Biography of George H. Keller
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The name of George H. Keller, one of the founders of Leavenworth, stands among old-time residents for all that is brave and generous and stable and whole-souled, in the most trying times of the territory and the state. As John Speer once said: “His name was a synonym for honesty, integrity and patriotism; his house in Leavenworth illustrated the proverbial hospitality of the ‘Old Kentucky Home.'”
“Uncle” George Keller was born in that state in February, 1801; his wife, a Van Dyke, was also a native of Kentucky, and both were descended from Holland Dutch stock. Soon after his marriage the couple migrated to a timbered farm near Terre Haute, Indiana, where he raised live stock and conducted a large inn on the National Road. In 1835 they moved to Platte County, Missouri, and for fifteen years Mr. Keller engaged in farming and manufacturing, when he disposed of all his interests, equipped a large train with merchandise and started for Sonoma Valley and the gold fields of California. He there founded the Town of Petaluma, now a prosperous city of several thousand people. In 1852 he located at Weston, Kansas, resumed farming, and was thus engaged until the spring of 1854, when, with other citizens of Weston, he founded the Town of Leavenworth. In the fall of that year, after completing the Leavenworth Hotel, the third building constructed in the new town, he moved his family thither. Selling his property in 1855, he built the famous Mansion House, corner Fifth and Shawnee streets, which he conducted until its sale in 1857. There John Sherman and other members of the Congressional Investigating Committee of 1856 stopped during their sojourn in Leavenworth. Landlord Keller, with all his good nature, was so earnestly outspoken on the issues of that day that he was branded as a rank abolitionist and marked for assassination. He was elected as a member of the House of Representatives of the first free-state Terrjtorial Legislature (1857-8), and used his time, energy and money in pushing the candidacy of James H. Lane and Marcus J. Parrott to the United States Senate. Under Governor Crawford he became the first warden of the Kansas State Penitentiary. In 1866 he retired to his farm at Springdale, Leavenworth County, where his generous, honorable and useful life ended November 13, 1876. His wife followed him five years later.