The pioneers who came over the Oregon Trail developed a close bond based primarily upon their shared experiences on “The Trail.”
They never missed an opportunity to gather to retell their stories. Weddings, funerals, barn raisings and yes, even a hanging were all reasons to gather together to swap yarns.
It is said that the pioneers seldom talked about what they referred to as the “three D’s:” Dust, Disease and Death. Every wagon train had its share of each. Invariably one memory was always recalled. In most diaries kept by the pioneers there will be mention of one specific camp. The unusual thing about this campsite was that they observed that the water from the spring ran west, not east or south. This was very significant to them because it told them that they had indeed crossed the “Great Divide.” They were through the Great Stony Mountains (the Rockies). And since’ the boundary of the Oregon Territory was determined to be the crest of the Rockies, they were now officially in Oregon. One pioneer who had contracted Laramie fever rose up from his wagon bed and asked, “Is it true that the water is running west?” He was assured that it was true. “Then I made it to Oregon I” He died a short while later and he was buried in Oregon.
The spring is aptly named Pacific Springs and its water runs into Pacific Creek which runs into the Little Sandy River in the present state of Wyoming. Eventually the water from this spring reaches the Pacific Ocean in theory at least.
Although the pioneers were still a thousand miles from their destination in the Willamette Valley, the sight of the water flowing west was a much needed morale booster.
I’m very happy with the way my life has turned out,” says Dr. Vernon D. Casterline. And should be. His life story reads like a Horatio Alger tale, but it is true.
Keizer’s first doctor was born on his father’s homestead at Vida, Montana, in 1917. Widowed early, his grandmother Casterline had taken her six young sons to northeast Montana to homestead “to give them something to do” as she puts it.
When he was about a year-and-a half old, his parents, his sister, Lois, and his older brother Garold, rode the cattle train back to the Twin Cities to visit their maternal grandmother in Clinton, Minnesota. While there, his mother contracted the flu that killed so many Americans after World War I, and died in January 1919.
It was decided that his father would take five-year-old Garold back to Montana, but Grandma Heacock, who also had been widowed and had to raise ten children by herself, would take three-year-old Lois and baby Vernon.
Later Vernon and Lois attend a one-room school near Clinton, and took the rest of their elementary schooling at Ortonville before returning to Clinton.
After completing three years at Clinton High, Vernon decided to join his brother in Glasgow, Montana, where Garold was working on the Fort Peck dam while taking his last year of high school.
Vernon’s current events teacher helped him to get a job tending boilers at night in the newly constructed hospital in Glasgow to make expenses. He progressed to janitorial duties and then to orderly work. He wanted to help do the X-rays, but the administrator sternly pointed out to him that for some lines of work there were no short cuts. She advised him to get some college training.
His work at the hospital made him very interested in a career in medicine. He worked for another year and a half and saved up enough money for one semester’s tuition at Willamette University in Salem.
He chose Willamette because there was a pre-med course there and he had two aunts living in the Salem area. Aunt Pearl Hummel was in the Hollywood district where her husband was a building contractor. Aunt Nora and Uncle Ben Brown were caretakers of the Gideon Stolz-McNary estate, a portion of which is now the McNary golf course.
While a student at Willamette Vernon worked as an orderly at Deaconess Hospital (now Memorial) for board and room.
In 1942 Vernon enlisted and served in the Army for four years. He was very resentful of the interruption in his education, but the service had its compensations.
It enabled him to go to medical school on the G.I. Bill. He received his degree from the University of Oregon School of Medicine in 1948. Then followed two years of internship at St. Vincent and Providence hospitals in Portland. It was at St.Vincent that Vernon met Jean Ryser, now Mrs. Casterline, where she was a surgical nurse.
Vernon’s aunts and Dorothy Lamer, Darthee Teeter, and Alice Anderson, who with their husbands owned small businesses in the little Keizer community, were very persistent in their efforts to get him to set up a practice in Keizer. They pointed out that the community had grown to almost 10,000, but people had to drive into Salem for medical care.
They prevailed. In 1950 young Dr. Casterline moved into the new professional building constructed by Ed Anderson. He shared the north half with Dr. Gerald Bowerly, the new dentist. Walt Kechter managed Mootry’s Keizer Pharmacy in the south half. Behind the professional building, cows grazed.
When Doctor set up his office Keizer looked very rural with many prune and cherry orchards and berry fields along its main street. River Road was paved, but it was a very narrow two-land street. However the “downtown Keizer” was beginning to develop along the road and Vernon liked the friendly, small -town atmosphere.
During his first year the new doctor spent about $8,000 for equipment and furnishings. For comparison, bread cost 15 cents a loaf, a good pair of shoes, $15; and for $7500 you could buy a three-bedroom house.
The going rate for the delivery of a baby was $35 (“If I got paid,” interjects the doctor.) This included weekly checks of the prospective mother, delivery, weekly checks for the baby and the mother’s six week exam.
At the hospital the mother was charged $8 a day for a private room or $4 for a bed in a 4-bed ward/ There was no charge for the baby, although the usual length of stay for both was ten days.
