Who was Caspar Keller in relation to Helen Keller in The Story of My Life ?

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durbanville's profile pic

durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Helen Keller is the renowned inspirational deaf and blind American, born in 1880 and struck by an illness, presumably Scarlet Fever or Meningitis, at the age of only nineteen months. Despite being plunged into "silence and darkness" from such a young age, she went on to become a celebrated writer and champion of the rights of the disadvantaged - disabled people, the poor, women - and has motivated many people, to make more of their lives.

Helen's great-grandfather was Casper Keller from Switzerland who came to the US and owned several large tracts of land in Maryland, Alabama where Helen's grandfather would build a home.   

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Caspar Keller, the great-grandfather of Helen, immigrated to the United States from Switzerland long before the Europeans began to arrive. But unlike many of the Swiss who went West to attain free farmland, Keller settled in Maryland.

It was his son, Helen's grandfather, who "entered" large tracts of land in Alabama, where Helen was born. This process of "entering" land meant to take possession of it "under the claim of a right to possession." After some years, Mr. Keller settled in Tuscumbia, Alabama and rode on horseback to Philadelphia for supplies for his plantation. While he was in the East, he met Helen's grandmother, who was the daughter of one of Lafayette's aides and a second cousin to Robert E. Lee. Other relatives on her grandmother's side, who were from Massachusetts, were less renowned. Interestingly, Helen mentions that a Swiss ancestor of hers was a teacher of the deaf in Zurich and wrote a book on their education. Helen writes further that these circumstances regarding her ancestor were:

...rather a singular coincidence; though it is true that there is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors, and no slave who has not had a king.... 

The irony to these words of Helen's are that she, as a young girl who is deaf and blind, will meet or surpass any other of her historical relatives in fame.

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poetrymfa's profile pic

poetrymfa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Casper Keller was the great-grandfather of Helen Keller, the legendary deaf and blind woman who overcame a structureless childhood and the struggles of her disabilities with the aid of her faithful teacher and companion, Anne Sullivan. Through great discipline and education, Helen managed to become a prolific writer (penning a total of twelve published books) and an advocate on the behalf of labor rights, antimilitarism, and women's suffrage, amongst other causes.

Helen's grandparents were David and Mary Fairfax Moore Keller, and they were the ones to build the house that the Keller family dwelled in in Alabama after 1820. Caspar Keller was David's father. He hailed from Switzerland, but had immigrated to Maryland, where he purchased large portions of land and began the "American" branch of the Keller family.