Coke County, Texas

THE KEYS OF WEST TEXAS

Descendants of Dr. Wesley Fletcher Key
Pioneer of Coke County, Texas

by Gerald W. Key, San Antonio, Texas

The years following the War between the States brought great hardships to the people of this country, particularly those in the South. The aftermath of combat on the battlefields between families of both sides was followed by Reconstruction and many of those families were forced to leave their homes, farms, and all worldly possessions in search of a new life. Among those families was that of Wesley Fletcher KEY. He was the son of Thomas Asberry and Sarah (JONES) KEY and was born in Butts County, Georgia, on February 17, 1848. At an early age he moved with his parents to Dallas County, Arkansas, the year being 1849. After marrying Amanda JoAnna HEAD in Holly Springs, Arkansas, on November 30, 1871, and after having one daughter born in Holly Springs, he followed his dreams of a better life and moved to Texas in 1874. He lived for approximately one year in Navarro County and then moved to neighboring Hill County. He remained there until 1883 when he again moved west to Erath County. He made his last permanent move in 1890 and traveled west into Coke County. At the time of his last move, Coke County was only beginning to attract pioneers, this because of the harshness of the land and for fear of Indian depredations.

Dr. Wesley Fletcher KEY was the pioneer settler of Bronte, Coke Co., Tex., and was given credit for being the founder of that town. Being a physician Dr. Key went anywhere at all hours and in all kind of weather to administer to the scattered pioneers of the county. It is in that community that he and his wife reared and raised their children.

Keys Home

From the Scrapbook of Ethel Pearce Hayley

LELA PEARL KEY

Lela Pearl KEY, daughter of Wesley Fletcher and Amanda JoAnna (HEAD) KEY, was born Feb. 28, 1873, in Holly Springs, Dallas Co., Arkansas. She married James Edwin McCLESKEY, Jr., on November 6, 1890, in Stephenville, Erath Co.,Tex. James Edwin McCLESKEY, Jr., was born January 1, 1870, in Marion, Crittenden Co., Kentucky, to James Edwin McCLESKEY, Sr., a veteran of the Union Army during the War. James E. McCleskey, Jr. was a graduate of Southwestern Univ. in Georgetown, Texas. By profession, he was a Methodist preacher and a farmer. He was shown as living in Coke Co at the enumeration of the 1900 census. On March 7,1901, James E. and Lela Pearl (KEY) McCLESKEY bought a house and 120 acres of land from Wesley F. KEY in Coke Co. They lived at that location and worked as dry land farmers until 1911.

Pearl (Key) and James McCLESKEY were active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

In 1911, James and Pearl McCLESKEY sold their farm and moved to San Angelo, Tom Green County, Tex. She spent her last years in Tulsa, Okla. where they had moved sometime after the death of her father in 1921, and where she died on September 20, 1924. She was buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Tulsa. Her husband, James E. McCLESKEY, Jr, died March 2, 1950, and was buried beside his wife. Their marriage produced the following children:

  • 1. Lena Neims McCLESKEY, born July 30, 1892, Stephenville, Erath Co., Texas, married William Zebedee STONE; died Oct. 1, 1981, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
  • 2. Ethel McCLESKEY, born November 1893, died August 27, 1895.
  • 3. Ruth Ester McCLESKEY, born Apr. 22, 1895, Erath Co, Tex, married [1] John Idell SMITH, and [2] P. H. SPAWM; died Dec 2, 1922.
  • 4. Roy Key McCLESKEY, born Aug. 11, 1896, Lingleville, Erath Co, Tex, married Sylvia GROFANO; died Jan 28, 1972, Coral Gable, Fla
  • 5. Blanche Waverly McCLESKEY, born Feb 1, 1898, Bronte, Coke Co, Tex, married [1] A. S. SHELLY, and [2] Dr. Ralph RAMSEY.
  • 6. Gertrude McCLESKEY, born Sep. 18, 1900, Bronte, Coke Co, Tex; married Robert A. HILL; died Nov 1, 1980.
  • 7. Ruie McCLESKEY, born Dec 27, 1901, Bronte, Coke Co, Tex; married Ben C. BURROW.
  • 8. Mary H. McCLESKEY, born Apr 26, 1904, Bronte, Coke Co, Tex; married Ralph M. MARLIN.

