"Blood Will Tell"

No, it's not a murder mystery or an article about DNA forensics. "Blood will tell" is an old saying somewhat akin to "the cream always rises". It's about initiative, accomplishment and innate abilities. In this case, there is a fascinating forensic connection, as you will see

In one of my previous articles, I mentioned that, up to a point, the earliest pioneers down by the river were a "faceless mass" which was able to survive in the face of floods, Indian massacres, and every other imaginable adversity by its sheer cohesiveness as a group. I have recently been in correspondence with The Keep Family Society - another very cohesive group - which traces its roots directly back to that primitive colony of settlers down in the Meadows.

In my first installment about Longmeadow's earliest beginnings, I related the massacre of John Keep, his wife, and most of his family. I also included a picture of a Dr. John Keep in the piece. I recently received an email from Bob Warner, who is president of the Keep Family Society. Bob informs me that there is, unfortunately, no image of the original John Keep in existence. Dr. John Keep, pictured in that article, was a descendant who was born in Longmeadow in 1781 and died in Oberlin, Ohio in 1870. He lived in Longmeadow until 1798. Dr. John Keep was an active abolitionist. President Bob Warner has a small copy of a painting of Dr. Keep. It is part of a portrait of a very large group at an abolitionist's meeting in England. The huge painting itself hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Bob used the gallery's computers to positively identify Dr. Keep.

I also had in my possession, an image of a Dr. Nathan Cooley Keep. I sent a copy to Bob Warner to see what he would come up with. I hit the mother lode. Here's what President Warner had to say:
"Samuel Keep's son was Nathan Cooley Keep, who was born in Longmeadow, no doubt in his father's house. [The Samuel Keep farmhouse stands at the northeast corner of Longmeadow Street and Maple Road]. He was born in 1800 and decided to apprentice as a jeweler in New Jersey; but came home to Longmeadow, and then went to Boston in 1821 to learn the dentistry profession - at the same time attending Harvard to obtain his medical degree. He was also the first president of the Massachusetts Dental Society. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, but became a pioneer dentist in Boston. He was convinced that dentists should receive a thorough dental education (most did not at that time), which is why it was through his efforts that the Harvard Dental School was established in 1868. He was also its first dean."

"His specialty was work in non-organic false teeth, which accounted for his being able to identify the corpse in the famous Parkman murder trial. These artificial teeth wouldn't burn, and he thereby became the first ever to identify a body at a trial by identifying the teeth and the jawbone with the casts he had made. This sealed the fate of John Webster, the murderer."

"He was also the first in this hemisphere to anesthetize a woman in childbirth (Fanny Longfellow, the poet's wife), and was the first to admit a black person into a university system school."

President Warner informs me that the image of Nathan Cooley Keep I sent him was originally used by Marie Danforth Paige to paint a portrait of him that hangs just inside the front entrance to the Harvard Dental School.

[January 26, 2005]

Post Script

President Bob Warner is the great-great-grandson of Dr. Nathan Cooley Keep. Bob also informs me that the Keep, Cooley and Bliss bloodlines are commingled in many descendants. I consider myself quite privileged that they have chosen to place a link to the Longmeadow Chronicles on the Society's official website. Their membership is nationwide, and reunions are held at various spots, including Longmeadow. The group considers Longmeadow their spiritual center, as they trace their common ancestry back here.

I wish to thank President Bob Warner in upper New York State; as well as Webmaster Kevin Johnson in Alaska, for sharing these fascinating insights. An impressive amount of achievement has certainly come out of our small town over the centuries; and groups like the Keep Family Society seem to carry forth the spirit and initiative of those earliest Pioneers.

Interesting Links

The Keep Homestead Museum, Monson MA
Keep Family DNA Project