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Wagon Ruts West

By Ralph Ray Keeney

Published in 1983


    The following selection is taken from "Wagon Ruts West" written & published by Ralph Ray Keeney in 1983. The book  is currently out of print. This section is published with the kind permission of Ralph Ray Keeney. The book this selection is drawn from is under copyright and permission has been granted for educational purposes and it is not to be used in any way for any profit or commercial venture.

Click here to read letter of permission.

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The following is Section 20

Willard and Bertha Handsaker


___John, Sr. (1750? - 1845?) Married Martha -
| Jonathan Anthony (1778  - 1850)
| ___ John Jr. (1780 - 1845) Married Mary Ramsey Buckhalter, 1805
| |   Mary (1806 - 1850-)
| |   Thomas (1808 - 1842)
| |   Isley (1811 - 1842)
| |   Jonathan (1813 - 1878)
| |   James (1816 - 1885)
| |   Abraham (1818 - 1843)
| | ____Andrew Jackson (1819 - 1898) Married Elizabeth Mulholland, 1841
| | | Frances Ann - drowned with Mother in the Missouri Riv.
| | | 2. Married Hannah Daniels Cooper (daughter, Anna Cooper)
| | | Elias P. (1852 - 1857)
| | | James Madison ( 1853 - 1913)
| | | George R. (1856 - 1859)
| | | William Daniel (1857 - 1930)
| | | ____John Blanden (1859 - 1942) Married Ella Hurt, 1881
| | | |    Maude (1882 - 1958)
| | | |    Rhoda C. (1884 - 1884)
| | | |    Ira Marvin (1885 - 1945)
| | | | ___ Willard Warren (1888 - 1958)    Married Alice L. Crall, 1920
| | | | |      Jack LeRoy, 1921
| | | | |      Ralph Ray, 1923
| | | | |      Harold Blanding, (1925 - 1925)
| | | | |      Loa May, 1926
| | | | |      Ida Dee, 1929
| | | | |     Billie Fae, 1932
| | | | |      William Warren, 1933
| | | | |____Bessie Jo, 1935
| | | |______Glenn (1894 - 1954)
| | | 3 Married Amanda Jane Morse Matthews, 1861 (daughter, Rebecca)
| | |      Martha Ellen "Matty" (1862 - 1911)
| | |      Benjamin Franklin (1865 - 1935)
| | |      Andrew Alva (1866 - 1954)
| | |________Thomas Paine (1869 - 1947)
| | Rebecca (1821 - 1895)
| | Eli (twin) (1828 - 1878)
| |___________ Elias (twin) (1828 - 1910)
| Thomas (1782 - 1846)   
| Nancy ( 1786 - -- )
| James (- - - )
| Hiram (-- - )
|_________Others -

Willard and Bertha Handsaker Family

Willard and Bertha Handsaker

Willard and Bertha Handsaker

Willard and Bertha Handsaker Family

Willard and Bertha Handsaker Family

    Willard Nelson Handsaker, Born July 19, 1887. Son of Martha (Keeney) and Nelson E. Handsaker
    Bertha (Skartvedt) Handsaker, Born 1893, Died 1975 Son, William Nelson Handsaker, Born June 29, 1928


I must tell you something about my situation. I retired from the Northern Pacific Railway, where I was assistant bridge engineer, in 1955, age 68 (yes, I'm now 94). In 1975 my beloved wife Bertha (Skartvedt) died and next year I moved into this downtown retirement home (not a nursing home) among about 90 congenial people. My on-room efficiency apartment is my castle. The YMCA is on the same block and I have made much use of the pool (my wobbly legs won't stand for any gym or track). Except for my legs and eyes I'm in wonderful health for my age. I've reached the status of blindness, but that only means I can't read without difficulty; I get around pretty well. My son William lives about 20 miles away and we go out together frequently. My two daughters live in California and I'm going there for a long visit at Christmas. I am financially independent, so I just sit back and enjoy my many blessings.

As a boy, up to 1900 or so, I was taken along on annual visits to the Andrew Jackson Keeney home at Goshen, birthplace of my mother. I knew all my Keeney uncles and aunts and cousins, except Uncle Will, but met him on one visit. I especially liked cousin Maude and Belle. Since then I almost knew nothing about my Oregon folks.

Then, after Grandma Amanda Morse Keeney died, Grandpa Keeney had a breakdown; after he recovered he visited us in Tacoma for quite a while and regained his strength. We were very fond of him. My mother said that Grandpa Keeney was more of a rancher than a farmer. I never knew him as active religiously, but in January 1898 he joined a church.

