HORACE ALDEN KEITH, founder of the Brockton Webbing Company, one of the successful and thriving industries of Brockton, and one of that city’s enterprising and progressive business men, is a descendant on both his paternal and maternal sides of historic old New England ancestry. Mr. Keith was born in West Bridgewater May 25, 1862, eldest son of the late Henry Snell and Thalia (Alden) Keith. The ancestral line of the branch of the Keith family in this country to which Horace Alden Keith belongs, and which follows, is given in chronological order from the first American ancestor.
Rev. James Keith, born in 1644, was educated in Aberdeen, Scotland (as tradition says at the expense of a maiden aunt), where he was graduated likely from Marischal College, his name appearing on the roll of 1657, said college having been founded by George, the fifth Earl of Keith Marischal, in 1593. At the age of eighteen years he emigrated to this country, arriving at Boston in 1662. He was introduced to the church at Bridgewater by Dr. Increase Mather, and became settled as the minister of the Bridgewater Church Feb. 18, 1664. Rev. James Keith passed away in West Bridgewater July 23, 1719, aged seventy-six years, having labored in the ministry of the town for fifty-six years. On May 3, 1668, he married Susanna Edson, daughter of Deacon Samuel and Susanna (Orcutt) Edson, and to this union were born the following children:
- James, Jr.
The mother of these children died Oct. 16, 1705, aged sixty-five years, and he married (second) in 1707 Mary, widow of Thomas Williams, of Taunton, Massachusetts.
Timothy Keith, the fourth son of Rev. James Keith, was born in 1683, and became one of the first settlers of the North parish of Bridgewater, now Brockton. He married Feb. 1, 1710, Hannah Fobes, daughter of Deacon Edward Fobes, and to this union were born children as follows:
- Timothy, Jr., born Jan. 27, 1711
- Abiah, Oct. 11, 1712
- Nathan, Dec. 16, 1714
- Hannah, April 16, 1718
Timothy Keith, the father, died Nov. 8, 1767, aged eighty-three years, and his wife died May 23, 1765.
Nathan Keith, the youngest son of Timothy, was born Dec. 16, 1714, and married Aug. 26, 1746, Hannah Snell, daughter of Joseph Snell, and their children were:
- Mehitable, born in 1747
- Simeon, born in 1749
- Damaris, born in 1751
- Isaac, born in 1753
- Jonathan, born in 1754
- Hannah, born in 1756
- Martha, born in 1761
- Nathan, Jr., born in 1764
Nathan Keith, the father, died Jan. 9, 1786, and the mother Feb. 10, 1773.
Simeon Keith, the eldest son of Nathan, was born Jan. 19, 1749, in West Bridgewater, and died in Campello, Mass., June 24, 1828, aged seventy-nine years. He was engaged in farming during the active years of his life, and in connection with his agricultural pursuits he also made frequent trips to Boston by team, returning with hides for the shoemakers. In this business he was succeeded by his son Pardon, who followed the same for a number of years, until better shipping facilities came into vogue. Simeon Keith married June 15, 1775, Molly Cary, daughter of Col. Simeon Cary, who was a captain in the French war, in 1758 and 1759, and was a colonel in the Revolutionary war, in 1776, and a direct descendant in the fourth generation from John Cary, who came from England and settled in Duxbury, Mass., later becoming one of the first settlers of Bridgewater, of which town he was the first town clerk; and his wife, Mary Howard, who was the daughter of Daniel Howard, Esq., and a direct descendant in the fourth generation from John Howard, who came from England and settled at Duxbury, later becoming one of the first settlers of Bridgewater, where he was one of the first military officers of the town. To Simeon and Molly (Cary) Keith were born the following children:
- Hampden, born in 1776, married Sally Bassett
- Hannah, born in 1777, married George Haskell
- Molly, born in 1779, married Dr. Issachar Snell
- Austin, born in 1781, is mentioned below
- Sidney, born in 1783, married Samantha Snell
- Martha, born in 1785, married Amos Bond
- Pardon, born in 1787, married Abigail T. Wild
- Rhoda, born in 1790, married Rev. Jonas Perkins
- Silvia, born in 1792, married Josiah Williams
- Keziah, born in 1794, married Peter Talbot, and removed to Winslow, Maine, where Hampden and Sidney Keith, her brothers, also settled.
The mother of these children died Sept. 25, 1832, aged seventy-eight years.
Austin Keith, son of Simeon, was born Aug. 20, 1781, in West Bridgewater, Mass., where he followed agricultural pursuits. He died in Campello, Mass., Nov. 15, 1858, aged seventy-seven years. He married Aug. 3, 1813, Mehitable Copeland, daughter of Jonathan Copeland, and a direct descendant of Lawrence and. Lydia (Townsend) Copeland, of Braintree, Mass. To Austin and Mehitable (Copeland) Keith were born children as follows:
- Eliza Copeland, born Nov. 6, 1814, died unmarried
- Samuel Dunbar, born June 11, 1816, married Cordelia Freeman, of Brewster, Mass., and died in Lowell, Mass.