Jean was her husband’s first office nurse. Then Doryls “Skip” Libby was hired a nurse, receptionist, and bookkeeper. His practice grew slowly, but faster than he had anticipated.
Doctor had quite a few rural patients and every now and then he was paid in farm products. Probably the most interesting payment he received for the delivery of a baby was the stuffing and mounting of a 21-1/2 pound Kamloops trout which he had caught in Lake Pend Oreille during his honeymoon.
Doug Watters, the first baby he delivered, went on to play basketball for North Salem High and was instrumental in upsetting McNary High is state competition. He recalls with pride the one-year-old baby on whom he correctly diagnosed appendicitis and helped Dr. Upjohn perform an appendectomy. The patient is now a big, healthy adult.
Farmers, particularly Fred Viesko, would bring in their seasonal workers for medical attention. As the same ones generally came back to Vieskos every year, Doctor got to know them and was able to provide some sort of continuity to their medical care.
in 1952 Vernon and Jean were married. During their first year they continued to live in his apartment in Hollywood. Then the Hummel Construction Co. built them a house on Sunset Ave. They moved into it when little Dale was six months old. At that time there was a large horse pasture north of the house.
When traffic became heavy on Sunset and the Casterlines lost a pet dog to a car, they bought their current home on McNary Heights. It has been built for the Dean Schackmans by Will Sparrow, who developed Main and Linda Streets.
The Casterlines didn’t move into their new house immediately. However, there was a bad freeze that winter and the furnace stopped running. When they discovered that the house was ice cold, a repairman was called . In a short time he had corrected the problem and soon the house was worm and cozy – and every pipe in the house burst, flooding the entire house and putting 8″ of water into the lower level, again snuffing out the furnace.
When they did move in, the family enjoyed the new location. It was open and it was quiet. The boys hunted for nutria. The children brought home ducks from the McNary pond. Mark came home one day with two little opossums clinging to a branch an the children raised them as pets.
The children are now grown. Vernon Dale is a dermatologist in Wisconsin, but planning to return to the Willamette Valley to practice. Patty is a Licensed Practical Nurse working in foster care. Mark runs an alfalfa farm in Ontario. Cameroon Scott is an electrical engineer in Portland; and the youngest, Debbie, is in her last year at Oregon State, studying fashion merchandising.
Dr. Casterline has earned a number of awards, both professionally and for his community work. In 1982 he was selected Keizer’s First Citizen. His community contributions include serving as McNary High School’s first and only team physician. He is a charter member of the Keizer Lions club and was its first president in 1950. He is also a charter member of the Keizer Rotary Club, and served for several years on the school health committee through the Marion-Polk County Medical Society.
In 1976 Dr. Casterline received the annual Physicians Recognition Award. This honor has meant the most to him because it was bestowed upon him by his peers in the Marion-Polk County Medical Society.
In 1963 he was president of the Salem Memorial Hospital Medical staff. In the same year he was alternate delegate from Oregon to the American Academy of General Practice national meeting in Chicago.
Doctor is charter member and past president of the Oregon Medical Directors Assoc.., a group bound together for the betterment of patient care in nursing homes.
In 1954 he joined the American Academy of General Practice, which in turn, afforded membership in local and state chapters that organization. This was the very first professional organization that required of its membership a definite number of post-graduate study hours (50 hours very three years) to maintain membership. Nowadays almost all professional organizations of this description require post-graduate study.
Because of things which evolved through the ensuing 20 years, general practice was declared a specialty entitled “the family practice” so the organization changed its name in 1974 to The American Academy of Family Physicians. At that time Casterline became a Fellow of the AAFP in a colorful ceremony in Los Angeles.
Dr. Casterline is looking forward to retiring in a few months. On February 17 he was joined in his practice by Dr. Gregory Thomas, a classmate of his son Dale.
Keizer is coming to the end of an era. Of the four medical professionals who set up shop in the community of Keizer in the early 1950’s, Dr. Bowerly, dentist; and Dr. Davis, optometrist; have already retired. Soon only Walt Kechter, pharmacist, will be left – and he is giving retirement a lot of thought.
Published April 24,1986. 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.
The first Hugh McNary to live m America was born in Ulster, Ireland. After coming to this country, he married Janet Logan in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1751.
Then the family moved to North Carolina where their son, Hugh, served in the militia when he was only 15.
Seeking new land after the Revolutionary War, the family moved to Fayette, Kentucky, and lived there for 28 years before moving to Illinois. James and Alexander, sons of Hugh, became interested in tales of the mild climate and rich land of the Oregon country, and in 1843 decided to go to Missouri to prepare for the wagon train trip to the West Coast.
Alexander’s family went immediately and James followed with his wife and children m 1844. It was too late in the year to start out for Oregon and the following year they were told that they should wait at least until May so that there would be sufficient grass for the teams and stock. It was recommended that each family take 150 pounds of flour, 50 pounds of bacon, and other staples as they saw fit for the four or five months the journey would take. They were also to take livestock enough to provide 100-150 pounds of beef per person on the way.
