Keizer and Keizurs

Unveiling of Thomas Keizur statue brings nearly 150 descendants to Keizer
Jackson County descendants and nearly 150 others rushed to Keizer on Jan. 30 to see the unveiling of a statue of their pioneering great-great-grandfather, Thomas Dove Keizur.Keizertimes/Jason Cox

Their slow-moving oxen had begun a journey of 2,000 miles.

Ahead were wastelands, wide and deep rivers, mountains and canyons.

If you go

You don't have to be a Keizur to get a peek at Oregon's newest statue. Drive north on Interstate 5 to Exit 260 and follow the signs toward Keizer. After a half-mile, turn left onto Chemawa Road N.E. and continue three-tenths of a mile. Turn left immediately after the railroad tracks to stay on Chemawa Road. Continue 1.1 miles to the Civic Center, 930 Chemawa Road N.E.

"The migration of a large body of men, women and children across the continent to Oregon was, in the year 1843, strictly an experiment," remembered Jesse Applegate in 1876.

Only small groups of missionaries, mountain men and trappers had made this journey before, but now, for the first time, a party of nearly 1,000 pioneers was headed west — 120 wagons, drawn by six-ox teams and accompanied by several thousand loose horses and cattle.

Soon they realized such a large group would move too slowly. They divided into two parties, those who could move quickly with only their teams and those having herds of four or more animals.

Riding on his Morgan horse and traveling with the faster party, Thomas Dove Keizur and his family ended that five-month journey to Oregon in October 1843. From there, he went south, settling on a land claim on the east side of the Willamette River, just north of today's Salem.

Here in 1948, in what had become a suburb of Salem, a misspelled Keizer post office was established. Then, 111 years after Keizur's death, his name was misspelled again, this time when the city of Keizer was incorporated in 1982.

Last weekend, another large body of men, women and children from all over the country were once again migrating to Oregon's Willamette Valley.

On Jan. 30, nearly 150 of Keizur's descendants gathered at the Keizer Civic Center for the unveiling of a life-size bronze statue of T.D. Keizur, riding his Morgan horse.

For Beverly Keizur Owenby, her sister and their families, who had all grown up in the Rogue Valley, the 200-mile automobile journey to Keizer from Jackson County would be easy. But even if they had needed to drive a slow-moving ox team, there was no way they were going to miss the unveiling.

"I think this is really great," said Owenby, who is Thomas Keizur's great-great-granddaughter "It's such an honor to have a statue made of one of your pioneer relatives."

She said her family has been in Jackson County since before 1900, when her grandfather moved his family from the Willamette Valley.

Keizer city officials treated the Keizur descendants to some reunion-style family dinners and lunches and took them on bus tours to where Thomas Keizur's family had settled and lived.

"They had so much going on it was hard to see it all," she said.

"Saturday night we had a big dinner and we all sat around and talked until about midnight. I never knew a family reunion could be so much fun."

Even though temperatures hovered in the 50s and the skies threatened rain, Owenby said it didn't bother her at all.

When the 13-foot-tall statue was unveiled, she said it took her breath away.

"They had to get way up there to get the tarp off," she said. "But when they did — Oh, it's really something wonderful.

"It's pretty neat. It looks just like his picture."

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.


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