The Keep Family 
Keeps Worldwide
Southern Hemisphere Keeps  Page 1 
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Australia has obviously been populated by Keeps according to the histories below.
A telephone search of some of the larger cities of South America will also yield people with this surname.
The Samson of the Boschberg

In the Eastern Cape, South Africa, sit the Boschberg Mountains.  Close to an overnight shelter on a designated rambler’s trail in the Boschberg Nature Reserve is “Kepe’s Cave”, named after the infamous John Kepe.  

The Boschberg Mountains

He was born in about 1898, a noted habitual criminal involved in housebreaking, poaching, and rustling.  He was arrested at Graaff-Reinet in 1921, and again in 1933 at Pearston.  In 1940 he was released from jail on condition that he remained in Graaff-Reinet for five years, but he did not comply and disappeared, which led to a one-man crime wave for the next twelve years. 


On 28 November 1951 Dirk Goliath, an old shepherd, reported that his hut on Boschberg had been broken into and that he had encountered a man carrying a rifle, purporting to be a police officer assigned to catch the thief.  Some days later on 14 December 1951 Mrs. Goliath reported her husband missing, after not returning from the veld.  His body was later found by a Mr. Erasmus of Charlton on Boschberg.  In an organised ambush, Kepe was taken at a Mr. Botha’s farm, whilst attempting to steal salt.  Kepe admitted his crimes including the murder of Mr Goliath.  He also co-operated and took the police to a cave on the Boschberg where he had been hiding for twelve years.  It was truly an Aladdin’s Cave, full of stolen property and numerous sheep skins from the animals he had butchered.

Following his remand hearing at the Magistrate's Court, he shouted to the assembled crowd as he was led away, "I am the Samson of the Boschberg.  When the Philistines caught Samson, all the other Philistines came out to look at him, just like you are doing today."


At his subsequent trial in Cradock, he was found guilty of murder, and Mr. Justice Gardiner sentenced him to death. He was hung in Pretoria on 25 June 1952. There is a local legend that John Kepe regularly joined in the search parties looking for him during his twelve years on the run. 

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Mary Keep, a Convict's Daughter
Keep Bros. and Wood Pty Limited's Hallmark Bicycles
The Samson of Boschberg
How many Australians owned a Keep Bros. and Wood Pty Limited’s Hallmark bicycle? This article was inspired by an interesting website that chronicles the restoration of a 1968 Hallmark roadster bicycle, see The company started producing them during the early 1960s at their factory in Melbourne.  During 1912 The Keep Brothers and Wood's Wheel Factory was operating from Franklin Street, Melbourne. From a news clipping from the Melbourne Argus dated Saturday, 12 May 1945, we know that the company purchased 635-645 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, for £15,500. The properly, which comprised of several old buildings, was earmarked for development to provide  Keep  Bros and  Wood  Pty  Limited  with  a  new  premise  on  the site. 

From other newspaper articles at the time we can glean more information about the company. John Francis Keep’s obituary, following his death on 22 January 1945, aged 89, explains that with his brother, Albert Edward Keep, and. H. S. Wood, they formed Keep Bros and Wood in 1899. Previously John, who arrived in Melbourne in 1876, had been in partnership with his brother trading as Edward Keep and Co. In 1924, John became joint governing director, a position he held at his death. It is ironic that another newspaper in 1894 carried the following article: “A Cycling Fatality!  Mr. Ernest Keep, formerly the Sydney representative of Messrs. Keep Bros., has been killed while cycling in Birmingham.” Another family member, Anthony Charles Keep, born on 18 January 1934, for some years worked for Keep Brothers and Wood, and after it was sold moved to Pura Milk. As to the Hallmark roadster, it was designed to allow the rider to negotiate the uneven Australian roads.

Unlike its global counterparts, the Hallmark was fitted with 28-inch wheels and 1-3/8 inch tyre, which was unique to Australia. As a norm at the time, other bicycles had a 28-inch wheel fitted with a 1-1/2 inch tyre, or in England a 26 inch wheel.  Another attraction was that It came with an abundance of accessories that made it a must owned cycle; however, with the arrival of the chopper and a revival of the lighter racing bike, the “Hallmark” became out dated and another discarded artefact of a bygone age.  One cannot end without including an antidote about Edward Keep & Co and their premises at Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. A fire broke out in their warehouse on the night of Tuesday 19 October 1899 that required sixty nine policemen to control the crowd. The warehouse housed boxes of cartridges and 200 pounds of gunpowder which added an extra dimension to the spectacle and expectations of the onlookers. Edward returning from dinner pushed his way to the front and sat on the curb, where a constable ordered him to move, to which he replied “Cannot a man sit by his own fireside?”  After this Edward returned to England.