Jumping the gun a bit, a 6O-wagon train left Missouri on April 29, 1845, and the McNarys went with it. The jomney was difficult; some days the travelers had nothing to eat. Twenty-five persons died and were buried along the way.
When they reached Oregon, the McNarys were among those who elected to take the Meek Cutoff over the mountains. The party suffered extreme hardship. It was someone in their wagon train who found some heavy, yellow pebbles while carrying water from Twelve-Mile Creek, and brought them back to camp in a blue bucket. When the pebbles were pounded they were found to be soft and malleable and guessed to be gold. Years later gold was found in that area and the mine was named the Blue Bucket Mine after the initial discovery.
The McNarys and their companions met the rest of their train at The Dalles. They had traveled 1817 miles in 161 days.
The wagon train went on to the Willamette Valley. James filed a land claim on 645 acres at Oregon City; Alexander went on to Oak Grove in Polk County.
Both McNarys had sons named Hugh. Hugh, son of James and the former Elizabeth Sharp, was only 5-1/2 years old when the family left Morgan County, Illinois, for Oregon. He stayed on his father’s farm at Oregon City for ten years, then went to Linn County where he taught school for several years, later taking up a 160-acre claim near Scio. Hugh McNary married Mary Margaret Claggett of Keizer Bottom on December 21, 1854, and took his bride back to Linn County. The young couple settled their claim on January 26, 1855. In 1866 they sold their land and moved to Keizer with their five children who ranged in age from one to 7 years: Mary Elizabeth (Bruce) called Bess, was born in 1859; Martha (Savage), 1862; Sarah E. (Nina), 1860; Eliza, 1863; and Harriett, 1865. Hugh and Margaret purchased 112.39 acres from Margaret’s father, Charles Claggett. (Governor Os West states that Claggett gave the acreage to his son-in-law as a wedding present, but deed records indicate a $1,000 consideration in the transaction, which took place 12 years after the marriage.)
Five more children were born to the couple: John Hugh in 1868; Ella in 1871; James, who died in infancy, 1872; Charles Unza, 1874; and Julia, 1876.
Margaret McNary died in 1878. The oldest daughter, Bess, was married to Tom Bruce at that time, and Nina (Sarah Elizabeth) who was 18 then, took over rearing the younger children, besides teaching at the new one-room school which had been built at Keizer that year.
Hugh moved his family into Salem in order to obtain better schooling facilities for his children, but continued to operate the farm in Keizer until his death, July 18, 1883.
He had remarried, but had left no will. The widow, the former Julia Johnson, and the children sold their shares of the McNary to the Bruces, who continued to work it. In the estate there was also the house in town on a double lot, and three other lots in north Salem.
The Bruces sold about 101 acres to Alice and C.A. Harold in 1911, and the farm was purchased by the Raymond Jungwirths in 1944.
All the McNary children graduated from high school and attended universities. Charles attended Stanford University for two years. He and John became attorneys, practicing in Salem. John later became federal judge.
Charles was admitted to the Oregon Bar in 1898. He taught at Willamette University for two years and was Dean of the law school for four. In 1913 he was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court to fill an unexpired vacancy. At the end of the term he lost the election to that office by only one vote, but refused to ask for a recount.
Ella married Walter Stolz, whose father had a bottling plant in Salem and also a large farm at what is now Shoreline Drive and Chemawa Road North. The Stolzes had a daughter, Margaret, who married Willard Marshall, and a son, Richard McNary Stolz.
Charles married Jessie Breyman on November 19, 1902. Her father, Eugene Breyman, built a house for the young couple at 643 Court Street, next to his own.
The Charles McNarys and the Walter Stolzes had a strong attachment for the land in Keizer and acquired about 250 acres of grandfather Claggett’s land on which they raised wheat, oats, potatoes, and hops. For a number of years they leased part of it out, at one time to the Sun family. In later years, McNary bought out his brother-in-law’s interest.
After two temporary appointments to the U. S. Senate, McNary was elected Senator in 1917. He made annual summer visits to Salem and it was during his first return from Washington, D.C., that his wife died. She was killed in one of the first automobile accidents in the Salem area when the McNary car overturned on a curve near the Harritt home on Wallace Road.
In 1923, McNary married Cornelia Morton. She was the daughter of Major Bruce and Mary Morton of Washington. D.C., and was educated in Washington schools. The Senator and she met at a dinner party during World War I, and for a time she served as his secretary. The she went to Boston where she organized the Massachusetts League of Women Voters, returning later to Washington as an administrator of that organization.
McNary built a house on Fircone in 1926, supposedly on the site where his grandfather had built his first house of logs. However, Grandpa Claggett’s land claim was on the other side of River Road. He built a large home there which was later purchased by the Keefers, and it is very likely that the original cabin was nearby.
