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Judge John W. KeysBiographical Sketch from Beers History of Warren County, Ohio
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Judge John W. Keys


Transcription contributed by Martie Callihan 5 May 2005

The History of Warren County Ohio
Part V. Biographical Sketches
Wayne Township
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)
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JUDGE JOHN W. KEYS. This gentleman was born at Hulmeville (Old Milford) in Bucks Co., Penn., on the 28th of August, 1814. His father was of Irish and Scotch extraction, and was born and partly raised in Philadelphia, and his mother was of German and Welsh origin, and was raised in Salem Co., N. J. In 1819, his father, a tanner and currier by trade (which trade he learned at Attleboro, Penn., serving as an apprentice nine years eleven months and fourteen days), emigrated to Ohio with his family, consisting of himself, wife and three children, and located at Waynesville, arriving there in October. This was his residence until the time of his death, which occurred in January, 1830. This event left the family, comprising his wife and seven children—five sons and two daughters—with no pecuniary resources whatever.

The oldest child, the subject of this sketch, was then only 15 years old. But Mrs. Keys was a woman of rare executive ability, and proved herself amply equal to the situation, in which the most of women would have failed. She inspired her children with the same self-reliance, courage and hope that dwelt in her, and procured for them such employment as they were able to discharge, thus early initiating them into the stern realities of life, and developing in them the elements of a substantial manhood and womanhood. That this mother has lived to see her children all useful and respected members of society is a matter of special congratulation. She still resides in Waynesville with her daughters, her health fair and mind good, in the 94th year of her age, at which place also resides three of her sons, with their families—John W., Joseph G. and Isaac E. The second son, William, served in the war of the rebellion, and died at Chattanooga, in January. 1864. The third son, Thomas J., settled in California in 1850; he has served in both branches of the Legislature, besides filling other positions of importance and honor. Her father was a soldier in the Revolutionary war. The first sixteen years of the life of the subject of this sketch, his labors were upon a farm; he then went to Lebanon, where he served over three years as an apprentice at the cabinet and undertaking business, and subsequently served about the same length of time as a journeyman. In 1836, he commenced the business of his trade in Waynesville, which he continued until 1876, and during that time there were preparations made at his shop for the burial of about two thousand persons. In February, 1842, he was married to Miss Sarah B. French, a native of New Jersey, and by this union there were born unto them six children, three sons and three daughters, but one daughter and one son, and two grandchildren of a deceased daughter, only, survive them. Judge Keys' facilities for acquiring an education were quite limited; the circumstances of the family after the death of his father prevented him from attending school, with the exception of fourteen days, but by a faithful improvement of occasional periods of leisure, he acquired quite an extensive fund of general information, which qualified him for various positions of honor and influence, which he has since filled. In 1839, he was honored with the office of Mayor of Waynesville; in 1842, he was elected a Justice of the Peace, which office he filled for thirty years, with the exception of a single term, during which time he served one year as Township Clerk, one year as Corporation Recorder, several years as Village Councilman, and about twenty years as a Notary Public. One thing especially characterized his administration as a Justice of the Peace, and exemplified to a great degree his natural kindness of heart and magnanimity of nature. In numerous instances where complaints were laid before him, arising from petty differences between neighbors, he exerted his influence to have them amicably settled without a resort to litigation, and thus many a wrangling law-suit was prevented by his timely counsel, evincing a less desire to pocket a fee than to secure and preserve the peace of the community. This liberal course, continued through a justiceship of upward of a quarter of a century, secured for him a host of friends. In the fall of 1872, he was elected Probate Judge of the county, which position he held from the last of October of that year until the 9th of February, 1879, and therein rendered himself very acceptable to the people by the efficiency, promptness and fidelity with which he discharged the duties of the office. He is a man of more than ordinary natural ability, and possessed of a very discriminating judgment, a remarkable memory, and of perceptive faculties of unusual acuteness and activity; hence his conclusions, which are quickly reached, are safe and sound. The Judge is a genial gentleman, modest and unassuming, and though firm and decided in his opinions, and bold and fearless in expressing them upon proper occasions, he never seeks to intrude them upon others. He carries a heart big with benev-
olence and liberality, and is very warm in his attachments to the neighborhood in which he has so long resided. He began life without position or fortune, but by frugality, industry and strict integrity, has acquired some property, and now enjoys the fruits of his toil, together with the esteem of his fellow citizens.

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This page created 5 May 2005 and last updated 21 February, 2009
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