Reminiscences

by Della Bonham Keerins
March 17, 1964

My father, Carlos Bonham and Dolly Parker met at Uncle William (Billy) and Aunt Lizzie Bonham’s when my father was there on a visit. When my father got back to Camp Harney, where he was working, he sent some nice soap to my mother. My mother wrote a note to thank Carlos for the soap and their correspondence started then. After their courtship Carlos went to Salem to see Dolly and to ask permission of Grandpa Parker to marry her. Grandpa studied for some time and then said, “Carlos, under one condition, you will let her come home every two years for two months or more as long asI live.” The condition was satisfactory and my parents were married on the 4 of July, 1876. They lived at Camp Harney [On Rattlesnake Creek east of present Burns] for two years and their first child, Ida, was born there the 12 of August 1877. My father was shoeing horses for the government at the
time.

In 1878 was the Indian war. [Bannock War] My father had an Indian to do odd jobs for him and one day he rushed in to the shop and said to ‘get squaw out quick, Indian fight.’ Papa and Mr. Rulison went up on the hill that evening and saw the Indians doing a war dance around the fire. They got the women on the stage that night and early in the morning Frank McBean, the driver, took them to The Dalles. From there they went by train to Salem to mama’s folks. Papa and Mr. Rulison stayed at Camp Harney that winter of’‘78. In the spring of ’79 my father and mother went east to Wisconsin to visit papa’s people. On their return they came by ship from San Francisco to Portland, visited with mama’s people in Salem and then to Canyon City, where they settled.

On August 9, 1879 a second daughter, Della Mae, was born in Salem at the poor farm where mama’s parents lived.  (I don’t know whether they owned it or just ran it, anyway, I was born there.) My father had a blacksmith shop in Canyon City. On October 30, 1881 my sister Lottie Frances was born and she was the first baby delivered by Dr. Ashford. In 1886 our house burned and hardly anything was saved. Mama’s nephew was living with us at that time and was learning the blacksmith trade from my father. He went upstairs to get his new suit to show papa and mama and laid his cigarette on the foot of the bed and it must have dropped off and caught the paper on fire. He had put his new hat on mama’s head and that was all he got of his new suit. Mr. Southerland was just finishing his new house, so we lived there till we moved so we could go to school, Papa had taken up a homestead on the South Fork of the John Day River in 1886 and he had a Chinese to take care
of the place. A Mr. Lewis and son, Willard, built one big room with a fireplace and we came over in the summer and stayed for a while. In 1887(?) was the hard winter that killed everybody’s stock. John Hyde brought his cattle down to the Keerins ranch and asked Joe if he could put his cattle inside for the night, as he wanted to take them on down the river.

Joe said “we will feed them, John, as long as there is any hay.”  The next morning the cattle and sheep were all piled together dead. Everyone else’s livestock was dead too.  In 1888 on the 9 of August we moved to Izee. I have lived here ever since. The Lewis’s built two bed rooms, a dining room, a front porch, and later a small post office on the end. A Mr. Atherton built us some pigeon holes for both letters and papers. Before when anyone went to Canyon City they would bring mail and put it in a big box in our house and people had to sort out their own. When papa decided he would take the post office if they could get one, but the first name they sent in was rejected so he went to Canyon City to send in a different one. The clerk, Minnie Swand, said, “What is your brand, Mr. Bonham?” He said, “IZ” She added EE and said, “Let’s send it in,” so when it was accepted Izee had a name. The Duncan brothers were our stage drivers for several years and they also put a string line telephone from Canyon City to Izee. The telephone was in the post office for several years for the public to use. We Bonhams kept every one that came along free until Joe Combs and Bill Hanley came to buy some cattle and stayed all night with us. The next morning they asked my father how much they owed him and he said “not a thing…” They told him that he couldn’t do that and why not hang out a shingle and charge overnight guests. Papa thought about it for a while before he could make up his mind. He finally put out a sign that said “Meals 25 cents” and we had plenty of travelers. Volney Officer liked to come and watch papa in the shop and one day when we called them for dinner papa told him to come and go eat. Volney said, “You know, Mr. Bonham, I don’t have 25 cents” and papa told him that the sign wasn’t for his friends or neighbors, just for the travelers coming and going, so Vol came and ate with us.

