house on the Schuylkill River; and thither John Keating journeyed on several occasions in arranging the particulars of the transaction. Noailles decided in favor of the Tennessee lands and gave Keating his personal bond for the draft. He also engaged Keating to go to Tennessee to record the deeds, look up the title and acquaint him with the situation generally. For this Keating was to receive approximately 2,600 acres of the land and his expenses. Keating started from Philadelphia September 11, 1797, and was back in Philadelphia in the following November, having accomplished the mission entirely on horseback in 54 days to the entire satisfaction of Noailles. The bond was paid, but Noailles himself became financially embarrassed, sold the land without notice to Keating, and left for San Domingo without giving him his share or answering his letters, or even repaying him the expenses of his journey, which included the pay of a servant and the keep of two horses. Keating takes pains to say in his diary, however, that he freely forgave him, although he thinks it would have been more honorable for him to have frankly explained his condition. He feels sure, however, that it would have been a pleasure for Noailles to have satisfied his debt, as he was most generous and did not care for money for its own sake.
Previous to this time Keating had made the acquaintance of Pierre Bauduy, the son ofÂ a planter of an old French family in San Domingo. His brother, Baron de Bauduy, afterwards became a general under Napolean. Bauduy had married the daughter of M. J. Baptiste Bretton Deschapelles, of a noble family in France, who had also owned a large sugar plantation in San Domingo, but had been forced to emigrate to America owing to the insurrection, and was living in Wilmington, Delaware. Another of M. Deschapelles’ daughters had married Marqui de Saqui, an admiral in the French service; another the Marquis de Sasseney of Paris, whose descendant was a most devoted adherent of Napolean Third and of the Empress Eugenie in her lonely widowhood. Eulalia, the youngest daughter, was at that time twenty—two years of age and lived with her sister, Mrs. Bauduy, in Wilmington, their parents being dead. She was tall and handsome and of a most engaging personality. Bauduy, who had taken a great fancy to Keating, asked him down to Wilmington to dinner, and there he met the sister—in—law and fell in love with her. Some of his friends in Philadelphia favored the match, but, as he says in his diary, having no fortune he hesitated to address her. But he naively adds, “having learned that another proposed to do so” he hesitated no longer. He wrote Bauduy, asking him to be the bearer of his wishes. The letter was mailed the day of Keating’s departure for Tennessee on the Noailles mission. Returning home by way of Washington and Baltimore, he arrived in Wilmington, having had, of course, no answer to his letter and not knowing how he would be received. “There was company present and Eulalie, in her timidity, shrank from seeing me, lest my visit should occasion remark.” So he left for Philadelphia, but returned occasionally for short visits. The old French mode of courtship was far different from that of the present day. For awhile she gave no answer, and they never spoke of it and were never alone. Finally the occasion presented itself. He was as much embarressed as she was. She consented, however, and he kissed her hand, without however, as he says, taking her glove off, for he was “not used to the situation.” The family received the news with delight andÂ the usual French formalities were observed. A paper setting forth the consent of the Deschapelles family and friends to the union is a typical example of the old French custom and interesting as a relic of the “Ancien Régime”. It declares it to be the unanimous opinion, after due deliberation, that the marriage is in every respect advantageous to the young lady and that provisions are satisfactory. The “provisions” were contained in a marriage settlement executed at the same time, which only goes to show upon what modest means people began housekeeping in those days. By this settlement she contributed her small interest in the family patrimony, her clothing and jewelry and a few shares in the Bank of Pennsylvania and Insurance Company of North America; and he contributed his intetrest [sic] in the estate at Poitiers in France, his rights to a commission in the agency of the Asylum Company, “which though certain, cannot be determined as yet,” also the 2,600 acres in Tennessee which he expected to have, but never got, from Noailles, and 10 shares of the Asylum Company. The marriage took place December 11, 1797, at6:15 p. m. before Abbé Faure at the Bauduy house in Wilmington, there being no Catholic church in Wilmington at the time. The young couple took up their residence in Wilmington. Three children were born of this marriage, John Julius Geoffrey Keating, born September 16, 1798; Hypolite Louis William, born August 11, 1799, and Eulalia Margaret, born September 24, 1801. Besides these John Keating, as has been seen, had adopted his nephew, Jerome, the son of his brother William. Their married life, alas, was very short, as we shall presently see. In the diary to which I have already referred, written in French, and which is so taken up through many long years with the one engrossing thought of his wife’s virtues as to neglect the details of his own career, he portrays her as follows: “She was large and stout, of a pretty figure, with dignity and reserve, beautiful eyes, a large mouth in which a few upper teeth were wanting, which however did not disfigure her countenance; she had a noble bearing and a fine memory, was well read and endowed with good judgement, but was modest and retiring. She disliked dressing, though it became her. She was absolutely devoid of vanity. She loved the domestic life with her children. She disliked compliments and never paid them. She had remarkably fine hands and arms.” Her portrait, painted by Bonnemaison in Paris, bears out these physical attributes.
