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Keener family papers

Identifier: SC-Mss. Coll. 50

Scope and Contents

The Keener family papers consist of approximately 100 letters, dating from 1825 to 1861, addressed to John Christian Keener or to his wife, Mary Anna Spencer Keener, by members of Mrs. Keener's family. Mrs. Keener's parents, Anna Baker and Richard Spencer, had moved from Maryland, settled first in Georgia, and later Alabama. At the time of the early letters, the Spencers were farming a plantation in Dallas County, Alabama, called Davenport Place. They raised cotton, corn, peaches, and melons, and Mrs. Spencer tended to a business of her own, selling eggs and butter. The family owned enslaved people, but the exact number cannot be determined from the letters. The Spencer's letters contain details about agriculture, daily routines, and local church life including news of future bishop, Holland Nimmons McTyeire. In 1853, Richard Spencer sold his land and moved to a new location near Mobile. His new home was called Cottage Hill, but before all the building could be completed a yellow fever epidemic broke out among the Spencer family and the people they enslaved. During this time Anna Baker Spencer died. Letters continue after this from Richard Spencer and in 1855 convey the news that he is to remarry. There are also details concerning son William Baker Spencer (born 1824) who lived in Texas.

A significant number of letters were addressed to the Keeners by Mrs. Keener's sister Emma (1822-1878). She had married Armistead Richardson Holcombe (circa 1813-1879) who was a professor of Greek as well as Natural Science. For several years he taught at a school in Summerfield, Alabama, then he served as a professor at Centenary College of Louisiana from 1850 to 1862. Letters from the Holcombes contain descriptions of the two institutions. Mrs. Holcombe's letters include comments on child bearing and rearing as well as her descriptions of various medical problems and treatments.


  • 1825 - 1861


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Physical rights are retained by the Centenary College of Louisiana Archives and Special Collections. Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. copyright laws.

Biographical / Historical

John Christian Keener (1819-1906) was a minister and bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated from Wesleyan University. In 1843, he joined the Alabama Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1848, he transferred to the Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Keener joined the Centenary College of Louisiana board of trustees in 1850 and was president of the board from 1866 to 1906. During the Civil War, he served as superintendent of the Confederate States Army Chaplains west of the Mississippi River. From 1866 to 1870, he was editor of the New Orleans Christian Advocate newspaper. In 1870, he was elected bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He is the author of the books Post Oak Circuit (1857), Studies of Bible Truths (1899), and The Garden of Eden and the Flood (1900).

In 1842, Keener married Mary Anna Spencer (1821-1903), daughter of Richard (1796-1868) and Anna Baker Spencer (1800-1853). The Keeners had eight children, which included Mary Keener Wilkinson (1843-1894), Rebecca Keener (1844-1845), Emma Holcombe Keener (1846-1896), Christian Keener (1847-1897), John Ormand Keener (1854-1898), and Samuel Spencer Keener (1857-1912).


0.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection donated by Mary Wynn Joyner Dixon and Anna K. Joyner in 1978. Additional accession donated by Sallie Allen in 2019.

Related Materials

Two of the letters (dated May 1848 and January 30, 1853) are photocopied from the Spencer family papers, Manuscripts Collection M-338, Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Finding Aid to the Keener family papers
Created by Diane Kaplan in 1978, updated by Chris Brown in 2020.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Centenary College of Louisiana Archives and Special Collections Repository

2911 Centenary Blvd.
Shreveport LA 71104 US
(318) 869-5462