Know Your Neighbours – George Keefer

Photo Attribution: St. Catharines Museum, N-7516

George Keefer was born in 1774 in New Jersey.  His family had remained loyal to the King during the Revolutionary War so the United States confiscated the family farm and mandated that the farm be vacated once he and his brother reached adulthood.

In 1790 George and his younger brother Jacob set out on foot, following Indian trails, to Upper Canada in search of a new life. He spent the next 2 years clearing land and building a log home. In 1792 he walked back to New Jersey and brought the rest of his family back. George received a land grant of 600 acres upon his return. He was a cabinetmaker, surveyor, conducted a general store, built 2 saw mills and a grist mill. He was also a magistrate and rose to rank of captain by 1815 in the Lincoln Militia and was active during the War of 1812.

Keefer surveyed the proposed route for a canal and in 1824 when legislation passed formed the Welland Canal Company with George Adams, Thomas Merritt, Wm. Chisholm, and W.H. Merritt. George was appointed President because he was the largest stockholder. He had 15 children and 4 wives: Catharine Lampan (m.1797-1813), Jane McBride (m.1815-1833), Mary Wilson (m.1836-1838), and Esther Magdalen Secord he married in 1839, she outlived him by 13 years.

Keefer died in 1858.

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