In the same year of John Keating’s marriage the Ceres Company, which was to form the principal occupation of his life, took definite shape. Omer Talon had agreed to purchase 297,428 acres of land, composed of about 300 patents issued to William Bingham, situated in what was then entirely Lycoming County. By reason of the subsequent division of the county, the lands came to be located for the most part in McKean, Potter and Clearfield Counties. While the title was taken in Talon’s name, it was purchased on behalf of a syndicate composed at that time of seven individuals residing abroad and two in America, and they in turn were represented by the two well—known Dutch banking houses of Raymond and Changuion with whom Talon hadÂ his dealings. By the advice of Mr. Peter S. Duponceau, concurred in by Jared Ingersoll and A. J. Dallas, names universally regarded as the choicest ornaments of the Philadelphia Bar of those days, in order to meet the obstacle occassioned by diversity of interests and the provisions of the law limiting alien legal ownership, the title was vested in three individuals in joint tenancy with a secret declaration of trust vesting the disposition of the proceeds of the land in the foreign houses. The business gradually expanded, local agents were employed, and the towns of Smethport (in McKean County), named after the head of one of the foreign houses, and Coudersport (in Potter County), named after the head of the other house, became the county—seats of their respective counties. The town of Ceres was named after the company, and I am led to believe the town of Keating after John Keating himself. The business was finally wound up in 1884 by Keating’s grandson, the late Dr. William V. Keating, after having realized upwards of a million dollars. In addition to this, John Keating personally, as we have said, held title to, or had the management of, thousands of acres in the same region on behalf of individuals, among them M. Pearron de Serennes of Paris, Messrs. Patrick and Richard Gernon, formerly residents of Philadelphia, Vicomte de Neuville, formerly French Ambassador to Washington, Cornelius C. Six, of Amstersdam and New York, Peter Provenchere, Comte d’Orbigny, both French emigrés, and the Deschapelles family. In all these relations, extending over a period of sixty years, neither his word nor his judgment was ever questioned. And in this connection it may not be out of place to quote the following passage from Mr. A. H. Espenshade’s book on Pennsylvania Place Names. “According to a prominent citizen of McKean County, it is due to the memory of John Keating to say that from the earliest settlement of this County to the time of his death his watchful care over it and anxiety for its progress, his sympathy with the sufferings and privations of the settlers, and his readiness to help in every possible way partook more of the character of a father over his children than a capitalist over a business enterprise.” It is only proper to add in this connection that his choice of agents largely contributed to the success of the enterprise and the good—will it enjoyed from the settlers. Francis King, the pioneer surveyor of those regions, John S. Mann and Byron D. Hamlin are all names held in the highest veneration in that section of the country, and the Ceres Company, otherwise known in that region as Keating and Company, owes much of its local repute to their association with it.