McNary’s house was a U-shaped western ranch style, with a living room the width of the house. The McNarys also developed a tennis court, putting green. picnic area on the creek, rose garden, arboretum with identification tags on all the trees, and a fishpond which McNary stocked with trout.
McNary and Cornelia adopted a baby girl and named her Charlotte. The first summer that they brought her to Fuoone, they also brought along a black mammy to look after the baby. When Charlotte was old enough to handle a boat, McNary dammed Claggett Creek so that she could paddle her canoe on it. She also had a pet dog, and a pony to ride.
In 1927, McNary had 110 acres in fruit and nut orchards. He pioneered in filberts, bringing trees from all parts of the world to Salem for trial.
He also brought to Keizer a very large, sweet prune from an old monastery near Paris. He commented that his 12-acre orchard at that time was the only planting of those prunes in the West.
He had registered the name of the pruneÑImperialÑand it brought the highest price of any prunes he raised. He gradually replaced his Italian prune orchard with walnuts, removing every other prune tree and replacing it with a nut tree until all the Italian prunes were gone.
He also had 15 acres of cherries.
The only livestock on the farm were 25 white Leghorn hens, purchased from a government farm at Beltsville, Maryland, for which he had paid the princely sum of $5 apiece. There was some local criticism because he had not pmchased local chickens.
Charlie McNary, as he was known to his colleagues and neighbors, was one of the organizers of the Salem Fruit Union, and served as president. He was president of the Salem Board of Trade from 1909 through 1911. Cornelia had been active in the National Farm and Garden Association and formed an Oregon branch when the McNarys were in Salem in 1936.
McNary had an outstanding record in the Congress. According to Senator White of Maine, he was involved in two principal fields of endeavor: agriculture, and hydro-electric development and associated irrigation and reclamation projects.
To that end he served on the Irrigation and Reclamation Committee for 13 consecutive sessions; the Agriculture and Forestry Committee for six sessions; Commerce for 13 Congresses, and 21 other committees for shorter terms.
In March 1933 he was elected minority leader of the Senate and served in that capacity until his death.
McNary was an outspoken advocate of public power, an isolationist and protectionist of American industry. He introduced a reforestation bill which had the merit of not antagonizing timbermen or lumbermen, while encouraging them to replant cut-over land. Many gave McNary credit for keeping the Republican party alive during the Franklin Roosevelt years.
In 1940 Senator McNary was nominated for vice president, to run with Wendell Willkie on the Republican ticket against Roosevelt and Wallace. The Republicans lost the election, but won more votes than expected.
It is interesting to note that both Willkie and McNary died in 1944. McNary died in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he had gone to recuperate from an operation.
Willard Marshall took over the responsibility for the operation of Fircone and hired caretakers to run it. For about six years Mrs. McNary and Charlotte returned to the farm to spend their summers. When they stopped coming, the house was rented out by Marshall.
On April 23, 1954, Fircone was sold by Mrs. McNary and Willard Marshall to Mr. and Mrs. John Dean Schackman, who had been running the farm. In 1952 the Schackmans had purchased 16 acres adjoining the McNary property and built a large house on what is now McNary Heights.
They joined others and formed a corporation and made plans to develop a golf course. There was an effort to sell subscriptions for a private club, but that failed, and the decision was made to develop a public course. There were tentative plans to use the Schackman house, with its large patio and daylight basement as a club house.
In 1960, 77 acres of the adjoining Jungwirth property were optioned by the developers, who were Mr. and Mrs. John Slovar, Bert Stamps, Orpha Sills Miller, Jim Sills, Ven and Leal Savage, and Dean Schackman. William D. Miller was their attorney.
The course was laid out by Siovar and Savage of California, who also put in the irrigation. The McNary house, which had been remodeled and refurbished by the Schackmans, was used as an office and clubhouse until the present one was built immediately north of it, and the McNary home was torn down.
The musical, strong name of the pioneer family is a favorite in the Keizer area and is memorialized chiefly by the McNary High School, and McNary Golf Club on the former McNary farm.
Published June 9, 1981. 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.
“Back in 1947,” reminisces Rusty Teets, “if you had a fire, you had to run into Salem, with $45, hand it to the fire department and they would send out a fire truck. Of course, your house would be burned down by that time.”
Rusty Teets, Walt Robinson, owner of the lumber yard; Olin Brown who had the feed store; and John Coomler, who operated a hardware store, were among those who were concerned about the lack of fire protection for the Keizer area. An addition had been made to the Keizer School, and the community as a whole was experiencing a growth spurt after the close of World War II.
A meeting was called and enough interest was indicated to warrant circulation of petitions to form a Keizer fire district. After a concentrated effort, enough signatures were obtained, but when the time came to file them, Rusty found that there was a $30 filing fee. Six public-spirited Keizerites: Walter Adams, Paul Guile, Sonny Benson, Walt Robinson, and Rusty, each put in $5. That was the first of many, many $5 contributions.
During a door-to-door solicitation, people gave what they could, average donations being $5. By July 13, 1948, there was $192.50 in the kitty, and by the time the department was organized in November there was a total of $1,052.75.
