A Backwoods Preacher
The Roy Keys Collection consists of sermons, lectures, and a journal created by the late Reverend George Keys. There are 88 sermons, four sets of lecture notes, and a daily journal that was kept between 1884 and 1888. The sermons range in date from 1864 through 1883. An interesting aspect of the sermons is that each was given a sequential number by its creator. Each sermon goes on to explain the significance of, and meaning of a particular passage or set of passages, in the Old or New Testament. Rev. Keys also dated the vast majority of his sermons and gave each a title that reflects the book from which the selected passage was quoted.
George Keys was born in Roslyn in Hastings County on July 26, 1834. By the time he was 37 years old he had married Jessie Margaret Evans and was recording as living in Stephen Township in Huron County. He was sent to the Exeter Anglican Church, which, at the time was a three point charge. He also preached at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Hensall and St. Patrick’s Anglican Church in Saintsbury. He probably resided at the rectory at the Exeter Church located at north-east corner of Victoria and William Streets. He lived here with his wife and his daughter Selina.
He had by 1861, however, started preaching in the area of Holland and Sullivan Townships.
He began his missionary work in a four point charge consisting of St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Williamsford, St. John’s Anglican Church at Lot 10 of Concession 8 Sullivan (later moved to Desboro), St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Holland Centre, and St. Paul’s Anglican Church at Lot 1 of Concession 1 Holland (later moved to Chatsworth). In addition to this charge, he was also acting minister at Grace Anglican Church in Sullivan Township.
For a reason unknown, Rev. Keys and his family left the four point charge and moved to Collingwood Township. This move probably took place late in 1885. The family lived in the Village of Clarksburg while Keys preached at two local churches: St. George’s Anglican Church, and Holy Trinity Anglican Church.
To the dismay of his congregations in Collingwood Township, in 1904, at the ripe age of 70, Rev. Keys retired. He and his wife moved to the City of Orangeville and took up residence on Zina Street.
George Keys died Saturday February 1, 1908 at the age of 73. From his death registration, it appears that Keys was very sick, and had been for some time. The cause of death is listed as diseases of the heart, kidney, and liver, while the length of illness is listed as three years. The Wednesday after his death, his body was shipped by a C.P.R. train from Toronto to Chatsworth for his interment. Only months later, November 1, his wife, Jessie Margaret Evans passed away as well. Rev. George Keys is buried at St. Paul’s Anglican cemetery in Chatsworth along with his wife and one of his daughters. George and Jessie’s stone reads:
George Rector of this parish from 1861-1870 & 1872-1885,
born July 26, 1834 died February 1, 1908;
his wife Jessie Margaret Evans November 30, 1848 – November 1, 1908.
The adjacent stone belongs to one of his daughter:
Selina Isabel daugther of Rev. Geo. & Jessie M. Keys died 7 Apr. 1875
age 4 years, 3 months, 23 days.