1886 Letters · Harvey Keith's Murder

January 3, 1886 letter to James Keith from John Geeslin

January 3, 1886

To: James Leon Keith, Bloomingdale, MI

From: John Geeslin, Wyattville, MN

Apologizes for not answering James’ letter sooner. He will need a man to help in the spring, and for about 8 or 9 months, and if he and James can come to an agreement on wages, he will hire him on. Inquires as to the outcome of the Barker brothers regarding Harvey’s murder.


Wyattville, Minn

Jan 3/86

Mr J S Keith[1] Bloomingdale Mich

Dear Sir

After a long delay I will try an answer your kind & welcome letter dated Sept 11/85. I suppose you think that I do not intend to write to you but this is not the case. I was not because I did not want to write to you & your father.[2] It was because I had so much to do first. I had a farm to look after also a Steam threshing machine to run & to take care of so you can see at once that I had my hands full. I was not at home but a little while at a time then I was busy looking after the work so I do hope you & your father will excuse me for not writing sooner and I will try and be more prompt in the future as I shall have a little more timeto write the rest of the winter. In regards to you getting work out here in the Spring I think there would be no trouble about work at least there never has been any trouble. I expect to want a man in the Spring myself and If you and I can agree on wages I will you a job. I shall want to hire a man 8 or 9 months. I can not say at the present time what wages I will be. We are having quite a mild winter here have had about one week sleighing then the snow all went off. Commenced snowing yesterday morning Jan 2nd has been sleeting today. What has been done with those Barkers[3] that murdered your Brother Harvey.[4] They had ought to be tortured to Death in some way or else put at hard Labor for the rest of there days. It was a terrible affair. I did not suppose there was any person living that had a Heart hard enough to murder a man that had as poor Health as Harvey had. You & your Parents[5] have our entire Sympathy. It is bed time so I will close for tonight hoping to hear from you soon.

Respectfully Yours

J. W. Geeslin


[1] Believe this to be James Leon Keith

[2] James “Oscar” Keith

[3] Brothers, Marshall and William Barker

[4] Harvey R. Keith, who was murdered on July 28, 1885

[5] Oscar & Mary Ann (Batey) 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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