ELIAS KEESEE. This gentleman is one of the leading agriculturists of Franklin Township, Marion County, Arkansas, and has followed this calling from his earliest boyhood, being initiated into its mysteries by his worthy sire. He was born about fifteen miles from his present place of abode in 1824.
His parents, Payton and Nancy (Graham) Keesee, were born in Virginia in 1800, and in Kentucky in 1797, respectively. While in their youth they became residents of the Territory of Arkansas, and in 1818 were married in what is now Marion County, but very shortly afterward removed to what is now Ozark County, Missouri, and here spent the rest of their lives, the father’s death occurring in 1856 and the mother’s in 1863. They were members of the Missionary Baptist Church for many years, and became highly honored citizens of Ozark County, of which they were among the very first white settlers. In those early times they suffered many privations and inconveniences, and were compelled to do their marketing at New Orleans, going thither on flatboats. Sometimes several neighbors would combine, build a boat and ship their produce together, and frequently one man would have enough for one load himself. Their marketing was done about once a year. The young people of that day had no educational advantages for there were no schools; in fact, the country was in a very primitive condition. Mr. Keesee had one brother and sister: Richard, who died in Ozark County, and Patsey (Davis) who died in Newton County, Arkansas Their father, who also bore the name of Elias, died in Virginia, when they were children, after which his widow married Frederick Fulkerson, and in the early part of the present century they removed to Arkansas, soon after to Missouri, and in Ozark County the mother and stepfather died. The Keesees were of French origin. Peter Graham, the maternal grandfather, came in a very early day to the upper White River country, and lived for a time in what is now Marion County, and later in Washington County, Arkansas, where he followed the occupations of farming, hunting, etc., and eventually died. He was a Kentucky pioneer, residing in that State when the people were obliged to live in forts to protect themselves against Indian depredations. He was of Welsh descent and is supposed to have come from Virginia originally. He and his wife, who died in Marion County, Arkansas, reared a large family of children. The children born to Payton and Nancy Keesee were named as follows: Huldah, who died in Marion County, Arkansas; Lucinda, also died there, the wife of Wendall Lance; Hettie died in Ozark County, Missouri, the wife of Samuel Johnson; Elias; Silas, who died after reaching manhood; Peter, a resident of Taney County, Missouri; Zinney V., who died in Marion County, Arkansas, the wife of Thomas Copeland; Payton, a resident of Texas; Richard, also of Texas; Telitha, who died in Marion County, Ark, the wife of John R. Cope-land; Nancy, widow of Thomas Copeland, resides in Texas, and William, who was killed in Ozark, County, Missouri, in 1862, by guerrillas.
Elias Keesee, the subject of this sketch, was reared in the wilds of the Ozark country, at a time when there were no schools, and in all his life he attended school but a few days. He learned to read after he had reached manhood and in every sense of the word is a self-made man and is justly accounted one of the most intelligent men of his section. In 1846 he was married to Mary Jane, daughter of Isaac Copeland, who came to this section from Indiana. Mrs. Keesee was born in Indiana and died in Marion County, Arkansas, in 1876, the mother of ten children: Peter, of Texas; Isaac, of Marion County; Payton, of Texas; Reed, of Marion County; Serepta, wife of Isaac Eoff, of Marion County; Margaret, wife of James McBee, of Marion County; John T., a merchant of Protem; Henrietta, wife of George McMannus, of Marion County; and two children, Lucinda and Nancy, who died young. In 1877 Mr. Keesee married Mrs. Sarah Lance, a daughter of Allen Tremble. She was born in Arkansas, and died in that State in 1878, leaving one child, William. In 1879
Mr. Keesee was married a third time, his wife being Eliza, daughter of Lewis B. Hunt, who came from Ohio to Missouri, and died in Taney County. Mr. and Mrs. Keesee have two children: Alice and Hattie. Mr. Keesee resided in Ozark County, Missouri, until 1866, save a few years during the war which he spent in Dallas County, and since that time has resided on his present farm at Keesee’s Ferry on the White River in Marion County, Arkansas, six miles from Protem, Missouri. He has been a life long farmer and stockraiser, but for some time past has been rather feeble and in delicate health. He is one of the oldest native-born citizens of the Ozark Country, and well remembers the trials, hardships and inconveniences of the early settling of the country. He is universally esteemed, and during the active and industrious life that he has led, naught has ever been said derogatory to his honor, and he has reared a large family of children to responsible and worthy manhood and womanhood. He is a charter member of the Polar Star Lodge No. 224 of the A. F. & A. M., and has ever been an active worker in and a member of the Christian Church. He has ever supported the principles of Democracy and cast his first vote for Gen. Cass in 1848.