Framework

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Oct. 1, 1948: Mrs. Bill Keys reads correspondence from her husband in prison. Bill Keys was paroled after five years in San Quentin. The Keys owned the Desert Queen Ranch, now available for tours in Joshua Tree National Park. This photo was published in the Oct. 13, 1948, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times.

Oct. 1, 1948: View of the Desert Queen Ranch, maintained by Frances Keys while her husband Bill Keys was in San Quentin State Prison. A similar photo was published in the Oct. 13, 1948, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Oct. 1, 1948: Portrait of Frances Keys at the ranch she maintained while husband Bill Keys was in prison.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Oct. 1, 1948: Mrs. Frances Keys with goats at the Desert Queen Ranch.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Oct. 1, 1948: Frances Keys at the ranch she maintained while husband Bill Keys was imprisoned.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

1948: Frances Keys, right, and her daughter Phyllis at the Desert Queen Ranch in Joshua Tree.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Oct. 26, 1948: Frances and Bill Keys scan the Oct. 13, 1948, issue of the Los Angeles Times after Bill Keys' release on parole from San Quentin. This photo was published in the Oct. 27, 1948, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

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Frances Keys maintains Desert Queen Ranch

Oct. 1, 1948: Mrs. Frances Keys reads correspondence from her husband, Bill Keys, in prison at San Quentin.

A Oct. 13, 1948, Los Angeles Times article explained Mrs. Keys’ plight:

By John W. Hilton as told to Ed Ainsworth

KEYS RANCH (Near Twentynine Palms) Oct. 12––For five long lonely years a little white-haired woman has kept solitary vigil in a weather-beaten ranch house among granite crags on a mountain here, as the sequel to a two-gun desert killing.

She has been living on hope, and little else.

Now, at last, her hope is being rewarded.

Mrs. Frances M. Keys has just received word that her husband, Bill Keys, “king” of a mining and ranching domain here – whom she always has believed to be innocent – is to be released from San Quentin Prison Oct. 25 on parole to make a fight to prove he was never guilty of the crime for which he as served five years behind bars.

Powerful allies have been found to utilize new evidence that is declared to speak strongly in behalf of Bill Keys’ innocence in the shooting of Worth Bagley, a former Los Angeles County deputy sheriff, in a water-hole affray.

But not even the new evidence was needed to convince Mrs. Keys during her vigil of hope and faith and work that Bill eventually would be cleared. So strong has been this belief that she refused during the darkest days of adversity to leave the desert ranch where she and Bill homesteaded and reared their family of one boy and three girls, Willis, 27; Virginia, 25; Patricia, 20, and Phyllis, 17.

Sometimes a daughter has been home for a while or a son or a friend has stopped by but essentially it has been a lone watch…

In 1956, William (Desert Bill) Keys was granted a full pardon when it was determined he had acted in self-defense.

Frances Keys died Jan. 9, 1963. Bill Keys died June 28, 1969. They are buried at their Desert Queen Ranch, now part of the Joshua Tree National Park.

On Oct. 1, 1948, staff photographer Paul Calvert spent a day with Frances Keys. In the Oct. 13, 1948, Los Angeles Times, a page with six photos accompanied the article.

In 1975, Keys Desert Queen Ranch was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. During winter months, guided walking tours of the ranch are conducted. For information check out  the Keys Ranch Guided Walking Tour website.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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