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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thursday's Treasure - More Treasures from the Archives

by Laurie Scheeler
2nd Vice President

Keyes & Hentz families

On my latest “library” treasure hunt I came across a great collection featuring the Keyes and Hentz families. Unfortunately we found no information about who donated the material or when. After trying to contact two local Keyes families listed in the phone book and having no luck, I did a search on for persons researching this family and emailed several of them. Two people responded and were very interested in the material. After they discussed it amongst themselves, a family member in Georgia was willing to share the material with others and the box was shipped to her.

This is a fascinating family which includes authors, poets, and artists as well as military, political and
istorical figures.

Our journey begins with a journal written by Marianna Hentz in beginning in 1861, her journal begins with a family history relating to Nicholas Arnould Hentz in France during the French Revolution. Nicholas was an appointed member of the National Convention in 1789, this convention eventually led to the Revolution. He became a General for the Revolution and was imprisoned in the Castle of Ham, which was a famous prison which contained many famous prisoners including Napoleon III. The prisoners were allowed some freedom and Nicholas lived under an assumed name of Arnould. After the
Revolution he was ordered to leave the country within 30 days
, along with all the survivors who signed the warrant for the execution of Louis XVI.

Nicholas and his family left from Havre, France for New York where they landed March 25, 1816, with the little fortune which survived the Revolution. His descendants and their families are listed in detail in the book. The remainder of the book is filled in longhand, details of the politics behind the Revolution, quotes from Nicholas and perhaps many historically significant events. Since the writing is quite small and lengthy, although quite legible I will leave it to historians to sift through.

The next generation sees 4 children who include Nicholas Marcellin Hentz noted artist, entomologist, identifying 124 species of spiders, medical doctor and Professor of languages at several Universities. He married Caroline Lee Whiting, noted novelist, most noted for her opposition to the abolitionist movement. She was a major literary figure in her day, often compare to Harriet Beecher Stowe, her contemporary but opposite in feeling on slavery. Her Feelings would come into play in later years in the family during and after the civil war.

Nicholas Marcellin Hentz and Caroline lee Whiting had 5 children, one of whom died early. Their daughter Julia Louisa Hentz married into the Keyes family and became a well-known poet in her own right. Her poems earned praise throughout the Confederacy during the Civil War. There were copies of many of her poems in the box of material as well as poems by several other family members. One envelope contained some family letters written by Julia from Brazil after the War. They were marked as original and the only ones "Known to exist".

The Hentz and Keyes families lived in the South and were primarily pro slavery, as depicted in many documents, copies of speeches and family letters. After the Civil War many members of the family chose to leave the United States and move to Brazil, along with many other Southern families. The Emperor of Brazil offered incentives for Confederate families to come to his country to help develop plantations educate and build railroads.

A copy of a 212 page typewritten manuscript titled "Our Life in Brazil" was included in the box. (It was printed in the Alabama historical quarterly, vol 28, no. 3-4, pages 127-339 which can be found at this link ttp://

There was also a published short story titled "When Americans were Emigrants". This story was published by a Kansas City Paper, June 16, 1912. It is quite an interesting short story about the history of this family and others during the time shortly after the Civil War. I retained a copy of this story for our library plus a copy will be published to our blog at a later date. Most families returned to the United States after several years in Brazil. (If you have family from the South that disappeared after the civil war you might look into this possibility.)

Two copies of another interesting booklet titled "A Sailor's Manuscript", published by the University of Pennsylvania, dated 18 Dec, 1859 were found in the box. It depicts a history of the Keyes family, coming from England. One copy was retained for our library.

Many items in this box are duplicates of material found in collections owned by The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and The University of Alabama. They are important historical documents.

Of equal importance is the rich history and detailed family trees found in this collection.

At some point after World War 2, Merrit Hentz Keyes and his wife Nancy found their way to Lake Havasu City, most likely during the 70's or 80's. Merritt died in Lake Havasu in 1992 and is buried here. It would seem reasonable to assume this is how this material found its way to our library. After many years of safekeeping we a pleased to reunite it with the rightful family and know it will help with their genealogy projects.