HENRY RICHARD KEY

Henry Richard KEY, son of Wesley Fletcher and Amanda JoAnna (HEAD) KEY, was born July 21, 1875, probably in Navarro Co, Texas. His parents moved to Texas from Arkansas and first settled in the Pursley community. At that time other KEYs were living in the same immediate area, namely, Dr. Richard Childress KEY and Dr. Thomas Asberry KEY, uncle and brother, respectively, of Wesley Fletcher KEY. One theory concerning the naming of Henry Richard KEY is that he was named after William Henry HEAD, the father of Amanda (HEAD) KEY, and Richard Childress KEY, the uncle who is thought to have given Wesley F. KEY his early medical training. In 1884, Wesley F. KEY returned to Arkansas where he received his Medical Degree on February 27, 1885. After returning to Texas, the KEY family eventually settled in Coke Co., Texas. It was there that Henry R. KEY grew to manhood, married, and made his permanent home.

One of the original settlers in that section of the county, Henry KEY arrived in 1890 with his parents and sister, Pearl. He was a charter member of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Bronte and a lifetime member of the congregation. In politics he believed in the principles of the Democrats and socially was a Mason, belonging to the Bronte Lodge #962 (charter member) and Order of Eastern Star, Chapter 517.

Henry KEY was qualified to teach school but no record has been found of a college degree. He also owned a general merchandise store and was a farmer, owning land approximately three miles east of Bronte, near the Runnels County line. It is interesting to note that his great grandchildren still own that same land.

In 1905, Henry KEY married Neva Viola RYAN, born Aug 18, 1876 in Lavaca County, Tex, daughter of Charles Albert and Laura Martha (WARD) RYAN. Henry KEY died Oct 18, 1923 in Wichita Falls and was returned to Bronte for burial. Neva Viola KEY died March 2, 1932 and is buried beside her husband, Henry, and their first child, Charles Wesley KEY, in the Key family pict at Fairview Cemetery, Bronte, Texas. This marriage produced the following children:

  • 1. Charles Wesley KEY, born February 9, 1906, died December 19, 1908.
  • 2. Mary Pauline KEY, born March 19, 1910, married [1] John H. BARKER, and (2] Charles T. LUX, December 14, 1947; died Aug 13, 1987.
  • 3. Morris Richard KEY, born May 26, 1912, married Ella Mildred BAKER, February 19, 1938; died June 21, 1985.
  • 4. Elbert Ryan KEY, born September 8, 1916, married Buel Elgenia CREECH, August 8, 1941; died June 19, 1972.

FOLDEN ORESTUS KEY

Folden Orestus KEY, son of Wesley Fletcher and Amanda JoAnna (HEAD) KEY, was born February 24, 1877, in Hubbard City, Hill Co., Tex. Little is known about his early life. He married Mrs. Eva (STARK) WILLOUGHBY, in San Angelo, Tom Green Co, Texas, November 13, 1901. She was the daughter of P.S. and Mattie (COMBS) STARK. She was born December 3, 1868, in Kentucky. Their marriage produced no children. By her previous marriage to W.R. WILLOUGHBY of McCulloch Co., Tex, she had one son, Oden H. WILLOUGHBY.

Both he and his wife were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Bronte. He was a leading businessman of Bronte. He was owner of the South Texas Lumber Co., in Bronte, for many years.

Folden Orestus KEY died July 2, 1933 in Bronte, Coke Co, Tex. Eva (STARK) KEY died January 1, 1957 in Bronte. Both are burled in Fairview Cemetery, Bronte, Texas.

VALDIMIR ORLANDO KEY

Valdimir Orlando KEY, son of Wesley Fletcher and Arnanda JoAnna (HEAD) KEY, was born February 14, 1879 in Hubbard City, Hill Co., Tex.

His early education was obtained in schools in Hubbard City, Linqieville, and Bronte, Texas where he graduated from high school in 1890. Upon graduation he traveled through southern New Mexico and Arizona on horseback. Unable to find his fortune he returned to Texas to prepare for the future.