This was enough to purchase from Onas and Helen Olson a half-acre lot for $800 on which to build a firehouse.
On July 7, 1948, the first board of directors for the Keizer Rural Fire Protection District was elected: H.P. (Rusty) Teets (president); Oscar Noren; Ray H. Lafky; Norman Brusven; and J. Calvin Mount, Secretary-Treasurer.
Rusty comments that, for some reason the new district’s credit was good, so the board ordered a Ford 500-gallon pumper from Nelson Equipment Co. of Portland.
On August 6 Walter Nystrom’s bid of $8,000 was accepted by the board for a 40′ x 60′ building. Nystrom was willing to wait for his money but his low bid did not include inside sealing, cabinets, or electrical wiring.
On November 29 the volunteer fire department was organized with 26 active firemen. Bill Johnson was selected by the board as fire chief and John Mekkers, assistant chief. Their salary was to be $50 a month, split equally, commencing when the department became active.
In a special election Keizer residents approved the issuance of 10-year bonds for $20,000 for building and equipment. The bonds were sold February 18, 1949, at 3% interest.
The first alarm came that month for a fire at McDermot’s variety store near Keizer Corners.
When asked about the department’s early equipment, Rusty laughs and says, “You grabbed up your garden hose and ran like hell. Only five firemen had telephones then so when the siren blew, they spread the alarm. Didn’t have to worry about the fire spreading to the neighbor’s house though; in those days it was too far away.”
Rusty and Cal Mount drove the first truck down from Portland, and until the firehouse was built, it was housed under a lean-to at Bill Drakeley’s Keizer Lockers.
The Fire Belles, the firemen’s auxiliary, was formed that year with Mrs. Nellie Yung as president; Sally Orcutt, vice president; and Mrs. Olive Snook as secretary-treasurer Correspondent was Mrs. Charlotte Mekker. Red caps and red shoulder bands identified the group which completed many community projects in its 30 years of existence. it was the Fire Belles who did the actual telephoning when the siren blew, and during major alarms, made coffee and sandwiches for the men. hey helped however and when ever they could.
During the 1964 flood the National Board, sheriff’;s office, and state police used the firehall as headquarters for their rescue operation. Helicopters brought flood victims to the open field across from the hall (now the Safeway parking lot). The Fire Belles put in long hours keeping people warm, dry, and fed during their stay.
Rules and regulations, and ordinances regarding officers, duties of the chief and members, equipment, special officers, and policies, were adopted on March 17, 1949.
The building, which was large enough to house three pieces of equipment was ready about April 1. Money from the bond sale to pay for it and the truck arrived on October 24.
At that time the volunteers received 25 cents for every practice session they attended and $1 for each fire call. According to Rusty, the department had no protective clothing then, so if a fireman tore his pants while out on a call, he had to attend many practice sessions or fires to recoup his loss.
The first annual firemen’s ball was held November 18, 1949. Paying $1.25 to attend the dance at the North Salem Rollerdrome were 103 couples. Proceeds from that event helped pay for helmets, raincoats, and oxygen masks, besides some of the work on finishing the interior of the firehall. The volunteers and board members received the going rate of $2 an hour for insulating, sealing and finishing the interior.
On December 29, 1949 Sam Orcutt was elected president of the volunteer fire department; Red Farmer, vice president; Kenney Hill, secretary-treasurer; A Company captain was Olin Brown; lieutenant, Paul Yung; B Company captain, Cor Burnett; lieutenant, Otis Anderson.
At that meeting the assistant fire chief, Bernard Snook, reported 56 alarms, of which 21 were fires. HE estimated that the department had saved property totaling $70,000, against a loss of $18,000.
About that time the Keizer School district acquired a war surplus 1942 International military tanker – a 1500-gallon pumper. An agreement was made with the fire district for the advancement of the $600 to procure the truck, and another $600 to repair it. The school district would retain ownership of the vehicle, although it would be stored at the firehouse.
Duane Sanford, not yet a member of the fire department, was delegated to drive the truck from the naval base at Farragut, Idaho, because he was familiar with that area. He well remembers that drive through the icy, windy Columbia Gorge in the wintry February weather. That was the department’s second truck. When the school district consolidated with Salem 24-CJ about four years later, KFD received title to the pumper.
In 1948 the total assessed taxable valuation of Keizer was $1,578,393. In 1980 it is approximately $4,950,000. The department now has at its disposal four pumpers, one aerial ladder combination pumper, on 1400-gallon tanker, two vans, a first aid rescue vehicle and about $300,000 in equipment. On September 23 the board approved purchase of a new 1000-gallon pumper which will cost $99,000.
The district sells its used trucks as it acquires new ones. They are so well maintained that the district always gets as much for them as it paid. The catch is that the new ones always go up in price.
In 1950 the fledgling district spearheaded the organization of a statewide organization of rural fire protection district directors. That year the meeting was held in conjunction with the state fire chief’s convention. Rusty Teets of Keizer was elected first president of the state group.