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Mary Keep was the fourth born of Richard and Elizabeth Keep’s eleven children, and was baptised at Wootton in Bedfordshire on 11 November 1792. Mary died on 6 January 1866, but this was surrounded in controversy, because her place of death was listed on the death certificate as Argyle Street, Hobart, Tasmania, whilst another reference listed it as Goulburn Street, NewTown, Hobart, Tasmania.


To understand her journey from middle England to the other side of the world, we must step back a few generations to John Keep, born in 1651 at Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, a yeoman, who married his second wife Rebecca in 1681 at Wootton. John farmed in Wootton, which he passed to his son Thomas, and his son Thomas born in 1724. When Thomas the younger took over, the family fortunes changed dramatically. He married twice; his first wife was Sarah Ambridge, and second marriage was to Ann Bates on 19 May 1766 at Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire. Thomas and Ann earlier had a child out of wedlock, Richard Keep, born in 1765 at Marston Moretaine.  Following their marriage, they had two more children, one of whom died in infancy. Thomas died and was buried on 17 January 1768 at Marston Moretaine.


Ann later remarried a John Denton on 4 October 1771, but prior to this she had an illegitimate child by a Richard Stilman, Stephen, who was noted in the parish register as “Ann Keep’s son”.

From the parish records it is clear that Ann and John rejected Richard. A memorandum dated 12 June 1769 and signed by John Bosworth, Churchwarden, details an agreement between him, John Bonash, Overseer of the Poor of the parish of Marston, and William Satooll of Wootton for William Sawell to keep Richard Keep, a poor child, till Easter and the Parish undertook to cloth him. The Parish accounts contain various references to the cost of Richard’s upkeep, including another placement with John Biggs in 1770. On 10 October 1788Richard married Elizabeth Hull at Wootton. Richard’s abandonment and reliance upon handouts as a child resulted into his graduation into petty crime. There is a record of someone with the surname “Keep” breaking into the local lock-up in Wooton to rescue an accomplice. His wife’s family were no better. Elizabeth’s younger brother William was convicted of highway robbery near Dunstable at the Bedford Quarter Sessions on 20 October 1808.


Richard got his comeuppance at the Surrey Assizes on 5 August 1807 when he was found guilty of receiving stolen goods, namely eighty bushels of beans of the value of twenty pounds and nine sacks to the value of thirteen shillings and six pence. He was sentenced to be transported to Australia for a term of fourteen years. The beans were stolen by a Robert Benns at Queenhithe Wharf on the River Thames, from a Nathaniel Brickwood with force and arms. So Mary’s father Richard was transported to Australia on the “Admiral Gambier”, which sailed from Portsmouth on 2 July 1808 and arrived in Sydney on 20 December 1808 with 197 convicts on board. Interestingly the account book of the overseers of the poor of Marston notes continuing payments to 'Richard Keep in want' until 1809 - by which time he was in Australia. This may be payments made to his dependents, Elizabeth and the children. Richard died on 21 December 1817 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, aged 52, and was buried on 23 December 1817 at St Phillips Church, Cooks River Sydney.


Back in Bedfordshire his fifth child, Joseph, Mary’s younger brother, was a habitual offender beingsentenced to three months imprisonment in Bedford Gaol for poaching with snares on 16 October 1817. He was again arrested on 17 March 1819 for offences contrary to the Game Laws. Then in May 1831 he was fined one shilling for stealing hurdles. At that time he was living in Cardington, Bedfordshire, and was described as being 5 foot 8 inches tall, dark brown hair, with a ruddy complexion. However, both Joseph and Richard were small fry compared to Mary’s husband William Hurst. Mary married William, alias Billy Goodman, on 6 April 1814 at Wootton. In 1818, William was sentenced to three months in Bedford Gaol for poaching.


On the 17 December 1822 William was arrested for horse stealing from Owen Cambridge of Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire. Mr Cambridge wrote a short booklet on the subject. His first horse was stolen in the early morning of Sunday 13 October 1822. In his own words Mr. Cambridge wrote:


“I left Bassingbourn as soon as possible and hastened to London, where I arrived at one o'clock in the day, and went to Worship Street, Police Office, and gave a description of the horse. I went in the evening to a Jew (it being Sunday) and had some bills printed; they were distributed to every office in London by nine o'clock, but they did not produce any good effect. I then took an officer with me, and searched in town and its suburbs for three days, without finding the least clue to the discovery of the villain. After thus exerting myself, I almost despaired of ever finding my horse; and as the expenses would soon amount to more than the horse was worth, I determined at once to return home.”


