Coke County, Texas

WESLEY FLETCHER KEY
AT HOME IN TEXAS

Foreword

The year was 1890 and the area now called Coke County, Texas was for the most part void of anything of anything but a few cowboys herding cattle in the vicinity of old Fort Chadbourne. Because of the harshness of the land and for fear of Indian depredations, this land was not yet permanently settled. As late as 1880 the largest gathering of white men in the area was at the fort. During that year the fort had a population of twenty-five and was the site of a post office. The Butterfield Overland Mail Route operated in the area from 1858 to 1861 but migration didn't start until the county was organized in 1889. (1)

Wesley Fletcher Key was born in Georgia, on February 7, 1848. (2) After having arrived from Alabama about 1858, Wesley Key was raised and educated in Holly Springs, Dallas County, Arkansas. He married Amanda JoAnna Head, daughter of William Henry Head and Amanda (Delamar) Head on November 30, 1871, in Holly Springs. (3) They were still living there as late as 1873 but had moved to Texas by 1874. Wesley F. Key was living in Greenville, Texas at that time. (4) They made their first permanent home in Navarro County, Texas. (5) From there the Key family moved again, this time a short distance to the west, into Hill County. (6) They lived in Hubbard City from 1876 to 1883. A letter written August 4, 1909, proves residence in Hill County for this seven-year period. The letter reads as follows:

Hubbard City, Texas

To the Medical Profession of TEXAS  
This is to certify that the undersigned Physicians and Citizens of Hubbard City, Texas, Hill Co., do hereby certify that Dr. W.F. Key was well known to us as a physician and did good work here from the year 1876 to 1883 and he had the respect of the people here to that effect. 
R.E. Jordan   D.C. Worth Druggist  W.J. Timberlake 
Dr. Woodward  E.L. Condor   
W.A. Putman G.W. Cash P.M.    

It is not known where Wesley Key received his original medical training, perhaps from a preceptor and/or one of the small proprietary schools, but he apparently recognized the need for more formal training. In 1884 he enrolled in the Arkansas Industrial University, Medical Department, at Little Rock, as a third year student with advanced training. That school later became the University of Arkansas School of Medicine. Records their show that he was a non-resident of Arkansas and a citizen of Hubbard City, Texas. He was the 37th graduate from that school, having received his M.D. Degree February 27, 1885. (7) His diploma in Latin, signed by his twelve Professors, has been preserved and is in the possession of the author. Wesley F. Key, M.D., returned to Texas to practice medicine. According to Polk's Medical Directory, he was practicing in Hubbard City, Hill County, in 1886, in Lingleville, Erath County, in 1890, and Bronte, Coke County, from 1893 to 1910. (8) In 1902, he attended the Southwestern Post-Graduate Medical School at Dallas, taking a postgraduate course in pathology, symptom logy, and treatment of Pulmonary Tuberculosis. (9) Up until that time Wesley and Amanda Key had been blessed with eight children. Two more would follow after they settled in Bronte. The following is a list of the issue of their marriage: (10)

  • 1. Lela Pearl Key, born February 29, 1873, married J. E. McCleskey
  • 2. Henry Richard Key, born July 21, 1875, married Neva Viola Ryan
  • 3. Folden Orestus Key, born February 14, 1877, married Eva Stark
  • 4. Valdimir Orlando Key, born February 14, 1879, married Olive Terry
  • 5. Daisy Belle Key, born July 4, 1881, married E. B. Merchant
  • 6. Cyrus Fletcher Key, born May 8, 1883, died November 20, 1889. He was the first person buried in the Fairview Cemetery in Bronte.
  • 7. Ira Floyd Key, born June 10, 1886, married Agnes H. Sears
  • 8. Jesse Garland Key, born August 12, 1888, married (1) Clarence R. Stone and (2) Robert A. Sanders.
  • 9. Annie Marie Key, born September 6, 1891, married Wilton E. Montgomery
  • 10. Ruby Franks Key, born September 20, 1893, died March 20, 1895

