Looking for the Key Part II: The Road There

the-road2

It was a welcome contrast to the gauntlet of winding gravel road that wove its way through the dark and green tunnel of doom I had passed through. Not only was it gloomy but it seemed to  threaten to feed me to the old  rusted bridge suspended over the creek far below.

For the most part, the forestry service road appears to be reasonably maintained, scraped by dozers, trees held back by selective cutting and vegetation kept at bay with periodic controlled burns. The relative ease of navigation should not be allowed to lull one into overconfidence; rough spots require the driver to be keenly observant and patient.

Sandy dirt with a light mix of gravel was packed from recent traffic and rain. Said rain also resulted in sections of washboard soil; the forest corsets the road like a 19th century lady and the shoulder melts some 5-10 feet into the forest floor.  Travel too fast and one might find themself looking at the ground upside down. A bit further on, there is a puddle. A big puddle. Muddy and who knows how deep it goes? Might a catfish or two survive there? Surely crawfish would. Fortunately the road is wider here with room to ease slightly to the side and slowly splash one’s way through the ghastly murky depths. Which turned out to be a only couple of inches or so.

The road changes fairly frequently, but again, navigation is relatively easy for the careful driver. It narrows, then spreads out, the shoulder frequently melts to a dropoff of several feet in a few places,  then becomes more level with the sides of the road, and there are a couple of slight hills and curves.

After a bit of rolling on, an open meadow peeks through the pines. There in the center stands a massive tree, branches reaching to the heavens.
the-meadow

Having an fondness for trees, I parked the car to take in the serenity of this space so open to the sun and sky. A closer look reveals this to be a cluster of trees. I don’t know what kind. But it was magnificent.

Two smaller trees trailed behind the glorious tree, looking for all the world as if following their elder to an ENT moot.  They were moving too quickly for me to get a clear photo of them. 😉

Wandering around the edges of the meadow, this friendly little one showed its colors to me.


Returning to my vehicle, I moved on. There were places deep and dim in the woods that seemed to resent passing tourists. There were sunny places with grass that seemed as welcoming as the sun and blue sky.

The road continued forward and I along with it.

After traversing some 2 miles into the forest, the road ended in a turnaround. I had reached my destination. Now, to get to the business of meeting my self challenge…..find the homesite and to pay my respect in the cemeteries of Henry Key and the slaves that had lived and died there so very long ago.

to be continued…..

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Looking for the Key Part I

It was the old family story that caused me to come across the story of Henry Key. Internet searches in efforts to discover what, if any connection of my family  to Francis Scott Key frequently brought up the name of Henry Key, or his son’s name Tandy Clarke Key.  Any possible lead seemed reasonable to follow up on , and in my genealogy beginner’s innocence,  my research often took me in quite a few  different directions. (It still does, on occasion)  Often they wound up at dead ends or irrelevant to my family tree.

In this case, this particular Henry Key apparently is not connected to the Key family from which I am descended. That would be Warren Key, who moved from South Carolina to the Adrian Ga area in the very late 1700-early 1800s and the founder of Key’s Methodist church, Adrian GA. A son, Burrel Key changed the spelling of his surname to Kea and some family members followed suit while others continued the original Key spelling.

It also turns out, according to other descendants who had a Y-DNA test done, that our branch of Keys are NOT related to Francis Scott Key.  Not even distantly. Research through documents supports this.

Sigh. Another cherished family story ripped apart and dashed to the ground.  Oh look, I’ve already recovered from the shock. 🙂   After all, folks in search of facts and truth in genealogical  research must learn to adapt and absorb what they find, whether it is what they think they want to know or not; good, bad, ugly and in between.

But I digress.

Henry Key was the son of John Key and Martha Tandy of Albermarle Va. He married Mary Clark and together with their children,  moved to Old Ninety Six District of South Carolina part of which later became Edgefield County.  He purchased some 2000 acres of land over time and built his family’s home on a high bluff  overlooking a large creek. Nearly every account I have found on this names Turkey Creek as the watercourse, while maps show it as Stephens/Stevens Creek.

Malinda Key Letcher (1755 – 1780)
John Alfred Key (1757 – 1840)
Henry Junior Key (1759 – 1810)
William Key (1761 – 1803)
Tandy Clark Key (1763 – 1801)
Mary Polly Key Martin (1765 – 1805)
Mary Isham Key Martin (1765 – 1855)
Naomi Key (1770 – 1775)

Tandy Clark(e) Key lived for some time in Jefferson County Ga. His name drew my attention while searching my Key family as well as my Stroud family. I have found no connection linking Tandy Clark Key to either of my family lines other than a recent mention of a man whose exact name  doesn’t come to mind but memory prompts me to state Tandy Clark Stroud. Additionally the particular passage mentioned a connection between T.C. Key and T.C. Stroud, who later moved to Alabama  Texas during the early 1800s. It is perhaps possible this may be a connection to my Stroud brick wall associated with my mysterious 3 great grandparents who first show up in records in Jefferson County GA about 1815.  Time and research will or will not show further evidence of this possibility.

Fascinated by the history of the locales and the families, it came to my attention that the Key homestead is not far from that of my current location.  Armed with details and information gleaned from the internet, I set out on a Sunday drive to attempt to locate the site and the rumored cemetery that remains there, both of the Key family and their slaves’ final resting places.

It’s not a long ride, nor a difficult one. Traveling from North Augusta Sc on Hwy 230-Martintown Rd, Key Road is on the left. Pastoral landscapes filled with gently rolling hills, dotted with cows, bordered with creeks and lined with open farmland and horse pastures. Once you cross Hwy 23 the landscape changes. Residential dwellings are non existent. There is little to no traffic.  For a short time, the road wanders atop a ridge.  A bit further on and the road narrows. The gravel is coarse and roars through the vehicle cabin as if  to warn you away.  Trees are tall and close, pushing the light away, making the traveler feel unwelcome and claustrophobic in the resulting gloom.

Doubts might begin to tease the back of one’s mind at the increasing gloom of the area, perhaps this is not the best choice of afternoon drives. Just as you begin to realize turnarounds are few, far between and rather sketchy looking, the descent begins. As if from childhood nightmares, the road curves and seems to disappear over the crest of a  hill.  But it continues downward and the further it descends, the deeper the gloom. When it seems the road can’t go any lower it levels out, but you’re not “safe” yet.  For the road has bottomed out at the precipice of a high bluff over a creek, spanned by one of the most unpleasant bridges I have ever seen.

key-bridge
The Key Road Bridge.

I stopped.  I weighed the value of my personal quest  against the menacing appearance of the rusted old construction straight out of my gephyrophobic nightmares. Knowing the road in question was less than two miles ahead I pushed forward.  Around the curve and up the next hill, the trees retreat and the daylight returns. There is an old ranger  – road maintenance station on the left. Just beyond that lies an unassuming dirt road on the left. At the end lies a popular recreational creek, walking and biking trails, two cemeteries, and an old historic home site.

But what would I find?

~ to be continued

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