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034_Folks We Know - Famed for Hobby


034_Folks We Know - Famed for Hobby


This article is a tribute to Charles Keyes and all his accomplishments during the past 80 years of his life. The article is from the Mount Vernon Hawkeye-Record and the Lisbon Herald




Education use only, no other permissions given. U.S. and international copyright laws may protect this item. Commercial use of distribution of this digital item is not permitted without written permission of Cornell College Archives.


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Cornell College Archives, Mt. Vernon, Iowa

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Charles Reuben Keyes

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College Archivist, Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, Iowa; Phone 319-895-4240 or email:

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Folks We Know - Famed for Hobby Ten years ago, as he approached his birthday on May 5th, Charles Reuben Keyes announced that "he had taught long enough" and retired as professor of German on the Cornell faculty. But retirement in his dictionary did not mean "to rest and ride on ones laurels." Instead it promised for him an opportunity to devote full time to a hobby which he had pursued in leisure time since boyhood. Today, at 80, the Charles Keyes who as a boy collected Indian relics is an authority on Indian life in Iowa. "How have you used the ten years? What have you done?" I asked Cornell's Mr. Chips. "Well, I have spent a great deal of time in study and interpretation of materials I have accumulated over many years. I have also added more, " he said. Dr. Keyes had previously had only three months of each year for working in this field of archeology. He had personally collected many items of historical interest, and individuals in the state who had known of his work had offered their own collections to the project. Some of the exhibit is housed in Cornell's Law Memorial building; the rest is in the collection of the State Historical Society at Iowa City, to which all will be sent eventually. Dr. Keyes was made director of the Iowa Archeology survey in 1921. Material, significant in tracing the early history of the state, has been yielded from former Indian village sites and from mounds. Early residents have provided verbal history. During his retirement Dr. Keyes has written a member of articles based on his findings but his main effort has been directed toward a readable book on archeology. This will be published through the State Historical Society. "I've always hoped that what I have to say about the state's archeology will be comprehensible to the average person, " Dr. Keyes said. He must have felt a great deal of personal satisfaction when President Truman proclaimed the Effigy Mounds as a national park in 1949, because this was a culmination of many years of dreaming and promotion on his part. Toward this end he had worked with the state conservation commission and park board. Dr. Keyes has been vitally interested in his community and college as well as in his state. He grew up in Mt. Vernon and both he and Mrs. Keyes attended college here. They established their home just off the campus, and sent their two children to Cornell. Margaret teaches in the Clinton schools and Catharine (Mrs. Robert Miller) lives in New York City. There are many ways to contribute to community life and Dr. Keyes has given freely of his time and knowledge. He has been a frequent speaker on school, club and farm bureau programs. He has especially enjoyed talking to school children, often taking with him exhibits of Indian life or bird lore, and even conducting laboratory tours for small groups of young folks. Perhaps he remembers his own great interest in these fields when only a teenager. It was a common practice for Charlie Keyes to step over the fence from the home place into the David West property, there to stalk the mock orange hedge, hunting for spring birds and nests. Often he walked to the sloughs at Delos Davis' to watch the bobolinks. He used to go out to the farm where R.P. Ink lived, but Pete usually had all the birds spotted before Charlie got there. George Burge recalled once how he had come to their farm on one of his frequent bird hikes. Fellows who seriously followed this hobby were rare at that time. As he started out on his hunt the hired man remarked to George. "I've been watching that fellow. What's the matter with him?" But of all the haunts the Pal always held the most for Dr. Keyes in adventure, delight and authentic material both in study of birds and archeology. I remember the Dr. Keyes of my college days--his friendly nod on the campus, his kindly way of addressing the students from the chapel platform, his subtle humor that always rather surprised me, coming from such a quiet, practical man. Few of his students realized he had been listed in Who's Who for years. They respected him for his scholarly attitude and his knowledge of so many subjects. But it was not his honors that endeared him to those in his classes but his vital way of presenting German, his equal enthusiasm in teaching them how to get the most from their fountain pens, his pleasant inquiries about others in their families whom he had had in school. Dr. Keyes is one of the few who may reflect on 80 years if life and find he has achieved success in his community in his home, in his vocation and in his avocation. The Hawkeye would like to reprint an editorial tribute to him written by Fred Beckman editor of the Knoxville, Iowa, Journal. "One of Cornell college's most distinguished faculty members is also one of the most unassuming. Through all his years of study for his career in teaching and research, in the same fifty years of increasing success in those field, wide recognition came to him here in America and abroad, but he was never known to "strut" once--not even a little bit. He took everything that came his way, big achievement and little, in his calm, undemonstrative way. "And that apparently made students at Cornell College, and his associates in the research and service fields he served, all the more devoted in their appreciation and friendships for Charles R. Keyes." His career has been filled with interesting contrasts. He was educated to teach German and won distinction in that profession, but his fame far beyond that was gained in his research in archaeology and anthropology, notably of the Indian aborigines and their way of life in northeastern Iowa. The establishment of the Effigy Mounds National monument in that area was in a real sense a monument to Dr. Keyes. "But there is another contrasting 'monument' to this man of contrasts in the Cornell College Athletic Committee and the Midwest Athletic Conference, both of which he helped to establish many years ago. By the long train of athletes who have come to and gone out of Cornell College, Dr. Keyes is held in high esteem and affection. To them he is generally known as the 'professor of fair play', as told in an appreciation of this man written for a recent issue of the Christian Advocate by an alumnus, Louis L. Wilson. "Although he will soon have an 80th birthday, Charles R. Keyes is still active in his research as he lives in the community of Mt. Vernon where he was born and where practically all of his life was lived. Not only his community and his college may well esteem and love him, but so also may all Iowa, for Charles R. Keyes has truly been great with a fine and true simplicity" --Knoxville Journal.
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