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Rev. John Keep (20 April 1781 – 11 February 1870) was a trustee of Oberlin College from 1834 to 1870. Keep and William Dawes toured England in 1839 and 1840 gathering funds for Oberlin College in Ohio.[1] They both attended the 1840 anti-slavery convention in London.[2]

Rev. John Keep
Reverend Keep in 1859
Known forAbolitionism

Early life and careerEdit

Keep was born, 20 April 1781, in Longmeadow, then a precinct of Springfield, Mass. Of a family of nine children he was the seventh. He graduated from Yale College in 1802. For a year after he was graduated he taught a school in Bethlehem, Conn., reading theology at the same time with the pastor, Rev. Dr. Azel Backus. He continued his theological course for another year with Rev. Asahel Hooker, of Goshen, Conn., and was licensed by Litchfield North Association, 11 June 1805. The next Sunday he preached in the Congregational Church in Blandford, Mass., and immediately received an invitation to settle, which he accepted. Here he remained for 16 years. In May, 1821, he removed to the Congregational Church in Homer, N. Y., and was installed November 7. In 1833 he resigned in consequence of disaffection caused by his sympathy with the "new measures" of revivalists. For the following year he preached in the Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and then organized the First Congregational Church in Ohio City, (now Cleveland, West Side,) and became its pastor.

  This article incorporates public domain material from the Yale Obituary Record.

Oberlin CollegeEdit

In 1834, Keep was elected a Trustee of Oberlin College. Keep was renowned for championing the values that Oberlin College eventually became renowned for. He championed rights for women, black students and missionary zeal.[3] Keep was the person who cast the deciding vote in 1835 that allowed black students to enter Oberlin College in Ohio.[4]

Keep and William Dawes both undertook a fund raising mission in England in 1839 and 1840 to raise funds from sympathetic abolitionists. Oberlin College was one of the few multi-racial and co-educational colleges in America at that time.[4] The appeal was carefully written and supported by leading American abolitionist like William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Grew, Henry Brewster Stanton and Wendell Phillips.[5]

