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The Keerans

            The Keeran family came to Bloomington from Virginia. Three brothers were the ancestors of the Bloomington Keerans, and the first of these to arrive was Henry Keeran. One old story that could not be confirmed states that Henry Keeran died in a gruesome sawmill accident in 1867. The Keeran’s had inventors in their family, including Charles R. Keeran (1883 – 1948), who perfected the mechanics of the mechanical pencil and sold the patent to Eversharp. He manufactured pencils for a time in Bloomington, but his small factory could not meet the demand and the business failed. He had been orphaned at the age of ten after the deaths of his father in 1892 and his mother in 1893. His care was taken over by his spinster aunt, Emma Keeran (1855 – 1940). This aunt had an interesting history. In 1900 she appeared in the census as a farmer and later she was known as a rug and carpet weaver in Bloomington. After raising Charles, she took on the three orphans of another brother, Harry Keeran, when he and his wife died in 1913 and 1914. The youngest of these was Wilbur (1911 – 1987), who was only three years old. Wilbur grew to be a nature loving person. With his cousin Walter he built a gold fish pond in the back yard of Emma’s home at 505 W. Wood, and as an adult he was a zookeeper at the Miller Park Zoo.


            Another nature lover among the Keerans was James Wilford Keeran (1822 – 1902). Harrison kept bees and canaries and was trained as photographer. His career however, was as a mail carrier. James’ son Elmer (1883 – 1959) had a difficult time at the Nickel Plate Railroad yards. He was a yard conductor there, and a certain train engineer, A. R. Eells, would frequently attack him. One day during an especially vicious attack, Elmer grasped a meat hook and struck  Eells in an attempt to stop him. Eells was killed almost immediately, but witness testimony led to a self defense verdict at the coroner’s hearing.


            Many of the Keerans worked with one or another of the railroads, but it was James Albert Keeran, a younger brother of Elmer, whose life was most drastically affected by the railroad. James Albert was struck and killed by an Interurban car while riding his “wheel” in 1915. His wife Emma sued the Traction Company and was awarded $7000. The Traction Company challenged the award and obtained a second trial, where Mrs. Keeran was awarded only $1,500. She was left with four children to raise, with very little means to do so. She remarried, but divorced after having two additional children. She was eventually working as a laundress in her home and two of her older children worked to help support the family.


            One of the best known Keerans is James Keeran, the Pantagraph writer (retired 2002). He was also in local theatrics and attended IWU. He is the grandson of James Albert and continues to advocate for his fellow citizens through his work with the ACLU.


            Many Keeran men have served at time of war:

            Samuel Thomas Keeran – died in the Civil War

            Hanson Harrison Keeran – Civil War

            Manalaus Keeran – Civil War

            John Howes – WWI

            Oris Smiley – Died in WWII

            Elton Smiley – WWII

            Garreth Campbell – WWII


            If you can claim one of these people as a direct ancestor, you are related to a pioneer of 1838!


            Wilbur Lee Keeran

            Albert Lee Keeran

            James F. Keeran

            Harley Fry Keeran

            Lois Keeran Giles

            Dorothy Keeran Hamilton

            Virginia Keeran Guttschow

            Milton Bernard Keeran

            Clarence Ray Keeran

            John Campbell

            Alfred Smiley

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