Exactly when, why and how John settled in
There is an old British family oral tradition that a member of the Northamptonshire, England, Keep family fled to America and had been murdered by Indians. John was purportedly an agent of the Parliamentarians who escaped to America in 1640, just before the English Civil War started, when an arrest warrant was issued against him by the Earl of Strafford.
It may be that J. Kep was wanted for political beliefs or offenses, but the dates are wrong for this warrant to have anything to do with the actual hunt for regicides in England, and he was certainly not one of the original 59 Commissioners who signed the death warrant of Charles I. Still, the oral tradition indicates that he was an ardent opponent of the monarchy and perhaps came to America to escape arrest.
So here we have the reason why a J. Kep might have fled to America, but dates prevent us from believing it had anything to do with our John Keep of Longmeadow. Maybe his father, whoever that may have been.
The town records of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, very clearly show that John Keep applied to the town committee for residence in 1660. Without this approval, he would not have been allowed to stay.
"ffebr: 18th 1660 - John Keepe desiring entertaynmt in this Town as an Inhabitant his desires were granted by the Select men ye day above said.”
When John Keep arrived in America is not known. There is a belief held by some that he arrived in 1644 (a bit after the year of the arrest warrant above). It could have been his father, John? Sr., who arrived then, because father’s and son’s ages would make more sense that way. But this theory would now pertain not to our John, but to his father. His father’s name, however, has not been discovered.
There is one piece of evidence supporting the date of 1644. This is contained in a respected book entitled A Genealogical Register of the First Settlers of New England, 1829, by John Farmer. It lists a John Keep as an arrival in1644, but not on the shore of America, but in Long-Meadow, at variance with the town records of that village. The source in that book for the information is “Sprague, Hist. Disc, 83.” According to the Springfield Library, he is Wm. Buell Sprague, and this information comes from “A historical discourse he delivered in Springfield” in 1824. A speech. It doesn’t give Sprague’s source, but he must have had one, or he was wrong. Please contact Bob Warner if you have additional information about this.
(Regicide is the killing of a monarch, or it could mean an individual who kills one. The British meaning, at least around the mid-1600s, was the judicial execution of a king. This is what happened to Charles I of England in 1649, more below.)
The Regicides in America
The events surrounding the revolution in England in the 1640s and the trial and execution of Charles I are summarized in The Regicides, prepared by Bettyle Carpenter of Munson, Mass.
After the revolution, a republican government was formed under Cromwell, a Puritan. The monarchy was abolished, but after Cromwell died in1658 the monarchy was re-established with Charles II, the son of Charles I, becoming king. Charles II hired men to bring the 59 regicides back for trial and execution. Most of those remaining in England were captured and put to death.
Three of them fled to America for safety and were hidden by citizens who were dedicated to the people’s revolution, risking their lives doing this. The three were John Dixwell, William. Goffe, and Edward Whalley.
Bettyle presents a time line of the movements of the three regicides that came to New England:
May 4, 1660. Goffe and Whalley left England. Goffe used the name of Shepardson, and Whalley was known as Richardson. Their families remained in England
July 27, 1660. They arrived in Boston.
July 29, 1660. They lived in Cambridge until word was received that Charles II had issued orders that they be returned to England for trial.
Feb. 30 (sic) 1661. They arrived in Hartford after coming through Springfield.
March 7, 1661. Arrived in New Haven and corresponded with their families.
March 27, 1661. Before arrival of the king’s men, they fled to Milford.
March 28, 1661. They returned to New Haven hoping the men would think they were going somewhere else.
May 14, 1661. When the men returned to New Haven, a cave was prepared for them to hide in.
October 5, 1664. Left New Haven.
October 24, 1664. Arrived in Hadley where they were hidden in Rev. Russell’s home.
They remained hidden for 20 year, and all died of natural causes. Both Goffe and Whalley were buried in Rev. Russell’s cellar. Dixwell was never with the other two. He died in New Haven in 1773.
The Death of John Keep Conjecture
That John Keep and part of his family were killed by the Indians on March 26, 1676, there is no question. A full account of this is found on the main John Keep of Longmeadow Colonial History page of this site. It has to be remembered this was the time when King Philip’s War was concluding, and it was a time of dreadful killing of both Indians and settlers, and this area was within the area of conflict.
In any event, on Sunday, March 26, some of the people of Longmeadow, including John Keep, wife, and child, were on their way to Springfield to attend church. While the war was at its height, it had not been safe to do so, but now it was considered safe. When they were near Pecowsic (Pecousic) Brook, they were attacked by 7 or 8 Indians. John was killed, and several women and children were carried off, including John’s wife and son. A short time later, a Major Savage sent British soldiers in pursuit of them, but when they came upon the Indians, the children were killed and John’s wife mortally wounded. This is all part of official records.
However, Myra tells us that "it is believed that the Indians, allies of the English, had been hired to do bodily injury or murder to the Keep family because John Keep aided and abetted the regicides in their flight." There is even the story that the attackers were actually white men dressed as Indians, but the people of that time should have been able to tell the difference.
There was almost immediately a suspicion that when Major Savage sent a party of British soldiers, led apparently by a Captain Nixon, to pursue the Indians and rescue the women and children, they did not do so agressively. The following rhyme was made up to deride the soldiers:
"Seven Indians, and one without a gun,
Caused Capt. Nixon and forty men to run."
The idea was, of course, that since the Indians were hired by the British, the soldiers did not do their duty. The only written “record” that has come down to us regarding this legend is the little ditty.
Since father, mother, and child were all killed in the attack, most American Keeps are descended from the children who were left at home that day. John and his family were buried in a cemetery in Longmeadow that no longer exists.
John Keep Harbors the Regicides Conjecture
Myra Keep Moulton of Munson, Massachusetts, relates a legend that has been “handed down generation to generation” which is “why John Keep was killed by the Indians” (see below). The incident occurred when two of the regicides were changing locations and passed through or near Longmeadow where John Keep and family lived. The story is said to be a product of imagination and made of whole cloth, or it is true. We will never know. Myra tells us:
“John Keep lived by the Connecticut River in Longmeadow, took them into his home at daybreak, fed them, and gave them safe and secret harbor until they could continue their journey northward.”
The idea is that it would have made John a criminal in the eyes of the British, and reason for him to be hunted down and dealt with. The visit would have happened some time between 1661 and 1664, and John’s death occurred in 1676.