Some four years after his marriage, while he was living in Wilmington, certain differences rose between Talon and the proprietors regarding Talon’s profit in the transaction. Keating, of course, was familiar with the entire matter, and with the knowledge of all parties had been paid a commission by Talon for his services. He was prevailed upon by both sides to act as a arbitrator in the dispute, despite his reluctance owing to his own connection with it. The employment involved a passage to Amsterdam where all the facts were to be submitted and the decision rendered. He went alone, leaving his little family in Wilmington and sailing September 5, 1801, by the ship Felicity, Captain Reed, bound from Philadelphia for Liverpool. A trip abroad was managed differently in those days from what it is now. He was seated at dinner in his Wilmington home when the ship was sighted in the Delaware, and he immediately proceeded to Newcastle, where the Felicity hove to in order to take him and his luggage aboard. The parting must have been trying, for his wife was about to be confined of her third child. After her death he found in her drawer a letter written to him in his absence in the belief that she would not survive the child’s birth. The premonition was prophetic, for she did indeed, afterwards die in his absence (though not on this particular voyage) under similar circumstances. Proceeding to Amsterdam after a voyage of six weeks he met the bankers, and being assured of their entire confidence reviewed the evidence and, after long deliberation, gave his decision, which met with the entire satisfaction of all parties. In the meantime he had joined his relations in Poitou, where his elder brother, Geoffrey, was living, and renewed all his old associations. It was during the Napoleanic régime and there is no record of his doings. The family suffered by the Revolution, but to what extent does not appear. He sailed for home July 14, 1802, on the Atlantic, Captain Chew, arriving in New York September 3rd, met his wife at Frankford, Philadelphia, where she had gone to greet him, and reached home the day following to see for the first time his little daughter.
After his return home from abroad John Keating occupied himself assiduously with his landed interests. In a letter to the Dutch bankers written in 1822 explains that the settlers are people practically without means. They usually arrive, men, women and children, afoot with a horse to carry their effects and sometimes with a cow; they stop near the rivers and creeks in places least wooded; and there, with the aid of a neighbor, build a miserable cabin, plant corn and rely on the chase and some jobs for others for their sustenance. They were of French, Irish, English, and German stock, and furnish a strong contrast with the immigrants of a later day who crowded our cities instead of planting themselves upon the soil and reaping the fruits of industrious tillage. John Keating would make annual trips to the lands and report his doings in elaborate letters to the bankers, every one of which he copied in letter books, according to the custom of the day. In those days journeys of the kind involved weeks of laborious travel, cut off almost entirely from communication with the world and attended by privations and even danger. Horseback was the principal mode of travel, and while the hospitality of the settler could always be relied on, yet where no settler was to be found the bare ground proved to be the only available resting place.Â He always insisted upon meeting the settlers personally and interesting himself in all the enterprises whereby to develop the country. The churches, schools and roads form the main subject of his correspondence with the agents. The Catholic Church of St. Eulalia in Coudersport was built principally by his help and named after his wife, and all other Catholic churches and settlements throughout the company’s possessions had his active interest, encouragement and assistance. He would sometimes enter the lands by Williamsport and Jersey Shore and sometimes by Bellefonte and thence to Karthaus, and he was appointed in 1823 one of the commissioners to organize the Jersey Shore and Coudersport Turnpike Company. It may seem to us, in this era of rapid transit, somewhat amusing to read in one of his letters to the bankers: “I cannot give a better proof of the happy results which will accrue from the completion of the turnpike than to say that on the fifth day after leaving Philadelphia (via Williamsport and Jersey Shore) we slept fourteen miles from Coudersport. Had the road been built, we would have gone the entire distance in a carriage in four days and a half.” Today a single night accomplishes the journey. He further cites as an indication of the marvelous progress of the times, that that year the mail was to be carried by wagon from Philadelphia to St. Louis. He rarely failed, while on these visits, to extend the journey to Geneseo, the home of his old friend, General James Wadsworth, who maintained a regal establishment there on the finest farm in western New York and dispensed a generous hospitality. The two familes were on terms of the closest intimacy. It was on the Turnpike Road above referred to that Ole Bull, the great violinist, a his own expense, about the year 1832, settled some 250 Norwegians. The settlement was not a success, however, and Mr. Bull admitted that he had been a loser by the transaction by about $60,000.
