Historical Association of Tobyhanna Township

HATT | PO Box 2084 | Pocono Pines, PA 18350-2084

The McKeen Family

Contributed by Gene Kerrick | November 2013

The McKeen Family played a role in Tobyhanna Township during the second half of the 19th and early 20th centuries. There are several descendants still living in the township.

The family originated in Antrim, Northern Ireland. Three siblings emigrated to the United States in the 1860s and the fourth in 1890. This is a short sketch of the three members of the same generation who were involved in our township, and then the fourth who lived in Wilkes-Barre.

Sara Jane McKeen married Thomas Hamill in Westchester County, N.Y., about 1860. They resided in Greenburgh with their children in the later years of the 19th century.

Apparently they came to the Poconos for their health. Both died in this area around the turn of the century. They are both buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, N.Y.

Their significance to Tobyhanna Township is their son George Merritt McKeen. George married Clara Eunice Stine in 1891 and many of their children settled here. Sarah Mariah McKeen married Howard Kerrick and had eight children, some of whom lived, and still live here.

Melinda McKeen married Thurston Blakeslee. They maintained a small garage and store in Blakeslee. Thurston also drove school bus for the township schools, then later for the Pocono Mountain School District, for 35 years. See the Hamill Family.

Alexander McKeen once owned the land where today’s CVS, shopping center and farmer’s market is located at the northeast corner of Blakeslee. He was active in the agricultural affairs of the county.

His wife helped raise funds for remodeling the Blakeslee United Methodist Church in 1896. After her death, Alexander lived with his sister Martha, who owned a boarding house in Fern Ridge.

Martha was a very stingy curmudgeon. She ran a tight ship at the boarding house. She once listed her brother as her “hired hand” in the census. She promised to leave money to her niece if she was named for her, using the excuse that it was her middle name. This even though her niece used her middle name throughout her life.

The fourth sister, Frances Elizabeth McKeen, was better known as Fanny. She became a widow in 1890. Fanny and her family lived in Wilkes-Barre. Part of her family came with her to America, and some of her sons came later. She had given up on their arrival when one night, she heard the sound of horses’ hooves and the boys noisily arriving. None of her sons lived long after immigrating to this country.

One of Fanny’s daughters married a man with the last name of Blank. It seemed the immigration officer could not understand the spelling of the family name, so he recorded it as Blank. The family adopted the name.

There are two interesting facts associated with Fanny. Her husband’s name is on their joint tombstone. It was always thought that he died here, until learning from a genealogist in Northern Ireland of his death there. His name was Robert Craig.

The father of the four McKeen siblings was James, who took Robert’s sister as his second wife. Thus, Robert and James had two relationships: father-in-law and son-in-law, and also brothers-in-law.