Mabel Claggett

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What with Claggett Park, Claggett Creek, Claggett Street and Claggett Cemetery, the name “Claggett” is almost synonymous with Keizer.

The Claggetts were among Keizer’s pioneers, arriving in Oregon in 1852. Charles and Mary Irvine Claggett were natives of Kentucky who migrated to Missouri where their son William was born in 1840.

The family left for Oregon in 1852, with 12-year-old William driving one of the two teams of four-yoke oxen. They arrived in October and took up a 320-acre, heavily timbered claim north of Will Pugh’s at the present River-Chemawa Road intersection.

The first year was one of hardship for the family. Although the Claggetts had brought some of their livestock with them, one dollar in cash was all the money Charles Claggett had upon arrival. A 16′ x 16′ log cabin was the family’s first home.

Claggett and his son immediately began to clear the land. They dug pits which would take logs of 75 feet and burned the trees for charcoal for which there was a cash market. Each pit was left to burn for three months before the charcoal was considered ready. However, one log would contain up to 2,000 bushels of charcoal.

Over the years Claggett successfully engaged in the raising of livestock, increasing the small herd he had brought with him from Missouri. He also raised grain and purchased more land.

William attended the local schools and Willamette University during the winter as time permitted. He, too, purchased land until he owned approximately 1,000 acres in the Keizer area.

William was a pioneer in the production of fine Angora goats and had a large and valuable herd. He also acquired registered Clydesdale horses, fine sheep, and racing horses.

When William Claggett died in 1911 his land was divided among his tem children, one of whom was Ben, who received 26 acres on Chemawa Road and what is now Verda Lane. His widow, Mabel Noren Claggett still lives on part of that farm.

Mabel Noren was born in 1893 to Sylvia and Gus Noren, who had a ten-acre farm in Hayesville. There were frame buildings and an open well from which all the water for household use had to be drawn up in a bucket.

Mabel and her brother, Oscar, who now owns the farm, attended the one-room school in Hayesville, which was expanded to two rooms by the time Mabel graduated from the 8th grade.

To supplement their cash income and to socialize with their neighbors at the same time, the family would hitch up their horse and wagon and all go to pick hops in the nearby yards. The children also picked berries during the summer.

In 1914 Mabel married Ben Claggett, who was living with a friend, Otto Beaty, in what he called a “shack” on his acreage. It was a two-room cottage built by the homesteader of the land, Will Pugh.

Otto was not in good health at the time, and he continued to live with the young couple for a year after their marriage. He later married to Anna Harold.

Ben and Mabel raised grain and corn, and planted a strawberry field to the north of the house and a filbert orchard against Chemawa Road, obtaining sprouts from Senator McNary, a cousin of Ben.

The young Claggetts had a small dairy operation, about 6 to 8 head of cattle. Mabel made butter and sold it for 25 cents a pound to Weller Bros. On Commercial Street in Salem where they bought their groceries.

They also raised some hogs and calves and did all their farming with a team of gray horses named Dolly and Molly. Students from the Indian School came to help harvest the strawberries.

Water for the house was carried from a spring near Claggett Creek (then Grierson Creek) up the slope to the house. Later a pump with a gas motor was used to bring the water up until water was available from the Keizer Water District.

Usona and Boyd were born to Mabel and Ben while they were still in the two-room cottage. Then the couple built a six-room house, and their third child, Sylvia was born there.

The large oaks surrounding the house were there when the young couple built their home. When one was blown over during the Columbus Day storm in 1962 a workman clearing it away counted the rings and determined that the tree was 175 years old.

The towering evergreens on the crest of the hill were planted in 1928 by Boyd when he was 12. Along the drive are several large myrtlewood trees, a rare sight in the Willamette Valley. Mabel started them from seeds brought from the Coast.

The Claggett children all still live in Oregon. Usona Claggett Baker lives in Portland, Sylvia Forbes in Beaverton, and Boyd is with the Game Commission Summer Lake.

Published February 8, 1980. Reprinted with permission of Ann Lossner from her book, “Looking Back – People and Places in the Early Keizer Area.” The book may be bought at the Keizer Heritage Museum, 980 Chemawa Road NE, Keizer.

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