The Freese and Keller Families
When Bernice Freese and Bert Keller were married in September, 1913, it marked the union of two of the area's oldest families.
The Keller story starts in Klein Ingersheim, Germany, where John Jacob Keller was a burgomeister. His son, David, born January 19, 1777, emigrated from Germany and came to Valley City in 1832. From there, a whole line of Kellers in the Medina Country area was fostered. David's son, Martin, born in 1825, had two wives. Johanna Bart who died in 1857 and Christine Weber. Martin and Christine had a son, Fred, who is the direct ancestor of the Brunswick area Kellers. Fred had nine children: Bert, Joe, Harley, Royal, Fred, Irene (Hogue), Rose (Fenn), Velma (Tibbitts) and Ella.
The whole family lived in the home on Substation Road which is now owned by the Neuras (oddly enough, home for several of Brunswick's old families). The boys were mostly farmers. Harley, whose home is on Pearl Road near Grafton, dealt in livestock his whole life. Royal, who lived for years on Pearl Road, was the determining factor in naming Keller-Hanna Drive. The Hannas lived at the other end of the road. Irene ran the restaurant in the center of Brunswick for years before moving to Medina. Rose was a teacher who lived in Medina and Velma lived in Hinckley.
Bert, after marrying Bernice, bought a farm now known as the Sutherland Farm at Grafton and Substation where the family grew to include Bessie and Forest. Forest resided on Kimmich Drive in Brunswick and his twin sons Roger and Richard lived on Substation Road. Forest married the former Hazel Morton. Other Kellers also still reside in the Brunswick area.
Bessie always kidded her family that she would never change her name. And her childhood prediction came true - she married Paul Keller, no relation, and for years lived in the former one-room school house at Marks and Center Roads. In 1975, the Kellers moved into a new home in Valley City where Bessie is a part-time Latin teacher. They have one son, Leonard, and he has two children, Erich and Gretchen who are the eighth generation of Kellers in this area.
Now for the Freese side of the family. In 1795, Abraham and his son, John Freese, explored the land now known as Brunswick for the Connecticut Land Company. They were to "observe the condition of the land." They returned again in 1817 to settle here. The land was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve grant from King James I of England to the Plymouth Company on November 3, 1630. Abraham, the surveyor of this land, also brought with John (who was the first Medina County recorder) another son, Bill William and his wife Sally. Bill William Jr. was born here in 1826 and married Tryphena Tillotson. From that marriage came two children including Henry, born in 1861, father of Bernice, born in 1893. The last Freese remaining in this area was Fern (Besticover), wife of Clyde, who lived on Center Road until the 1870s when she moved to a senior citizen's home in Elyria. According to Bessie, who was our historian for this story, Fern had an original deed from King James still in the family's possession. Tryphena's sister, Sarah, who lived on land now known as Mapleside Farms, was the first school teacher in Brunswick. There has been a member of the Freese lineage teaching school in each generation here - including Bessie, the sixth generation.
Abraham and John both taught here. John, in the second schoolhouse a quarter mile west of the center. Abraham in the third school, a hewed log building which also served for governmental purposes. The first school was on the line between Liverpool and Brunswick at what is now Marks Road.
Bessie has a reminder of a "teacher's duty" from an 1855 mandate which belonged to her mother. The duties included: "To prevent students from using vulgar language; to prevent wrangling among scholars" and if a student used tobacco, he had to provide his own spit box.
Bert was a trustee for 18 years and son Forest also served in that capacity. The family belonged to the Christian Church, but when Bernice married she didn't attend too often because she recalled having to walk the whole way from her home, along the carline to Route 303 and up to the "Gibbs Church" (Reverend Gibbs was the minister) at the center of town.
Each generation of Freeses and Kellers in Brunswick attended school here in a variety of places and obviously took their schooling seriously. Bessie was graduated from the town hall which wasn't even built when her mother graduated. Mother had attended a school near stop 66 of the Interurban.
Bessie recalls there were six students who attended all 12 years together at the town hall. Her dad drove the "kid wagon," the equivalent then of a school bus. They were Evelyn Strong, Kathleen Morton, Virginia Fritz, Glen Fuller, Howard Dunn and Bessie.
A visit to Brunswick cemeteries finds the faded stones reminding us of the early Freese and Keller settlers - those who helped form, in its earliest stages, what we call Brunswick.