V. 0. KEY, worked his way through "normal school" by selling stereoscopes and views. A bicycle was his means of transportation. He attended Southwestern Univ. in Georgetown, Texas in 1903-1905, where he took pre-law. He finished his education at the Univ. of Texas in Austin, Travis Co., Texas.

Valdirnir Orlando KEY married Olive Mourning TERRY, June 12, 1907. She was born July 13, 1885 in Jonesboro, Texas and was the daughter of a late nineteenth century circuit rider, Elisha TERRY, ard Asalie (HUNT) TERRY.

Following graduation in March 1908, V.0. and Family returned to Coke County and settled in Robert Lee. On November 3, 1908 he was elected Coke Co. Attorney and served in that capacity until 1911. When his term expired he rode over West Central Tex. and the South Plains, again on a bicycle, finally deciding to settle in Lamesa, Dawson Co, Tex. He preceded his family who traveled by railroad. Besides being an attorney he owned an abstract company in Lamesa.

V.0. and Olive KEY were members of the First Methodist Church of Lamesa, and he was an active member of the Men's Sunday School. He was affiliated with the Democratic Party and socially, he was a member of the I.O.O.F. and a charter member of the Lamesa Rotary Club. Valdimir Orlando KEY died in Lamesa on February 20, 1948, and Olive Mourning (TERRY) KEY died on May 26, 1968. Both are buried in the Lamesa Memorial Park Cemetery.

This marriage produced the following children:

  • 1. Valdimir Orlando KEY, Jr., born March 13, 1908; married Luella GETTYS; died October 4, 1963.
  • 2. AZAlie Ann KEY, born September 27, 1910; married Dr. Noble H.PRICE.
  • 3. Baby KEY, died in infancy.
  • 4. Marion Terry KEY, married Mary Ellis MAEDGEN.
  • 5. Luther Stone KEY, born November 30, 1922; mar. Florence SCHOETTLE, April 2, 1948, Norristown Pennsylvania.
  • 6. William Cecil KEY; married Essie OLSON.

IRA FLOYD KEY

Ira Floyd KEY, son of Wesley Fletcher and Amanda JoAnna (HEAD) KEY, was born June 10, 1886, in Lingleville, Erath Co., Texas. He received his early education in Bronte, Coke County, Texas.

From early childhood his heart and mind were turned toward the ministry, having been nurtured from infancy in the Christian faith after the manner of pioneer Methodism. In 1903, at the age of 17, he was licensed to preach at the fourth quarterly conference in Bronte. He entered Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, in 1904. He was graduated with a B.A. Degree in 1908.

In 1909 he was admitted to the Tex. Conference in Jacksonville. His first appointment was assistant pastor of the First Methodist Church of Galveston. He met Miss Agnes SEARS, daughter of Rev. and Mrs. J.B. SEARS. They were married June 1, 1910 in Houston, Texas. Over the years Ira KEY accomplished many services in the Methodist Conferences. During the June Conference of 1938, his Alma Mater conferred upon him the Degree of Doctor of Divinity for having his service to the Methodist church.

Ira KEY died 4 May 1943 and was buried 6 May 1943 at the City Cemetery, Bryan, Brazos County, Texas. Agnes (SEARS) KEY died in Amarillo, Potter Co., Texas, on 16 Feb. 1965 and is buried beside her husband, Ira Floyd KEY, and son, Eugene Moreland KEY, in City Cemetery, Bryan, Texas.

Ihe following four children were born to Ira and Agnes KEY:

  • 1. Margaret KEY, married Richard ROBERTS.
  • 2. Joe F. KEY, married Louise KILLOUGH.
  • 3. Eugene Moreland KEY, who gave his life for his country at Tulagi, Soloman Islands, as a Captain in the U.S. Marine Corp. during WW II.
  • 4. Julian M. KEY (Physician), married Kathryn WHITE.

DAISY BELLE KEY

Daisy Belle, daughter of Wesley Fletcher and Amanda JoAnna (HEAD) KEY, was born 14 July 1881, in Hubbard City, Hill Co., Tex. She was raised in Hubbard City and Lingleville, and graduated from Bronte High School in Coke County, Texas.

Daisy Belle KEY married Edmund Billups MERCHANT, 4 August 1898. He was born 30 April 1879 in Nelta, Hopkins Co., Tex., to Mary Ann and Bradley A. MERCHANT.

