The Keep family DNA-Y project has found an apparent connection to Keeps in England.
In Massachusetts, John Keep settled in the Longe Meadow section of what was then called Springfield in 1660. On his way to church to have his youngest son baptized, Indians attacked and killed John, his wife, Sarah, and infant son, Jabez. Two daughters, Sarah and Hannah, and a son, Samuel, had been left at home. Samuel grew up, married and fathered twelve children.
John, Samuel’s oldest male child, was born in 1698. During the years of John’s childhood, his father and others in Springfield had been petitioning the General Court to grant a new town to the East. John Keep was one of those to receive a 100-acre grant. He married Abigail Munn in 1720 and settled on that tract of land in the new development called Brimfield in the area that later split off to become Monson. John Keep’s son, Simeon, his grandson, Simeon Jr., and great-grandson, Ethan, all lived on the East Hill on adjacent farms and raised large families. Ethan died at an early age leaving minor children.
Upon Ethan’s, death, guardianship of Edward Purington Keep, his only son who was 18 years old, and his sister, Mary Keep who was 16, was given to Marcus Chapin. Both went to live with their aunt and uncle, Lamira Keep Chapin and Marcus Chapin, on the East Hill in 1851. Lamira was Ethan’s sister and the first Keep to live in the house on the West Hill, now known as the Keep Homestead Museum. They moved into the house when Marcus purchased it in 1854.
Marcus Chapin and Edward Purington Keep worked the farm together. It was a prosperous dairy farm with several small quarries, which provided additional income. In 1856, Marcus conveyed the property to Edward. Marcus and Lamira’s children had pre-deceased them. When Marcus died in 1887, he left his entire estate to Edward and Edward’s sister, Mary, to be equally divided between them.
In 1858, Edward married Mary Grout. They had five children: three daughters—Sarah Mary, Jennie Elizabeth and Marie Esther; one son, George Edward, who died at three months; the other son was Myra’s father, Charles Chapin Keep. In 1900, upon Edward’s death, his son, Charles, took over the farm. The 1894–1895 Monson Directory lists Charles as a milk dealer. He was a graduate of Monson Academy and attended Phillips Academy Andover; he also was a member of the Congregational Church where he served as deacon, member of the choir and superintendent of the Sunday school. He was master of the Palmer Grange and of Springfield’s Pomona Grange.
On September 13, 1893, Charles married Pearl Beckwith. Pearl was the youngest daughter of Wilson Beckwith and his third wife, Eunice Beebe. Pearl had been born in New York on Fisher’s Island but the family moved to Monson when Pearl was seven. She attended East Hill School and progressed rapidly in school. Passing the entrance exam, she entered Monson Academy at age ten. Upon her mother’s death, Pearl, then 14, went to work, first in a boarding house and then a local hat shop. When Heimann & Licthen bought the shop in 1891 and put in power sewing machines, Pearl was selected to become the first operator. She traveled around New England teaching other girls to operate these machines.
After their Wednesday evening wedding on September 13, 1893, Pearl and Charles moved into the Keep Homestead on Ely Road, sharing half of the house with Charles’s parents. Some of the furnishings purchased by the young couple are presently on display. The bill of sale for their china can be seen, along with the complete set of Limoges china displayed in the dining room cupboard. In Charles’s daily journal, on September 5, 1893, he wrote: “Went with milk, Louis [a hired hand] went. I went to Springfield with Pearl and bought our furniture.” That furniture is in 1893 bedroom and the bill of sale is on the wall outside.
Pearl and Charles had three children: Marion Pearl (1896–1978), Myra (Mira) Grace (1899–1988), and Charles Edward (1902–1916). Myra returned to Monson with her first husband, Charles Lovell, in 1941 to care for her aging parents. Her father, Charles, died in 1947, and her mother, Pearl, died in 1950. Myra and her sister inherited the property that, upon Marion’s death, became Myra’s.
The Keep Homestead Museum was willed to the town of Monson when Myra died in 1988. The Town accepted it in 1990 and the first open house was held on October 7, 1990.
Myra Keep Lovell Moulton was a descendant of John and Sarah Keep, who first settled in the Springfield area in 1660. Family and local history were important to Myra, and many of the artifacts in the Keep Homestead Museum reflect this interest, particularly the extensive and detailed genealogy of the New World Keeps.
