William Jairus Keith (1878-1965)

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William Jairus Keith
William Jairus Keith Sr.jpg
William Jairus Keith
Born: 23 Sep 1877 Asheville, Buncombe, North Carolina
Died: 5 Feb 1965 Payson, Utah
Father: James Allen Keith
Mother: Sarah Velda Ball
Siblings: Mary Elizabeth Keith
William Jairus Keith
James Newton Keith
John Osborne Keith
Edgar Mitchell Keith
Ella N. Keith
Carl George Keith
Maud Westley Keith
Lucinda Estelle Keith
Adele Keith
Spouse: (1) Isabella Pratt Robison

10 Jun 1903

Salt Lake City, Utah
Children: Bessie Clell Keith
William Jairus Keith, Jr.
Sarah Lucille Keith
Olea Gem Keith
Isabella Lynn Keith
Spouse: (2) Amelia Edwards
Married: 15 Feb 1915
Children: Mary Lapriel Keith
Ella Keith
James Robert Keith
Jessie Keith
Elaine Keith
John Allen Keith
Albert Keith
Elizabeth Keith
Thelma Keith

William Jairus Keith was born September 23, 1877 in Alexander, Buncombe County, North Carolina. He was just three and a half pounds at birth and was always worried about by his mother. “Dad [William Jairus] used to tell us that he weighed 3 ½ pounds when he was born. He was premature, and much care was necessary for his survival. Grandma carried him on a pillow till he was a year old.”

On October 3, 1880, the first train pulled into Asheville, Buncombe County. The railway had to be built across the Blue Ridge Mountains. In about 1889 the enormous and elaborate Biltmore hotel/resort was built in the area, built by George Vanderbilt. William Jairus worked both on the railroad and at the hotel.

William came from North Carolina to Utah to visit his sister, Mattie, who had married a boy from Fillmore. While on this trip, he met and married Isabella Pratt Robison. They settled in the Fillmore area also. Together they had five children.

When William's young wife died in childbirth in 1913, he took his motherless children to North Carolina where they lived with his parents for two years. He returned to Utah.

When William married Amelia Edwards in 1915, he sent for his children. They made the five-day train trip across the country with their grandfather as their guardian. William met his children at the Delta train station and settled them 5 miles away at their new home in Hinckley, Utah.

William and Amelia had added nine more children to the family, eventually settling down in Provo.

Provo City

In 1955 William did make a final trip back to North Carolina to visit his relatives – the group included William Jairus, his daughters Gem, Betty Jean and Don, their son Rodney, and Sarah Lucille Keith Allen.

1955 visit to Asheville, NC

William died 5 Feb 1965 in Payson, Utah. He was buried 9 Feb 1965 in Provo, Utah.

Provo City Cemetery

Poem for William J. Keith's 79th birthday

We Love You, Daddy Dear

You have come to the evening of day
All calm and serene and sublime,
You have conquered the battle of life,
You have lived man’s allotted time.

You heard of the Gospel of Christ
Brought by His servants true,
You readily accepted their message,
Have lived it your whole life through.

You entered in at the date,
By the waters of baptism immersed,
And received as companion the Holy Ghost
To guide you while on this earth.

Then you followed the patter He gave us,
Step by step you followed His plan;
You have taught you children the Gospel,
You have taught it in many a land.

In your youth you met your companion,
T’was love at first sight, I am told.
You were endowed with the Holy Priesthood,
And sealed for time and eternity, yours to have and to hold.

First you were blessed with a son,
The image of you every whit.
His mother insisted on naming him
Little Willie, that name just fit.

Then your home was blessed with a sweet little girl,
Brown eyes, Red hair and round little face.
At the Church on Sunday she was named Bessie Clell.
She is kind and thoughtful and full of grace.

And the next thing you know, here comes Isabell Lynn,
Content and quiet and neat as a pin.
She played with her dolls as quiet as a mouse,
She had some furniture and a cute shoe box house.

