The Trail to Oregon

Thomas Dove Keizur Monument

Thomas Dove Keizur Monument

courtesy of  Ginger Powers

courtesy of
Ginger Powers

His life was a great adventure! The son of George A. and Mary Dove Keiser, Thomas Dove Keiser was born Nov 20, 1793 in a portion of Mecklenburg County NC that would soon become Cabarrus. He married in 1812 Mary Gurley, the daughter of James and Lydia Gurley. James was the son of William Gurley who settled ca. 1778 alongside my THOMAS ancestor on Richardson Creek in Anson County NC. In 1828 Thomas Dove (T. D.) Keiser and family removed first to Tennessee before journeying on to Arkansas.

With T. D. Keisur helping to lead the way, on May 20, 1843, the family loaded the wagons once more and joined the great Applegate wagon train to Oregon. Settling along the Willamette River in the Pacific Northwest, the region was not yet governed under the jurisdiction of the United States. A community based security force known then as the Oregon Rangers was quickly raised. Thomas Dove Keizur was chosen and served as first captain in this precursor to the United States National Guard. He continued a life of civil service benefiting the new state of Oregon along with the town that now bears his name.

As is the way with most of history, I never knew of T. D. Keizur until his story came to me by way of the works of others. During the Christmas holiday in 2009, a Keiser family member contacted me in advance of a major celebration about to take place in Oregon. On January 30, 2010, the little town of Keizer Oregon unveiled a bronze monument of Thomas Dove Keisur seated atop his faithful Morgan horse. Historian and author Jerry McGee provides a historic presentation on T. D. Keizur and the town.


In 1780, Henry Kent sold land on Utley Creek (F-1, Wake NC) to Davie Strait after relocating briefly to Mecklenburg (now Cabarrus County NC). Deed 11-31 in Mecklenburg NC identifies Henry’s land as lying on “the waters of Rockie River Nigh the Baptist Meeting House.” This was an intriguing find as it tied to my LOVE family while illuminating the migration from an area of northeast North Carolina where my THOMAS family may have once lived. More on these ties in a later post.

Believing land records had pointed me to the old Baptist church, I contacted the land’s present owner and was graciously shown the way to what I sought. Followed by an inquisitive herd of cattle, we walked a grassy ridge that provided panoramic views of surrounding pastures and the distant Rocky River basin. Rising to the north, and flowing around the land, was a spring head identified in early deeds as feeding “Meeting House Branch.” Eventually we reached an ancient hilltop cemetery in a small grove of trees. Though well taken care of, time and life had taken its toll on the graveyard. Just a few stones revealed readable words such as “the” or maybe “here.” The following is a digital image of the only surviving stone with words crying out to be deciphered.


Further research revealed this to be the site of “Haynes Meeting House.” Lutheran minister David Henkel preached at Haynes Meeting House around 1800 and it’s also identified as the burial place for members of the Howell family. Found also in local land records, namesake William Haynes removed to western NC by 1785 and became the first preacher at Bill’s Creek Baptist Church located near present day Lake Lure.

IMAG0240Frequently visiting the site in search of things possibly missed, on one such trip, the door of discovery opened once more. Partially buried under leaves and debris, a small stake of a rock identified the resting place of Levi Keiser. From the works of Marie Evans Davis-McQueen, I learned that Levi was born Feb 16, 1783. The son of George Alexander and Mary Dove Kiser (Kiser – as tradition spells it in NC legal records), we now know the little fellow died Feb 11, 1789. Not long after the death of little Levi Keiser, his brother named Thomas Dove Keiser was born November 20, 1793. And since Levi’s mother and father lived out their lives in the area surrounding the graveyard, it seems they would’ve wanted to be buried there, near their son. I couldn’t help but imagine that they and others in the family were buried nearby.