The fire department is one of the reasons Keizer is a good place to live in. Cal Mount, who was the board’s long time secretary-treasurer, said firmly, “The Keizer fire service is second to none in the state. It is comparable to paid districts. The Keizer group has the best rating of any volunteer department in the state of Oregon.”
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.
What with Claggett Park, Claggett Creek, Claggett Street and Claggett Cemetery, the name “Claggett” is almost synonymous with Keizer.
The Claggetts were among Keizer’s pioneers, arriving in Oregon in 1852. Charles and Mary Irvine Claggett were natives of Kentucky who migrated to Missouri where their son William was born in 1840.
The family left for Oregon in 1852, with 12-year-old William driving one of the two teams of four-yoke oxen. They arrived in October and took up a 320-acre, heavily timbered claim north of Will Pugh’s at the present River-Chemawa Road intersection.
The first year was one of hardship for the family. Although the Claggetts had brought some of their livestock with them, one dollar in cash was all the money Charles Claggett had upon arrival. A 16′ x 16′ log cabin was the family’s first home.
Claggett and his son immediately began to clear the land. They dug pits which would take logs of 75 feet and burned the trees for charcoal for which there was a cash market. Each pit was left to burn for three months before the charcoal was considered ready. However, one log would contain up to 2,000 bushels of charcoal.
Over the years Claggett successfully engaged in the raising of livestock, increasing the small herd he had brought with him from Missouri. He also raised grain and purchased more land.
William attended the local schools and Willamette University during the winter as time permitted. He, too, purchased land until he owned approximately 1,000 acres in the Keizer area.
William was a pioneer in the production of fine Angora goats and had a large and valuable herd. He also acquired registered Clydesdale horses, fine sheep, and racing horses.
When William Claggett died in 1911 his land was divided among his tem children, one of whom was Ben, who received 26 acres on Chemawa Road and what is now Verda Lane. His widow, Mabel Noren Claggett still lives on part of that farm.
Mabel Noren was born in 1893 to Sylvia and Gus Noren, who had a ten-acre farm in Hayesville. There were frame buildings and an open well from which all the water for household use had to be drawn up in a bucket.
Mabel and her brother, Oscar, who now owns the farm, attended the one-room school in Hayesville, which was expanded to two rooms by the time Mabel graduated from the 8th grade.
To supplement their cash income and to socialize with their neighbors at the same time, the family would hitch up their horse and wagon and all go to pick hops in the nearby yards. The children also picked berries during the summer.
In 1914 Mabel married Ben Claggett, who was living with a friend, Otto Beaty, in what he called a “shack” on his acreage. It was a two-room cottage built by the homesteader of the land, Will Pugh.
Otto was not in good health at the time, and he continued to live with the young couple for a year after their marriage. He later married to Anna Harold.
Ben and Mabel raised grain and corn, and planted a strawberry field to the north of the house and a filbert orchard against Chemawa Road, obtaining sprouts from Senator McNary, a cousin of Ben.
The young Claggetts had a small dairy operation, about 6 to 8 head of cattle. Mabel made butter and sold it for 25 cents a pound to Weller Bros. On Commercial Street in Salem where they bought their groceries.
They also raised some hogs and calves and did all their farming with a team of gray horses named Dolly and Molly. Students from the Indian School came to help harvest the strawberries.
Water for the house was carried from a spring near Claggett Creek (then Grierson Creek) up the slope to the house. Later a pump with a gas motor was used to bring the water up until water was available from the Keizer Water District.
Usona and Boyd were born to Mabel and Ben while they were still in the two-room cottage. Then the couple built a six-room house, and their third child, Sylvia was born there.
The large oaks surrounding the house were there when the young couple built their home. When one was blown over during the Columbus Day storm in 1962 a workman clearing it away counted the rings and determined that the tree was 175 years old.
The towering evergreens on the crest of the hill were planted in 1928 by Boyd when he was 12. Along the drive are several large myrtlewood trees, a rare sight in the Willamette Valley. Mabel started them from seeds brought from the Coast.
The Claggett children all still live in Oregon. Usona Claggett Baker lives in Portland, Sylvia Forbes in Beaverton, and Boyd is with the Game Commission Summer Lake.
Published February 8, 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.
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.
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.
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
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
The first schoolhouse in the Keizer-Clear Lake area was a small log cabin at the intersection of the present North River and Wheatland Roads, about where the Bonny Dell apartments are located.
No one knows when it was built but the remains were still on the site in the early 1900’s.
In 1866 Hugh McNary brought his wife, the former Margaret Claggett, and his family from Linn County back to the Keizer area, presumably to the Claggett farm. He became the school’s teacher, and preacher for those who gathered in the little schoolhouse for religious services.
In 1878 John and Sally Pugh donated 1-1/2 acres at the Keizer comers (Schoolhouse Square) and a frame one-room school was immediately built. It was furnished with the handmade desks and benches from the old school. The first teacher was Nina McNary, a daughter of Hugh and Margaret McNary.
