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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 24

James Blanden  Keeney


___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 -


(B. April 12, 1838 -- D. June 13, 1911, Linn Co. Ore.)
Son of Jonathan and Mary Keeney

James Blanden Keeney came with his Father's family to Oregon in 1846 and settled near what is now Brownsville, where James grew into manhood. In 1859, he married Susan Delany Swank, and soon after, they moved to Vale, Oregon, not returning to Brownsville until the mid 1860's. By this union, they had four sons and five daughters.

Susan and Jim (James Blanden) lived in many places during the first years of their marriage. Jim was a victim of wanderlust, and trapped and hunted from the coast to the desert.

It is related in a favorite story about Susan Keeney, that she was driving her team and wagon one day in the coast range, and she had her baby on her lap and her gun by her side. Suddenly, a bear crossed in front of her. She laid the baby down beside her, and wrapped the reins around the break, grabbed her rifle and jumped off the wagon in pursuit of the bear. She fired a shot! It stampeded the horses, the wagon turned over and the baby was killed. But the really bad thing was that she missed the bear and that would have been food in the pot.

I'm not sure how true the above story may be, but I did find in the Vital Statistics at the Historical Society Bld. in Portland, Oregon, the following card:

      His little son killed in run-away accident at South Beach, Benton Co. - D. Oregon 11 S 76, 1:6

Although Jim Keeney apparently inherited the Brownsville Donation Land Claim, and lived there with his family at times, he also filed for homestead rights on the Calapooia drainage near Holley. His son, Jack, also filed on property there. The total Keeney acreage in Holley was over 422 acres.

To Jim Keeney, there was little excitement in farming or ranching, so he left Susan and his little girls in Brownsville and the boys to hold down the homestead by themselves, and he took off to do some horse trading. He traded with the Indians and spent most of his time in Eastern Oregon. His sons, at that time, were from six to nine years old. He left them on the homestead with a sack of flour and a sack of potatoes and a gun with some bullets. They had to fend for themselves. The boys used the gunny sacks for clothes and when all the food was gone and they were hungry, they walked to Brownsville to their Mother. Meanwhile, Jim was in eastern Oregon trading horses with the Indians.

Sometimes, Jim would be gone for a year or more, and his small children had problems in recognizing him when he came home.

The family continued to live in Brownsville and use the Holley property for Stock. The four boys who lived, spent most of their lives on the Holley property; in fact, three continued to live there after they were married.

The sons of Jim (James) Keeney were: George W. and Jerome Boneparte "Jerry", who were twins, and Jasper Harmon "Jack" and Henry "Hank". The twins were the oldest of the four boys. Outside of the short time the family lived in Vale, they lived their entire lives in the Holley, Sweet Home area. Jack Keeney also lived his life out in the area. Hank Keeney spent a good part of his life away from the area, returning in his later years to Cascadia. He raised five daughters; Mary, Nellie, Eva, Bessie and Elizabeth.

George and Jerry were probably best known for their roles as law enforcement officers in Sweet Home. They were long remembered for a midnight gunfight on Long Street in Sweet Home. There was a payroll robbery at a logging camp up in the Big Bottom Country. (Big Bottom is now covered by waters of the Green Peter Lake.) Evidently both the robbers and the law enforcement officers were poor shots and no one was shot or hurt or arrested. At least the Keeney's tried, and were applauded for their bravery.

George and Jerry also served as State Game Wardens. At that time, they were rated by the number of arrests they made. This was a very unpopular way to do things, and the Keeneys were very unpopular around the area. Most people hunted In and Out of season, and to be arrested by a fellow citizen was completely against the unwritten rules.

One story was that an enraged person shot the saddle horn off one of the Game Warden's saddle, while he was in the saddle. The Keeney brothers decided that being State Game Wardens was not for them.

Jerry Keeney was married twice; first, in 1890 to Sarah Malone; they had one son, Glen. Sarah died and in 1896, he married Etta Wiley. They had two children. George Keeney was married to May Johnson in Crawforsville in 1885, and they had two children; Wilda and Wayne. Following a seperation, George married Minnie Towne in Halsey in 1890, and they were blessed with Otis and Vern. In 1930, George was married again, this time to Josie Peters.

George Keeney, at one time, ran the old St. John Hotel in Sweet Home. Jerry Keeney was known as an outstanding trainer of sheepdogs. One time, he stood on the sidewalk, and by signals alone, had his dogs drive a herd of sheep through Sweet Home. He was also, for many years, the Grand Parade Marshal for the Calapooia Rodeo at Crawfordsville, riding his beautifully decked-out horse, and carrying "Old Glory" at the head of the parade.

