Christopher Columbus (CC) Keys was the first son of Louis and Sallie Keys. Louis and Sallie were free Blacks who were born in the early 1800s. They lived near Darden, NC in a community known as Free Union which was settled by Native Americans and free Blacks.

The Keys family have traced their heritage back to the Balanta tribe of western African and from there they migrated to Ireland and then to American as indentured servents. There earliest recorded history of their living in North America during the mid-1700s. Milley Keys, Louis' grandmother, is recorded in this nation's first census which took place in 1790. CC Keys was a farmer, retailer, shingle maker and community leader. He was married twice, first to Sophia Peele who died in 1895 leaving him with 5 small children. Later, he married Florence Gaylord and their marriage was blessed with three children. During his life time CC Keys accumulated about 400 acres of land. He donated a small plot of land and some timber to build a school in the neighborhood. He also sent two of his children to college to get degrees in education. They then came back and taught at tthe Keys Elementary School. This school remained open until 1940 when the county's school board closed it due to the lack of attendance.

All except 30 acres of CC Keys' land is still in the family. He gave those 30 acres to two of his nephews and each of them sold their acreage but CC Keys' descendants are committed to keeping the rest of the land in the family and carrying out CC's legacy of farming and educating the kids in the community.
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