It was while he was making one of these periodical trips that the tragic event occurred which marred his whole life and happiness during the remaining fifty years of his existence. He relates the incident in substance as follows: He had quitted his wife, who was in the best of health, Monday, July18, 1803, at 5 a. m. to go with her brother—in—law, Pierre Bauduy, to Cerestown. Having accomplished his visit, he arrived in Williamsport August 28. On his return journey he was surprised to receive no letter from her, but instead one from Mr. Provenchere, a relative of hers, advising him that she was sick. At Lancaster he received another letter advising him that she was no better. Traveling all night on horseback by moonlight, they arrived September 2nd at Wilmington, having traveled 170 miles in three days. He rushed into the house by the back door and ran upstairs, entering her room only to find it vacant. She had expired August 4th and was buried in the Old Swedes burying—ground, there being as yet no Catholic church in Wilmington and a section of the churchyard having been allotted to Catholics. From that time forth his thoughts were always with her, and it is stated by an eye—witness that fifty—three years afterwards, when about to die, he turned his eyes towards her portrait and expired while gazing at it. The diary to which I have referred, which was kept for many years solely for the purpose of recording her virtues, abounds in the most tender and passionate expressions of love, admiration, and regret. It manifests also the deep religious faith which sustained him in his terrible grief and never wavered till the day of his death. He was thus left alone with the charge of three infant children and the nephew, a boy of about eleven years of age. Mrs. Keating’s relative, Mr. Provenchere, was a French refugee of an old and distinguished family. He had been the tutor to the Duke de Berri, second son of Charles Tenth, and was in constant correspondence with the Duke himself and afterwards his widow and the Duc D’Angouleme, heir to the BourbÃ²n throne, during those Napoleonic days. He lived with his widows daughter, and being desirous, on his daughter’s account, of moving to Philadelphia, John Keating, who found himself for the most part in Philadelphia on account of his business, joined the Provencheres in 1808 in taking a house there, No. 183 S. 5th Street, then in the best residence district. There the children passed their childhood in an atmosphere wherein culture and piety were combined in such way as the French knew how to unite them without exaggeration or ostentation. Jerome, the nephew, upon arriving at a suitable age, was sent to St. Mary’s College, Baltimore, then known as one of the best educational institutions in the country, to which the Protestant community had recourse as well as the Catholics of our city. Among the leaders of our Bar who afterwards were educated within its walls may be mentioned Mr. George W. Biddle, Mr. Pemberton Morris and Mr. W. Heyward Drayton. The two sons received their education at the University of Pennsylvania. John Julius studied law and was admitted to the Bar in 1818. That he soon attained distinction is evidenced by the fact that in the unhappy controversy which arose in 1821 between Bishop Conwell and the priest Hogan, which is so fully and ably treated by Mr. Griffin in the pages of the AMERICAN CATHOLIC HISTORICAL RECORDS, Keating, young as he was, represented the Bishop. He was soon afterwards elected to the State Legislature and gave promise of a most enviable career as a lawyer and a citizen. On May 19, 1824, he married Elizabeth Hopkinson, daughter of Judge Joseph Hopkinson, the Federal Judge in Philadelphia, and granddaughter of the Signer, one of the most attractive women of her day, who lived to be ninety years of age and whose memory is a blessing to those who knew her. Within six weeks after this most happy marriage the young husband was taken with a fever and died in his twenty—sixth year, to the infinite distress of his father and the regret of a large circle of friends. In his most interesting diary, happily preserved among the records of the American Catholic Historical Society, Father Kenny, the parish priest of Coffee Run, about six miles from Wilmington, who had known the Keatings intimately in Wilmington – their house being for years before their departure the Catholic Church of Wilmington – melancholy scene indeed, William and Jerome supporting John Keating, the visibly overwhelmed father.
