Early settlers in Etowah County: The Keener Family


For the next few weeks, The Vagabond will discuss some of the folks who settled in the area west and north of Attalla before the Cherokee Indians were removed. This area was located from around Highways 77 and 431 all the way up to Sand Valley Road and over to Reece City. 

The area once occupied the site of an Indian village that was of considerable importance during the Creek War of 1813. Some says that Indian relics found in the vicinity are “Tsu-sanya-sah – Ruins-of-a-Great-City.” Nevertheless, this area has some of the most unknown events in American history.

Last week The Vagabond discussed the Avery family that lived on Sand Valley Road. The Vagabond understands that their log house may still be standing.

This week the Vagabond starts with the different German immigrants settlers in Etowah County that lived in the area before the Cherokee were removed. There were also the Sitzs, the Rinks and the Engles (Ingles), as well as the Keeners. All of these family names were recorded in the old Avery store ledger book in the Cherokee Nation of 1835.

The Keener Family

Casper Kuhner (later known as Keener) was on board a ship named The Thistle in 1738. It set sail from Rotterdam but last entered the final sail from “Ole England.” On this ship were 300 Palatines from areas located along the Rhine River in Germany. Their pilot was John Wilson. 

Two men aboard the ship who are of interest to the Keener family today in the Little Tennessee Valley were Jacob Kinar and Casper Kienar. Although on the same ship, their names are spelled a little different, and no records found show them to be brothers. Their names were written as “Kiner,” “Kinar,” and “Kener” but signed their names as “Jacob Kiner” and “Casper Kuhner.”

In giving the names of passengers on the ships, one captain may have spelled them differently from another. Casper Kee-ner has his name spelled as “Gasper,” Jasper,” and Casper.”

The ship landed in Pennsylvania. The Palatines from Germany signed their own names at the courthouse in Philadelphia on Sept. 19, 1738, and gave oath to the Honorable George Thomas, Esq., Lieutenant Governor. In the translation, “Kuhner was “Keener”. His brothers John, Peter, and Michael came with Casper from the Black Forest area located near Hamburg, Germany. They were referred to as “The Dutch People.”

Casper Keener and his wife, Anna Barbara were born in Germany, where one known child, Abraham Keener, was born in 1717. 

On April 7, 1752, Casper Keener applied for a grant of 600 acres in Anson County, North Carolina. 

On March 27, 1753, he received 450 acres located “on head waters of Leeper’s Creek” – Grant No. 821. This acreage included the land where he was residing. 

The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road was used by most German and Scotch-Irish settlers who settled in Rowan and the surrounding communities of Philadelphia, including Lancaster, York, and Gettysburg, and on through the Shenandoah Valley, as well as Salisbury and Charlotte. No doubt this is the route that Casper followed.

On Oct. 11, 1754, Casper Keener was naturalized in Salisbury, Rowan County, N. C., which was the seat of government located in the middle of North Carolina during its early days. The following abstract was taken from the minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Session:

“Gasper Keener, Alexander Clingerman, Steffel Goodheart, and Mathias Beever came into open court and took the oath as by law appointed and subscribed the testimony.”

There was also a Casper Jr., who was born in 1680 in the Palatinate region in Germany. His death was on Oct. 20, 1762, in Pumpkin Center, Lincoln, N.C.

The son of Casper, Jr. was Abraham Keener, who also was born in the Palatinate region in Germany. He died in 1795 in Keenersville, Lincoln, N.C.

Abraham Keener was among the passengers onboard Ship Lydia who arrived in Philadelphia on Sept. 29, 1741. He was 24 when he left his birthplace in the German Palatinate and arrived in America. He and his wife Julianna settled in York County, Penn., by 1755, and in 1767 Abraham Keener was naturalized in Rowan County, N.C. 

When the Revolutionary War began, Abraham Kee-ner kept to his vows to the English king and became a loyal Tory. According to “The Loyalists in North Carolina During the Revolution” (1979 by Robert O. DeMond), Abraham Kee-ner captured his personal friend, a Whig Captain named Kimik, and “made him a prisoner and graciously spared his life.” 

Abraham Keener lived to the last of his days in North Carolina, dying in 1795. He had seven children from his marriage to Julianna: Hannah Keener; William Keener, John E. Keener, Jacob Keener, Maria Keener, Anna Eva Keener, Martin Keener and Abraham Keener, Jr. (Jessica Bonner).

There was supposed to have been three Keener brothers that came together to Etowah County. One moved on to Arkansas, one stayed in Alabama and one went back to North Carolina.

One of these brothers came to the area now called Keener, or nearby. This small town was named for two brothers, David and Martin M. Keener.

Early Keeners in this area were Jacob Keener, born in 1793 in Lincoln, N.C., and died in 1875 in Cherokee County, Ala.; Joseph Seaborn Keener, born in 1775 in Lincoln, N.C., and died in 1848 in Etowah County, Ala.; Adam Keener, born on Dec. 9. 1781 in Lincoln, N.C., and died on Jan. 26, 1856 in Keener, Etowah County, Ala.; Michael Keener, born on Feb. 12, 1783, in Lincoln, N.C., and died on July 10, 1860, in Kee-ner, Etowah County, Alabama; David Keener, born on June 13, 1790, in Lin-coln, N.C., and died on June 11,1869, in Etowah County, Ala.; and Joseph Keener, born in 1803 in Lincoln, N.C., and died on 1870 in Etowah County, Ala.

There are numerous Keener family members buried at Greenwood Cemetery located in Keener.

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