Papa had his shop and we kept the travel and post office. Mr. Campbell from  Mitchell put in a saloon but he didn’t stay too long. The boys were too much for him. Then a brother and sister, quite old people, put in a store, and were there close to two years. Lee Miller then put in a store on a  larger scale and kept most everything we would need. He was here several years and then moved to Paulina. When Lee passed away his son, Lyle, ran the store for years.

On the 2 of August, 1893 my youngest sister, Myrtle, was born. Aunt Lizzie and cousin Dr. Ashford and wife were all there for the occasion. Aunt Lizzie stayed till mama was up. Sister Ida and I did the washing for the baby till mama was strong enough to be up. My sister Lottie and I were the “boys”. Papa had so much shop work getting the people’s machinery ready for haying so we milked the cows, went to bring them in, sawed and chopped wood, watered and fed the saddle horses. One summer we milked 13 cows. We didn’t mind rain or shine. It took us all day to go to Canyon City with wagon and team.

One evening we rode bareback for the cows we had to go down a little steep place, Lottie riding in front as usual.  We had to lean way over to get under the brush when Lottie got through she raised willows that pushed me off over the horse’s tail on to the ground– did she ever laugh.

I married Joseph Keerins on April 9, 1902 at my parent’s home in Izee. We lived here in the old house, which was built in 1885-86. In 1903, January 28, Gratten David was born in the Cresap house in Canyon City. My mother and husband were with me. None of my children were born in a hospital. Sam was born in the Hackney home in John Day (later the McHaley hotel). Mrs. Hackney had roomers and boarders. Joseph was born in a restaurant in Canyon City.  My mother was running the  restaurant during court week. Bonham was born down the river in the house papa bought.  Bonham was born in the old house. Mary was born at the same place, but in the new house. Bob was born in Izee in the house that is here now. I wanted to have one born in Izee anyway.

It took all day to go to town and back with a team, now we can go in an hour. My husband hauled the wool to The Dalles for several years and brought back the supplies. When Pease and Mays put in a store in Shaniko, the train brought the things from Biggs Junction, so they didn’t have so far to go. We sheared our sheep about 8 miles from the ranch at Sunflower. We had three bands most of the time but some years there were four. I cooked for the crew and had help most of the time. My sister Myrtle helped me for 7 or 8 years.  We would be gone from home for 3 weeks and I always said that was my vacation.  We bought our supplies in large amounts for one year (1,000 lbs of four, 12 sacks of rice, 100 lbs of brown beans, 100 lbs of white beans, and everything else in proportion. We had Chinese herders and we had a Chinese cook. He did just plain cooking. We had rice every night for supper. When Mr. Stein, a Jewish peddler, came to stay all night Jim Lee would go out and holler, “Pork chops, pork chops” at him. Mr. Stein had real good stuff and the men bought a lot.

RanchThe Keerins brothers coming from Ireland about 1879 or 1880 to the United States were from Killina, Rahan, and Kings County, Ireland. Pat stayed in Ireland, Owen, Matthew, Mike, John, Lizzie, Dave and Joseph all came together to California. Owen and Joe came to The Dalles, Oregon by boat, then to Grant County. They came to Fox, stayed there for the winter. It was too cold and they didn’t like it too well any way. In the spring they started out to find a place to settle down. Joe herded sheep that winter for Mr. Thomas below Mt. Vernon. They had already laid claim to the ranch where we are still living. In the spring Mr. Thomas started them out with a band of sheep on the shares. Joe herded the sheep and Owen worked on the ranch. They built a log cabin in 1880.  In 1885 and 86 they built a 3 bedroom house with a fireplace.  That was the house I lived in until 1920 when they built the present house for me. In 1881 Matthew and David came to Izee. The boys all lived together until Matthew was killed by a tree falling on him in 1898. Owen was married to Adeline Harrison and they had one boy and one girl—John Dewey and Stella. Joe and David bought Owen’s share in the place and Owen and his wife went to Weiser, Idaho to live. They returned to Izee and lived on the old Harrison place on South Fork and later bought a place on Morgan Creek.

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