E. B. MERCHANT was employed to teach in the small community of Crow's Nest, Coke County. He was engaged in that profession for about six years following his marriage and then moved to a farm east of Bronte. He and Daisy Belle farmed there until they moved to Alvin, Brazoria Co., Tex., in 1913. In 1929 they moved to San Antonio. During his adult life he worked as a school teacher, farmer and for the Santa Fe Railroad. Besides being a mother and homemaker, Daisy was employed for a time by the San Antonio School District at Jefferson High School.

E.B. and Daisy MERCHANT were members of the Methodist church, she being a charter member of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Bronte. Later they were members of the Alvin Methodist Church and the Prospect Hill Methodist Church in San Antonio. In 1945, they returned to Alvin, Texas where they lived the rest of their lives. Edmund Billups MERCHANT died July 26, 1953 in Alvin, Brazoria Co., Texas and Daisy Belle MERCHANT died May 11, 1960. Both are buried at the Confederate Cemetery in Alvin, Texas.

The following nine children were born to this union:

  • 1. Bascom Neely MERCHANT, born May 30, 1900, married Ella BURNS, died Dec. 17, l957 in Brenham, Washington Co., Texas. He was a Methodist minister.
  • 2. Velpo Irene MERCHANT, born August 24, 1901, died January 27, 1929, in Fairfield, Freestone Co., Texas.
  • 3. Leslie Grady MERCHANT, born January 12, 1903, married Helen ARNOLD; died January 29, 1966.
  • 4. Zena Garland MERCHANT, born August 19, 1904, never married.
  • 5. Ima Valentine MERCHANT, born February 13, 1906, married Elbert BURGE.
  • 6. Lawrence Key MERCHANT, born August 21, 1907, married Ollie O'Neil HANEY; died May 23, 1982.
  • 7. Helen Eugenia MERCHANT, born March 19, 1910, married Malcom Eugene JANTZEN.
  • 8. Edmund Billups MERCHANT,Jr., born September 6, 1914, married Margie Aline POTTER; died February 20, 1979, retired U.S. Army.
  • 9. Frances Elizabeth MERCHANT, born August 27, 1917, married Neel WITT, June 18, 1936.

JESSIE GARLAND KEY

Jessie Garland KEY, daughter of Wesley Fletcher and Amanda JoAnna (HEAD) KEY, was born August 12, 1888. When two years of age she moved with her parents to Coke Co., Texas, and there graduated from Bronte High School. It was in Bronte that she began to love and appreciate the art of music. She was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Bronte and as a young lady played the organ for that congregation. She was one of the early believers in the liberation of women.

Garland KEY attended Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. Records show that she was a student from 1905-1908. While there, she was active in music and sports. She continued musical studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati, Ohio, attending in 1909-1910.

Garland KEY married Clarence R. STONE in Jasper, Jasper Co., Tex., on June 7, 1911. He was born September 10, 1887, and was the son of Dr. T.E. STONE of Jasper, Texas. He attended Southwestern Univ. from 1906-1908. After their marriage, Garland (KEY) STONE taught music at the I.O.F.F. Oddfellows School in Corsicana, Navarro Co., Tex. It is unknown what happened to her first marriage but she later married (2] Robert Austin SANDERS, in Detroit, Michigan, on August 18, 1918. Robert A. SANDERS was born in Kolaski, Tenn., May 5, 1883 to Henry James and Rebecca Jane (BROWN) SANDERS. At age fourteen he was forced to quit school to help support the family, learning the blacksmith trade. After his marriage to Garland (KEY) STONE, he worked in Detroit building airplane parts during World War I. The greater part of their lives was spent in Wichita Falls, Wichita Co., Texas. Their marriage produced no children but they raised one adopted son, Paul Austin SANDERS.

Garland SANDERS was active in Floral Heights Methodist Church in Wichita Falls where she sang in the choir, was president of the Woman's Missionary Society, and Worthy Matron of Eastern Star Chapter 237. She was also a member of the Wesley Class and of the Rebecca Lodae 236. She was a music teacher, a member of the Wichita Falls Music Teachers Association, and the National Guild of Piano Teachers.

