William Jeremiah Keays
(24 Jan 1829 - 24 Apr 1914)
|While William was at
school in Toronto he became well aware that railroads were coming to Canada.
His entrepreneurial bent took over. He cast around for ideas about where
the railroad might go so he could anticipate its arrival, buy land and
establish himself in advance. He fully intended to become a land speculator
He chose Goderich, Canada West, a town with an excellent harbour on the eastern shores of Lake Huron about 100 mi. north of Windsor-Detroit as his place to begin. William's vision was that goods moving by ship through the Great Lakes would be loaded and unloaded in Goderich given its excellent harbour. This would mean railroads would be established from the harbour to the full rail network already beginning to link Buffalo, N.Y. to Toronto.
Sometime before 1851, William's first cousin and nephew of Eliza Giff-Keays-Bellamy, Jeremiah Giff III (b. 1831) came to Augusta from his birthplace in St. Kitts, West Indies. In 1851 he was living with the Burwash family in Augusta. James Burwash was the merchant who had helped the family with the registration of the Will in 1847. Burwash had engaged Jeremiah as his clerk.
William convinced Jeremiah Giff and the James Burwash family to follow him to Goderich. For some time in the mid 1850's, William's brother-in-law, Isaiah Wright, gave serious consideration to move his family to Goderich as well. At the last minute, in 1855, he decided to remain in Augusta.
In Goderich, William entered into joint business arrangements with several individuals. In 1853, he sold his land in Augusta for 175 pounds (Bill of Sale as a Word doc) At one time or another in the 1851 - 1861 period, William owned part of a foundry, the Huron Times newspaper (masthead), and part or all of more than 100 pieces of land in Goderich. He became a well-known citizen and to this day there is a Keays St. in Goderich in his honour (street sign).
On 15 Sep 1855, William married Isabella Beattie of St. Andrews, Lower Canada and the couple returned to Goderich, Ont. In 1857 a daughter, Isabella, was born. Unfortunately, she did not survive the year. She is buried in Maitland Cemetery, Goderich, Ont. In 1859 a son, named after William's father, James Forbes Keays was born.
By 1859/60 it was becoming clear that there would be no major railroad development in Goderich. The main lines went from Buffalo to Toronto and from Toronto and Buffalo to both Windsor-Detroit and Sarnia across from Port Huron, Michigan.
In 1860 there were several land purchases by the railroad in Goderich and a spur line was built, but nothing on the scale originally anticipated by William. In 1860, William decided to sell off his Goderich holdings and move his family to Buffalo. Jeremiah Giff decided to move to Chicago and James Burwash moved north along the Lake Huron shore, but stayed in Canada. The Goderich venture was abandoned.
In January 1861, William, Isabella and baby James moved to Buffalo. William was an agent for the Great Western Railroad. Within months, tragedy struck in an unimaginable way. William spent the most horrible 15 months a father could endure.
In October, 1861, son James Forbes Keays died at age two. His body was taken back to Goderich where he was buried next to his sister. Two months later, Isabella gave birth to a daughter, Mary Florence, on 24 Dec 1861. But Isabella was stricken from the birth and exactly one month after the birth of Mary, Isabella died on 24 Jan 1862. Her body was also returned to Goderich for burial with her two children. Isabella's sister, Eliza Beattie-Benedict, wife of George Norton Benedict, named her next child after William in honour of her sister. William Keays Benedict was born 21 Feb 1864.