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Revolutionary War Details


Isaac Keepers: Group 8, Frederick County, MD

Hagerstown, MD, Maryland Militia, Pvt.


Isaac Keepers, son of Joseph, and grandson of the William Keepers who died in Baltimore, MD, in 1757, was probably born about 1745.  His brother, Joseph, Jr., is specifically cited in his grandfather’s will; to all appearances, Joseph, Jr., was to have inherited a 300-acre farm, New Holland, located about 30 miles from Baltimore.  Although Isaac is not listed in the will, there were at least three other grandchildren not in the will either:  William, born in 1747, Esther, born in 1749, and Stephen, born in 1757.  These three were all children of Isaac’s Uncle William and Aunt Esther Keepers.  Isaac’s cousin, William, was an Ensign in the 4th Company, 3rd Battalion, of the Berks County, PA, Militia.[1]


Isaac married Catherine McCardell, and two of their eventual eight children were born by the time of the outbreak of the revolution.  Although not everyone wanted to revolt against England, the majority of the inhabitants of Western Maryland supported independence.  “As illustrating the feeling over the unjust duty imposed on tea imported from the mother country, it is interesting to know that on the 26th of November, the committee for the upper part of Frederick County met at Elizabethtown – now Hagerstown – and compelled John Parks to walk bareheaded and with torch in his hand and set fire to a chest of tea which he was accused of having imported, contrary to the non-importation resolutions of the colonies.”[2] 


Isaac was in the first company of militia organized in Hagerstown, but it is not clear how long he served.  There is no service record or pension application on file at the National Archives.  “The first military company organized for the Revolutionary war in Hagerstown was mustered in January, 1776, the members whose names were appended subscribed to the following obligation:


    ‘We whose names are subscribed do hereby enroll ourselves into a company of military, agreeable to the resolution of a Provincial Convention held at Annapolis on the 26th of July, 1775, and we do promise and engage that we will respectively march to such places within this province and at such times as we shall be commanded by the convention or the Council of Safety of this province, or by our officers in pursuance of the orders of said convention or Council, and there with our whole power fight against whomsoever we shall be commanded by the authority aforesaid.  Witness our hands the 6th day of January, 1776.’[3]


The list of subscribers includes Isaac Keepers. 


As the militias marched off to face the British, states pressured their citizens to take an oath of allegiance to uphold the sovereignty of the state and, at the same time, renounce their allegiance to England.  Penalties for failing to take an oath of allegiance were severe: a man was not allowed to vote, not allowed to hold office, nor buy or sell real estate.  In Maryland, the Assembly imposed a penalty tax of three times the normal levy, the so-called “treble tax,” upon those who did not take the oath.  If necessary, a man’s personal property could be seized and sold at auction in order to raise enough money to pay the tax.  This coercion was not well received by a citizenry that already felt mistreated by King George.


An article, published in the York Daily Record in 1777, reports the sentiments towards the oaths of allegiance prevalent in the area around Isaac and Catherine, and their family.  Previous to 1800, York County, Pennsylvania, was the county just north of Frederick County, Maryland.  Isaac owned a 60-acre farm, Resurvey of Peter’s Run, near present-day Emmitsburg, MD (founded in 1786). Emmitsburg is only 15 miles south of Gettysburg, PA, then in York County.


1777: York County

York residents reject state oath:[4]

“County residents exchange their own oaths of anger toward several state-imposed oaths of allegiance designed to separate patriots from Tories. One oath renounces fidelity to the British king and pledges allegiance to Pennsylvania as an independent state. Those not adhering to the oath cannot vote, hold public office, or buy or sell real estate. York residents create a few choice words for the oath: "impolitic, severe, cruel, unjust, breathing tyrany (sic) and injudicious." County residents, generally friendly to the patriot cause, believe the oath strengthens current officeholders and runs against the naturalization oath taken when they entered America. The General Assembly declines to enforce the oaths, and many in the county and in other rural areas ignore the pledge. The oaths, though, make county residents suspicious of those in power.”


However, the [Maryland] Assembly recognized that there were legitimate reasons for not promptly complying with the oath of allegiance.  Some people could have been coerced by Tory sympathizers at the time, or they might live so far from commercial centers that the deadline for taking the oath had passed before they were aware of the requirement.  Whatever his reason, Isaac Keepers “petitioned the General Assembly under the Act of May 12, 1780, stating that he had been a non-juror to the Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity in 1778 due to ignorance and now desired relief under the Act and to take the Oath.”[5]


Five of Isaac’s great-grandsons who carried the Keepers surname would fight in the civil war.   Brothers James and Joseph Keepers, Group 13, served the confederacy in Company I, 5th Regiment, Texas Cavalry.  Both were Privates.  Brothers Alexius and Joseph Keepers, Group 8, were at odds.  Alexius Vincent Keepers was a Private in Company F, 2nd Maryland Infantry, CSA.  His brother Joseph was a Corporal in Company G, 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry, GAR.  Penuell McClure Keepers, Group 14, was a Lieutenant in Company C, 38th Indiana Infantry, GAR.  All five survived the war.  Others, without the Keepers surname, have yet to be determined and researched.


December, 2005  JKK

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[1] Pennsylvania Archives, Series 5, vol. 5, p. 195, Muster Rolls relating to the Associators and Militia of Berks Co., May 10, 1780

[2] History of Western Maryland, vol. II, Louis H. Everts publisher, 1882, p. 1189

[3] ibid.

[4] 1776-1789 York Daily Record, York, PA

[5] Revolutionary Patriots of Frederick County, Maryland 1775 - 1783, p. 204