Grandma (Amanda) had a great influence on her only daughter, my mother, and non doubt, also on grandpa. Se had been raised in a sect which emphasized the goodness and mercy of God, and disapproved of the hellfire preaching then so common. Grandfather Handsaker was an old-fashioned Methodist and so were most of our neighbors. I am sure my mother felt lonely and felt somewhat outcast on this account; many years later she embraced Christian Science peace of mind. For myself, I have found a loving God, in the Methodist, Episcopal, Congregational, and Presbyterian churches.

I heard from "Jack's" son Thomas Paine Keeney. Tom in the letter said that his father, though not quarrelsome, had a temper. Jack had a stiff finger by an accident; once, angered, he forgot that, and threw a punch at a fellow. This doubled up the finger, with great pain; but the finger was all right after that.

A for Sam Handsaker's famous diary, you no doubt have seen his book, "Pioneer Life." This five month's walk beside an ox team was the main feature of the book, but he did not have the complete story at hand. From Belle Keeney Williams I borrowed the penciled note book he used on the journey and was able to inclue every day in my book, "Samuel Handsaker, Oregon Pioneer". Lois Handsaker had Xerox copies made and quite a few of Sam's descendants have them. By the way, Sam's party were in the Dalles in September, 1853 and I wonder if there is any way to get a photo of the town, or waterfront of about that time? As for references to the Keeneys in Sam's book; I find none, but an "Illustrated History of Lane County" has an amusing story about a Captain Keeney in the Rogue River war.


AT DEXTER, OREGON, Sunday March 2nd, 1879,
From the diary of Nelson E. Handsaker.

March 1st. I left Goshen at 11:45 A.M. bound to Dexter to attend Jim and Mary's wedding. Stopped at Morgan ad Parks store and got some candy for the children. Arrived at Dexter at 3:30 P.M. Had never been on the new place before.

March 2nd. The all eventful day has come, when Mary and Jim are to be made one. Pa came at about ten o'clock today and the crowd kept pouring in until about 11:30, when the ceremony was performed and Mary Handsaker passed away, to become Mrs. J. M. Keeney. Martha Keeney was there. There was too much crowd for me to enjoy myself. We had lots of music and singing -- and some very good music. I did not eat till the third table. Attendance was about 40. Mary and Jim looked splendid. It was clear and cool all day. The crowd stayed until about an hour after dinner was over, then broke for home. Jim and Mary tried to fool the boys, but all to no purpose; They got charivaried just the same.

March 3rd. The Rattlesnake Valley boys gave us a charivari last night, but after keeping it up about an hour and a half they got tired and left. They did not start until about one A.M. I came home this morning.

March 4th. Last night the boys were going to charivari Jim (again) but he invited 'em in and got ahead of 'em, making all the fun he possibly could of them.

From same diary.

October 29th. About 2:30 this A.M. Jim Keeney came up for Aunt Sarah (who was visiting us). He said Mary was not well. She went down and found a girl baby there, would weigh about four pounds. Ma went down today and stayed all day.

November 2nd. I went down to Jim's afoot. I stayed all night. Think Mary's baby is pretty; looks like its mother.

Pioneer Teachers Feted by Group
Eugene Register-Guard, Sunday, May 21, 1944, page 7

Pioneer women teachers of ths section were honored guest at a tea given Saturday afternoon by Delta Kappa Gamma, teachers' honerary society, the party being at the home of Mrs. Bianche Jackson. Miss Beryl Deford was chairman for the tea, and assisting her were Miss Lorene Herman, Miss Carolyn Woods, Miss Marie Mitchell.

Guest, including members of Pi Lambda Theta, national education honorary on the campus were invited to all from three until five o'clock. Following were the honor guest:

Miss Anne Whiteaker, Miss Ida Patterson, Miss Emma Chase, Mrs Marie P. Fletcher, Mrs R. M. Day, Miss Charlotte Choate, Miss Mabel Simmons, Mrs Belle Keeney Williams, Miss Laura Stillman, all of Eugene: Miss Ida Mae Smith of Salem, Miss Chase of Coquille, Mrs Mary E. Norton of Blachly, Miss Rosa B. Parrot of Roseburg.

