Eugene Pioneer Cemetery

Eugene Pioneer Cemetery

Benjamin F. Keeney (1865-1935) ─ Deputy Sheriff, Justice of the Peace, State Legislator, Raised pedigree chickens

Tax assessor, poultererand flower enthusiast Benjamin Keeney was known as a “valiant fighter for any cause he believed to be just.”

A native of Lane County, Keeney was born in 1865 in Goshen to pioneer A.J. Keeney and Amanda J. (Mores) Keeney. He attended school in Pleasant Hill and Oregon State Normal School at Monmouth. As was common for a high school graduate of the time, Keeney became a teacher and farmer. Later, he his qualifications and exacting temperament led Keeney to serve as justice of the peace, constable, deputy sheriff and deputy clerk for 13 years. In 1904, Mr. Keeney was elected county assessor and served three terms until 1917. In 1923 he was elected as a Republican representative to the state legislature. He co-currently served in that capacity and as county assessor through 1932.

Famous for his hobbies, Keeney was known far and wide for his passion for raising Plymouth Rock chickens and dahlias. A poultry fancier, he was licensed judge of the American Poultry Association and participated in top shows in Seattle with competitors from California, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The fine Plymouth Rock chickens that he raised, as well as his enormous dahlias were featured in Lane County and State fairs.

“You can kick me as hard as you like in politics, but beware if you touch my chickens or my flowers,” warned Keeney in his most quotable statement.

Politically, Keeney fought to keep taxes of small property owners down –and to see that large corporate interests paid a full share of public expenses. In general he opposed special levies and bonds which threatened to raise taxes.

Upon his death in 1935, Keeney was survived by three sons. Details of his passing include that he succumbed to heart failure after work while talking with a neighbor about flowers.
His obituary reads, “Mr. Keeney left his office in the courthouse at closing time, exchanging a few gay remarks with the county clerk as he went through the corridor. He mounted his bicycle, as was his custom, and started for his home at on 7th Avenue West.”.”

“On his way home he stopped to talk flowers with a Ms. Emma Kirkpatrick. He showed her a Sunset magazine article featuring his dahlia garden. Following that, he was stricken and toppled the steps of the Kirkpatrick household. Struck on the head, Dr. John Kuykendall was contacted. Keeney had passed by the time the doctor arrived.”

Beloved by many, County Judge Fred Fisk said, “Lane Country has lost a devoted public servant, a man of courage and great ideals.”

County Commissioner Cal Young commented, “Ben Keeney had the spirit of the real pioneers.”