Henry Keep (1818-1869)


Henry Keep was born in Jefferson County in 1818. Keep was born into poverty and spent much of his childhood as an orphan in the Jefferson County Poorhouse. At the age of 16, he was bound out as farm help, but the relationship was an abusive one. In the end, he ran away, and worked his way to Honeoye Falls, near Rochester, New York. To disown Keep, his stepfather posted a 2-cent reward for his return in the local newspaper. Keep was employed as a teamster, and, having saved a small sum of money, invested it during the financial crisis of 1837 in depreciated currency, which, upon its subsequent rise, yielded him a handsome profit. He then bought Canadian banknotes at a discount from residents of the American frontier, and cashed them at par in Canada. In this way he amassed sufficient capital to establish a bank at Watertown, and afterward founded several other country banks. He then removed to New York. and became largely interested in railroads and railroad stocks. In 1861-'3 he was treasurer of the Michigan Southern railroad, and for six months of 1866 was president of the New York Central railroad. From June, 1868, until the time of his death, he was president of the Chicago and Northwestern, controlling manager of the North Indiana, and president of the Cleveland and Toledo railroad. He was said to have always kept a copy of the reward ad from the newspaper, to remind him of his humble beginnings.

Keep died in New York City in 1869 at the age of 51. After his funeral, his body was interred at Brookside Cemetery, where they remain today. Keep's legacy in Watertown is one of philanthropy, starting with the opening of the Henry Keep Home for the elderly, by his wife, Emma Keep-Schley. Today, Henry Keep is the namesake of the Samaritan Keep Home (which replaced the Henry Keep Home). Two apartment complexes in Watertown also bear his name, one located on Washington Street, on the site of the former Keep Home, and one on Public Square.

This article was adapted from famousamericans.net.

See Also

Henry Keep Home
Notable Personalities Living and Dead