A Biographical Sketch of Dorothy Handsaker Scott
by Nelson Handsaker

Dorothy Ellen Handsaker, the fourth and last child of Nelson E. and Martha Handsaker, was born in the Handsaker home in Tacoma, Washington, on August 3rd, 1898. As a child she showed unusual talent fo rdrawing, particularly in the drawing of children, and she spent much time in penciling groups of them at play. Saint Nickolas Magazine had a section devoted to children's art, and a number of her drawings were published in that magazine. Up to the time of her graduation from Stadium High School in 1921 her only art instruction was in the public school. Dorothy attended Washington State College at Pullman for a year, then sh taught school near Tacoma for one or two years.

About 1924 Dorothy won a scholarship to attend the Chicago Art Institute. After her studies there she stayed in Chicago and became a self-employed illustrator working chiefly for Tow, Peterson and Company, publisher of school books. For them she made many illustrations for a high school history text of the United States, The Growth of a Nation (1928), followed by a more elementary U.S. history for grade schools, The Story of a Nation. These history illustrations were almost entirely pen and ink renderings of hostorical paintings and portraits. Later, for the same publisher she illustrated a six-volume series called Storyland (1930-1931), where her art work was completely original. When that work ended, probably as a result of the Great Depression, there was an interval of little employment, and she moved to New York City and later to Boston. At that time Dorothy worked for E. P. Dutton and Company, providing more than one hundred illustrations for the Good Speech Primer (1935), and drawings for other books.

During her years in Chicago and the East Coast, Dorothy made a few long visits to Tacoma where she continued illustrating by mail and where, in an art class, she met her future husband, Paul M. Scott. He was a Seattle-born artist who was getting a local start and was attending art schools in Tacoma and Seattle. At the end of World War II, after Paul returned from military service in Alaska, both found themselves in New York City where their friendship led to marriage (in 1946?). They had an apartment in Greenwich Village, and both Dorothy and Paul attended Art Students' League. Paul studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and under the noted abstract-expressionist painter, Hans Hofmann.

This was a period of improved financial status; Dorothy and Paul pooled their earnings, and there were times when she had the steadiest employment. Her principal assignments were from the Providence Lithograph Company wth whom she was associated until her retirement, years later. For them she did watercolor illustrations for a charming book publish in 1952 by Warner Press, Anderson, Indiana; called The Christmas Story, it was accompanied by a box of "cut-outs" in cardboard to be setup as a Nativity scene in three dimensions. She also created handsome and lovely color illustrations for Tiny Tot Songs (1954) and Children of Bible Days (1956).

About 1950, Dorthy and Paul moved to Boston where they rented a studio in the Fenway complex of the Back Bay district. By the 1960's Dorothy's steady employment and Paul's increased income and prospects for sale of his abstract paintings gave them security and a bank account, so they felt that a home of their own was a possibility. After scouting several "art colonies," they settled on Rockport, not far from Boston, where they purchased a residential lot. Dorothy, herself, drew the basic plan of a unique house which combined a large, well-lighted studio with living quarters. Then she engaged all the various craftsmen to do the work, and wonder of wonders, considering such inexperienced management, the house at 42 Haven Avenue turned out to be a pleasant and practical home, built at remarkably low cost.

Dorothy's major commissions from Providence Lithograph Company consisted of making illustrations in watercolors for use in Sunday School publications. Each picture was printed three times; first as a wall poster, then in smaller format as the front page of a little magazine, and finally at a small card with appropriate Bible tet to be handed out to the children. Each change in the size required cropping, thus it became quite a trick in composition as well as a challenge to meet the requirement of a committee which represented several Christian denominations.

In Dorothy's later years, a new art trend began to appear in Sunday School printed matter. More demands were being made for a freer style, representing to some extent supposedly the way a child would make the drawings. All this was in contrast with the accurate and realistic style of Dorothy's work and she could not bring herself to follow the new vogue. Meanwhile, Paul had assumed a larger role in the family finances, especially after 1970, when he became a founding faculty member of the Montserrat School of Visual Art in Beverly, Massachusetts. In addition, he had achieved increased recognition as an artist. So Dorothy gave up her commercial art work. A few years later she became ill, and after a brief stay at the Christian Science Sanatorium in Chestnut Hills, she died on February 23, 1977. An enduring legacy exists in the many wonderful paintings and drawings she created, a number of which are in the books she illustrated.

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A Keeney Family Genealogy was established in 1986 & has been online ever since under one name or another.
 This site is maintained as a hobby site, some information may not be accurate.