After learning of the amazing life journey of Thomas Dove Keiser/Keizur, I decided to revisit the old unreadable stone with an open mind to variations in naming. Amazed at what I now see, I’m almost certain the stone marks the resting place of T.D.’s and little Levi’s father.

When I visit that hallowed ground off of Hwy 601 in Midland NC, I think of journeys and of how all things are possible. There was of course the trip to Oregon and the Gurley family’s earlier migration from Johnston County NC. It’s wonderful getting to know the wealth in community and how it was served by this little church named Haynes. Though he never got to meet his younger brother Thomas, I’m sure little Levi would have been proud of his life’s journey.

9 thoughts on “The Trail to Oregon

  1. Jeffrey Kiser

    Thanks for such an interesting post. As a cousin of Thomas Dove Kiser, I find this quite fascinating. (I descend from Thomas’s brother Mark Kiser, who remained in Cabarrus.) Before stumbling across your page, I had only minutes before been reading a Mecklenburg County deed proved April 1780 (written 12 Sep 1779) where Adam and Ameny? Garmon sold 72 acres “more or less” on the Rocky River to Henry Kent. In the deed, is also mentioned, “nigh the Baptist meeting house.” I wonder if this is the same tract.
    I ran across this information, as I am presently attempting to study some of my Garmon family (settler Peter Kiser, T D’s grandfather, married Fanny Garmon), and it is interesting to run across an early Garmon, although there is no way now, in the great passing of time, to know if this Adam was related to Fanny Garmon Kiser and her brother George Garmon, who was the administrator of Peter Kiser’s estate (and who was subsequently taken to court by the heirs for his efforts).

    With Kind Regards,

    Jeffrey Thomas Kiser
    (Sixth-great grandson of Peter Kiser of Mecklenburg)

    1. geothos Post author


      Thanks for the response and sorry for my not getting back to you sooner. Has been a really busy few weeks at work!

      Yes, the tract of land you’re looking for is tract #7 on a mapping project I undertook years ago: There is also descriptions of the land located on

      I do believe that part of your Garmon family moved to SC Georgia prior to 1800 and is missing from the family story. Problem is, the records are so few that it’s been hard to make the connection. Note that Henry Kent also moved to GA.

      I met with Ollie and other members of the Garmon family this past summer and we visited the land nigh the Baptist meeting house…will let them know of your interests!

  2. redactor

    How interesting to have this story fleshed out a bit more for me. I was born and raised in Oregon and am a direct descendent of Thomas Dove Keizur (great x4 grandfather). I found your blog after surfing around and making another fascinating discovery tonight. It turns out my wife grew up within the area of Keizer, Oregon that was part of the original land claim of TD Keizur. What are the chances?!

    We now live in (West) Salem after recently returning from 17 years in the UK. Yesterday I was out on my bike exploring new roads, including one called River Bend road in West Salem. I did not know at the time that the terminus of that road, which I rode to, was actually on the land that TDK originally settled. He changed his mind the following year and moved back across the Keizer Rapids on the Willamette River to the East side. I was on my great x4 grand-daddy’s original property and didn’t even realise it until tonight!

    Thanks for filling in this poignant part of the family story for me. George Alexander and Mary Keizur are as far back as I have of that trunk of the family tree. Would be interested to know if you know anything further back than them.

    Ed Mattson

  3. Dodie Garris

    Am happy to find this. I too am a descendant of Peter Keizer through his daughter Sarah Keizer. Also am related through the Dove/ Taub. So I believe am a double cousin of TD. We stayed on the east coast while cousin Thomas Dove Keizer went west!

    1. geothos Post author

      Dodie, very good and glad you’ve enjoyed. I’m working on another post concerning Thomas Dove’s land …it should be posted soon.

  4. Jane Carroll

    I am loving this, too. Thomas’s mother, Mary Taub/Dove, is the end of my direct maternal line. I descend from his sister, Elisabeth, and through her daughter, Jean Feriby Long Wallace Archibald, with George Long.


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