Jessie Garland (KEY) SANDERS died February 16, 1970, in Wichita Falls, Texas. Robert Austin SANDERS died January 28, 1974, in Austin Travis Co., Texas, while living with his son, Paul. Robert Austin SANDERS was a member of Floral Heights Methodist Church and was a Mason, belonging to the Corsicana Lodge and later to Faith Lodge 1158 AF & AM at Wichita Falls. He was a master mechinist and after more than 30 years, retired from the Wilson Manufacturing Company, at the age of 75. Both are buried at the Crestview Memorial Park Cemetery in Wichita Falls, Texas.

ANNIE MARIE KEY

Annie Marie KEY, daughter of Wesley Fletcher and Amanda JoAnna (HEAD) KEY was born September 6, 1891. She was the first of the KEY children born in Bronte, Coke Co., Texas. She received her early education in the public schools in that community and graduated from Bronte High School. She was a member of the Bronte Methodist Episcopal Church.

Annie KEY was a school teacher in her early adult life, having attended San Angelo Junior College (later becoming Angelo State University) before 1912. The school burned during the Christmas holidays of 1912. During her enrollment at that institution she met her future husband, Wilton Everett MONTGOMERY. He attended that school from 1907 to 1909.

Wilton Everett MONTGOMERY was born March 14, 1888, in Blanco County, Texas. His parents were Charles Gamewell and Georgia Lavinia (WOODS) MONTGOMERY. Charles Gamewell MONTGOMERY died on November 26, 1919, in Grit, Mason County, Texas. Georgia L.(WOODS) MONTGOMERY died in Christoval, Tom Green County, Texas on October 11, 1946.

According to one source, Annie Marie KEY and Wilton Everett MONTGOMERY were married in August of 1919. However, a check of many Texas courthouses has not offered any evidence of this. They had no children.

Before her marriage, Annie KEY taught school with her sister, Jessie Garland KEY, at the Oddfellow Home in Corsicana, Navarro Co., Texas. Wilton E. MONTGOMERY graduated from San Angelo Junior College, received a teaching diploma from Southwest Texas Normal, a B.A. Degree from Southwest Texas State Teachers College, and M.A Degree from the University of Texas. His first teaching assignment was with the Cuero, DeWitt Co., Texas, public school system where he taught from 1919 to 1920, after having served in the U. S. Army during World War I. In 1920 he was elected to teach in the San Antonio public school system where he taught in several of the schools and in 1945 was chosen as Principal of J.T. Brackenridge Elementary School in San Antonio. He served there until retirement in 1954.

Annie Marie and Wilton Everett MONTGOMERY made their permanent home in San Antonio. Both were Methodists, belonging to Prospect Hill Methodist Church and later to Travis Park Methodist Church.

Wilton Everett MONTGOMERY died in San Antonio, Texas, October 13, 1956. Annie Marie MONTGOMERY died January 12, 1969, in Wichita Falls, Texas, at the home of her sister, Jessie Garland SANDERS. Both W.E. and Annie MONTGOMERY were buried at the Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.

CYRUS FLETCHER KEY and RUBY FRANKS KEY

Two children were born to Wesley Fletcher and Amanda JoAnna (HEAD) KEY who died young.

Cyrus Fletcher KEY was born May 8, 1883, in Hubbard City, Hill Co., Texas. He moved with his parents to Lingleville, Erath Co., Texas, in 1887, and then to Bronte, Coke Co., Texas in 1890. He lived there until his death, November 20, 1890. He was the first person to be buried in the Fairview Cemetery in Bronte, Texas.

Ruby Franks KEY was born September 20, 1893, in Bronte, Coke County, Texas. She died March 20, 1895, in Bronte and was buried in the Fairview Cemetery in that community.

Submitted by Gerald W. Key
7418 Canterfield Dr., San Antonio, TX 78240
(Edited for publication in "Stalkin1 Kin".)

STALKIN' KIN, Vol. XXIII, No. 4
Copied with permission from the:
San Angelo Genealogical and Historical Society, Inc,
P O Box 3453, San Angelo, TX 76902 and Gerald W. Key, San Antonio, TX.

This page was updated: Tuesday, 05-Jan-2010 13:29:07 MST

Copyright © 1999-2010 by Jacqueline Latham and the Individual Contributors of TXGenWeb