Rev. William G. Keil
Stories of Guernsey County by Wm. Wolfe Page 969-970-971
Rev. William G. Keil.—For long time service as a Guernsey county preacher Rev. William G. Keil, who lived in Senecaville from 1827 to 1892, dying in the latter year at the age of ninety-three, holds the record. He established a Lutheran church in Senecaville and was its pastor for forty years. During all this time and for twenty-five years afterwards he frequently journeyed about many miles form his home and preached in other churches of his denomination. He was Guernsey county’s pioneer Lutheran and all churches of that faith in the county and several in adjoining counties were either established by him or sprang from ones that were.
Not only did Rev. Keil establish churches and preach the Lutheran faith, but he also farmed some and took an active part in all local movements that had for their purpose the betterment of the social and moral life of the people. Out standing in his activities along these lines was his work as an abolitionist before the Civil War. Together with Dr. John Baldridge, Dr. Noah Hill, Dr. David Frame, William Thompson, David Satterthwaite, Daniel Pettay and others he helped from the Senecaville Colonization Society (an organziatio0n opposed to slavery) and became its first president. He assisted many a fugitive slave in his journey to Canada and freedom by way of the Underground Railroad. Some years before his death Rev. Keil prepared some notes relative to his life and the early settlement of the Senecaville community, form which we take the following:
My father, he says, came from Germany to America about the close of the Revolutionary War and settled at Strasburg, Virginia, where I was born in 1799, the year George Washington died. I was the youngest of three sons of whom the others were Philip and Conrad; the latter died in infancy. I had five sisters-Rebecca, who died in infancy; Mary Ann, who married George Ederley, of Strasburg; Rebecca (another of same name?), who married Naphtali Luccock; Elizabeth, who married Caleb Chandler, of Strasburg; and Catherine, who married Jeremiah Jefferson, of Cambridge, Ohio. Around our home at Strasburg was slavery which was hateful to me.
In 1825 I came to Guernsey county as a missionary of the Lutheran church, and I preached at several places in the valleys of Beaver, Seneca and Buffalo creeks. Living where the town of Williamsburg (Batesville) is now located were the families of Philip and Daniel Wendle, also William Finley form the Shenandoah valley. In the Beaver valley were the families of John Cline, Samuel Hastings, Jacob Arick, George Peters, John House and others. In Buffalo township were the Larricks and Kackleys from Virginia; also the Secrests anf Dysons. In the valleys of Seneca and Buffalo creeks were Millhones, Mileys, Thompsons, Spaids, Fishels, Stranathans, Robbins, Fryes and others.
In 1826 I voluntarily returned to Ohio, and on the last day of December, 1827, I arrived at Senecaville on horseback. William Finley, a Presbyterian, took me into his home where I remained for some time. Senecaville was then a shabby-looking place with a small and shiftless population. Most of the houses were built of logs, some of which looked as though they were about to topple over. William Thompson and David Satterthwaite had frame houses. Down by the creek was a salt well near which were several log cabins that were occupied by the wood-choppers and salt-boilers. In the country roundabout the houses, for the greater part, were cabins of unhewn logs, clapboard roofs, puncheon floors, each cabin with one door, one window and a stick chimney daubed with mud. The furniture was scant and rude, much of it made by the settlers themselves. But the people were sociable and helpful to each other, and simple in their habits.
Churches were few and far between. At Washington was an indifferent log house in which the Presbyterians held meetings. Circuit riders had been traveling through the creek valleys and had organized a few Methodist classes that met around at private houses. Within a few years after my arrival I had organized three Lutheran churches. Schools were scarce and poor. Those that were kept were subscription schools and most of the settlers were too poor to pay their children’s tuition. The woods were full of game—deer and wild turkeys—and the streams were alive with fish.
At the time I came I found a large connection of Thompsons in the neighborhood of Senecaville. They had come from Chester county, Pennsylvania. Another early settler was David Satterthwaite who had come from New Jersey in 1814 to occupy a section of land upon which he laid out the town of Senecavilleathe next year. His father, who was a Quaker, had been here previously and had entered five sections of land which extended down the valley to the forks of Seneca and Buffalo creeks. David Satterthwaite, two years after he came here, commenced boring for salt down by the creek. His nearest neighbors were Robert Thompson, John Thompson, Jarus Gordon and Thomas Richey, who lived about a mile away.
Ephraim Dilley, who had fought in the Revolutionary War, came here at an early date. He was the father of six sons and two daughters. Abraham,, one of the sons, had nine daughters and one son. Thomas Richey and his brother George settled on ‘Possum creek in 1812. George later sold out and moved farther west. Thomas remained and his descendants are numerous in the neighborhood.
Until his death Rev. Keil lived on a little farm at the edge of Senecaville. Long after he ceased to be a regular pastor he would “supply a pulpit” in some church that could be reached conveniently. He prepared his sermons carefully and preached them in a slow and solemn manner. Young couples whose parents—perhaps grandparents—had been married by him came to his home to be married. Over a wide area he visited the sick, conducted funerals and consoled those in bereavement. He dressed in a manner befitting his profession, as he believed, by wearing a frock coat and silk hat on all special occasions. Rev. Keil was highly esteemed and his memory will long be revered in the Senecaville community.