His hopes and pride then centered upon his second son, William. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1816, he was sent to Paris to study mineralogy, metallurgy and kindred branches to which her talents were inclined. There he roomed with his cousin Valentine, the second son of his uncle, William Keating, of Mauritius, thus keeping in touch with his nearest relatives living at the other side of the earth. Returning home, he became professor of Chemistry and Mineralogy as applied to the arts at the University of Pennsylvania from 1822 to 1827, after which he was sent to Mexico to pass upon certain mining enterprises. In the meantime he had employed a summer vacation accompanying Major Long in his expedition through Wisconsin and Canada, tracing the source of the St. Peter (now the Wisconsin) River, as the mineralogist and historian of the party. His book on the subject is the authorized history of the expedition. He then studied law, was admitted to the Bar of Philadelphia, May 3, 1834, acquired a considerable practice and was elected, and reelected, as his brother had been before him, to the Pennsylvania Legislature, and was solicited to run for Congress but refused, as he was not “thirsting for public life.” His energy was insatiable; he was one of the founders of the Franklin Institute, and recording secretary of the Academy of Natural Sciences from 1821 to 1825, a director of the Board of City Trusts and member of the Philosophical Society. In company with his intimate friend, Moncure Robinson, he was one of the projectors of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, was a manager from 1834 to 1838 as well as counsel for the company, and was sent abroad in its behalf to negotiate its first loan in London, where he died afterÂ a short illness May 17, 1840. He was a great linguist. He married Elizabeth, daughter of J. Eric Bollman, a man of international prominence, who enjoyed the intimate friendship of Lafayette and made all the plans and furnished the means for his attempted escape from his prison at Olmutz. Bollman took an active part in South America in movements having for their object the extension of the principles laid down in our Declaration of Independence. In addition to all his other activities, William assisted his father in the management of the Ceres Company and was till his death one of the trustees in whom the title was vested; and the untimely death of this only remaining son was a blow to the old father at the age of eighty—one, which can be better imagined than described. William Keating left surviving him but one child, a daughter. In the meantime Jerome Keating, the nephew, completed his education at St. Mary’s College, and returned home in the flush of manhood, a handsome young man endowed with high intelligence, great ambition and most exemplary character. In the diary to which I have referred, wherein John Keating bares his own deep religious faith and dependence on our holy religion, he refers constantly to his efforts to surround his children with a Catholic atmosphere, and associates his wife with all their religious practices. On April 28, 1810, his little daughter, Lalite, made her first confession and the two boys their First Communion, offering it for their mother; and having the day before read them the letter she wrote him after his departure for Europe in 1801, he then makes this entry in the diary: “I picture my dear Eulalie accompanying her children to the foot of the altar today where they have received their God. How much this Communion would have stirred her soul, what thanks she would have shown her Creator. … While the world scoffs at religion, what does it believe of the body and soul – a mystery. Its system and conjecture do not explain the secrets of Providence. Examine the duties prescribed by religion. Is there any that is incompatible with reason and happiness? Compare the religious man with the scoffer; which inspires the more respect and confidence?” And so he urges his children not to blush for their religion but to be worthy of it in following it. “If people see you are attached to your duties, not by habit but by conviction, they will esteem you the more.” Again on May 23, 1812, the little Lalite makes her First Communion, and he says: “I hope the next Sacrament she will receive will be that of marriage. May heaven grant her the happiness I enjoyed. I often think of it. I wish for a husband sweet and sensible, industrious, well brought up and of the same rank as herself. I want him to be of an agreeable presence and that he shall have as much talent and spirit as is needed to assure him of the friendship, esteem and consideration of the world. I want him to have religion and the same religion as hers; that they should have between them sufficient income for indulging their simple tastes without ostentation. Nothing is more conducive to the happiness of a marriage then for both to have principles of a solid religion which makes it a duty for them to love, sustain and console each other and work for their mutual happiness. Independently of that, I am convinced of the truth and superiority of the religion in which my daughter has been reared. I hold that she should only marry a Catholic.”
In expressing these sentiments he little knew that he was actually describing the character of his future son—in—law, whom he, himself, had reared in his own household. The young people were naturally much thrown together, and an attachment sprung up between them. Though first cousins, the father saw no obstacle in this circumstance. In his diary he states that after several separate interviews he learned the sentiments they entertained for each other, and approved of the match, assuring them they were entirely at liberty to contract it. Jerome had, however, been offered the post of supercargo on a ship owned by Robert Ralston of Philadelphia, bound for China, and the opportunity for thus starting out in life was not to be gainsaid. They determined to be married before his departure, and the wedding took place August 12, 1818. Jerome then set sail and was gone a year. On his return in 1822 he formed a partnership with Messrs. John J. Borie and Peter Laguerenne for the manufacture of cotton goods at Manayunk, and as managing partner he took up residence there, the mills being located on the river bank as they are today. There he lived in a house now occupied by the Sisters adjoining the present Church of St. John the Baptist.
