Perley Keyes was an early settler in Watertown. Keyes was involved in many areas during the early years in Watertown and Jefferson County. In 1805, he was named a Jefferson County Judge. He was a stockholder in the Black River Cotton and Woolen Company, which was formed in 1813. In 1820, Keyes ran for United States Congress against Micah Sterling, but lost. In 1824, Keyes started a newspaper in Watertown, called the Watertown Freeman.
Keyes was involved in the notorious Whittlesey affair, which involved the robbery of money being transported to Jefferson County to pay the militias during the War of 1812. Keyes was one of the sureties of the money, and therefore his responsibiity. Keyes, along with Jason Fairbanks, were instrumental in solving the case.
Keyes Avenue in Watertown is named for him.