Levi Keithley

b. 15 May 1794, d. 28 October 1875

Levi Keithley, 1794-1875
from Autobiography of Jacob Carter Keithley
  • Levi Keithley was born on 15 May 1794 in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
  • He married Fannie White, daughter of Carter White, on 6 April 1815 in near Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky.
  • Levi Keithley became a widower at the 12 October 1835 death of his wife Fannie White.
  • He married Mary Helen Bell, daughter of Joseph Bell, on 5 April 1836 in Ralls County, Missouri.
  • Levi Keithley became a widower at the 21 September 1841 death of his wife Mary Helen Bell.
  • He married Drucilla America Thompson on 9 March 1843 in Pike County, Missouri.
  • Levi Keithley and Drucilla America Thompson appeared in the US federal census of 1 June 1850 in Ralls County, Missouri. Other members of the household included Zerelda Keithley, Jacob Carter Keithley, John William Keithly, Joseph Bell Keithley, Frances Ann Keithley and Levi T. Keithley.
  • He married Mary Couch, daughter of Henry Couch, on 24 January 1858 in Ralls County, Missouri, or 14 June.
  • Levi Keithley became a widower at the 2 February 1858 death of his wife Drucilla America Thompson.
  • Levi Keithley and Mary Couch appeared in the US federal census of 1 June 1860 in Center, Ralls County, Missouri. Other members of the household included Levi T. Keithley and Benjamin Franklin Keithly. Also in the household was Cicero Martin (age 18).
  • Levi Keithley became a widower at the 8 August 1862 death of his wife Mary Couch.
  • He married Alcy Hale circa 1863.
  • Levi Keithley and Alcy Hale appeared in the US federal census of 1 June 1870 in Center, Ralls County, Missouri. Other members of the household included Benjamin Franklin Keithly and Margaret Alice Keithley.
  • Levi Keithley died on 28 October 1875 at age 81 in Center Township, Ralls County, Missouri, at his residence.
  • His wife Alcy Hale became a widow at his death.
  • He was interred at Keithley #! Cemetery, Ralls County, Missouri.
  • The following appeared in a local newspaper: Died at his residence in Centre Township, Ralls Co. Mo., on The 28th of Oct. 1875, Levi Keithley, aged eighty-one years, five months.
         As the deceased was one of the pioneers of Mo., it is thought by his relatives and friends that it would be of interest to publish a short
    He was born in Warren Co. Ky. A.D. 1794. At the age of twenty-one he married Miss Fannie White, near Bowling Green, Ky. Two years after the young couple left their native state and came to Mo. This was three years before Mo. became a state. He lived one year at St. Charles and in November 1818 moved near the Ely Springs, in what is now Pike Co., encountering the pathless woods and unfelled forest, to hew himself out a home in the primeval wilderness. His means were scanty, but he and his companion had left their kindred to make their home in the far West. With deep interest, I have listened to his stories of his early life and pioneer hardship and soon all these octogenarians will be gone and the last link broken that binds us back to the scenes and incidents of the first settling of our state. I would like, if I could, to tell of these in his own plain, simple language, giving the pathos with which he warmed up at the relating. I would tell of now, upon landing on Spencer Creek in November, he placed his "plunder" under the branch of a tree, five miles from his nearest neighbor, began a rude structure in which to winter, for as yet not a stick was cut, nor a board, nor a friendly dash of Mortar had been placed to protect the family from the near approaching winter. Trusting in God and his own strong arm, he set about to work and soon the reverberating hills sent back the echo of the last lick struck upon a finished cabin, in which he snugly tucked his little effects and wintered as happily, perhaps as if his pointed cabin had been a mansard instead.
         The winters were spent in clearing for the field and the first few years were attended with toil, privation and danger. The few coins which he had brought were soon exhausted and may want remained unsatisfied. His own wardrobe, however, he supplied from the forest, of buck of his own tanning. The second winter was drawing nigh and the family shoeless. Procuring some leather, he, upon lasts of his own, manufactured clap down shoes for all around. The nearest mill was St. Charles–-75 miles away, though a sparsely settled and almost unbroken wilderness. Although his fellow men lived far from him and were few, yet his neighbors were near and numerous. The wolf, bear, panther and wild cat made night hideous or crept around his lonely cabin and preyed upon his pigs, calves and sheep, besides being a constant terror to the little ones that "played round the door."
         The dinner horn was an instrument of summons in hour of peril at the house and one day while the subject of this sketch was in the field he heard the horn blow with unusual violence. Hastening home, he found his wife trying to frighten away a huge black bear from the hog pen, from which it took a fat porker, intending the same for an evening repast. Hot pursuit was made, with gun and dog and Bruin's fat carcass helped to fill the larder. The wolf was sly and hard to capture, besides the pioneers hadn't the profit arising from the sale of the wolf scalps to the state.
         Snakes were too "numerous to mention," and it is a wonder how the little barefooted urchins escaped unbitten as they did. Nine years of toil, privation, and battling with wild beasts and venomous reptiles brings prosperity to a certain extent, for by that time other settlers had arrived and Mr. Keithley sold his land and moved to the place where he died--on Salt River--again encountering the dense woods. By industry, frugality and perseverance, he soon acquired a competence.
         But death visited his home and snatched away the companion of his toils; he married again and this one likewise died; and so with the third and fourth and the surviving widow was his fifth wife. Numerous progeny-- mostly grown up men and women as well as useful and respected citizen--are left to mourn his loss and to revere his name.
         He served in the Black Hawk War, under Capt. Matson.
         From this sketch of his life, in which not a tithe of his hardships are related, we see under what circumstances our fathers redeemed this country from the savages and wild beasts and built up society and planted churches and schools. The subject of this sketch was an ardent supporter of schools and a consistent member of the Christian church over thirty years.
         He was a marked force and solidity of character, with dauntless energy and believed in success being attainable by every youth, without exception. In fact, his motto was, "there should be in the bright vocabulary of youth which leads on to a brighter manhood, no such word as ‘fail.'" He despised all kinds of chicanery and sophistry and believed in the old fashioned "hewed and split road to wealth," instead of the new speculating routes which oftener lead down than up the hill of fortune.
         --G. W. Waters.
  • Last Edited: 8 Aug 2015

Family 1: Fannie White b. 23 January 1796, d. 12 October 1835

Family 2: Mary Helen Bell b. 10 August 1811, d. 21 September 1841

Family 3: Drucilla America Thompson b. 5 November 1812, d. 2 February 1858

Family 4: Mary Couch b. 17 March 1827, d. 8 August 1862

Family 5: Alcy Hale b. 23 November 1826, d. 1 July 1906