At the time of Eulalie’s marriage her brother, William H. Keating, was a student in Paris, her elder brother, John Julius, was just entering upon the practice of law and resided with his father and Mr. Provenchere and his daughter, both sons being still unmarried. After his daughter’s marriage and removal to Manayunk, John Keating would spend his summers with them. They had several children, only three of whom lived to maturity – Amelia, who afterwards married her cousin, Peter Bauduy, William V. Keating, to whom I shall later refer, and Mary, a posthumous child, who married James M. Willcox, of Delaware County, Pa. The young couple identified themselves with the Catholic interests in Manayunk and were beloved by their neighbors, many of whom, of course, were employed in the mill, and Mrs. Keating became a little mother to all the children. An account of Brother John Chrisostum, otherwise Francis Michael Barret, which appeared in the Parish Register of St. John the Baptist Church for March, 1909, gives a little insight into the origin and life of the parish in Jerome Keating’s day. The church was begun in 1830 and dedicated by Bishop Kenrick, then coadjuter Bishop of Philadelphia, in 1831, Mr. and Mrs. Keating conducting the choir, he also teaching the boys and she the girls in the Sunday school. One of the pupils, Eugine Mullin, curiously enough, afterwards shipped as a sailor for the Far East and was wrecked off the coast of Mauritius, where he was rescued and most hospitably received by the Keating family. Jerome and his partners presented the diocese with the site for the church and helped to build it. It still stands, though dwarfed by the magnificant edifice since erected through the munificence of Bernard Kane, a later parishioner. Jerome in 1819, shortly after his marriage, was elected to the Board of Managers of the Philadelphia Saving Fund and was solicited to run for Congress but declined.
In May, 1827, Mrs. Jerome Keating suffered impairment of health and was advised to go abroad. Her father accordingly invited her and her children, together with the widow of his so John, to accompany him on a voyage France. There they were most hospitably recieved in the circle surrounding Charles X, who was reigning at the time. John Keating’s rank and his family connection and old associates must have all contributed to make him feel at home in his father’s adopted country. On his wife’s side his brother—in—law, Comte de Sasseney, who was the secretary of the Duchess de Berri, gave him access to the court circles; and his nephew, de Lyonne, welcomed him with open arms. On his own side, there were his sister’s children, the Comte D’Orfeuille and his sister, and his only remaining sister, Mme. de Tussac, as also his elder brother, Baron Geoffrey Keating, living at his place de Plessis in Poitou. There there were friends whom he had known in America, among them Comte Hyde de Neuville, who had been Minister at Washington from 1816 to 1821, and who in a letter to John Keating still extant says, “My family know through me that Keating is the synonym for loyalty.” De Neuville is the subject of an interesting biography by Frances Jackson entitled “The Memoirs of Baron Hyde de Neuville, outlaw, exile, ambassador.” He was Minister of Marine in the Martignac Cabinet in January, 1828, while the Keatings were in Paris. There he met also the Comte de Noailles, son of his old associate, and his old commander, Count Walsh of the Irish Brigade. A little incident in this connection which occurred half a cenury afterwards may not be without interest. When the late Dr. John M. Keating, who accompanied General Grant on his trip around the world, was passing through the Red Sea he found himself sitting at table beside a young French officer by name of Walsh who had charge of the mails on the steamer. This officer, upon hearing the name of his neighbor, remarked that it was a name ever revered in his family because of a life—long friendship existing between an ancestor of his and a Keating formerly in the French service. Upon comparing notes they found that the friends he referred to were Colonel Comte Walsh, Serrant of the Irish Brigade, and Captain John Keating, of his regiment, the respective great—grandfathers of the two travelers.
There were also several of John Keating’s own clients then living in France who owned lands in Pennsylvania the charge of which they had entrusted to him, among them his life—long friend Comte D’Orbigny, formerly a general in the French service, M. Pearron de Serennes, whose son in after years was to write to John Keating a letter, still extant, describing his experiences during the Reign of Terror, when his mother and he came to Paris in the hope of being less conspicuous than in the provinces, and from the window of their home saw Charlotte Corday, Camille Desmoulin, Danton and others carried in the tumbril to the Place Louis XV for execution. In this letter he also dramatically describes their own narrow escape when agents of the Revolution searched their house for incriminating evidence, and by the merest chance overlooked some Louis d’or, which, because they portrayed the head of the King, would have sealed their doom. Mme. du Cayla, the daughter of Talon, who was a very prominent personage in the circle of Charles X, was also on intimate terms with the Keatings during their stay. Mr. Keating was also the bearer of communications from Mr. Provenchere to the Duchess de Berri, with whom, as I have said, he was in frequent correspondence, and in his letters home John Keating speaks of his reception by the Duke D’Angouleme, the then Dauphin of France, who was in command of the army and from whom John Keating solicited a higher post for his young nephew, Philip Marquet, an officer in the service. It was shortly after John Keating’s return from France that the second Revolution occurred and the older branch of the Bourbon line were swept from the throne forever.