Jack was, also , an outstanding member of the Sweet Home community. He was the first local representitive of the Lebanon Paper Mill Company, and his job was to purchase Lowland White fir stumpage and to supervise the cutting of cordwood for transportation to their Lebanon mill. Jack Keeney and his wife, Zillah Ames Keeney, were strong leaders in the community and well-loved by everyone.

In a newer generation, two grandsons of Jonathan Keeney live or have lived their lives out in Sweet Home. Chesley Keeney has now passed away, but Dean Keeney still lives with his wife Frances (Hamilton) Keeney out in Holley.


(B. Feb 15, 1845 -- D. Oct 9, 1933)
Wife of James Blanden Keeney

Old Oregon Pioneer Passes Down The Last Trail
October 12, 1933

Susan Delaney Swank was born in Missouri, Feb 15, 1845. When two years of age, with her parents, Harmon and Mary Ann Swank, crossed the plains to Oregon and settled on a ranch on mile north of Brownsville.

In 1859 she was united in marriage to James B. Keeney, to which union were born ten children. 5 of whom are living, George, Jerry and Jack of Sweet Home, Oregon, Mrs. Nellie Price of Albany and Henry of Philomath. Mrs. Eva Geiger, Mrs. Bessie Stewart, Will, Fred and Brick have passed on. Besides the children, surviving are 39 great-children, several great-grand-children and great-great-grand-children. The father died at Albany about 22 years ago.

During their married life Mr and Mrs. Keeney lived on ranches at Brownsville, in Malheur county, Eastern Oregon and on the upper Calapooia.

After the death of Mr. Keeney, Mrs. Keeney lived with her children. She passed away at the home of her son, George in Sweet Home Monday evening at 6:30. She had been in failing health for some time but the end came quietly and peacefully.

Funeral services were held at the McHargue Cemetery east of Brownsville, Wednesday, Oct 11, at 1 o'clock conducted by Rev. Earl Cochran, paster of the Calvary Baptist church of Salem, Oregon

More than 85 times have the Oregon Maple leaves turned yellow and gold and brown since the covered wagon bearing little Miss Susan Sqank rolled across the plains and down the slopes of the Cascade Mountains and up the Willamette Valley to the Calapooia.

Again it is autumn and after rounding out a full useful life Susan Delaney Swank, Keeney is passing with the autumn leaves of yellow and gold and brown.

Following a wonderful tribute to her by Rev. Cochran she was laid to rest beside her old pioneer friends who had gone on before -- the Templetons, Montgomerys, Moors, Ritcheys, Findlays, Osborns, Rices and McHargues. On a wooded knoll overlooking their beautiful Calapooia Valley these pioneers of the 40's and 50's sleep peacefully side by side.

There under a large fir tree in the midst of this burying ground, friends and relatives gathered in large numbers to pay their last tribute. As they looked on this deer old face for the last time, the golden sun of autumn shone out bright and warm; a robin perched above sang a sweet song and loosened by a soft south breeze the brown leaves fell gently to the ground.

Mrs. Keeney was a kind and loving mother and a good neighbor. The hospitality of her home was noted far and near. All who entered were treated as guests.

Twenty five years have rolled away since the writer first visted aunt Susan Keeney's home. It was nearing the noon hour and we were invited to stay to dinner--and what a dinner it was. Although that was the first and only time we ever visited the Keeney home we never have forgotton the few hours spent there, the hospitality and good dinner. A true pioneer, it was a pleasure to serve her friends.

Isabelle Ames

Isabelle Ames - Grandmother of Chelsey and Dean Keeney.

Harve and Mary Hamilton

Harve and Mary Hamilton, Grandparents of Frances Keeney

Branding cattle - 1888

Branding cattle at Norve Rice Place- One mile up the Calapooia- 1888.
Mack Moss on horse back- Jim Keeney- Frank Malone- Bud Morris- Al Moss with the iron- Homer Rice Boys- Jess Moss- Bill Putnam and Clyde Rowell.

