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George Gilman Key

Male 1896 - 1989  (92 years)


Biography of George Benn Key

George B. Key, who was born in Richwood, Ontario, Canada June 5 1854, came to California in 18S2, arriving on February 3rd. On his trip Mr. Key kept what he termed as his Journal. It gives an insight into the travel on a train in those days, as well as his feelings about many things. He wrote, "The eastern world slips away beneath the wheels and is lost to sight as we are left to think of another day and another train, not drawn by the Iron Horse, but by the sleepy oxen that crawled over the plains like a snail on the sand." Again he wrote "And now it is a six days sweep, as if on the wings of an eagle, from the Garden City of Chicago to the Golden Gate of San Francisco."

On arriving in Los Angeles Mr. Key wrote, "We spend the days roaming the orange and lemon groves. The evenings are spent sitting on the porch enjoying the winter air of Summerland. We find the climate most delightful and healthful. No oppressive air. No sultry nights. February wearing June garments. I never saw such ignorant roses in my life. They bud and blossom the whole year and never stop to sleep. Ripe fruit and white blossoms on the trees at the same time.... cattle out in the pastures, round, fat and as smooth as a silk hat. We inhale more pure air in one day than all the Canadian windmills can dispose of in one week."

On February 14,1882 Mr. Key wrote, "! am in my room alone writing this. The gas is burning brightly. (Probably gas light.) But out side the rain is falling in torrents.

"I will try to write something about Los Angeles for, in the future, someone might ask me where Los Angeles is. I will tell them it is across the desert and beyond the Mountains where the heights guard over it, where the ocean winds breathe upon it, where gold mounted lime hedges border it. Where flowers catch fire with beauty, where pomegranates wear crowns of scarlet, where figs hang like leather purses, where almond trees are shining as you walk through the avenues of orange trees." "In the midst of a garden of 36 square miles, like a rock in an ocean of vineyards, this is Los Angeles."

The early settlers of Placentia would say, "He must have been talking about Placentia." Truly, this could have been Placentia. It is much as I remember it as a boy.

Little did Mr. Key realize, when he wrote about the ox drawn trains, that one day he would marry the seven year old girl, Mary Wright, who had come to California from Arkansas by ox train and on horse back. It was while George Key was working as a zanjero in Pasadena that he met Mary one day as they were playing croquet. They were married on December 29, 1886, at the Wright home on Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena.

Mr. Key was in the nursery business in Pasadena for some time and later farmed in the San Fernando Valley before coming to Placentia in 1893. Here he worked as the superintendent of the Southern California Semi-Tropical Fruit Company for seven years. This job paid him $75 a month, no doubt a home was furnished. Richard Gilman, who had developed the ranch, left that same year to take his family on an extended vacation, traveling in a horse drawn covered wagon. While on the trip he bought a ranch in Cloverdale, California. Here the family lived until he returned to Placentia in 1900.

The year Mr. Key arrived in Placentia he bought 20 acres on the north west corner of Placentia Avenue and what is now Bastanchury Road. This ranch had some deciduous fruit trees, olive trees, bananas, grapes and gum trees. These Mr. Key removed and planted the level part of the ranch to Valencia oranges, about I2 acres. In 1898 he build a large home on a knoll on the ranch and moved his family from the Southern California Semi- Tropical Fruit Company Ranch on Placentia Avenue. However he continued his job until 1900. The home he built was not completed until 1908 when it was finished and remodeled.

In 1893 Mr. Key helped organize the Placentia Orange Growers Exchange. This became the Placentia orange Growers Association. On May 28, l895 he helped organize the Fullerton Chamber of Commerce. (The was no town of Placentia at that time.) On June 4, 1895 he was elected to the Board of. this organization, at times serving as president. On October 4,1895 the Chamber appointed committees of three for each of the surrounding communities. A committee composed of George Key, A. S. Bradford and Theodore Staley was appointed for the Placentia area. These committees were to determine the number of apricot, peach and other deciduous trees that would be in bearing in the next three years. The purpose was to encourage a cannery to build in the area. After the town of Placentia was started, Mr. Key helped organize a Chamber of Commerce for the community, however it was rather short lived.

In 1896 George Key was elected to the Placentia School Board. He was serving on the Board in 1898, with A. S. Bradford and A. T. Pendelton when a second story was added to the school building at a cost of $2.500. When he was elected after the turn of the century is not determined. (most of the school records were lost in the school fire of 1934 ) but he was on the Board with Frank Dunham and William Berkenstock when the Bradford Avenue site was purchased and a new grammar school built in 1912. The school fire was October 10, 1934.

In the Fall of 1908, Mr. Key helped organize the Y. M. C. A. in Orange County as a county wide organization. S. Warren Douglas was the first secretary. Mr. Key was on the original Board of Directors and later served as chairman of the Board. He served on the Board until his death in 1916.

As soon as the Presbyterian Church was built in Placentia in 1913, Mr. Key started a Y. M. C. A. Club in the church for the boys of the area. The first County Y. M. C. A. Camp was held overlooking the ocean from the cliffs at Huntington Beach .The next year Mr. Key helped establish the Y. M. C. A. Camp at Whites Landing on Catalina Island. The Camp there was used until about 1922 and was known as Camp Wilkie, named for an elderly gentleman who helped establish the Camp. He was referred to as Father Wilkie.

Always a. church worker Mr. Key was the leader in the organization of the Placentia Presbyterian Church on August 4, 1912. This was the first organized Church in Placentia. The Church bought the old school building on the corner of Placentia and Chapman Avenues, tore it down and used the lumber to help build the Church on the north west corner of Center and Main Streets in town. As a teen-ager, I helped haul the lumber and bricks to the Church site with team and wagon. Bert Steelhead and one of the other young fellows helped me.

Mr. Key was serving on the Board of the Fullerton Union High School when he died August 20.1916. His wife Mary Frances Wright was born August 1,1862 and died June 2.1930.

George and Mary had eight children; Barbara (Mrs. John Sprague), Sarah (Mrs. James Charles Donald), Mary (Mrs. James Loel Johnson), Margaret, who never married ,William A. who married Adelaide Hovey, George G. who married Hannah lpsen; Alice (Mrs. Ralph Manning Davis), and Dorothy Irene who died at age twelve.

Written by George Gilman Key

Owner/SourceGeorge Gilman Key
Linked toAlice Roberta Key; Barbara Pauline Key; Dorothy Irene Key; George Benn Key; George Gilman Key; Margaret Louise Key; Mary Frances Key; Sarah Elizabeth Key; William Amos Key; Mary Frances Wright

Many thanks to all who have contributed names, dates, photographs and stories. Corrections are always welcome.
Our research is ongoing and the validity of the information presented should be judged by the quality of our sources.

Our study includes our ancestors and their descendants (our cousins) and our cousins' spouses and their parents. The parents of our cousins' spouses will show as "A descendant is related to Susan or Barry" and their other children will not be included unless they are connected to our family.

Last Updated
August 20, 2019

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