After a visit to Amsterdam to confer with the foreign bankers, Keating repaired to London, where he had an interview with Mr. Baring, the English banker interested in the Bingham lands, on the subject of their mutual interests.Â The family then returned to America, having been abroad for almost a year.Â They were accompanied by Mr. Adolph E. Borie, son of Jerome Keating’s partner, who had been living in Paris completing his education. Mr. Borie afterward became Secretary of the Navy duringÂ General Grant’s administration and his sister became the second wife of John Keating’s grandson, the late Dr. William V. Keating. Mr. Provenchere died in 1831, after which event John Keating broke up housekeeping and boarded in the city, making protracted visits to his daughter’s house in Manayunk. An interesting little incident is recorded in one of his letters to Baron de Neuville, who, as has been said, was then Minister of Marine in the French Cabinet, to whom he reports that in conformity with the Baron’s instructions he had received M. Pierre Gregoire Reynaud, “Ancien Superieur de milices de St. Domingu,” as “Chevalier de l’ordre de St. Louis.” What the ceremony consisted in is not disclosed. This was perhaps the last time the order and decoration were ever conferred.
But a terrible affliction soon befell the family. Jerome Keating, the beloved son—in—law, was stricken with an affection of the heart and died at Manayunk, January 28, 1833, at the age of forty—one. Thus was the second male member of the family, upon whom his hopes were built, to part with him in his declining years. Nor even yet were his sorrows at an end. After that John Keating lived for the most part with his daughter at Manayunk, maintaining an office only in Philadelphia for the transaction of his business. In 1836 his granddaughter, Amelia, married her cousin, John Peter Bauduy, and removed to Cuba, where her husband engaged in the practice of medicine. Thereupon the family moved from Mayanunk to 111 South Fourth Street, Philadelphia, which became the family residence and favorite resort of all their connections until John Keating’s death. His son, William, was at that time, practicing law, and a member of the Legislature, and was his father’s right hand, accompanying him on his annual visits to the lands. They never failed on the occasion of these visits to bring home with them a bottle of Seneca oil, as it was called, as a cure for rheumatism, bruises, etc. This oil was collected by the Indians of the Seneca tribe, who occupied that region, by dipping their blankets in Oil Creek upon the surface of which the oil flowed, from what source no one ever thought to discover. Little did John Keating realize that in that bottle lay a secret which would suddenly, as the Civil War came to an end, reveal itself and revolutionalize the world.Â The Keating lands were but slightly within the oil belt. Had they been located but little farther west and south they would have associated their owners in the public eye with the modern term “Bonanza”.
In 1832, while the Keatings were still living at Manayunk, the cholera visited Philadelphia in aggravated form, and Mr. Keating writes that in one week in August, out of a population of 160,000, there were 370 deaths from the disease in Philadelphia; and in September of the same year, out of 2,300 cases there were 800 deaths. Prior to this time he had taken part in the maintenance of the St. Joseph’s Orphan Asylum, the oldest Catholic asylum in Philadelphia and from that time forth until his death it was an absorbing source of labor and interest. He notes in one of his letters that throughout the entire epidemic there was not a single case in the institution. The asylum still stands where it stood in his day, a monument to the devotion of the Good Sisters of Charity, by whose labors it has increased and multiplied its benefactions a hundredfold.
The loss of his second son in 1840 completed the sum of his sorrows. He bore it with the same patience and resignation that characterized his entire life. Writing to Mr. Labouchere of Amsterdam soon afterwards, he says: “My poor son is much regretted, and now it is permitted me to say that I know no one who combined intelligence, judgement, exactitude and probity to such a degree. In my affliction it is a consolation to hear it so often said that it is the lot of few parents to mourn the death of such sons as I have lost. But it is our duty to resign ourselves to the Will of God, who knows better than we do what is most salutary for us.” His sole reliance then rested upon his grandson William, the son of his daughter by her union with Jerome, the beloved nephew, and the reliance, be it said, was not misplaced. Having studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, William soon acquired a large practice, assuming in addition the charge of the Ceres Company, which his grandfather, by reason of his great age, was no longer able actively to continue. His life and achievements are not, however, the subject of this sketch.
