The Keep Family
Keeps Worldwide
The Keep Family
THE KEEP FAMILY Contributions to Society
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This series will be on-going and will contain notable Keeps who have made contributions in many disciplines.
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Robert Porter Keep
Courtesy, Margo Keep
Descendants of John Keep of Longmeadow

Because of the vast number of teachers and others in the field of Education, currently and in the past, there are innumerable families with members who have chosen this career.  The Keep family is no exception.  Needless to say, Keep teachers have made and are making a great contribution to Society, and every one should be given a good deal of credit for doing a difficult but rewarding job.


This part of the Keep Family Contributions to Society series will highlight some of those whose work in Education have received notice beyond any particular community.

Miss Sarah Porter founded Miss Porter's School in 1843 at the request of residents of her Farmington, Connecticut, community. Though not a Keep Family member, her sister did marry into the Keep family, and the school was eventually left in the hands of two of her Keep nephews.  This is the Keep connection to this very prestigious girl's preparatory school that has continued its high reputation to this day.


Because of the high standards set by Miss Porter and carried on by members of the Keep family, the school has attracted many girls with great ability and since proven potential, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, First Lady of the United States; Louise Oliver, U.S. ambassador to UNESCO; Analisa N. Torres, Judge, New York City; Ariane de Vogue, Producer, ABC National News; and many others at least equally notable.


Robert Porter Keep succeeded Miss Porter, having come to the school with a very impressive background. After teaching positions at West Point and Yale, he became the US Consul General in Athens, Greece, where he added to his knowledge of Greek and Roman culture.  At the conclusion of this appointment, he carried on his teaching career at Williston Seminary, Massachusetts. 


He then accepted the duties as the principal of the Norwich Free Academy in Connecticut, where in his tenure he led the school in financial advancement that rivaled that of the founders.  At least two buildings were constructed by gifts solicited by Dr. Keep, which greatly benefitted several schools of the academy.

Dr. Keep translated Autenrieth's "Homeric Dictionary"; was the author of "The Essential Uses of Moods in Greek and Latin" and other texts; edited "Stories from Herodotus"; "Books I - VI of the Iliad"; and was a contributor and editor of "The Nation," mainly on the subject of Greek and education.
Miss Porter's School and Robert Porter Keep 1844 - 1879

The Margaret Eliza and Alice Mary Keep Private School, Wollaston, Northamptonshire, England


Family records show that Margaret (1853 - 1935) and Alice (1854 - 1932) Keep, sisters, were born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England.  Neither married.


They established a private school in nearby Wollaston, which specialized in the teaching of young people in art and the classics. It is not known exactly when the school was established, but it probably was in the last quarter of the 1800s.

The Keep Family
The Keep Schoolroom

Presumably Alice Mary conducted the art classes, being celebrated as a water-colour artist.  Some of her work survives. Margaret Eliza probably taught the students in the classics.


In 1833, the Lord of the Manor in Wollaston died, and his estate was subsequently divided and sold.  The Keep family bought a portion, which included a good stone house (which continues to be known as Keep House) and outbuildings.  A garden was created, including the wall-garden, which now forms the Pocket Park. The family turned one of the farm buildings into a Sunday School for teen-age boys, who used to wait inside the walled garden until Miss Keep called them in for class.  As an aside, the garden also contained a cat cemetery.  It is on this property that the Misses Keep had their private school.

Alice Mary Keep, Swallow Bridge, Wollaston

Of family and literary interest, in March 1887 Margaret Eliza developed a mutually deep affection and love with the poet Robert Browning, growing stronger until his death in December 1889 in Venice, Italy. According to the Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University in Texas, an oil lamp belonging to Browning, believed to be of Venetian or Turkish design, was promised to Margaret Eliza, upon his death. The library acknowledges the close friendship with Miss Keep. His daughter-in-law Fannie Coddington Browning sent the lamp to Miss Keep following Browning's death in 1889.  



Rev. John Keep, 1781 - 1870, Oberlin College, Ohio

During a very successful life as a minister in various locations, Rev. John Keep became involved in educational work.  In 1821, while preaching at Homer, N. Y., he became president of the board of trustees at the local academy, presiding over the addition of a department for ladies, a forward looking step.  He was also elected a trustee of the Auburn Theological Seminary as well as of Hamilton College at Clinton, N. Y.


He accepted a charge in Cleveland, Ohio, where he soon was elected as trustee of Oberlin College and became president of the board.  Over the next 10 or more years as financial officer of the college, he was successful in raising great sums of money for the school, including his own significant gifts.  


John Keep 

Rev. Keep was a serious abolitionist during this time prior to the Civil War, and was instrumental in the admission of black students to Oberlin.  It was in 1840 that he attended the convention of the Anti-Slavery Society in London, recorded in a painting by Haydon in which he is identified and now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.  Click here to view the portrait at the Gallery site, and click your back button to return here.


