William Swift Keyser

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William Swift Keyser
Born August 13, 1856
Santa Rosa County, Florida
Died July 30, 1934
Benton, Alabama
Occupation Lumber magnate
Real estate developer
Spouse Mary Eliza Campbell
Parents William Judah Keyser
Harriet Swift Keyser
Children Nellie Atkin Keyser
William Judah Keyser
Richard Lewis Campbell Keyser
William Swift Keyser
Mary Campbell Keyser
Katharine Turquand Keyser
Ainslee Hall McCord Keyser

William Swift Keyser was a lumber magnate and real estate developer who operated William S. Keyser & Company (formerly Keyser, Judah & Company), one of the world's largest exporters of pitch pine timber.

He was also a member of the Pensacola City Council and a leading director of the American National Bank.

Early life[edit]

The Keyser family, originally from Holland, emigrated to the United States in 1688, settling in Pennsylvania. William Swift Keyser's grandfather moved to the Pensacola area in 1818.[1] Keyser was born in Santa Rosa County and attended Yale University, graduating in 1880.[2]

Keyser's father died in 1877, followed by his business partner in 1879, causing control of the business to fall to Keyser while he was still studying at Yale.

Business career[edit]

By the mid-1890s, William S. Keyser & Company owned two lumber mills outright, along with operating interests in some twenty others, with foreign exports of over 150 million feet of timber annually. In 1904, James Muldon became a partner in the firm, which was renamed Keyser-Muldon & Company.[1]

From 1910 to 1912, Keyser built the Keyser Building on South Palafox Street.

In early January 1914, the Liverpool-based lumber brokerage Crow, Rudolf & Co., into which Pensacola's First National Bank had invested nearly half a million dollars, announced it would not be able to pay its debts. The bank failed on January 8, causing a cascade of financial upheavals throughout Pensacola. The Liverpool firm also served as the sole foreign agent for Muldon-Keyser, and the company filed for bankruptcy the following week on January 13, 1914.[3] Within a month, Keyser himself declared bankruptcy, but almost immediately reentered the export business, forming the W. S. Keyser Export Company. Keyser, who held significant stock in the failed bank, was later indicted along with three bank officials on federal charges of misuse of funds.[4] Keyser and the other defendants were acquitted after a lengthy trial, with Judge R. M. Call finding that the government had failed to make a case.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Keyser married Mary Eliza Campbell, the daughter of a local judge, in 1888. The couple had seven children, including who died in infancy and another who died at age 16. The family were members of Christ Church.[1]

In 1909, Keyser built The Moorings, a stately home situated west of the city on the bayshore. Keyser sold The Moorings in 1924 to the Pensacola Country Club, which remodeled the house for use as a clubhouse. The home, by then significantly altered, was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan.


Keyser died in 1934 after a long and serious illness at his family's plantation near Benton, Alabama. Keyser is buried in St. John's Cemetery.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Account by John Appleyard
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Death Takes Former Local Business Man". The Pensacola Journal. August 1, 1934. p. 1. Retrieved June 1, 2019 – via Newspapers.com
  3. "Keyser-Muldon Co. Bankrupt; Three Other Firms Involved". The Pensacola Journal. January 14, 1914. p. 1. Retrieved June 1, 2019 – via Newspapers.com
  4. "Four Indictments Returned Against 1st Nat'l Officials". The Pensacola Journal. August 2, 1914. p. 1. Retrieved June 1, 2019 – via Newspapers.com
  5. "Acquit Local Bankers". The Pensacola Journal. May 26, 1915. p. 1. Retrieved June 1, 2019 – via Newspapers.com