1885 Letters · Harvey Keith's Murder

December 31, 1885 letter to Oscar Keith from John Geeslin

December 31, 1885

To: Oscar & Mary Ann Keith

From: John Geeslin

Apologizes for not writing sooner. They had heard of Harvey’s death, but didn’t believe it. He was a good, trusty young man and while he was working for them they knew they could be away from home over night and everything would be alright when they returned.

Dec. 31st 1885

Mr James O Keith & family

It has been almost five months since I received your kind and Friendly Letter Informing me of the Death of your Son Harvey.[1] We heard of his Death a few days before we heard from you but could not believe there was any truth in the report. We was all sorry to hear of Harveys Death. We considered him A good trusty young man when he was with us. If we went away from Home to stay over night we felt as though every thing would be all right when we got Home. I wrote to Harvey in the Spring about coming out to Minnesota. If he had of come out again I should of hired Him again if I could, not because He could do as much as a great many other men could do but because I could go away from home knowing every thing would be looked after. He was A good Hearted Boy A little to free for his own good. What has been done with those notorious out laws that willfully murdered the poor Boy in cold Blood. Hope you will put them as far as the law will let you.

Mr Keith I hope you and your Family will forgive me for not answering your letter Sooner. I had so much to do and look after that It seemed impossible for me to write although I have been sorry that I did not stop long enough to write you a few lines. I had to Start my threshing machine before I was done harvesting. I was drove late and early all fall so I kept thinking I would write to Mr Keith in a few days so the time has gone by. I will write to your Son[2] in a short time. Also Charles Patterson. I suppose every one feels hard towards me for not writing sooner. My will Is good If I have been careless.

We are all well at present. Hope these few lines will find you all enjoying good health. I would be please to hear from you Again in A short time. Please give us all the paticulars about the trile.

Yours truly

J W Geeslin


[1] Oscar & Mary Ann’s son, Harvey R. Keith, who was murdered by Marshall Barker on July 28, 1885

[2] Believe this to be James Leon Keith

This letter is among several which were loaned to Jim & Ruth (Stankey) Keith, probably back in the 1980s, by Ella Nola (Curtis) Eaton, whose husband, Clifford Eaton, was the great-great-grandson of James “Oscar” & Mary Ann (Batey) Keith. This is a photocopy of Ruth’s handwritten copy of the letter. Note: Jim Keith is the great-grandson of Charles Luke Keith Jr., who was James “Oscar” Keith’s uncle.

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