- Henry Snell, born Oct. 17, 1818, is mentioned below
- Charles Austin, born Aug. 20, 1821, married Hannah Copeland, and he died in Campello, Mass.
- Jonathan Copeland, born July 31, 1824, married Lucy Reed Cushing, and died in West Bridgewater.
Henry Snell Keith, son of Austin and Mehitable (Copeland) Keith, was born Oct. 17, 1818, in that part of West Bridgewater which has since been annexed to Brockton. His schooling was obtained in the district schools of his native town, after which he attended the Adelphian Academy, of North Bridgewater, which was conducted by Loomis Brothers. He was then engaged in teaching school for several years in Easton, West Bridgewater and East Stoughton (now Avon), Mass. He eventually became engaged in farming, his farm adjoining that of his father’s, and as was then the custom, when not occupied in tilling the soil he was engaged in shoemaking, receiving the stock for the same from the shoe factory of Elisha Holbrook, of Holbrook, Mass., after whom that town was named, and after completing the shoes ready for the market, in his shop which adjoined his home in West Bridgewater, returning them to the factory. Some forty years prior to his demise he discontinued the making of shoes and devoted his time to agricultural pursuits. Mr. Keith was a well read man, and one exceptionally well informed on the general topics of the day. He was a member of the South Congregational Church at Campello, and served as a member of the parish committee of the church for a number of years. In political faith he was in early life an old-line Whig, later becoming identified with the Republican party, and took an active interest in the affairs of his native town, serving as a member of the board of selectmen, and as a member of the school committee. Mr. Keith passed away Jan. 26, 1905, in Brockton, Mass., in his eighty-seventh year. On Dec. 9, 1847, Mr. Keith married (first) Sarah Hayward Manley, who was born July 30, 1818, daughter of Howard and Sarah (Hayward) Manley, of North Bridgewater, and to this union were born two children:
- Charles Henry, born in West Bridgewater, died at Decatur, Ala., where he had gone on account of ill health. He resided in Rockford, Il., where he was secretary and treasurer of the Forest City Furniture Company. He married Emma Woodruff, daughter of Gilbert Woodruff, who established the First National Bank of Rockford, and who was the first mayor of that city, and to this union was born one son, Gilbert Henry Keith, who is connected with the industries of his grandfather at Rockford, Il., where he resides; he is married and the father of one son.
- Sarah Josephine, born in West Bridgewater, married A. G. Spalding, the well-known manufacturer and dealer in athletic goods, and they were the parents of one son, Keith Spalding, who is a graduate of Yale University, and is married, residing in Chicago. The mother of these children died July 25, 1853, in West Bridgewater, and Henry S. Keith married (second) Nov. 1, 1860, Thalia Alden, born Aug. 3, 1831, daughter of Deacon Elijah and Hannah (Bassett) Alden, of Bridgewater, granddaughter of Deacon Ebenezer and Elizabeth (Ames) Alden, and a direct descendant in the seventh generation from Hon. John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, of the “Mayflower,” 1620. To Henry S. and Thalia (Alden) Keith were born two sons, namely:
- Horace Alden, born May 25, 1862, is mentioned below.
- Elijah Austin, born July 11, 1865, in West Bridgewater, was for a period of nineteen years connected with A. G. Spalding & Bros., in charge of their Philadelphia store and later of their Boston store, after which he purchased the coal business of the late Charles F. Porter, in Brockton, which he conducted for several years, since which time he has been connected with the Brockton Webbing Company; he married Jan. 18, 1888, Lillian M. Keith, daughter of the late Albert Keith, of Brockton, and they are the parents of one son, Donald McLeod Keith, born Oct. 10, 1889. The mother of these children died in Brockton, May 16, 1900, aged sixty-nine years.
