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Keizer’s first families, Part 2: The Rest of Keizer’s First Families

The northwest quarter of Keizer was settled by the Alexander Spongs, Aaron Purdys, Alvis Smiths, James Smarts, and the Nimrod and John Fords.

Alexander Spong came from Ross County, Ohio in 1851, with his wife, Margaret Ann, and settled his donation land claim of 307 acres on the east bank of the Willamette River in 1853. The west landing of the Doak’s ferry was on the Spong property, but the Spong family built their own boat and launched a competing enterprise, ultimately securing the ferry business.

Riverboats also stopped regularly at Spong’s Landing, bringing hop pickers, freight, and passengers up the river, and picking up firewood on the Spong farm. The historic area has been developed into a most attractive park by the Regional Parks and Recreation Agency.

Aaron Purdy was born in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, in 1806, married his wife, Belinda, in Ohio in 1829, and came to Oregon in 1847 with their 9-year-old daughter, Eleanor, in the largest immigration up to that time. They settled their claim in 1851.

Purdy was road commissioner for the Salem-Lafayette Road in 1852 and for the Salem-Doak’s Ferry Road in 1857. He served as secretary of the Executive Journal of Official Actions of Governors from 1849 to 1859, the year of statehood. Purdy was also commissioned justice of peace, and at one time had full charge of the mission mills, both saw and grist, which stood about where the Larmer warehouse is now on Broadway.

Alvis Smith, his wife. the former Sally Pugh, and their children, Nancy, 11; Polly, 6; Sarah (Sally), 9; and Eliza, 4; came to Oregon in 1845. Alvis was born in 1808 in North Carolina, his wife in Tennessee in 1816; Nancy in Indiana, and the two younger girls in Arkansas. The Smiths settled their claim in 1847, and their only son, John Washington Smith, was born there that year. The Smith log farm buildings were located where the FIr Grove farm buildings are now. It was the Smith family which started the Claggett Cemetery, originally called the Smith Graveyard.

Alvis sold 66 acres to Charles Claggett, part of which is included in the McNary Golf Club. He reportedly incurred the wrath of his neighbors by selling a portion of his land to one of his Chinese farmhands of whom he was very fond.

Beeda Anne Keizur and John Ford were newlyweds in 1842 when the young couple prepared to join the wagon train. Ford was born in Tennessee in 1818 and she in North Carolina in 1825. They settled their 638-acre claim in 1844 and began selling off their land in 1862. John died in 1875 and two years later Beeda sold land at the intersection of Chemawa and River Roads to John Pugh, who in 1878 donated an acre and half of it for the Keizer School.

John’s brother, Nimrod, was unmarried when he arrived in Oregon in 1843 at the age of 26. He enlisted in the Oregon Rangers in 1844 and settled on his claim in 1847. In 1850 James Smart took up the adjacent claim and shared Ford’s cabin until his marriage the following year. Smart had come from England and worked as a wagonmaker in New York before coming to Oregon. Ford married Mary Jane Kendall in 1860.

North and east of Chemawa Road were the donation land claims of John Zieber, Stephen Fisher, Charles Claggett; and Silas and Will Pugh, whose claims crossed the road.

John Zieber was born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. in 1803. He married Eliza Sloan in 1825 and came with his family to Oregon in 1850, hoping the change would improve his wife’s health. It did prove beneficial and Eliza outlived her husband by many years.

Zieber had been a printer and publisher in Pennsylvania and Illinois, and a member of the legislature in Illinois. He re-entered the newspaper business, working first at the Oregon Spectator in Oregon City, then the Oregon Statesman in Salem. On October 13, 1854, Zieber bought out the rights of C.H. Gilbert to 310 acres in North Keizer for $800. He then filed for a donation land claim on the land which included a tiny corner of Lake Labish. He named his farm Fernhazel.

Although the northwest corner of Adam Stephens’ 460acre claim adjoined Janette Pugh’s, most of it was in the Hayesville area. Stephens was born in Pulaski County, Kentucky in 1819. He married Lucinda H. in Missouri in 1844. Stephens built the first Hayesville School in 1858.

Stephen Fisher’s claim was east of John Zieber’s Fernhazel. FIsher was born in 1811 in Jefferson County, Virginia, and married Susannah Stewart in Van Buren County in 1852. The couple came to Oregon that same year and settled their claim in 1853. Fisher died in 1883, but Susannah lived to see many changes before her death on December 16, 1915.

John Force’s 641-acre claim extended from Cherry Avenue to the Oregon Electric tracks (Burlington Northern now), and from what is Cummings Lane, south almost to the School for the Deaf. Force was born in 1814 in Ontario County, New York, came to Oregon in the early 1840’s, and married his wife, Mary, in Tualatin in March 1845. The Forces settled on their claim in 1847.

These Keizer pioneers took an active part in their government. They served on school boards and commissions and in minor political offices. They let those who governed them know how they felt about all issues. They signed many petitions for and against roads, for prohibition of liquor, against the incorporation of Salem, then for it; for a district court, for a charter for the Oregon Institute, for a toll bridge across Lake Labish, and for and against a road from Salem to Doak’s Ferry.

Following is a list of Keizer’s first families and the acreage of their land claims, rounded off to the nearest whole number.

Thomas D. and Mary Keizur: 608 acres

John B. and Mary Jane Keizur: 590 acres

P.C. and Sarah Keizur: 160 acres

John and Beeda Keizur Ford: 638 acres

Sam and Matilda Keizur Penter: 417 acres

Janette Pugh: 259 acres

William F. Pugh: 230 acres

John and Sally Claggett Pugh: 318 acres

Silas and Sarah Rose Pugh: 320 acres

Alvis and Sally Pugh Smith: 643 acres

John S. and Eliza Zieber: 310 acres

Alexander and Margaret Spong: 307 acres

Aaron and Belinda Purdy: 630 acres

James and Nancy Smart: 619 acres

Nimrod and Mary Jane Ford: 319 acres

Charles and Mary Claggett: 273 acres

Stephen and Susannah Fisher: 320 acres

John and Mary Force: 641 acres

Adam and Lucinda Stephens: 460 acres

Published June 27, 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