Sometime between 1894 and 1898 a smaller room was added on the north side and a gallery or balcony was added to the back of the large room to be used by the audience at school functions.
According to Mrs. Arthur Cummings the school became the social center of the community. Also, church services were held there, although baptisms took place at the steamboat landing near the Cummings home.
In 1915 the school board voted to build a larger school and the two-room structure was torn down.
A sturdy four-room school was erected at a cost of $8,OOO. One of the rooms had a stage for school and community programs. There was also a full basement and a small furnace room with a wood furnace. The basement was partitioned into four rooms for future expansion.
A concrete walk led to a courtyard and stairs wide enough for students to march four abreast up to the double doors of the main floor. There were 17 steps as the school was built high off the ground because of frequent high-water problems. A large belfry held the school bell which could be heard as far away as Verda Lane.
The first two teachers in the new building were Cora Miller (Clark) who taught the four upper grades, and Anna Lindgren (Myers) who instructed the younger pupils. Cora Clark celebrated her 100th birthday in 1987 and resides, in the Willamette Lutheran Home.
Only four years later all four classrooms were in use, and the lower floor was completed into classrooms.
Little shops sprang up around the school and became the town center.
By the mid-1930’s the school was crowded and a large wing was added in 1939. It contained four classrooms, a health room, teachers’ lounge, a kitchen, auditorium, and principal’s office. The use of the basement rooms as classrooms was discontinued.
As enrollment grew, they came into use again until 1948 when ten more classrooms were added. A year later five classrooms, two storerooms and a teachers’ lounge were built. Part of the basement was used as a music room and part as a library.
These rooms were needed again for classrooms even though Cummings School was built in 1953 to relieve the overcrowding. More land was acquired until the school grounds reached almost seven.
Keizer School was now the largest grade school in the county.
The school bell could no longer be heard over the sound of traffic, not even throughout the building itself. It was taken down and placed on a platform in the school’s entry. However, children delighted in thumping it to the great annoyance of the staff in the adjoining office so it was retired to a storage room in the basement.
In 1955 Keizer voters were faced with forming a union high school district or consolidating with the Salem School district. The vote favored consolidation which became effective July 1,1955.
By the 1980’s, the school complex was deemed unsafe by the fire deparunent and obsolete by the school system.
A large modern school was built off Olsen Road on part of the old Hoffman farm now owned by Arleen and Keith Olsen. The new Keizer School opened in 1987. The road leading to the school was named McClure after a well-loved teacher, Mickey McClure.
The old school property was put up for sale. Springer Development Co. completed the purchase in 1989.
In the meantime a group was formed to preserve the 1916 structure. It has been moved to the northwest comer of the old school grounds, with the cooperation of the developers.
In 1988, plans were tentatively made to house the Keizer Art Association, the Keizer library and a historical museum in the restored school, Keizer’s only historic public building.
Published September 1988. (The complete detailed hislory of Keizer School may be found in Volume 13 (1979-1982) of the Marion County Historical Society publication, page 44ff.)
Keizer’s first known white settlers began to anive in the 1840’s. By the mid-1850’s 18 families had laid claim to 7,655 acres. Members of two families, the Keizurs and Pughs, had the largest total holdings: 2,415 and 1,912 acres respectively.
The community took the name of Thomas Dove Keizur, patriarch of the family which came to Oregon with the Applegate wagon train in the fall of 1843. From the time the Keizers arrived in the United States in the 18th century, they used 15 different versions of their family name. Most of those settling in this area spelled it “Keizur.”
The names of the holders of the donation land claims were Keizur (3 families), Pugh (4), Zieber, Spong, Purdy, Smart, Ford (2), Claggett, Fisher. Force, Stephens, Penter, and Smith. In the Clear Lake area, claim holders were George Lesley and Jeremiah Stevenson. Claims of John Zieber and Alvis Smith included land in both communities.
It was the Smith family which started Keizer’s only cemetery with the burial of an infant daughter at the southeast comer of their claim. Originally known as the Smith graveyard, it is now called the Claggett Cemetery.
The first school was held in a log cabin on the Claggett farm at what is now the intersection of Wheatland and River Roads. The first known schoolmaster was Hugh McNary, son-in-law of Charlie Claggett and father of Judge John and Senator Charles L., and eight other children.
In 1878 a new one-room school was built at the Keizer corners on 1-1/2 acres donated by John and Sally Pugh, and the school district received a number-88. Nina, a daughter of Hugh and Margaret Claggett McNary was the first teacher. A second room was added on the north side in the early 1890’s and the primary four grades were taught there.
This school was replaced in 1916 by a structure with four large rooms and stage on the first floor, and four rooms and a furnace room in the basement. The school was the heart of Keizer. Social functions, club meetings, holiday celebrations, and church services were held there.
Baptisms took place at the Keizer steamboat landing on the John Keizer farm (later owned by the Cummingses). Steamboats also stopped at the Beardsley landing at the west end of Chemawa Road, and at Spong’s Landing.