The homestead was built in 1749. Much of that early house and its original foundation, including a well, is still there. In 1820, a center chimney addition was built. The first Keep family member to live in the house was Lamira Keep and her husband, Marcus, who began living there in 1854. In 1863 they remodeled it more or less to what you see today. Lamira and Marcus were followed by Lamira’s nephew, Edward Keep, Edward’s son, Charles, and finally Charles’s daughter, Myra, and her husband.
Myra Keep was a talented and accomplished person. Born in 1899, in an era with restricted professional opportunities for women, she became a teacher and served for many years in the Monson school system. She also excelled in many types of embroidery and worked in other artistic media, such as oil, watercolor, and ceramics. Examples of her craftsmanship grace almost every room in the house.
Myra was also a collector of such items as seashells and rocks, but most importantly, of buttons. Her button collection is considered one of the largest and most diverse in the Northeast and includes a number of rare pieces.
Myra (Mira Grace) was the second child of Charles Keep and Pearl Beckwith Keep who were married on Wednesday evening, September 13, 1893. Her brother, Charles Edward, died of pneumonia at age 13 in 1916. Her sister, Marion Pearl, was born in 1896. Like Myra, Marion also taught school. She never married and died in 1978.
Myra was graduated from Monson Academy in 1918 and from Framingham Normal, now Framingham State University, in 1920. She first taught in West Hartford, Connecticut where she accepted a position as principal in 1922. From 1926 to 1929, she was the elementary supervisor of the Weymouth, Massachusetts school system, supervising 90 teachers in 12 schools.
During those years, she toured Europe. The summer before her marriage, she and a friend, who also was a teacher, traveled by car across the United States and Canada. They left Monson driving an Essex automobile. The car wasn’t new and broke down the first time before they had even gotten to Springfield! They persevered and eventually drove across the country to California, up into Canada, and back through the Midwest.
Myra wrote a letter home to her mother every day and made a diary entry each day. From these we heard about all their flat tires, about a farmer pulling the car out of a mud hole, about how they wore silk dresses because they could wash them out at night and they would be dry by morning. One entry in the diary told about a town in the Midwest where “the ginger ale was too fizzy and the men were too free.”
On October 29, 1929, Myra married Charles Nelson Lovell. This was the day of the stock market crash and Charles was working as a stock broker at the time. State law forbade married women teachers, so Myra retired from teaching until that law was rescinded during World War II. She taught at State Street School in Monson until 1955.
Myra returned to Monson with her husband, Charles Lovell, in 1941 to care for her aging parents. Her father, Charles, died in 1947 and her mother, Pearl, died in 1950. Myra and her sister inherited the property that, upon Marion’s death, ultimately became Myra’s.
Myra’s first husband, Charles died in 1952. She married Ralph R. Moulton in 1953. Ralph died of a heart attack at their winter home in Bradenton, Florida, on January 15, 1961.
When Myra Keep Lovell Moulton died in 1988, she was the last of a long line of Keeps in Monson. She willed her property, its contents, over 75 acres of land, and an endowment fund to the town of Monson to be used as a museum for all the people of the town. There were two stipulations:
“It must be opened to the public on one day during the first year after acceptance of the property.”
“It must be named ‘The Keep Homestead Museum’.”
Jennie was the daughter of Edward Purrington Keep and was born in Monson, Massachusetts on February 18, 1864. She married Wesley Squier on October 16, 1889. He was the son of Arba Squier who founded Squier’s Lumber Yard in 1874. It is the oldest continuously operating business in Monson. They had two children: Robert Keep Squier, born December 30, 1891, Ruby May Squier, born May 13, 1894. Jennie died in Monson on April 22, 1902.
Ethan Keep, who was the father of Edward Purington Keep, died at an early age leaving three minor children. Edward, his only son, and his sister, Mary, went to live with their aunt and uncle, Lamira Keep Chapin and Marcus Chapin on the east hill in 1851.
Marcus and his wife, Lamira, lived in the Ely Road house beginning in 1854. Marcus and Edward Purington Keep, worked the farm together. It was a prosperous dairy farm with several small quarries, which provided additional income. In 1856, Marcus conveyed the part of the property to Edward.
Marcus and Lamira’s children had predeceased them. When Marcus died in 1887, he left his entire estate to Edward and Edward’s sister, Mary, to be equally divided between them.
In 1858, Edward married Mary Grout. They had five children. Their three daughters were Sarah Mary, Jennie Elizabeth and Marie Esther. One son, George Edward, died at three months; the other son was Myra’s father, Charles Chapin Keep.