Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Keizer’s first families, Part 1: The Keizurs and Pughs

Bounded on the west by the Willamette River, on the east by the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks, on the north by Clear Lake and Buena Crest, and on the south by the City of Salem is the community of Keizer where about 20,000 people make their home.

In the early 1850’s only 18 families laid claim to the Keizer area, their lands totaling approximately 7,655 acres. However, some of these donation land claims included parts of other communities-Hayesville, Clear Lake, Chemawa, and North Salem. But now, the City of Salem has extended its boundaries to such an extent that the claim of one of the Keizurs for whom the community named is almost wholly within Salem.

Two families between them owned more than half the Keizer area. The KeizursÑparents, sons, and daughters had 2,415 acres altogether; and the PughsÑmother and sons-owned 1,912 acres.

The southwest quarter of Keizer was settled by the Keizurs. (This is the spelling they used, although various military and land records show the name as Keizer, Kizer, Kisor, Kaiser, or Keizer. Daisy Keizur Barrett and Ginger Powers, who researched their family, found 15 spellings in all.)

Altogether there were 1,358 acres shown in the names of Thomas, John, and P. C. Keizur. Furthermore, Beda Anne Keizur was married to John Ford, and together they owned 638 acres immediately north of the other Keizur claims, and included the present Keizer School grounds. Matilda Caroline Keizur married Samuel Penter and the couple had a 417-acre claim immediately south of that of Matilda’s brother, P. Cicero.

Thomas D. Keizur was born in Buncomb County, North Carolina in 1793. In 1812 he married Mary Girley (also spelled Gurley or Gooley), whose birthday was identical to his. In 1828 they moved to Gilestown County, Tennessee with their little ones. Then in 1833 the family moved to Arkansas where they lived until 1842 when they started out for Oregon.

Thomas Dove Keizur

By that time they had ten children, five boys and five girls. The youngest was only a year old and the oldest two girls were married. All the Keizurs, married and unmarried, were in the Applegate train, of which Thomas Keizur was a leader.

They left on May 20, 1843, and arrived in Oregon that fall just when there was difficulty with the Indians which led to the death of George W. LeBreton, clerk and recorder. The alarm resulted in the formation of a company of Oregon Rangers numbering 25 men, and Thomas Keizur was chosen captain. Fortunately, this first company was never called into service.

Mary Guirley Keizur

In later years John served in the Rangers as first sergeant and Cicero as a second sergeant.

When the first general election was held in May 1844 Thomas was elected a member of the legislative committee and served through the 1846 term. He voted with the majority to make Oregon a dry country.

The legislative session of 1851-52 appointed T.D. Keizur, along with Matthew Patton and Daniel Mathey, to locate and establish a territorial road from Lafayette in Yamhill County to Salem “faithfully and impartially…on the nearest and best route…crossing the river at Matheny’s ferry (Wheatland Ferry).” Records show that Aaron Purdy served as commissioner for this road instead of Keizur.

When the proposed location became known, there was a strong protest from the Keizurs who immediately circulated a petition against it as the road would come between John Keizur’s house and the river and create a hardship in watering the cattle. Thomas Keizur’s name appears on this petition, along with those of P. C. and John Keizur; Sam Penter and John Ford, sons-in-law of Thomas; and about a hundred other pioneers. The road was never built and to this day Keizer has only one main north-south road.

John Keizer was 19 years of age and Cicero was 15 when the family arrived in Oregon.

On May 5, 1850, Cicero married Sarah Woodside and settled his 160-acre land claim that same year. His claim was the farthest south in the Keizer area and extended from the river past the present location of the School for the Deaf to a short distance east of the railroad tracks.

John married Mary Jane Herren on March 27, 1851, and they settled their 590-acre claim that year.

There is a story that when Thomas and Mary were engaged to be married, Mary Girley had planted some cotton, picked and spun it, and knitted socks for her bridegroom. He wore them at their wedding; then Cicero and John both wore them at their weddings. Some years later these socks were placed in the Oregon Historical Society museum in Portland.

John’s second son, Francis, married Mabel Zieber and their sons, Russell and Philip, became physicians and established the Keizer medical clinic at Coos Bay. Their sister, Grace, was head nurse there.

The Rev. William Pugh and his family came west with a small wagon train which suffered more illness and thefts by the Indians than many of the trains. They lost most of their stock on the long, arduous journey.

The Rev. Pugh was a minister in the Christian Church and a native of Indiana. His wife, Janette Donaldson Pugh, was born in Wilson County, Tennessee in 1798. Their oldest son, William P., born in 1818, was captain of the train. He had with him his wife and three small boys. His wife and two of the boys died at the Big Sandy River in Wyoming. William’s mother and sister, Amanda, took over the care of the baby, Andrew, who survived.

Also in the wagon train were John, born in 1820; Silas, 1830; and David (Amanda’s twin), born about 1834; a younger brother, Andrew, and a little sister. When the Pughs arrived in Oregon in 1846 they camped first on the Thalatin plains in Washington County where the Rev. Pugh, his son Andrew, and the youngest daughter died. (Three older daughters and a son were married and remained in the East.)

The family then went to Scio where they spent the first winter. In the spring Janette brought them to Keizer and traded three wagons, five yoke of oxen, and some cattle for the right to a donation land claim near Chemawa Indian School. The three oldest boys took out claims of their own.

Will Pugh had 230 acres which now include the land occupied by the Albertson’s shopping center at Chemawa Road and River Road. John’s claim of 318 acres was across Chemawa Road from his brother’s and included what is now the Safeway shopping center and Claggett Park:, and extended south almost to Greenwood Ave. Silas’s was north and east of Will’s and Janette’s was south of Silas’s and east of John’s.

When John married Sallie Claggett his neighbors, who had some experience with Keizer’s floods, advised the young couple to build their house on high ground. Their house, probably the oldest in Keizer, still stands at 4845 Verda Lane above Claggett Park. The huge rocks for the foundation were hauled from the Santiam River.

In 1878 John and Sallie donated 1-1/2 acres for a school at the corner of Chemawa and River Roads, with the stipulation that when the land is no longer used for school purposes, it is to reven to the heirs of Charles Pugh, their oldest son.

Silas married Sarah Rose. Their claim included part of Lake Labish and also the clay banks above the lake. Silas started a brick yard and made the bricks for the buildings at the Indian School, most of which were demolished in 1977, more than a hundred years later.

Will Pugh married again, this time to Florinda Hall. Their daughter, Estella, married Marquis L. Keizer, a son of John Keizur. (It may be that the spelling of the name was changed in this generation.) Will became the first Marion County school superintendent (then known as “school commissioner”) serving from 1851-56, and again in 1857.

Amanda married E. E. Wheeler and left the community.

Silas and Will served with a company of volunteers in the Cayuse War, Wtlliam as captain. David, who was too young to go, stayed home and helped his mother fence her property. Then he went to the gold mines in California for a profitable two years. After he returned he studied at Willamette Institute (University) while working as a carpenter. He later became one of Salem’s foremost contractors and builders. David Pugh, FAIA, worked with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Architects. Among other things, he designed a gold and white tent for the Mt Angel Abbey celebration. His wife was the former Catherine Enz.

Published May 30, 1980. Reprinted with permission of Ann Lossner from her book, “Looking Back – People and Places in the Early Keizer Area.” The book may be bought at the Keizer Heritage Museum, 980 Chemawa Road NE, Keizer