John Ross Key

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John Ross Key
Born(1754-09-19)September 19, 1754
DiedOctober 11, 1821(1821-10-11) (aged 67)
Resting placeMount Olivet Cemetery
OccupationLawyer, officer, judge
Spouse(s)Ann Phoebe Penn Dagworthy Charlton
ChildrenFrancis Scott Key
Anne Arnold Phoebe Charlton Key
John Alfred Key
Parent(s)Francis Key
Ann Arnold Ross

John Ross Key (September 19, 1754 – October 11, 1821) was a lawyer, a commissioned officer in the Continental Army, a judge, and the father of writer Francis Scott Key.

Early life[edit]

Key was born in Redland, Frederick County, Maryland, to Francis Key (c.1731-1770) and his wife Ann (or “Anne”) Arnold Ross (1727-1811). Ross Key’s grandfather was English settler Philip Key who resided near Leonardtown around 1726, he married Susannah Gardiner and had seven children.[1] His mother Anne Arnold Ross was the daughter of English parents John Ross (1696-1766) and Alicia Arnold (1700-1746) who married in St James's Church, Westminster.[2][3]

Ann was a strong influence on her grandson Francis Scott Key when he lived with her near Annapolis when he was in school there.

Military, law career[edit]

Mustered into service at Frederick on June 21, 1775, Key was commissioned as a second lieutenant in Captain Thomas Price's Maryland Rifle Company. It was one of the first military forces from outside New England that came to aid General Washington at the siege of Boston, July–August 1775. By 1781 Key was a captain. He commanded a Frederick County Company of Cavalry during the Yorktown Campaign.

He was later a justice of the peace, a judge, and associate justice of his judicial district, which comprised Allegany, Washington and Frederick Counties. His brother Philip Barton Key, also an attorney arranged for his nephew Francis to study law under his friend, Judge Jeremiah Townley Chase in 1800 and with whom he would later be a partner in Georgetown. Francis took the practice over entirely when his uncle ran for Congress.

Personal life[edit]

He married Ann Phoebe Penn Dagworthy Charlton at the city of Frederick on October 19, 1775. Six children were born to the couple, but only three reached maturity. Francis Scott Key, his sister Anne Arnold Phoebe Charlton Key who would marry Roger Brooke Taney and John Alfred Key who died at Edgefield, South Carolina.


Key died at the age of 67 in Frederick City and was interred there at Mount Olivet Cemetery.


  1. ^ Key Smith, F. S. (1909). "A Sketch of Francis Scott Key, with a Glimpse of His Ancestors". Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C. 12: 71–88. JSTOR 40066994.
  2. ^ Dubovoy, Sina (12 May 2014). The Lost World of Francis Scott Key. ISBN 9781490831183. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  3. ^ Hall, Clayton Colman (1912). "Baltimore: Biography". Lewis Historical Publishing Company. Retrieved July 22, 2020.

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