Keizer Bottom has been subject to flooding throughout its history. One of the worst floods ever to hit the Willamette Valley was devastating to the farmers of the Keizer area in 1861.
Homes, barns, furnishings, fanning implements, cattle, Ôand poultry were lost when waters came as far east as the present firehall site, and also isolated the community from Salem to the south. Claggett Creek, then unnamed, flooded the lowlands now occupied by Claggett Park and closed the road to the east (now Chemawa).
During the ensuing years, Keizer farmers built their homes on higher ground. The oldest home in Keizer, the John Pugh house, now owned by Rosemary Herber on Verda Lane, was built sometime before 1875 above Claggett Creek. High waters would many times swell the creek to the proportions of a river, but never reached the house.
It was the frequent flooding of the Willamette River which hindered development of the Keizer area. In 1917, more than 70 years after the first settlement, there were fewer than 70 families in the entire area. and most homes were on the higher elevations of Chemawa Road near the Oregon Electric tracks and off what is now Verda Lane, then Claxtar Road.
Developers generally steered away from the Keizer area, especially after the 1943 flood, which was another of major proportions and enabled a Coast Guard cutter to float onto the Rehfuss farm on Cherry Avenue through the draw where the Keizer Elks’ clubhouse is situated. There were more major floods in 1945, 1946, and 1948.
However, the dams being built on the WIllamette and its tributaries began to regulate the river to the extent that development began in earnest in the 1950s.
During that decade the seeds were sown for a small town. City phones replaced the country lines and a volunteer fire department was formed. River Road was realigned, widened, and paved. A doctor, a dentist, an optometrist, and a druggist moved to Keizer. The growing business community organized first as the Commercial Club, then the Keizer Merchants. Now the organization is known as the Keizer Chamber of Commerce. Lynn Martin expanded the budding Keizer News.
To facilitate further expansion of the Keizer School, the Grange hall was moved from its location on the north boundary of the school. In the late Ô50’s Keizer was the largest grade school in Marion County, although Cummings School had been built in 1953 to relieve the overcrowding. School financing and busing problems caused Keizer residents to elect to merge with the Salem School district in 1955.
Although Keizer was a bedroom community for Salem, a warm, small-town spirit prevailed. The merchants sponsored the popular Keizer Days parade and a kids’ parade long after the demise of the Cherry Festival in Salem. There was every imaginable activity for youngsters; garden and service clubs for adults, and churches of practically every denomination.
By 1960 there were over 5,000 people. Three schools were built to accommodate existing and projected enrollment. First came Kennedy grade school in 1964, then McNary high school. It housed the Whiteaker junior high until that school was built in 1968. McNary’s football field was seeded and the cinder track completed, when after 16 flood-free years, the Wlllamette River went on a rampage in December 1964 and January 1965. Washers, dryers, TV sets, furniture, and parts of houses washed onto the track and the low areas of the McNary and Keizer school grounds-virtually a modem replay of the flood of 1861.
A diking district was formed and an earthen dike built along the river approximately from Cummings Lane to 15th Street.
During the next decade the population doubled to 11,405, with orchards and berry fields being replaced by houses.
Another 7,000 people located in the Keizer area by 1980 and oldtimers looked on sadly as landmarks disappeared. The Cummings maple tree, whose trunk was six feet in diameter, was felled to permit construction of Shoreline Drive. It had once shaded the home of the pioneer John Keizer family. Another huge maple under which residents gathered to watch the Keizer Days parade on River Road near Cummings Lane was a victim of the widening of Keizer’s main artery.
As the need became more apparent for city services, such as street lights, water, or police protection, Keizer citizens voted to finance them through service districts. Many times the City of Salem tried to annex the growing community adjacent to its city limits, offering to provide these services.
In 1964 a number of Keizer residents, chiefly V. E. Smithley, E.T. Riley, and Robert Stutzman, tried to convince the people of Keizer that it would be cheaper and better to form their own city. The effort failed.
When the 1982 Oregon Legislature made it possible for communities of 20,000 or more to incorporate, many Keizer citizens worked hard to get an incorporation measure on the ballot. They believed that it was Keizer’s last chance to retain its own identity.
To the north of Keizer, clustered at the intersection of Clear Lake and Wheatland Roads were a church, school, fire station and country store, comprising downtown Clear Lake. The first school in Clear Lake was a one-room frame building constructed in 1892 on an acre of land donated by J. C. and Edna Hollingsworth Bair. The first teacher was Emma Massey. The building, surrounded by additions, is still in use.
Adjacent to the school is the Clear Lake Methodist church, also built on land donated by Mrs. Bair and originally known as the Edna Evangelical Church.
Clear Lake has always been a close-knit farming community. However, in the late 1960’s developers began building homes on Jays Drive, Barbara Way, and along the bluff above Mission Bottom to the north, and north and east of Claggett Cemetery, and the community had taken on the appearance of a small town.
Faced with drainage problems, many of the home owners joined the incorporation effort, and by a narrow margin, on November 2, 1982, the two communities elected to form the new City of Keizer.
Published November 5,1987. 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