On 22 November his stable was again broken into, and a more valuable horse stolen. Through a lot of dogged detective work Mr Cambridge established that the thief was called "Billy". When he went to a house at 2, Green Walk, Blackfriars, where "Billy" lived, with Officers from Bow Street, he got no reply. He did, however, have a lucky break following a tip off that two men were being held in Hertford for stealing turkeys from Litlington, which is about a mile from my residence. One of the prisoners by the name of Roberts explained that a man by the name of Charley Goodman stole his horse, and also the pony of Mr. Elbourne, who was one of Mr Cambridge’s neighbours. He also told Mr Cambridge where he could find his horse. When asked how he knew all of the details he replied: -

"To tell you the truth, sir, I was with Goodman when he stole it. He went into the stable while I watched. We then went from your yard to Mr. Elbourne's, and Goodman brought out the pony while I stood in the street. I went to St. Neots with the horse; from thence to Bedford, and took the route for London. Goodman and I made an exchange of the pony for a cart with a man who lives in a street very near where the six roads cross, near to Blackfriars Bridge, about a mile from the Toll Bar. We then stole some harness, put your horse into the cart, and set off for Bedfordshire to steal some poultry. We had visited that neighbourhood frequently and knew it well.  We returned to London with the poultry and sold it in the street; we did not send it to market.”


Roberts explained that he had left Goodman in London and with two others returned to Bedfordshire on a wagon drawn by Mr Cambridge’s horse. As the horse was not use to pulling a wagon they were forced to stop to steal another horse, but whilst doing so two of them were caught by local men, and the horse and wagon were seized. Mr Cambridge went straight to the Local Magistrate and got his horse returned to him, but it was in a sad state. He then returned to London with Mr. Elbourne and retrieved his pony from an Undertaker, who had purchased it from a Methodist Minister, who in turn had bought it from a Wheelwright that Goodman had sold it to.


Mr Cambridge decided to return to the address in Blackfriars, and this time spoke to an old lady who directed him to Bishopsgate to look for a young man named Edward. He found him and agreed that in exchange for helping him find Goodman, the young man could go free. Edward went to 7 Green Street, Bethnal Green, and found out that Billy was in Oxfordshire. Together with Edward, Mr Cambridge travelled to Deddington in Oxfordshire, where they arrested Billy Goodman. As luck would have it, Mr Cambridge was informed by a villager where his horse was being kept, and he managed to retrieve it. On their journey to Bassingbourn by the Peterborough coach William confessed: - "Sir, I have told you lies, it was not Baker who stole your horse, I am the man that stole both of your horses, and I deserve to suffer for it."


He also admitted that his real name as William Hurst. On arrival at Bassingbourn, Hurst was taken before a Bench of Magistrates, who remanded him to Cambridge Castle. He was tried at Cambridge, Isle of Ely Assizes, on the 13 March 1823 where hepleaded guilty to all the three indictments and sentenced to death by hanging, but after a plea for leniency by Owen Cambridge, this was changed to transportation for life. William was described as age 29 years, 5 foot 5 1/4  inches tall with light grey eyes, brown hair, and his trade was listed as groom or ploughman. His gaol report said he was a bad character, and had attempted to escape the hulk at Woolwich, prior to transportation.


William was transported aboard the vessel “Asia", bound for Van Dieman's Land, which is now known as Tasmania.  The ship departed Portsmouth on 28 August 1823, and arrived in Hobart 163 days later, on the 19 January 1824. On arrival William was assigned to Thomas Abrahams, Chief District Constable of Stranford, in the Brighton District. On the 8 February 1827, William petitioned to have Mary and children sent out to join him. Abrahams certified that he had served him faithfully and well and that he was perfectly able to support his family, should they be sent to him.  William worked as a carpenter. On 1 July 1836 William was granted a conditional pardon, and then recommended for an absolute pardon on the 13 October 1846. On the 30 December 1851 his conditional pardon was extended to all parts save the United Kingdom. On the 8 March 1827, Lieutenant Governor Arthur approved that the family be sent from England. Mary and their four children arrived at Botany Bay on the "Lucy Davidson", and then sailed to Tasmania on the "Guildford" on 1 January 1830. Later that year Mary applied to have her husband assigned to her. They had four more children in Tasmania. William died on 26 February 1859 aged 65 years at Wellington Street, Hobart, Tasmania; cause of death was listed as old age and debility. Both William and Mary are buried at the Cornelian Bay Cemetery, Tasmania.

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The DNA Project 
Southern Hemisphere Keeps
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Rowan Keep of Tasmania 
Southern Hemisphere Keeps
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