Thursday, June 30, 2016

Keys Family Graveyard

I posted a few weeks ago about a cross-country hike I took in Joshua Tree National Park (Desert Bighorn Sheep). I never crossed any fences or passed any "no trespassing" signs, but I ended up in an area closed to the public along Keys Ranch Road. It's only accessible when you take a tour of Keys Ranch. Why do I bother to bring this up? Because of what I found as I was making my way back to my car.

I knew if I hiked along the wash it would lead me back to Keys Ranch Road, which I could follow back to my car. However, this particular wash had all kinds of interesting stuff in it! Old car springs, cans, broken dishes and bottles, etc, etc. 






The wash was so interesting that when it reached the road, I decided to follow the wash a little further (opposite direction of my car). That's when I spotted it.
An old graveyard with a metal fence around the perimeter sitting up on a beautiful knoll below the boulders. Wow, totally unexpected!
As I got closer, it became obvious that this was a small family graveyard. And not just any family, but the early pioneering Keys family! I was shocked because I didn't know this graveyard existed, and I've never seen any photos of the graveyard. A quick Google search of "Keys Graveyard" prior to publishing this post did not turn up any images... The graveyard must not be on the Keys Ranch tour, and is a well kept secret.
There are a total of about eight graves. Each headstone appears to have been hand-made, and each grave has a horseshoe on it. It's very touching and more than a little eerie to see a little family graveyard like this out in the middle of nowhere, and a reminder of how difficult life must have been. The grave above is of an 11-year-old boy, and below is a 5-day-old. Sad and touching.


Willis Lawton Keys (son of Bill Keys), 1/5/21 - 6/10/2015

This is the tallest and most ornate headstone in the Keys Family Graveyard. Could this be the grave of Bill Keys?? When I enlarge the image, I think I can just make out the name Frances, so this must be the grave of Frances Keys, Bills wife.


I didn't think much of this headstone at first. It's small and not very ornate and illegible to boot. However, since it's right next to Frances' grave, it says "Dad", and I can make out "1879" (the year Bill Keys was born), this has to be the grave of the late great Bill Keys.


After taking these pics, I made a hasty retreat back to my car, feeling a bit guilty about stumbling into an off-limits area. Bill Keys is held in extremely high regard and is a local legend, so hoping he isn't looking down on me shaking his fist!! I would hope he would say "Heck ya, share my story!!  That's why I donated by home and land to Joshua Tree National Park."
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26 comments:

  1. ohhhhhhh the history is washing over me. It is a wonderful feeling.

    Thank you.

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  2. oh, wow. what a find. you have now busted the secret wide open...

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  3. You definitely hit the jackpot on this find. So interesting and a lot f history.

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  4. The photos will likely show up now. :-)

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  5. Wowzers! Great find and adventure. Watch your back!

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  6. That is SO interesting! I think the Keys would be pleased you stumbled upon them and shared them with us. Great pictures.

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  7. what an amazing find!! i wonder who takes care of the site and how it's location is kept so secretive?? beautiful images of the area and i LOVE the name of your blog!!!

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  8. That is an amazing find. I have stumbled across a few old grave yards in my exploration and they are kind of eerie.

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  9. I can only say thanks for showing us.

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  10. I love cemeteries and this one is SPECIAL!

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  11. Wow - how unusual and fascinating!

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  12. Oh Honey you are just the person to be blessed with this discovery. Your reverence and insight are ennobling. Don't share the location :)

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  13. The Park Service keeping this location a secret, even the mere existence of a Keyes family graveyard a secret, has proven to be a wise decision. This would have been long ago vandalized had it been known to the public. Thank you for sharing your find.

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  14. Wonderful! Is there a link to read about this family?

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  15. Wow how cool. Hope it still stays a secret. the stones are beautiful.

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  16. I love old graveyards--- this one has to be one of the most wonderful I've ever seen. I'm glad you didn't expose its location. Thanks for sharing these pictures.

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  17. you found fantastic things here ! I enjoyed this post very much

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  18. It's good to see that someone takes care of it!

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  19. That is amazing - and wonderful. It does seem that it is well taken care of - wonder where the "keeper" lives. Fabulous photos - I could really see the details when I clicked to enlarge them - what an amazing story - so glad you found it and shared it with us.

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  20. What a find! We definitely didn't visit the graveyard on our tour, but I do remember hearing that there was one. (and the guide told stories about the hard life it was, just as you note).

    Fun catching up here after traveling -- enjoyed all.

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  21. What an amazing find. So glad you took photos and shared.

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  22. Hidden secret exposed at last. I am sure it will be on the tour's list soon. A surprised find for you!

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  23. It's a great find, for sure. I find old graveyards fascinating, and around where I live we have many of them. Some of the graves date back to the revolutionary war. Many are just like the one pictured above with a list of children who died long before they should have.

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  24. Wow, now that's one awesome History

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