Community Builders: “The Land Man”
The travelling exhibit The Way We Worked by the Smithsonian is about showcasing how Americans have worked through the years. The exhibit shows what changes have occurred in the workforce in America from the mid-19th century and the late 20th century. Just like America, Goodland’s workforce and community have changed as well. The county was founded in 1886 and prospered because of individuals with vision and moxie. One such individual was John A. Keeran, “the land man” who helped bring people to this community.
John A Keeran was born to Ezekiel S. and Elizabeth Rogers Keeran in Vernon County Wisconsin. The family eventually moved to Sterling Nebraska where John would end up in Stratton Colorado on a ranch. John became interested in real estate and moved to Seldon Kansas to begin a business with C.H. Reed. After a while Keeran opened up his own real estate business in Goodland. To attract buyers he wrote what he believed; that Goodland was the place to be and that the agricultural future of the area was strong.
To help expand Sherman County and Goodland, Keeran helped bring businesses to town. He became the owner and operator of a clothing store for a couple of years, started the Gard-Keeran Motor Co. where Hudson-Essex cars and farm implements were sold, established the Keeran Motor Co. and became a dealer for Oldsmobile. Keeran was a big supporter of The Gulf & Northwestern Railway Company and encouraged people to buy bonds. He was also the treasurer of the Goodland Aviation Co., which was organized to help William Purvis and Charles Wilson build American’s First Patented Helicopter. Keeran would purchase the patent in 1912 and store the parts of the ruined helicopter in his barn until his daughter Betty donated a replica to the High Plains Museum. He also became the district representative for North American Insurance Co. which oversaw Western Kansas real estate.
In 1906 Keeran moved into his brand new brick office building on Eleventh and Main Street to practice real estate. During this time he wrote a twenty-four page booklet that extoled the county and those opportunities available here. This booklet was distributed
everywhere in the country to draw people to Sherman County. After the booklet was seen Keeran sold thousands of acres to people from all of the country and helped manage farms and ranches while the owners were gone.
John Keeran married Almeda Clare Rodebush from Seldon Kansas and had one daughter, Ethel Elizabeth (Betty) Keeran. He was an active member of the Goodland Rotary Club and served as its president for a term. During this time he promoted the wonders of Western Kansas agriculture throughout the region with what happens with the crops here. He also served on the Community High School Board and on the board of directors for the Northwest Kansas P.C.A. He endured the drought years and had a thriving herd of cattle. In 1941 he was named Sherman County Wheat King and passed away in 1942.
John Keeran was a major influence and contributor to the community of Goodland. He not only helped people see the beauty of Western Kansas and move here, but would offer a hand in times of need. He took an interest in the community and served on numerous boards and helped bring business to Goodland. If he believed in a project he was sure to support to it. Keeran remains an integral part of why Goodland is the place we call home today. Without his contributions Goodland just would not be the same.
Look for more articles in this series of Community Builders and tell us about an individual you knew that helped build our community on our Facebook page.
Look for more articles in their series about the way Goodland folks work. Tell us your own work story and mark December 15th on your calendar to see how Americans have worked over the decades at “The Way We Worked” Smithsonian exhibit. “The Way We Worked” Kansas tour is sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street program. Support for “The Way We Worked” Kansas tour has been provided by the Ross and Marianna Beach Foundation, the Western Kansas Community Foundation, and Jostens. Support for Museum on Main Street has been provided by the United States Congress. To find out more information visit the High Plains Museum and find us online (highplainsmuseum.org).