Wesley Key was a charter member of the First Methodist Church of Bronte, as was his wife Amanda, and their children Pearl, Henry, and Valdimir. (11) He was a steward and trustee in the church and served in that capacity as long as he was active. (12) The membership of the original church assembled at the Pecan Motts on East Kickapoo Creek in 1890, on land owned by Wesley Key. He later was on the building committee organized for the purpose of building a permanent structure. The cornerstone was laid on January 27, 1907. After finally settling in the country of the rugged Colorado River Valley in 1890, Wesley Key became the owner of considerable property. Land deeds show that he owned land not only in Coke County but surrounding counties as well. (13) Throughout the remainder of his lifetime he was involved in the buying and selling of land. On November 1, 1898, an agreement was made between him and the Houston and Central Railroad Company. This railroad was acting in pursuance of the powers conferred upon it by a certain Trust Indenture made by and between Frederick P. Alcott, the Farmers Loan and Trust Company of New York, and the Southern Pacific Company. This agreement helped pave the way for the first railroad in Coke County to pass through the town of Bronte. (14) On January 22, 1906 Wesley Key sold land to the First State Bank of Bronte on which a new bank building was built. On that same property now stands a modern new building, the First National Bank of Bronte. (15) Other land sold by Wesley Key to early pioneers is still owned by descendants of those original settlers. Amanda JoAnna Key died on November 1, 1915 at Bronte, Texas. Her will was probated September 5, 1916. She is buried at the Fairview Cemetery in Bronte. Her obituary reads as follows:

Mrs. Wesley Key was born in Butts County, Georgia, January 14, 1855. She joined the M.E. Church, South at the age of ten and lived a Christian until her death November 1, 1915 (Sixty years). She was married to W.F. Key, November 30, 1871, in Dallas County, Arkansas. They came to Texas in 1874. They settled in Coke County in 1890. She and her husband were charter members of the M.E. Church of Bronte, Texas, which was organized in the fall of 1890. Also, three of her children (Pearl, Henry, and Valdimir) were charter members of said church. Her life was ever a testimony to the fact she was a Christian. Her last testimony in the church (in words) was the repeating of the 23rd Psalm. Rev. T. L. Sorrels 

After the death of his wife, Wesley Key lived with his children at different locations throughout the state. He was living with his daughter, Jessie Garland (Key) Sanders and her husband Robert A. Sanders when he died in Wichita Falls, Wichita County, Texas, on December 6, 1921. His will was probated February 13, 1922 at Robert Lee, Coke County, Texas. (16) The obituary of Wesley Fletcher Key is found in the December 16, 1921 issue of The Bronte Enterprise. (17)

Out in the Bronte cemetery tonight is a new grave, upon which the flowers are yet fresh and green, but which will soon fade. The newly made tomb holds all that is moral of and who was known and estimated by all throughout this section and other sections of Texas. He was the pioneer citizen of this beautiful town. He was the founder of Bronte, a faithful physician who in earlier days administered to all the people through this section in the hours of their illness. He was Dr. W.F. Key.

Deceased was born Georgia, February 18, 1848, and departed this life at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Robert Sanders, at Wichita Falls, on the evening of December 6, 1921, making him to be 74 years of age. Nearly a third of a century ago, or speaking with exactness, it was May, 1890, that Dr. Key arrived and decided to make his home on the tract of land where Bronte is now located. With his good wife he began the task of building and establishing a home here in what was then the far frontier country. With the other scattering pioneers they suffered the privations of the frontier days. Being a physician Dr. Key went anywhere at all hours and through all kind of weather. There were not many families of the pioneers in those days but and administered to them as their physician.

