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Edward Keenan

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Death: August 11, 1826 (79-88)
Union, Monroe, West Virginia, United States
Place of Burial: Monroe, West Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Patrick Keenan; Patrick Keenan; Grizal and Grizal
Husband of Eleanor Nancy Donnally/Keenan; Eleanor Nancy Donnally; Nancy Griselda Donnally and Nancy Keenan
Father of Eleanor G Keenan; Robert Keenan; Edward Robert Keenan; Margaret Kouns; Margaret Keenan and 13 others
Brother of Charles Keenan

Occupation: Buried Rehobeth Methodist Church cemetery, Monroe County, West Virginia
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Edward Keenan

APRIL, 1782

Edward Keenan made constable vice William Robinson.

Archibald Handley, Edward Keenan, Samuel Glass, and James Alex-

ander to view a road from the widow Miller's to Conrad's mill on Indian Creek. Next month James Thompson made overseer of road.

He was an early settler of Monroe County, Virginia. By 1780, he moved from Tinkling Springs to Greenbriar County, Virginia with his wife and oldest child, his wife’s mother, the widow Griselda Donally, his father, Patrick, probably then a widower, and his brother, Charles. He moved to near what became known as Keenan, Monroe County. As early as 1781, Edward was a constable and the administrator on the estate of James O’Bryan. For at least twenty years longer, his name occurs often in the record books of Greenbrier, showing him to be a man of force, practical judgment, and executive ability. He was primarily responsible for the building of Rehobeth Methodist Church *see note at the bottom* in 1784-1786, which is considered the first protestant church west of the Allegheny Mountains and is a national historic site. He donated the plot for the church and helped build it. This affords an insight into his kindly nature and wide influence. Edward’s son, John, went to Kentucky and later to Walker County, Texas. Edward’s son, Patrick, went to Kanawha County, West Virginia. One of Patrick’s daughters, Margaret Keenan, married well-known millionaire, Charles Broadway Rouss. Edward’s son, Michael, may have died in Florida.

Rehoboth Church

In 1786, when the Rehoboth Church was dedicated by Bishop Francis Asbury, Monroe County was still a part of Greenbrier County. It wasn't until 1799 that Monroe would separate from Greenbrier. The Rehoboth Church is located in what is now Monroe County, just outside of Union, West Virginia. One of the best accounts of the Rehoboth Church comes from The History of Monroe County, West Virginia by Oren F. Morton, originally published in 1916.

"It would seem fitting to devote a chapter of this book to an account of the oldest house of worship in all that portion of the Virginias lying west of the Shenadoah Valley. It occupies an inconspicuous site, is in decrepit condition, and is anything but imposing in size. But associated with this humble structure is a history of great interest."

"Among the people who were living in the Sinks at the close of the Revolution were several Methodist families. Among these were the BLANTONS, the CHRISTYS, the JOHNSONS, and the WARRENS. They held religious meetings at their homes, and as their membership was growing, they organized a regular society late in the summer of 1784. This date, it will be observed, is also that of the independence of the Methodist Church. Their meetings were often at a schoolhouse near where their church was afterward built. Among the local preachers were John WISEMAN and James CHRISTY. The number who attended, many of them coming on foot from a long distance, made it necessary to have a regular preacher.

Early in 1785 Edward KEENAN wrote to Bishop ASBURY to send them one. In response to this call, a young man names William PHOEBUS was sent. He was a favorite with ASBURY and is often mentioned by him."

"Although an interested attendant at the meetings, KEENAN was not at this time a member of the society. The parents, both of himself and his wife, were Catholics, and his wife was Catholic also. When the preachers came to his house to hold prayers, his wife and her mother would continue their carding and spinning. But while on his return with PHOEBUS and several other men from attending a meeting on Potts Creek, a conversation arose which lapsed into singing. KEENAN was then and there converted, and he remained a Methodist to the day of his death in 1826. He became a steward and class-leader, for which duties he was highly qualified. His wife and mother-in-law also joined the church."

"The log cabins of the frontier were so small, and the schoolhouses so very few as well as small, that a special house of worship became urgent. KEENAN executed the following bond:

Know all men by these presents, that I, Edward Keenan, of the county of Greenbrier and state of Virginia, am held and truly bound unto William Scarborough, James Scarborough, Daniel McMullen, James Christy, and Alexander House, or such trustees as shall be appointed by the preachers of the Methodist church, in the just sum of fifty pounds of good and lawful money of the state aforesaid, to the which payment well and truly to be made, I bind myself, executors, administrators, and assigns, jointly and severally, and each of them. In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this ninth day of February in the year of our Lord 1787. The condition of the above obligation is such that if the above bound Edward Keenan shall make or cause to be made a lawful right and title to a tract of land containing four acres, whereupon the preaching house stands, then this obligation to be void, or else remain in full force and effect and in virtue of the law. Whereunto I have set my hand and seal this day and date above written.

Edward Keenan. (Seal)

Signed, sealed, and delivered in presence of teste: Jacob Cook, Abraham Friend.

"The actual deed calls for five acres, but the county book in which it was recorded is now missing."

