1826: Timothy Benedict Keeler to Mary Elizabeth (Cooke) Keeler

This letter was written by Timothy B. Keeler (1797-1827) to his wife, the former Mary Elizabeth Cooke (1797-18??). Timothy and Mary were married 2 October 1822 in Danbury, Connecticut, by Rev. William Andrews. Timothy was the son of Timothy Keeler (1765-1831) and Lauranda [Urania?] DeForest (1767-1848). Mary Cooke was the daughter of Joseph Platt Cooke (1760-1841) and Annis Starr (1764-1813) of Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Burial records from Danbury, Connecticut, indicate that Timothy and Mary had at least three sons. Their eldest son, named after his father, died as an infant on 14 July 1823. Their second son, Joseph Cooke Keeler — mentioned in this letter, was born 14 November 1824. Their third son, mentioned but not yet named in this letter, was also named after his father. Unfortunately, the third son died at age eight on 8 May 1835. It is believed that Joseph Cooke Keeler (born 1824) served in Co. K, 16th Infantry during the Mexican War from March 1847 to August 1848. Prior to the war, he served as treasurer for the Aaron Turner Circus. After the war, he served as a clerk on a Mississippi steamboat until he died in 1848 of Yellow Fever.

At the time Timothy Keeler wrote this letter to his wife, he was in New Orleans where he had established a mercantile business. Family records state that he died while aboard the ship Louisiana on 27 July 1827 while enroute to New York City — a mere seven months later. It seems probable that he never saw his newborn son. He probably succumbed to Yellow Fever like fellow passenger, Unitarian Minister Horace Holley, who died four days after Timothy.

Timothy Keeler was a partner with Col. E. Moss White (1775-1863), also mentioned in this letter, who operated a hat-forming factory in Danbury, Connecticut. By 1800, Danbury was the hat-making capital of the U.S.

On 13 August 1838, eleven years after her husband’s death, Mary (Cooke) Keeler married widower Aaron Seeley, a banker in Danbury, Connecticut. They were united in marriage by Rev. Chauncey Wilcox. Together, Aaron and Mary had at least two children of their own; Aaron Cooke Seeley (b. 1841) and Charles H. Seeley (b. 1843).

Mary’s younger brother, Amos Starr Cooke, was a Missionary in the Hawaiian Islands. Amos Cooke’s letters to his sister Mary are housed in the Connecticut Historical Society.

Stampless Envelope

Page 1


Mrs. Mary E. Keeler, Danbury, Connecticut
Ship Talma

New Orleans
22 December 1826

My dear wife,

I yesterday received from Mr. [E. Moss] White a letter dated 21st Ultimo conveying to me the most interesting intelligence of the birth of another son. I have for a long time felt extremely anxious on your account, but this anxiety is transferred to a feeling of gratitude & thankfulness when I learn your safety & good health. Mr. White writes me that he advised me of this circumstance by letter of 19th which however has not come to hand. For your satisfaction, I should have preferred this to be a female, but am satisfied as it is.

I want very much to see our “Joseph.” I can never leave him so long again. If I ever come out to this place after this, I must take him with me. The other little fellow I am not so well acquainted with. I shall doubtless love him as well after I have known him as long.

I am this moment called by a customer who wants several dozen hats put up immediately. I will write again by next vessel. The Letter Bag by this vessel is closed in 15 minutes. In haste, your affectionate husband, — Timothy B. Keeler


Talma, ship (American)
360 tons, 15 ft draft, built 1826; Capt. Murray, Havre, ? – New Orleans, Feb. 27 (54 days); 118 steerage passengers (NAMP, M272-4; Picayune, February 28, 1847, p. 3, col. 1; Registre Veritas, Vol. 16, p. 848, no. 29)

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