Since the late 1700s, the Key family has reaped the benefits of the same land in Surry county, whether that be through farming or other business ventures. Following the Revolutionary War, Martin Rice Key moved from Virginia to North Carolina, settling on what would be the family’s land for centuries.
At one point, the family’s property neared 3,000 acres, however, today the family operates on about 200 acres. The land has been used for different purposes over the years, but one thing has remained constant, the family homeplace.
Today the family farm is home to a recreational park, made up of a campground, swimming pool, and other amenities. The property has always been known as the homeplace to the Key family, though, acting as the namesake for the recreational park.
Elwin Key, one of the park’s current owners, said that his father had produced chickens and tobacco throughout his life on the family’s land. Although the land is no longer used primarily for farming, the facilities from past farming ventures are still used. One of the chicken houses acts as a bingo room for the campsite visitors today, while the others act as storage units.
With nowhere to swim in the area, the Key family came up with the idea of a recreational park around the time of Elwin’s father’s retirement. Elwin and his siblings proposed the idea to their parents of having a swimming pool and campground on the family land. Their parents agreed to the plan, and in 1983 construction began. Because of the many talents found in the family, the project was solely a family operation, requiring no outside help during construction.
The park has been successful over the years, seeing around 30,000 people at the pool last summer. While Elwin is happy to see the family operation succeed, he is also grateful that it has allowed their family to remain close.
“It’s kept us as a family, it’s kept us close. We see each other every day,” said Elwin.
Although the pool is not open this year due to COVID-19, Homeplace Recreational Park offers other attractions including an old mill pond restoration, an 1865 log farm house, waterfalls, and hiking trails. The park is also a short drive to Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain and Dobson. Visit www.homeplacepark.com for more information.
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the NCDA&CS Century Farm Program. Less than 2,000 families across North Carolina can say that they have operated a family farm for 100 years.