His work in Oberlin was virtually without compensation, and he continued his endeavors until his death in 1870.

                                                                                              Information and portrait of John Keep courtesy Margo Keep, Descendants of John Keep of Longmeadow


Today, there is a women's dorm located at the college named "Keep Cottage."  According to the Ohio Historical Society, "the cottage is named for John Keep, a revered patriarch in the College's history who supported coeducation, abolition, and missionary education, because of the college girls he boarded at his home.  When he died in 1870, the college bought his home, and used it as a women's dorm until the present building was built on the site."

Margaret, born 17 April, 1853, and Alice, born 1854, were the daughters of Adam Corrie Keep and Eliza Keep (nee Williams).  The family consisted of the two girls and three boys:  William Percival, born 14 January, 1856, in Wellingborough; Arthur Corrie, born 16 February, 1861, in Wellingborough, a surgeon and successor to the Manor of Wilby, Northamptonshire; and Henry Francis, born 27 January, 1863, in Wollaston, about whom more can be found on the Trivia page on this website.

After beginning a career in teaching, Austin Baxter Keep received a PhD in Political Science from Columbia University.  The major part of his career was at CCNY as a professor of history.


Dr. Keep is still remembered for his The Library in Colonial New York 1698 - 1776 and his monumental, seminal work, History of the New York Society Library, incorporated under royal charter from the Crown of Great Britain in 1754.  While seemingly limited by its title, it is a history of all libraries in early New York since 1700. His work is noted here because of the position that libraries hold as cornerstones of learning.


Austin was the son of John Haskell Keep, Sr., and Isabella Dickinson Keep, and grandson of Nathan Cooley and Susan Haskell Keep.

Austin Baxter Keep, 1875 - 1932, PhD, City College of New York

Nathan Cooley Keep, 1800 - 1875, Harvard School of Dental Medicine

Nathan Cooley Keep earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1827 and was a pioneer dentist in Boston.  He is recognized as a leading advocate of elevating those in dentistry from a trade-learned occupation to a profession of medically-trained doctors.  His purpose driven vision led to his founding of the Harvard School of Dentistry in 1867, the first instance of its kind in a university setting.  He became its first dean and professor of mechanical dentistry, his specialty (he was a pioneer in developing porcelain artificial teeth).

While head of the school, he made a decision considered radical at that time, but very forward looking.  According to Hapgood's history of the school, "A colored dentist, who had applied unsuccessfully to several dental schools for instruction, came to Boston, called upon Dean Nathan Cooley Keep, MD, DDS, and asked to be received.  Upon Keep's recommendation the School Faculty decided that Harvard University should consider right and justice above expediency and should know no distinction of nativity or color in admitting students."  The student was Robert Freeman, who had applied to many proprietary schools, and as expected in that day his applications were unceremoniously rejected.  It was not until 100 years later that the idea of universal non-discrimination had its nation-wide beginnings, and even then often required forceful prodding by the government.  Robert Freeman was a member of the first graduating class of 1869.


It has been written that "the laudable actions of Dean Keep were completely in conformity with his basic character."

Robert T. Freeman, DMD
Nathan Cooley Keep, MD, DDS
Portait hanging at the
Harvard School of Dental Medicine
The Lamp is found in the
 Armstrong Browning Library
The DNA Project 
The American Asylum for the Deaf and John Robinson Keep 1810 - 1884
John Robinson Keep
Robert Porter's father, John Robinson Keep, born on 22 May 1810 in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, is notable for his contributions to the education of the deaf and dumb.  He studied as a boy with the minister at Longmeadow before enrolling at the Amherst Academy. In 1830 John entered Yale College and graduated in 1834.  He then taught for a year at the institution for the deaf and dumb in New York, before studying theology at the Yale Theological Seminary.  However, his proposed studies and missionary work in China were interrupted by an acute inflammation of his eyes, which lasted for three years. In 1840 he went to preach at UnionvilleConnecticut and two years later he was installed as the pastor at Franklin N.Y for two years before moving to Warren Connecticut. In 1851 ill health caused him to retire, but John was not ready for an enforced retirement, and in 1854 he accepted a teaching post at the American Asylum for the deaf and Dumb at Hartford  Connecticut.  During this period he published “First Lessons for the Deaf and Dumb” and “School Studies”.
His obituray said of him:  "Those who have known him will not soon forget his fund of anecdote, his speaking countenance, his powers of mimicry, his love of music, his ardor, his business sagacity, his tender heart, and his concern for the best interests of the community, whether educational, political or religious.  He was the best of earthly products, a strong man ruled by the highest religious purpose and  conviction, a good man whose goodness had its foundation in a virile intellect and an honest heart."
The American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb