Robert Keith, who was the founder of Keithsburg, came to America in 1835 and made his selection of a permanent home at this place, known for some years as Keith's Landing. Mr. Keith laid out the town in 1837. At this time there were not more than half a dozen families in the place. Some of the early settlers were Abner Martin, William and Paul Sheriff, John McH. Wilson, A. B. Sheriff, T. B. Cabeen, Daniel Justice, Rev. James Ross, B. L. Hardin, James Garner, David Bowen, John W. Nevius and William Willett.
The early settlers preferred to locate near the river and timber; consequently the lands of any value near the town were soon taken up. Among the merchants who were extensively engaged in trade were William Gayle, James A. Noble, Abraham Rife, Wilford J. Ungles, William Willett, Benjamin P. Frick, R. H. Spicer, Jonathan Judah, R. C. Cabeen, Gore & Ramble, James W. Doughty and Abram Sheriff.
The financial panic of 1857 reached Keithsburg like all other towns in the West, and in this crash every business house went to the wall. New men came into the town, notably among these being C. S. Orth, who conducted a large and profitable business for many years. Before the court-house was finished court was held in Willett's warehouse. The county building, a one-story brick 40x50 feet, was first occupied in 1851. Some years after the county-seat was removed to Aledo, the town of Keithsburg purchased this building, to which additions have been made and, for many years, it has been used as an opera house.
The first ferry boat to cross the river at this point was owned by Seth H. Redmon. It was propelled by horses and made daily trips to Huron and Prairie Point. Mr. Redmon afterwards purchased a steam ferry boat named the Iowa. At that time Keithsburg had a large trade from the Iowa side of the river
Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois
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