Key was born around 1696 in New Kent, then part of Goochland County. Around 1712, he married Martha Tandy of Spotsylvania, Virginia.
Key made his first entry of land within the present boundaries of Albemarle County in 1732, obtaining patents for nearly 1,200 acres on the west side of South West Mountain by 1741. His home, now named "Key West," was built on the banks of the Rivanna River in Charlottesville at 405 Key West Drive and was lived in by William W. Minor at the turn of the nineteenth century.
Key died in 1765. All of his sons were comfortably provided for by his will, although limitations were given that implied several of these individuals were unfit for the proper management of their own affairs.
Family and descendants
Key and Martha had three children named Martin, John, and Mary, the wife of a member of the Dalton family. Martin, for whom the Key West neighborhood is named after, succeeded to the home and estate of Key, and by repeated purchases became the owner of all land reaching from Edgemont (the place of the late Henry Magruder) down the bend of the river on the farm of the late R.F. Omohundro. He died in 1791.