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The Keller Family

The Keller Family

Louis Keller, the wealthy and eccentric founder of the Rahway Valley Railroad, as well as its primary owner. The only reason he built the line was to serve his Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ.

For eighty-two years of the ninety-five years that the Rahway Valley Railroad was in operation, it was closely held and controlled by members of the Keller family.

The driving force behind the building of the railroad was none other than Louis Keller (1858-1922). The reason Keller was so adament about building the railroad was to have it bring his wealthy friends to his Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, NJ in comfort, as opposed the the bumpy back country roads of Union County that existed at that time.

Keller, with some associates, started the Rahway Valley Railroad on July 18, 1904 and by early 1906 the line was completed to Summit. He had a schedule of fourteen passenger trains along the line, with each one stopping at the "Baltusrol Station" which he had built a short walk from the golf course.

Louis Keller, who had left the management of his railroad (he owned the majority of the stock) to others, became President of the line in 1915 after the death of William W. Cole. Keller, being the eccentric man he was with a complete lack of railroading experience, began to run the railroad into the red and into the ground.

So in 1919 Keller sought out the help of railroading legend Roger A. Clark to manage his railroad. Clark and Keller remained at odds over many things until Keller died in 1922, leaving Clark to become President and General Manager.

Keller's two nephews Louis Lawrence and Charles Keller Beekman as well as his one niece Catherine Huger inherited Keller's fortune along with his stock in the Rahway Valley Railroad, of which Keller owned the majority. A 1934 stock report of the Rahway Valley Company, Lessee revealed Keller's estate as well as his heirs owned 44% of the common stock.

Louis Lawrence and Charles Keller Beekman for many years say on the Board of Directors of the Rahway Valley Railroad, but after the death of their uncle, the Kellers maintained a very low key role in the day to day operations of the railroad. They saw how Roger Clark made the railroad a money maker, some of that money going into the Kellers pockets. They decided not to "rock the boat" and made George Clark president of the railroad in the wake of his father's death in 1932.

Obituary of Louis Lawrence.
Cranford Chronicle - 3/31/1949

Eventually Lawrence and Beekman passed away in the 1940's, and Catherine "Kittie" Huger died in Savannah, Georgia in 1951. Their heirs, Lawrence's children and Huger's children (Beekman never married), vested the law firm of Beekman & Bogue (a law firm started by Charles Keller Beekman) to oversee their affairs as far as the railroad was concerned. With the Clarks keeping the railroad in the black, the Keller family maintained its low profile, and only occasionally did the law firm of Beekman & Bogue check in on things.

When George Clark died in 1969, the Kellers made his son Robert G. Clark President of the railroad, but after his sudden passing in 1975, the Kellers sought out Bernard J. Cahill to assume the managerial role.

Then in 1986 the railroad was unable to obtain liability insurance and would be forced to discontinue operations. The Kellers decided to sell their railroad and in 1986 the line was sold to the Delaware Otsego Corporation of Cooperstown, NY, ending 82 years of family ownership.

Charles Keller Beekman

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