Willard Keyes Biography

Willard Keyes, long Mr. Wood's co-worker in local and county enterprises and always his warm friend, was six years older than the Governor. He was a Vermont man, born in Windham County, October 28, 1792. Originally the family was from Massachusetts. The boy worked on the homestead farm, attended district school when he could, mastered the trade of wool dyer, and as a young man taught school for several winters before, at the age of twenty-five, he decided to see what the West was like. He writes in his diary that "On the second of June, 1817, being impelled by curiosity and a desire to see other places than those in the vicinity of my native town, I, Willard Keyes, started from Newfane, Vermont, intending to travel into the western parts of the United States." Traveling by various means through Canada and by the northern lakes, he reached Prairie du Chien on the 30th of August, 1817. There he remained in teaching, milling and other pursuits, until the spring of 1819, when, with one companion, he started on a raft for St. Louis, floating by the site of Quincy, May 10, 1819. "In March, 1820," the diary continues, "John Wood and myself formed a partnership to go on the frontier and commence farming together; accordingly prepared ourselves with provisions, farming utensils, etc., as well as our slender means would permit--two small yoke of steers, a young cow and a small , though promising lot of swine--our whole amount of property did not probably exceed $250. Paid $50 and $60 per yoke for small four-year old steers, $10 for small heifer, 6 1/4 cents per pound for fresh pork, 75 cents per bushel for corn, $8 per barrel for flour, $4 per bushel for salt, and other things in proportion."

At this place in Old Pike County, Mr. Keyes remained until the spring of 1824, when he moved to Quincy and built the second cabin of the place--16 feet by 16 feet in size--which was afterward used for the first court room. At the formation of the county in 1825 he was chosen one of the county commissioners, and acted earnestly and usefully for the interests of the infant settlement for many years. He was one of the members of the first Church Association formed in Quincy in 1830, of which he remained a deacon for forty-two years. Mr. Keyes died on February 7, 1872, having been twice married--first to Miss Laura Harkness, December 22, 1825, and her death occurred May 8, 1832, and secondly to Miss Mary C. Folsom, who died in November, 1864.

Surnames mentioned in this history: FOLSOM, HARKNESS, KEYES, WOOD 

Wilcox, David. Quincy and Adams County History and Representative Men.  Chicago: Lewis Publishing, 1919, pp 99-100.

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