KELKER, Rudolph
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KELKER, RUDOLPH FREDERICK, son of Frederick and Catharine (Fager)

Kelker, was born February 17, 1820, at Harrisburg, Pa.  In March, 1835, he entered the hardware store of Oglesby & Hinckley, successors of Oglesby & Pool, who were successors to his father, to learn the business and continued with them until May, 1838, when, owing to delicate health, he left the establishment and gave attention to the improvement of his father's lands in the vicinity of Harrisburg.  On November 18, 1842, he purchased the interest of Mr. Hinckley and carried on the hardware business with his partner, Mr. Oglesby, until the death of the latter, March 21, 1846.  He continued the business alone until May following, when he associated with him his two brothers, and conducted the same under the firm name of Kelker & Brothers, remaining in business until May 14, 1851, when on account of failing health he retired from mercantile pursuits.  In 1852 he was elected a director of the Harrisburg Bank, in which institution he has served for a number of triennial terms.  For several years he was a director of the First national Bank, and a manager of the Harrisburg cemetery.  In the corporation of Harrisburg as a city, he was appointed with seven other citizens, by the Legislature, on the commission to lay out the streets and avenues necessary in the new territory included within its limits.  From 1854 until 1891 he served as a trustee of the Harrisburg Academy, and was for a long time its secretary and treasurer.  From 1866 to 1872 Mr. Kelker was one of the directors of the poor for the county of Dauphin, and through his instrumentality proper legislation was secured, new additional buildings erected and such improvements made in the general management of the almshouse as greatly alleviated the condition of the unfortunate inmates. He was one of the founders of the City Hospital, a manager from its organization in 1873 until 1889; from March, 1878, until his resignation, its treasurer, and was on the committee to superintend the construction of the new building erected in 1883-4.  In 1873 and 1874 he was one of the trustees of the Pennsylvania Lunatic Hospital at Harrisburg, and at the organization of the Harrisburg City Passenger Railway Company, in 1874, was made a director, and was treasurer from November 2, 1874, to May, 1891, when he resigned because the company began to run their cars on the Lord's Day. Apart from these active duties of citizen life, Mr. Kelker's labors in the Reformed church, of which he is a prominent member, it is here deemed proper to summarize.  His parents were also members of the Reformed church, and on April 27, 1823, he was enrolled as a scholar in the Sunday school.  December 27, 1835, he was confirmed by Rev. J. F. Berg, D. D., as a member of the church; a deacon of the church from 1841 to 1849, an elder in the same from 1849 to 1875, excepting the year 1867, and since May, 1883, has filled the same position.  From October, 1836, until April 29, 1950, he served as a teacher, and from the latter date until January, 1870, as superintendent of the Sunday-school, when at the request of the consistory of the church, he took charge of an adult Bible class, which, during the first year increased from twelve to ninety members and at the close of December, 1874, it numbered one hundred and sixty-one, when the class was assigned by the consistory to the pastor of the church on account of Mr. Kelker's anti-ritualistic views.  Being thus relieved of his work in the Sabbath-school he accepted an invitation or organize and take charge of an adult Bible class of both sexes, to be composed of persons of all denominations as well as those who had no church relation, which organization was effected under the name of the "Salem Bible Class of Harrisburg," which now has a large membership and has had connected with it during its existence more than nine hundred persons, the class is incorporated, has a valuable library and for the last twenty-three years has been one of the established religious institutions of the city.  For many years Mr. Kelker was one of the vice-presidents of the Pennsylvania State Sabbath-school Association and has been for a number of years one of the vice-presidents of the board of managers of the American Sunday-school Union, and of the American Tract Society.

      In 1845 Mr. Kelker was elected a trustee of Marshall College,

Mercersburg, and subsequently, until 1869, a corporate trustee after its union with Franklin College of Lancaster, as Franklin and Marshall College. The Eastern Synod of the Reformed Church was incorporated in 1859, and he was one of the five trustees named in the charter and the first president of the board, and subsequently for a number of years treasurer of the same. Since 1863, with the exception of three years, up to October, 1890, he served as treasurer of the board of foreign missions of the General Synod of the Reformed Church.  He was a member of the synodical committee to prepare the "Triglott Tercentenary Heidelberg Catechism," published in 1863, but dissented from the final action of that body, believing that many changes made in the new English translation were wholly unwarranted and uncalled for.  He repeatedly represented his congregation in Classis, and the Classis

as delegate to the Synod.  He was a member of the Synod of York in 1866, and made powerful opposition to the adoption and reference of the "New Order of Worship" to the General Synod.  In 1867, with others, he united in a call for a convention of two hundred and twenty-five ministers and elders of the Eastern Synod, which assembled at Myerstown, Pa., to protest against the "Order of Worship," as being contrary to the doctrines and cults of the Reformed church.  One of the results of this movement was the establishment, in 1869, of Ursinus College, at Freeland, Montgomery county, Pa., under the presidency of Rev. J. H. A. Bomberger, D. D., with a university charter, thus enabling the institution to teach theology as well as the classics.  In

1879 Mr. Kelker served as a member of the "Peace Commission," a body consisting of twelve ministers and twelve elders, chosen by direction of the General Synod of the Reformed Church of the United States by the several District Synods to assemble at Harrisburg, Pa., and adjust the differences existing in the church in doctrine, cultus and government.  After eight days' discussion a basis of union was unanimously adopted, and a new era in the history of the church was opened up, which brought peace and harmony. The work of the commission was unanimously approved by the General Synod and the same persons were at once appointed by it to prepare an "Order of Worship" for the denomination suited to its wants and evangelical in its character, which work was accomplished in 1884, and was constitutionally adopted as the Directory of Worship of the Reformed Church in the United States.

      In June, 1839, at his suggestion, the Sunday-school teachers of

Harrisburg founded the Harrisburg Sunday-school Union, of which he was the first secretary, and upon its reorganization, in 1854, was chosen president thereof.  He was one of the founders of the Young Men's Christian Association, in December, 1854, and president of the same in 1856.  Mr. Kelker has likewise been deeply interested in the temperance work.  In 1837 at the suggestion of, and in connection with an intimate friend, James Cowden, they started the first total abstinence society in Harrisburg, as previous to this date the temperance organizations allowed the use of malt and vinous liquors.  In 1840 he took a prominent part in the Washington temperance movement, and has often represented the cause in State conventions.  Since their organization he has been the chairman of the executive committee appointed by the Christian citizens of Harrisburg a number of years ago, to watch the applications for license, so as to prevent improper persons from obtaining the same, and to require all engaged in the liquor traffic to conform to the provisions of the license laws.  As foreman of the grand jury of the county in 1871, 1873 and 1879, he made presentment of the license law as a public nuisance, and gave valuable statistics on the subject which attracted great attention.  The report of 1873 was widely circulated, more than fifty thousand copies being printed by the friends of the temperance cause.  In accordance with the suggestions of this report almost one-half of the applications for that year for hotel and saloon liquor license were refused by the court.  Mr. Kelker married, June 17, 1844, Mary Anne, daughter of Gen. William Reily, and the children were Frederick, Luther Reily, Rudolph Frederick, and William Anthony, of whom the second and fourth are living.  Mrs. Kelker entered into rest August 27, 1890.