NIU Libraries Digitization Projects
Lincoln/Net Prairie Fire Illinois During the Civil War Illinois During the Gilded Age Mark Twain's Mississippi Back to Digitization Projects Contact Us
BACK

Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html


Previous section

Next section

Colonel Charles Keemle.

IN October, 1800, in the good old city of Philadelphia, Charles Keemle was born. His grandfather was a respectable physician, who emigrated from Amsterdam and settled in the land of Penn. His father was a skilful mechanic, yet devoted but a little of his life to that pursuit, but as a commander of trading vessels, spent most of his time upon the rivers and the ocean. His mother died in the city of Norfolk, Virginia, when he was but six years of age, and he was placed in charge of an uncle until he was nine years of age, and then was put to learn the printing business in the office of the Norfolk Herald, where he remained until 1816. He is, consequently, the oldest printer west of the Mississippi.

The love of adventure was always a dominant trait in the character of Charles Keemle, and on leaving the office of the Norfolk Herald, at the suggestion of Dr. Jennings of Norfolk, who had a brother resident in Indiana, and looking forward to the chief magistracy of the state, he determined to go to Vincennes, Indiana, and there establish a paper. Accompanied by a fellow-printer of much more mature years, he started for his future destination, where he arrived March, 1817, having performed that portion of the journey on foot between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. On March 14th, the first number of the Indiana Sentinel was issued, published by Dillworth & Keemle.

Believing, from the location of Vincennes, that it would never become a great city, young Keemle accepted the invitation given to him by many influential citizens of St. Louis, and arrived there August 2d, 1817. He took charge of a paper called the Emigrant, which was the second journal west of the Mississippi, which was afterward merged into the St. Louis Enquirer, with which Thomas H. Benton was connected in the capacity of editor. The continued confinement beginning to tell on his constitution he gave up the printing business in August, 1820, and engaged as clerk to the American Fur-Company; and now commences a portion of his history which is filled with romantic incident.

The company started from St. Louis September, 1820, and spent the winter in trading successfully with the Kansas tribe of Indians.

In 1821, Mr. Keemle was selected by Major Joshua Pilcher to make one of a company of fifty-four, carefully picked for the occasion, to penetrate to the Rocky Mountains, to trade with the savage hordes of Indians who inhabited those far off wilds. The party started from Fort Lisa, in the vicinity of Council Bluff, and, after some perilous adventures, arrived at the mouth of the Yellowstone and commenced trading with the Crows, who inhabited that country, and sending out in all directions the experienced hunters and trappers that they might obtain as large a quantity of beaver-skins as possible, which kind of fur was most desired by the company. Mr. Keemle acted as agent and clerk of the expedition, and for three years suffered all the hardships incident to living and trading in the remote wilderness, far from the pale of civilization.

-- 172 --

While in these remote regions, he narrowly escaped with his life from a murderous attack by an overwhelming number of Indians upon the few daring spirits who had ventured into their country. It was the closing of the Spring of 1823, that the company, which had become reduced to forty-one men, were trading on the head-waters of the Missouri, and from significant signs discovered that the Blackfeet Indians, who roamed over those regions, evinced a hostile intention. They saw large companies of that warlike tribe roaming in their vicinity, and evidently watching their movements. The company immediately retraced their steps, and endeavored to regain the Crow country, where the natives were friendly and the feudal enemies of the Blackfeet. The last-named Indians, on discovering their intention, gathered themselves into a formidable body of more than a thousand warriors, and early one morning attacked the party amid deafening yells, as they were passing along the base of a small mountain skirting the Yellowstone. To have yielded to their enemies would have subjected them to captivity, then torture, and finally death. Resistance, though against such fearful odds, was the only alternative, and the party had previously made up their minds to defend themselves to the last extremity to save their scalp-locks from the clutch of the savage. In the murderous attack the two leaders of the expedition, Immell and Jones, fell early in the engagement, and then the command devolved upon Mr. Keemle, who ordered the men to fight while retreating from ravine to ravine, and after a conflict of eight hours succeeded in driving off their enemies, who had hung upon their path howling and yelling like so many demons — with considerable loss. The little party suffered severely, having had ten killed, nine wounded, and one was missing. They afterward reached a Crow village, and manufacturing some boats, arrived safely at the mouth of the Yellowstone.

Colonel Keemle remained connected with the company until 1825, when he returned to St. Louis and associated himself again with the printing business, and although he had several lucrative offers made to him nothing could tempt him again to the Yellowstone. He was associated with five or six newspaper enterprises, none of which had a permanent existence; but during their time were the organs of the Democratic party.

In 1839, Colonel Keemle was married to the only daughter of Thomas P. Oliver, now of Illinois, and has a family of three children. He possesses, in a high degree, the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and has been offered several honorable positions. In 1839 he was nominated for mayor, but declined running, and when General Harrison became president, he received the first appointment made by him in this state, that of superintendent of Indian affairs for Missouri. In 1840 he received the appointment of secretary of the interior, and under General Taylor's administration, that of Indian agent for the entire Platte River district, both of which he declined. In 1853 he was elected recorder of deeds for St. Louis county, which office he still holds.

Colonel Keemle is one of the most popular men in the city of St. Louis. He is in the sixtieth year of his age, but possesses health and vigor sufficient to have another bout with the Indians at the mouth of the Yellowstone.

-- 173 --

Previous section

Next section


Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html
Powered by PhiloLogic