Isaac Crewdson (Beaconite) writerSamuel Jackman Prescod - Barbadian JournalistWilliam Morgan from BirminghamWilliam Forster - Quaker leaderGeorge Stacey - Quaker leaderWilliam Forster - Anti-Slavery ambassadorJohn Burnet -Abolitionist SpeakerWilliam Knibb -Missionary to JamaicaJoseph Ketley from GuyanaGeorge Thompson - UK & US abolitionistJ. Harfield Tredgold - British South African (secretary)Josiah Forster - Quaker leaderSamuel Gurney - the Banker's BankerSir John Eardley-WilmotDr Stephen Lushington - MP and JudgeSir Thomas Fowell BuxtonJames Gillespie Birney - AmericanJohn BeaumontGeorge Bradburn - Massachusetts politicianGeorge William Alexander - Banker and TreasurerBenjamin Godwin - Baptist activistVice Admiral MoorsonWilliam TaylorWilliam TaylorJohn MorrisonGK PrinceJosiah ConderJoseph SoulJames Dean (abolitionist)John Keep - Ohio fund raiserJoseph EatonJoseph Sturge - Organiser from BirminghamJames WhitehorneJoseph MarriageGeorge BennettRichard AllenStafford AllenWilliam Leatham, bankerWilliam BeaumontSir Edward Baines - JournalistSamuel LucasFrancis August CoxAbraham BeaumontSamuel Fox, Nottingham grocerLouis Celeste LecesneJonathan BackhouseSamuel BowlyWilliam Dawes - Ohio fund raiserRobert Kaye Greville - BotanistJoseph Pease, railway pioneerW.T.BlairM.M. Isambert (sic)Mary Clarkson -Thomas Clarkson's daughter in lawWilliam TatumSaxe Bannister - PamphleteerRichard Davis Webb - IrishNathaniel Colver - Americannot knownJohn Cropper - Most generous LiverpudlianThomas ScalesWilliam JamesWilliam WilsonThomas SwanEdward Steane from CamberwellWilliam BrockEdward BaldwinJonathon MillerCapt. Charles Stuart from JamaicaSir John Jeremie - JudgeCharles Stovel - BaptistRichard Peek, ex-Sheriff of LondonJohn SturgeElon GalushaCyrus Pitt GrosvenorRev. Isaac BassHenry SterryPeter Clare -; sec. of Literary & Phil. Soc. ManchesterJ.H. JohnsonThomas PriceJoseph ReynoldsSamuel WheelerWilliam BoultbeeDaniel O'Connell - "The Liberator"William FairbankJohn WoodmarkWilliam Smeal from GlasgowJames Carlile - Irish Minister and educationalistRev. Dr. Thomas BinneyEdward Barrett - Freed slaveJohn Howard Hinton - Baptist ministerJohn Angell James - clergymanJoseph CooperDr. Richard Robert Madden - IrishThomas BulleyIsaac HodgsonEdward SmithSir John Bowring - diplomat and linguistJohn EllisC. Edwards Lester - American writerTapper Cadbury - Businessmannot knownThomas PinchesDavid Turnbull - Cuban linkEdward AdeyRichard BarrettJohn SteerHenry TuckettJames Mott - American on honeymoonRobert Forster (brother of William and Josiah)Richard RathboneJohn BirtWendell Phillips - AmericanM. L'Instant from HaitiHenry Stanton - AmericanProf William AdamMrs Elizabeth Tredgold - British South AfricanT.M. McDonnellMrs John BeaumontAnne Knight - FeministElizabeth Pease - SuffragistJacob Post - Religious writerAnne Isabella, Lady Byron - mathematician and estranged wifeAmelia Opie - Novelist and poetMrs Rawson - Sheffield campaignerThomas Clarkson's grandson Thomas ClarksonThomas MorganThomas Clarkson - main speakerGeorge Head Head - Banker from CarlisleWilliam AllenJohn ScobleHenry Beckford - emancipated slave and abolitionistUse your cursor to explore (or Click "i" to enlarge) 
Many of the abolitionists mentioned in this article can be found in this painting by Benjamin Robert Haydon. Keep is obscured but was at the Anti-Slavery Convention and is credited in the key to the painting.[6] Move your cursor to identify him or click icon to enlarge

Both Keep and Dawes are credited with helping to start the collection of African Americana at Oberlin College which inspired other writers.[7] Keep appears in the large painting by Benjamin Robert Haydon which is on permanent display at London's National portrait gallery although he is obscured by other convention attendees.[6] The people that Keep corresponded with, John Scoble, Joseph Sturge and George Thompson, and who welcomed them in London are clearly in the picture.

The Keep Cooperative, once the home of John Keep.

When Keep returned to Oberlin they had raised $30,000.[5] Keep became the "father" to the girls at the college who lived at his house. Keep died in 1870 and in 1889 the house was bought by the college. His house was used as a dormitory for female "indigent" students until it was rebuilt in 1912. The rebuilding was funded by Keep's granddaughter who commissioned Normand Patton to design Keep Cottage to sleep 80 women with room for 110 to dine. In 1966 the rules were changed to allow co-educational dormitories.[3]


  1. ^ The culture of English antislavery, 1780-1860, David Turley, p192, 1991, ISBN 0-415-02008-5, accessed April 2009
  2. ^ The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, accessed April 2009
  3. ^ a b Blodgett, Geoffrey (1985). Oberlin architecture, college and town: a guide to its social history p.22. p. 239.
  4. ^ a b Oberlin Digital Collections, accessed April 2009
  5. ^ a b Weld, Theodore Dwight; et al. "An Appeal on Behalf of the Oberlin Institute In Aid of the Abolition of Slavery, In the United States of America by Theodore Dwight Weld". Oberlin College. Retrieved 12 December 2011.
  6. ^ a b The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1841, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG599, Given by British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1880
  7. ^ Bibliophiles and Collectors of African Americana, Charles L. Bronson, accessed April 2009

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