English minister to Spain and a West Indies trader.Located at the center of Cheshire County, Keene was designated as the county seat in 1769.
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After the railroad was constructed to the town in 1848, numerous other industries were established.
Keene became a manufacturing center for wooden-ware, pails, chairs, sashes, shutters, doors, pottery, glass, soap, woolen textiles, shoes, saddles, mowing machines, carriages and sleighs. Keene was incorporated as a city in 1874, and by 1880 had a population of 6,784.
Since the late 20th century, the railroad beds through town were redeveloped as the Cheshire Rail Trail and the Ashuelot Rail Trail.
In 2011, radical activist Thomas Ball immolated himself on the steps of a courthouse in Keene to protest what he considered the court system's abuse of divorced fathers' rights. The highest point in Keene is the summit of Grays Hill in the city's northwest corner, at 1,388 feet (423 m) above sea level.
By the early 1900s all had been absorbed by the Boston & Maine Railroad.
Keene was home to a railroad shop complex and two railroad yards. But Blount's plan fell through and, after one operating season in Keene, the museum was relocated to nearby Bellows Falls, Vermont.
Keene's manufacturing success was brought on in part by its importance as a railroad city.
The Cheshire Railroad, Manchester & Keene Railroad, and the Ashuelot Railroad all met here.
Keene is entirely within the Connecticut River watershed, with all of the city except for the northwest corner draining to the Connecticut via the Ashuelot.