Henry (Hank) Keeney

Henry (Hank) Keeney
and Children
Brother of Jack Keeney

Jack and Zillah Keeney

Jack and wife Zillah Keeney
Father and mother of Dean Keeney

Jerry B. Keeney, Pioneer Resident, Succumbs Monday Evening
November 4, 1946

Jerry B. Keeney, a resident of Sweet Home and community for the past 75 years, died Monday evening in the Langmack hostptal at 7:15 following a short illness

Jerry B. Keeney was the son of James B. Keeney and Susan D. Keeney and was born on the Keeney homestead three miles south of Brownsville, June 3, 1863. James B. Keeney was the son of Jonathan Keeney, one of the early pioneers of Linn county who had led one of the first wagon trains across the plains to the Oregon country.

Eighty-two years ago the Keeney families moved to a ranch near Vale, Oregon. Seven years later the James B. Keeney's moved back to Linn county where their remaining days have been and are being spent.

The James B. Keeney family consisted of seven boys and three girls. They were Fred, Brick, William, George, Jerry, Henry, Jack, Bessie, Eva, and Nellie. Only three of the family survive: Jack, of Sweet Home; Henry, of Cascadia and Mrs. Nellie Price of Albany.

In 1890 Jerry B. Keeney and Sarah Malone were united in marriage. To this union was born one son, Glen. After the death of his first wife, he married Etta Wiley in 1894. to this union was born two children, Gladys and Charles who along with the first son survive. The second wife passed away and in 1913 he and Katy Cole were married. There were no children born to this union. She died about 10 years ago.

Funeral services are being held today, Thursday, Nov. 7, 1946, at 2:00pm at the Howe-Huston Funeral Home in Sweet Home, conducted by Rev. Sam Kimball. Interment will be made in the Ames cemetery where Jerry B. Keeney will sleep beside his twin brother, George, who died about two years ago.

Funeral Services Held for George Keeney
21 August 1944

Funeral services were held on Wednesday afternoon at the Howe chapel in Sweet Home for George Keeney, 81, who died Sunday morning at his home on Mill St. Mr. Keeney suffered two paralytic strokes the week previous, from which he never rallied.

A cousin--Earl Cochran of McMinnville conducted the funeral services, Mr. and Mrs John TurLyne, Mrs. Fred Rowley and Asa Smith sang, with Mrs. Smith at the piano. Interment was made in the Ames cemetery.

Gorge Keeney with his twin brother, Jerry, was born June 3, 1863, on the farm of his parents, James and Susan Keeney, one mile north of Brownsville. He has lived his entire life in the vicinities of Brownsville, Crawfordsville and Sweet Home, with the exception of some months spet in eastern Oregon. He was a rancher and stockman until recent years.

George Keeney and May Johnson were married at Crawfordsville in 1885 and established a home on what was known as the old Keeney ranch on the Calapooia river. Here a daughter and son were born. The daughter is now Mrs. Wilda (Keeney) Anderson of Elk River, Idaho and the son is Wayne Lester Keeney of Sweet Home.

Following a separation of this couple. Mr Keeney was married in 1890 to Minnie Towne at Halsey. To this union was born Otis Keeney, now of Hayward, Calif., and Vern, of San Francisco.

On December 24, 1930, George Keeney was married to Josie Peters, who with the children mentioned above, survive. Other survivors are his twin brother Jerry and brothers Jack of Sweet Home, Henry of Cascadia, a sister Mrs. Nell Price of Albany, nine grand-children and five great-grand-children. Three brothers, Will, Brick and Fred preceded him in death.

Jack Keeneys House

Jack Keeneys House
Long Street- Sweet Home, Oregon

Jack Keeney (on left)

Jack Keeney (on left)

Glen Keeney

Glen Keeney

Jerry and George Keeney

Jerry and George Keeney
Twin sons of James D. and Susan Keeney

Hank Keeney and Carl Springer

Hank Keeney and Carl Springer
Taken just east of Crawfordsville, Oregon

Susan Delaney Keeney

Mother of Jack Keeney

James Keeney (on left)

Father of Jack Keeney
(James with beard)


Brother of Jack Keeney
He was a Barber.


Brother of Jack Keeney.

John and Ollie Matlock

John and Ollie Matlock

St. John Hotel in Sweet Home

St. John Hotel in Sweet Home, Oregon
Owned at one time by George Keeney

Jack Keeney's House

House built by Jack Keeney on Long Street, Sweet Home, Oregon- Still standing in 1983
Left to right- Isabelle Ames- Zillah Keeney- Lewis Maynard (Brother of Zellah)- Dean Keeney- Jack Keeney.

Zilla and Jasper Keeney

Zillah and Jasper Keeney

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A Keeney Family Genealogy was established in 1986 & has been online ever since under one name or another.
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