Ere long on a cold and blizzardy night
Your wife woke you up all in a fright,
“Go for the Doctor, will you Will?”
And that was the time you got Sarah Lucille.

Then what do you know? A sweet baby girl,
With eyes so bright and hair all a’curl,
She was loving and happy, and thoughtful and prim;
You wanted a boy so you named her Olea Gem. (Jim)

But life wasn’t all sunshine and bliss and joy;
Almost before you knew it you were left with four girls and a boy,
To care for, to clothe, to feed and to guide
O’er the tempest of life, and to battle the tide.

But you were brave courageous and true,
And you figured out the best thing to do
Was to take your children to your parents’ back home,
There help care for them, and not leave them to roam.

Then in your loneliness you thought it was best,
To find you another wife from out of the west.
She was a widow who knew sorrow too;
To you she was wed as most people do.

She had a daughter, as fair as fair could be,
And they both joined the Keith family tree.
Now there were hardships, and sweat, and toil,
To support this big family by tilling the soil.

E’re long you were having a family again,
Mary Lapreal, all pep and vim,
Brought sunshine and joy and happiness rare,
With big brown eyes and chestnut hair.

Times got harder, you struggled along,
The winter was bitter and cold and long.
It was February, Ella was born,
She was made welcome to keep your heart warm.

Then red-headed Bob, a bouncing big boy,
He was his parents’ pride and joy;
Though he is short, he is broad and strong.
He greets life with a smile and a song.

Little Jessie so sweet and fair,
With big blue eyes and snow white hair,
She came to use one August night,
You were in an awful plight—
You were the Negro in a play—
And she was born ere break of day.

Elaine was born on the third of May,
The Doctor said, “If you haven’t money enough to pay,
I’ll be glad to settle for the baby fair,
You have plenty and some to spare.”

With peaches to pick and hay to mow,
Mama said, “Come, Will, hurry, let’s go!”
And so to Provo you took a wild ride,
A son, Jack, your reward; a parent’s pride.

“Now, that’s enough,” said some with mirth,
But it wasn’t long till your wife gave birth
To a pair of twins, a boy and a girl.
And now your head was in a whirl,
You had no time to loiter and shirk,
You had to help care for Betty and Bert.

And then little Thelma, last but not least,
Helped you celebrate the Harvest feast.
You seemed to know right from the start
That you soon with her would have to part.

It doesn’t seem long, how the years have sped.
All of your children who are left are wed,
And you sit in your chair and meditate,
And live so you’ll all meet at the Pearly Gate.

We love you, Daddy, for all that you are;
You have struggled upward long and far.
So just keep on climbing, though the path be steep,
Continue a life that is pure and sweet.

By Lucille K. Allen
Written for Daddy’s 79th birthday.


  • Despain, Carrie Robison and Garner, Melba Despain. History & Genealogy of the Franklin Alonzo Robison Family, p. 53.
  • LDS Family Group Record Collection [Patron Section]
Submitted by: O. Stanley Allen
Family of: William Jairus Keith & Isabella Pratt Robison
Occupation: Farmer
  • The Daily Herald, Sunday, 13 Sep 1998, page A6, Obituary: William Jairus (Bill) Keith, Jr.
  • The Daily Herald, Sunday, 5 Sep 1999, page A9, Obituary: Bessie Luke.
  • Barney, Ivan Darrell. Life History of Isabella Lynn Keith Barney, 7 Nov 1987
  • Pedigree Resource File, CD 88, Ivan Darrell BARNEY, 2123604-0321104184342 , 21 Mar 2004:
Pratt Pioneers Of Utah by Arthur D. Coleman 1967)
Death: Utah Certificate of Death in possession of Ivan Darrell Barney
Death: Newspaper Obituaries in possession of Ivan Darrell Barney
  • The Millard County Progress Review, vol 22, Friday 28 Feb 1913, No. 9, Obituary: Keith, Isabella Robison