"The church building was completed in June, 1786. Only logs of medium size were used and it would have taken but a very few days to fell the trees and put the timbers into place. Samuel CLARK, a veteran of the Revolution, was one of the men who placed the wall-logs in their positions. The little building, whose floor space is not quite twenty-one feet by twenty-nine, was set up near the bottom of a circular depression in the limestone tableland. From this circumstance it can scarcely be seen from a distance of more than a hundred yards in any direction. The choice of ground was doubtless because it was not yet felt that the danger of Indian raids was entirely over. The red men could not have come within rifle-shot unseen. It had sometimes been necessary for the settlers around to shelter themselves in Byrnside's fort about two miles away. On one occasion the KEENANs ran to the fort in the darkness. Their baby Margaret was wrappped in a white sheet, so that her mother could better see the way."

"The interments in the churchyard are numerous, and few of the older graves are marked. Among them are those of Edward KEENAN and his wife."

It has been said that "through this country and in distant parts may be found many who can trace back their spiritual pedigree to a revival at Rehoboth."

Rehoboth Church and Museum

Union, West Virginia

Heritage Landmark of The United Methodist Church

In December 1784, American Methodists broke their ties to England and formed the Methodist Episcopal Church. A few months earlier, a Methodist Society was formed in what is now Union, West Virginia by Methodist emigrants from the east. For its first two years, the Society met in a school house. As more settlers came west, the Society grew, and traveling preachers included it on their regular circuits.

In 1786, Edward Keenan, a Roman Catholic sympathetic to the Methodists, gave the Society a plot of land for a church. He also wrote Francis Asbury requesting a preacher for the Society.

Rehoboth Church was built on Keenan's donated land. A log structure, it had a gallery and measured about 12 by 29 feet; as small as it was, it was larger than the homes where the settlers had been meeting.

It is reported that Francis Asbury dedicated the new church upon its completion in 1786. Two years later, on July 5-6, 1788, he ordained John Smith as a deacon in Rehoboth Church; it was the first Methodist ordination west of the Alleghenies. Smith was the first circuit rider assigned to the territory, and Rehoboth was the heart of his circuit.

Asbury's journal indicates he conducted three conferences at Rehoboth Church (1792, 1793, 1796). He preached in the church in 1790 and 1797, as well. Two of his journal entries read as follows:

"Thursday, July 15, 1790: Rode to Rehoboth, where brother Whatcoat preached, and brother Jeremiah Abel and myself spoke after him, and the people appeared somewhat affected.

Friday, May 24, 1793: Came to Rehoboth, in the sinks of Green Briar; where we held our conference. I was greatly comforted at the sight of brothers B.J. and Ellis Cox. We had peace in our conference, and were happy in our cabin."

Other pioneers of early American Methodism also preached at Rehoboth, including Jesse Lee, Freeborn Garrettson, William McKendree, and Beverly Waugh.

Rehoboth Church hosted regular preaching for over a century. West Virginia Methodists have always been mindful of the building's historic importance as the oldest extant Protestant church edifice west of the Allegheny mountains.

Points of interest at this Heritage Landmark:

The church and museum are on a five acre site. Visitors will see the original structure and furnishings. The building has been placed under a wood canopy to give it some protection from the elements.

Edward Keenan's tombstone is near the church.

The museum displays artifacts which tell the story of Rehoboth and Methodism in West Virginia.

Special events: None as of this writing.

Area attractions: Union is just west of the Allegheny Mountains, near several state parks. Roanoke, Virginia is southeast and Charleston, West Virginia is northwest.

To visit: The church building and museum are open April 1 through November 30, Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. until sunset.

To visit during the winter months, contact: Rev. Mike Ford, Rehoboth Church, P.O. Box 153, Union, WV 24983. Groups planning visits should contact the caretakers ahead of time.

Location: Within the boundaries of the West Virginia Annual Conference, in Monroe County. The church is about two miles east of Union.

Food and lodging: There are restaurants and motels in Lewisburg, about twenty miles north of Union on Rt. 219.

Directions: Take Interstate 64 west from Lexington, Virginia to Lewisburg. From Lewisburg travel Route 219 south to Union.

Alternatively, take Interstate 79 South from Morgantown, West Virginia to Mt. Lookout. Then take Route 60 east through Rainelle to Lewisburg; then proceed south on Route 219 to Union. Proceed along West Virginia Route 3; about two miles east of Union a marker will direct you along a gravel road to the church.

For further information, contact: Rev. Mike Ford, Rehoboth Church, P.O. Box 153, Union, WV 24983; 304-772-5772; E-mail: gsa00274@mail.wvnet.edu.

To learn more about United Methodist church history in this area:

West Virginia Annual Conference Archives, West Virginia Wesleyan College Library, 59 College Ave., Buckhannon, WV 26101; 304-924-5015; Patricia Tolliver, Archivist.

Carl E. Burrows, Melting Times: A History of West Virginia United Methodism (Charleston, WV: Commission on Archives and History, West Virginia Conference, United Methodist Church, 1984).

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Edward Keenan's Timeline

1742
1742
Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
1775
1775
Tinkling Springs, Virginia, USA
1776
1776
County Donegal, Ireland
1778
1778
Greenbrier, West Virginia, United States
1779
1779
Keenan, Monroe, West Virginia, United States
1779
Keenan, Monroe, West Virginia
1780
1780
1780
1781
1781
Monroe, West Virginia, USA