Dr. Key was a man of the old South, proud in spirit and scholarly in his attainments, yet with all a warm, genial, southful, sympathetic nature. His deepest humanities were always touched by the sufferings and the sorrows of others. He was a man with splendid religious ideals. He was a member of the Methodist church, and for about forty years. He was a charter member of the local Methodist church and was always ready and willing to help not only his own church but every other worthy cause whether it was directly religious or not. He was public spirited and progressive. He always stood for education and the things that make life worthwhile. He has left his impress on this fair little town that he found in the days of his settling here, to build his fortune, raise his family, and spend his days, which will never be blotted out.

Out yonder now in the silent, the companion of his youth, who Went Home to be with God some six years ago, are sleeping side by side, neath the boughs of the old mesquite tree that stands at the foot of their graves. The hearts of children and grandchildren whom he loved and who loved him and a great company of friends are left in sadness. Yet their sadness, sorrow is not without hope, for through Christ shall he and all others in that land of fadeless light and sad farewells, but we shall be forever with the Lord. Thank God for the Christian's hope of a glorious immortality.

Eight children are left to mourn the loss of their father. They are Mrs. J.E. McCleskey, San Angelo; H.R. Key and F.O. Key of Bronte; V.O. Key, Lamesa; Mrs. Daisy Merchant, Alvin; Mrs. Robert Sanders, Wichita Falls; Ira F. Key, Cameron; Mrs. Everett Montgomery, San Antonio. To those the writer extends sympathy in this hour of bereavement.

The funeral at the Methodist church Thursday afternoon was most befitting; it was the church in which he aided in funding and to which he gave much of his time and strength in the days of his activity. It was a touching and beautiful tribute paid to his splendid life by his former pastor, Rev. T.L. Sorrels of Mansfield. The floral offerings were beautiful and bore mute testimony to the love and esteem cherished for him by those who gathered to pay the last tribute to his memory.

Like David, he served his generation by the will of God and fell on sleep. Peaceful and undisturbed be his rest, till Jesus comes again.
D.M. West, Editor  

Submitted by Gerald W. Key

REFERENCES

  • 1. Jewell G. Pritchett, From The Top Of Old Hayrick, (Rotan, Texas: Kim Pease Printers, 1979) p 142
  • 2. U.S. Census, Barbour County, Alabama 1850, p 1121
  • 3. Marriage Records, Dallas County, Arkansas, v B, p 249
  • 4. Harvey C. Byrd, Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Texas, Waco, Texas, letter to Gerald W. Key, San Antonio, Texas, March 17, 1982
  • 5. The Bronte Enterprise, Obituary, December 16, 1921
  • 6. U.S. Census, Hill County, Texas 1880
  • 7. Thomas A. Bruce, M.D. Dean, College of Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas letter to Marcus M. Key, M.D. Houston, Texas, April 29, 1981
  • 8. Polk's Medical and Surgical Directory of the United States, (Detroit: P.L. Polk & Company, 1886)
  • 9. Southwestern Post-Graduate Medical School, Dallas, Texas, Certificate in Tuberculosis, October 20, 1902. Original belongs to Gerald W. Key, San Antonio, Texas
  • 10. The Bronte, Enterprise, Obituary, December 16, 1921
  • 11. The Bronte Enterprise, September 3, 1964, p 2G
  • 12. The Bronte Enterprise, Obituary, December 16, 1921
  • 13. Warranty Deeds, Runnels County, Texas, v8, p 24; Deed Book, Taylor County, Texas, v 8, p 21; Deed Book, Runnels County, Texas, 8, p 17
  • 14. Deed Book, Bexar County, Texas, v 12, p 503; Agreement, Bexar County, Texas, v 12, p 500; Indenture, City and County of new York, New York, p 128
  • 15. Deed Book, Coke County, Texas, v 15, p 365
  • 16. Last Will of Wesley Fletcher Key, signed, declared, and published August 15, 1921, Wichita Falls, Wichita County, Texas. Will probated February 13, 1922, Robert Lee, Coke County, Texas
  • 17. The Bronte Enterprise, Obituary, December 16, 1921

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