Horace Alden Keith, eldest son of the late Henry Snell and Thalia (Alden) Keith, was born May 25, 1862, in that part of West Bridgewater which has since been annexed to the city of Brockton. His educational training was begun in the common schools of his native town, supplemented by a year’s attendance at the Peirce Academy, of Middleboro, Mass., after which he took a business course at Bryant & Stratton’s business college, of Boston. After finishing his schooling he became employed with Bridgham & Company, at No. 48 Bedford street, Boston, importers and jobbers of woolens, with which firm he remained for a period of five years. In December; 1884, he accepted a position in the New York store of A. G. Spalding & Bros., remaining in that city until October, 1889, when the Spaldings purchased the business of A. J. Reach’ & Co., in Philadelphia, and Mr. Keith and his brother, Elijah A., took charge of the Spalding store in the latter city. Mr. Keith continued with the Philadelphia store of this concern until 1891, when he returned to New York City, where he took charge of the same company’s store located at No. 241 Broadway, and continued in that capacity until in March, 1894, when he came to Brockton, where he established a store for the sale of bicycles and supplies, also opening a store for the same purpose in Providence, R. I. He continued to operate these two stores until the fall of 1899, when he closed them out. Mr. Keith then became the New England representative of A. G. Spalding & Bros., remaining in that capacity until the fall of 1901. In May, 1902, Mr. Keith established the Brockton Webbing Company, which is a close corporation under the laws of Massachusetts, and engaged in the manufacture of narrow fabrics, webbing for shoe straps, and name web. Mr. Keith is treasurer and general manager of this thriving concern, and under his able management and executive ability the business has had a steady growth, its products being used in the various shoe manufacturing centers of this country, the plant, which is located at Campello, giving employment to about one hundred hands.
Mr. Keith is a member of the South Congregational Church, at Campello, and for a number of years has served as a member of the parish committee of the same. Fraternally he is a prominent and active member of the Masonic bodies, having attained the thirty-second degree in that organization, holding membership in St. George Lodge, A. F. & A. M., of Campello; Satucket Chapter, E. A. M.; Brockton Council, E. & S. M.; and Bay State Commandery, Knights Templar, all of Brockton; and is also a member of the Scottish Eite bodies, including the Massachusetts Consistory, as well as Aleppo Temple, Order of the Mystic Shrine, of Boston, being a life member in all these bodies. Socially he is a member of the Commercial Club; the Cricket Club, of which he is an honorary vice president; and the Country Club, of Brockton, having been largely instrumental in establishing the latter club, of which he was the first president, serving in that capacity for three years; and he is secretary of the Satucket Athletic Association, the latter being the owners of the Country Club grounds. He is also a member of the Economic Club, of Brockton, and of the American Economic Association; of the National Association of Cotton Manufacturers; a member of the Massachusetts Society, Sons of the American Revolution; of the Mayflower Descendants, being descended from several different passengers of the famous ship; a life member of the Old Bridgewater Historical Society; a member of the Amateur Athletic Union, of New England; and an honorary director of the New England Base Ball League.
Mr. Keith has also been prominently and actively identified with various other organizations, including the Wales Home for Aged Women, of Brockton, of which he has been president since 1906; the Brockton Agricultural Society, which holds annually the famous Brockton Fair, and of which organization he is a director, chairman of the athletic committee and a member of the Governor’s Day committee; the Brockton Hospital, of which he is a member and trustee; and he is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, of Boston, and also & member of the Industrial School Commission, of Brockton, which commission was appointed by Mayor John S. Kent for the purpose of investigating and reporting on the advisability of establishing a shoe trade school in the city. For three years Mr. Keith was president of the Brockton Base Ball Club, of the New England League, and during his administration as president of this club Brockton had one of the best base ball teams in the league.
Politically Mr. Keith is a firm believer in and an earnest supporter of the protective principles of the Republican party, in the councils of which party he has taken an active interest, having been chairman of the Republican city committee since 1909; he is also president of the Plymouth County Republican Campaign Committee and Club. He is a member and one of the vice presidents of the Massachusetts Club, of Boston, which is the oldest Republican club in the State.
On April 12, 1887, Mr. Keith was united in marriage to Nellie White Packard, daughter of the late Simeon Franklin and Louisa (Keith) Packard, of Brockton, and this union has been blessed with children as follows:
- Roger, born May 8, 1888, in New York City, was graduated from the Brockton high school in 1907, and from Amherst College in the class of 1911, with the degree of A. B., and is now associated with his father in the Brockton Webbing Company
- Louisa, born Dec. 25, 1889, in Philadelphia, died in Campello, Feb. 14, 1900
- Gerald, born March 13, 1893, in New York City, graduated from the Brockton high school in 1911, and is now a student at Amherst College, class of 1915.
Mrs. Keith is also a descendant of historic old New England ancestry, numbering among her forbears many of the earliest settlers of this country. Her father, the late Simeon Franklin Packard, was one of the prominent citizens and business men of Campello, where for a number of years he was engaged in the real estate and insurance business, as senior member of the firm of S. F. Packard & Son. Mr. Packard was a direct descendant in the seventh generation from Samuel Packard, who with his wife and child came from Windham, near Hingham, England, in the ship “Diligence,” and settled first at Hingham, Mass., later becoming one of the early settlers of the ancient town of Bridgewater. Mrs. Keith’s mother, Louisa Keith, was the daughter of the late Bela Keith, who was also one of the prominent and substantial citizens of Campello, and a direct descendant in the sixth generation from Rev. James Keith, the first ordained minister of Bridgewater.