This week, I chose to write about Jules Keller, my maternal 2nd great-grandfather. I grew up hearing about this man. Because of this, he seems more of a mythological figure than flesh and bone. Jules Keller is the patriarch of the Keller clan of Vacherie, Saint James Parish, Louisiana. This is where my mother's family resides to this day.
Pop Jules (as he was affectionately called) is our closest ancestor of Native American heritage. He shunned American and European ways of life. He was always described as always wearing Indian attire. He wore his hair in two long braids adorned with ornaments. He never owned an automobile and chose to either walk or ride a bike for transportation. He lived a simple, modest life and earned a living as a farmer. Physically, he is described as a tall man with brown skin and sparkling blue eyes. I thought this was an interesting mix of features for an Indian and wondered if there was more to the story.
After obtaining additional information from his marriage, I was able to identify his parents. His mother is listed as Adele Robin. Almost nothing is known of her. She is but a ghost. His father, Noel Keller, a "mulatto" man descended from an African woman and a German-American planter. Surely, this is where he inherited those sparkling blue eyes. If his father was African and German, how did he receive his Native American heritage? The only logical conclusion is from his mother, whom disappears without a trace from the records. This also makes since because most Native American tribes are matrilineal in decent. This means you are culturally of your mother's tribe, no matter your father's lineage. Property and social status also was inherited from the mother's line. We have not been able to confirm her tribe, but the region the family lived was on the border between Choctaw and Chitimacha territory.
|Choctaw Village by Francois Bernard|
Another mystery about Pop Jules is his exact date of birth. At the time of his death, it was believed he was 99 years young. However, some Census records show different years. He was born before birth certificates were issued. However, we can confirm he was lived over 90 years. The most accurate estimate for his birth date is 15 Jan 1858.
On 11 Feb 1888, Pop Jules married Pauline Pryor at Our Lady of Peace Catholic in Vacherie, Saint James Parish, Louisiana. She was the daughter of Pauline Tony and Sam Pryor. (Other variations of her surname include Prior, Pryer and Prayer.) Witnesses to their union were Julien Lewis, Joseph Victor, Adam Becnel and Edouard Eagan.
Jules and Pauline made a home in St. James Parish. Jules was a hard-working and educated man. He even owned a tract of land, which was a great accomplishment.
Together, Jules and Pauline reared nine healthy children born between 1883 and 1901. They are:
During his life, Pop Jules witnessed three major wars: the Civil War, World War I and World War II. He also lived through the Great Depression. His sparkling eyes witnessed many changes during his time on Earth. On the second day, of the second month, in the year 1952, Pop Jules he passed away. A combination of pneumonia and heart disease claimed his life. Pop Jules was buried wearing his beloved hair ornaments in honor of his indigenous roots. He rests at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Vacherie, St. James Parish, Louisiana, USA with his wife and children.
|Keller Burial Plot|
Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church
Photo Credit: RV Schexnayder