In 1845, at the age of eighty—five, John Keating made his last trip to the lands in company with his grandson, making the entire circuit of the company’s possessions, and following it up with a letter to the bankers explaining at length the entire situation. He had been elected to the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania in 1832 and to the Board of Managers of the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society in 1841, and while he resigned the University in 1852, he remained with the Saving Fund until his death. He was actively interested in all matters pertaining to the well—being of the Church in Philadelphia, and seconded Bishop Kenrick in all measures affecting its growth and development. He held pews in St. Mary’s, St. Joseph’s and St. John’s churches – the last being then the Cathedral Church – but attended services at St. Mary’s. In politics he was a Whig and strongly sympathized with Nicholas Biddle in the matter of the removal of the deposits of the United States Bank.
The last sacrifice he was called upon to make was when his daughter, after long contemplating the step, determined to enter the Visitation Convent at Frederick. Her daughter had become a widow and returned to her grandfather’s house in 1844, thus enabling her mother to accomplish her purpose. She afterwards became Superior of the House, and from there was moved to Georgetown, where she died in 1873 in the odor of sanctity.
The Bauduy family and their descendants had continued to reside during all these years in Wilmington. Their place at Eden Park, outside the city limits, was a great resort of all the family connections, and they in turn looked upon John Keating, who had outlived all his contemporaries, as the head of the family. One of Pierre Bauduy’s daughters married John Gareshé, of an old French family, who had formerly represented the United States as Consul at Matanzas. He succeeded to the family residence, where he and his charming wife and daughters became widely known for their hospitality and benevolence. They had a numerous family whose descendants are now distributed throughout this country and elsewhere.
As John Keating advanced in years, his tall, erect and venerable figure, striking countenance and snow—white hair, and his courtly manners won him marked deference and respect from all, friends and strangers alike. At his elder brother’s death the title of Baron devolved upon him in France, and while he never, of course, assumed it here, he was always known and affectionately termed the “Old Baron”. In a letter written in 1855, the year before he died, addressed to his old friend Labouchere of Amsterdam, he had this to say: “In 1783 Napolean was a lieutenant of the 2nd battalion of the Regiment de la Frere, artillery, and I a captain of the 2nd battalion of the 92nd Regimentof Infantry. Two years afterwards I was captain, and I had the cross of St. Louis given me by Louis XVI. I am, perhaps, the only surviving chevalier created by that unhappy prince. Napolean, for years the master of Europe, but ending his astonishing career on a rock exiled from his country and family, dies immortalized by his triumphs and his misfortunes, and I live in the midst of my children without any ills, manager of a large land Company.”
On February 12, 1851, his grandson William married the daughter of Dr. Réné La Roche, the eminent authority of yellow fever, whose father himself, a prominent physician of Philadelphia, had emigrated from San Domingo and was John Keating’s old friend and medical adviser. And thereafter to the end of his days John Keating’s home life was gladdened by the voices of children and the sweet companionship and filial devotion of a perfect woman.
Having contracted a cold in attending a meeting of the Philadelphia Saving Fund, he gradually lost strength. Receiving the last Sacraments with entire composure, he expressed himself a perfectly resigned to the will of God, and died May 19, 1856, in the 96th year of his age. He was buried in the family burial plot at St. John’s Church, Manayunk, Archbishop Kenrick performing the services and delivering a beautiful address expressive of his own estimate of the deceased ‘s character and personality. The Archbishop also composed the epitaph on his tomb in the old churchyard, which reads as follows: “To the memory of John Keating. Born in the year 1760 in Ireland. Educated from childhood in France. Captain in Walsh’s regiment of the Irish Brigade. He passed the last sixty—three years of his life in the United States, having settled in Philadelphia. He died at Philadelphia, May 19, 1856, at the age of 96 in full possession of his faculties, distinguished by integrity, honor, refined manners and unaffected piety. May he rest in peace.”
Source: American Catholic Historical Society, Vol. XXIX., No. 4, December, 1918. pp. 289-335. Viewed on Google Books on 29 May 2009: http://books.google.com/books?id=CVM8AAAAIAAJ.