ARTHUR WALTER KEDDIE, SURVEYOR WITH A DREAM
|James Boyd Keddie (left) and Arthur Keddie
(right), posed standing in the photographers studio, Circa 1880's.
Photo courtesy of the Oshawa Community Museum.
Arthur Walter Keddie was the youngest son of Walter and Janet
Keddie who were married on August 24, 1834. Born in Errol,
Perthshire, Scotland, on June 27, 1842, he had an older sister and
brother, Margaret and James. When young Keddie was but one year old
the family traveled to North America in 1843 settling in Ontario
County, Canada. Being educated in the profession of land surveyor,
the provincial laws required a three year apprenticeship be
completed, which he performed under the guidance of a provincial
land surveyor in the town of Whitby, the county seat of Ontario.
After successfully passing his final examinations before the
provincial board of examiners in the city of Toronto he immediately,
on attaining his majority, left Canada for California in August
1863. Traveling via Panama he arrived on September 8, 1863 in the
city by the bay, San Francisco. His first work in the state was
assisting Julius H. von Schmidt and C.D. Gibbes in compiling Holt’s
map of California.
Leaving San Francisco in 1864 he traveled north where he eventually
found the small mountain town of Quincy, county seat of Plumas
County, to his liking and settled there, opening up shop as a
surveyor. By this time the gold diggers that had briefly overrun the
Feather River country following Bidwell’s celebrated discovery of
gold on July 4, 1848, had departed and the many pronged turbulent
river flowed once again in solitude through its deep gorges.
Always accurate in his surveying duties, Keddie prided himself on
the care with which he prepared his reports. The story is told by a
man who actually saw the event of how Keddie walked right to a spot
where he stooped and dug away the earth, to reveal a marker which he
had placed there years before.
When he immigrated to the United States in 1863 his sweetheart,
Margaret “Maggie” Barnes, stayed in Canada. His writings in his
diaries and letters to her revealed the times in which he now
struggled. New words such as "two bits", "grub" and "pack", among
many others had become a part of his daily vocabulary which, in his
writings and correspondence to Margaret, he explained the meanings
Having now resided in California for five years Mr. Keddie was
entitled to his naturalization papers and he obtained his U.S.
citizenship in 1868. Shortly afterward he was nominated and elected
surveyor of Plumas County. In 1869 he was appointed as a United
States Deputy Surveyor, a position he held for many years. During
his early career as a surveyor he made a map of Plumas County for
the use of the supervisors before the government surveys had been
made, and later Mr. Keddie's survey was accepted for government use.
|Arthur Keddie with wife Margaret,
Circa 1880's. Photo courtesy of the Oshawa Community Museum.
It was also in 1869 that Keddie traveled back to Canada in order to
marry the eldest daughter of William Barnes, Esq. of Whitby. On June
9, 1869, he and Margaret Douglas Barnes where married in Whitby,
Ontario, after which they returned to California, and their home in
Quincy. Together they had four children, Margaret, Helen, William
The couple’s first child, Margaret, was born in Quincy, California
on December 15, 1873. She married artist Charles H. Kahrs in 1900
and lived in San Francisco. Charles was born in Canada in 1870. He
was a resident of San Francisco in the 1890s until 1901 and while
there drew political cartoons for the San Francisco Call. He and
Margaret then moved to Canada and he continued in newspaper work in
Ottawa until his death in Mt. Vernon on April 7, 1904 of
tuberculosis. While living in Canada Margaret attended a prestigious
art college where as a student she specialized in landscapes,
mastering watercolor, pen & ink, and charcoal. As a widow, Margaret
returned to California and taught school in Plumas County until her
death at home on October 27, 1944. Her artistic works included
landscapes of Plumas County and still life’s.
Keddie’s second child Helen was born in Quincy, California in April
1876 and graduated from Nevada State University on June 21, 1898
with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Teaching. She then went on to
teach at the North Arm School, Plumas County from 1898-99; in Quincy
from 1899-1900; at East Butterfly School, Plumas County from
1900-01; in the East from 1902-03. She married Gilbert Palmer in
1905. Helen passed away in December 1944.
Keddie’s only son, William Arthur, was born in March 4, 1878
following in his father’s footsteps and was very proficient as a
surveyor, having graduated from the University of Nevada with the
highest honors. After leaving the University, he engaged in survey
work under contract with the Government, later becoming an engineer
in the reclamation work at Fallen, Nevada.
|Daughter Margaret, Circa 1892.
Photo courtesy of the Oshawa Community Museum.
||Daughter Helen, Circa 1885.
Photo courtesy of the Oshawa Community Museum.
Perhaps best known in Reno and all over the coast for his bicycle
riding, William had been a member of the Wheelmen's Club of Reno
almost ever since the club was organized and had taken a prominent
part in all the relay races the club participated in. In more than
one instance Keddie saved the Reno Wheelman’s Club from defeat in
relay races by his phenomenal spurt at the wind-up of a race.
William and Miss Ada Williams, daughter of Senator W. W. Williams of
Churchill county, were granted a marriage license on May 5, 1908,
shortly after which they were married in San Francisco on May 13.
As an active Republican, William was a member of both state and
county central committees. In 1915 he was elected to the State
Senate and in that year he secured the State Fair for Fallon, where
it has been held continuously ever since. He achieved the honorable
position of President pro tem of the Senate. His name would also be
mentioned for Governor later mainly because of his excellent
executive ability, business training, and keen sense of honor.
During his legislative tenure he was a true friend of the Nevada
Historical Society. In 1920, when committees for more active work
were organized in the various counties, he became a member of the
building committee for his section of the State.
But the management of the estate of former Senator Warren Williams
monopolized his time. With the hope of reducing the time consumed in
traveling from one property to another and with the old athletic
instinct strong within him, Mr. Keddie became the foremost aerial
enthusiast in the State. Keddie had between 30,000 and 40,000 sheep
in northern Elko County and with his headquarters in Fallen, he
would travel by plane from Fallon to Elko and then make the trip to
his grazing grounds by automobile. His wife, Ada Williams Keddie,
was the first aviatrix in Nevada, having made several trips to San
It was while on a trial run in a new plane that William met his
tragic death near Elko, Nevada, July 17, 1921. On that fateful
afternoon he was killed along with former Nevada State Senator
Foster when the airplane crashed. The accident happened when Keddie
was making a bank just prior to landing. He was about 150 feet in
the air when one wing broke off. The plane immediately went out of
control and crashed resulting in an explosion. Both bodies were
badly burned in the resulting fire. He was survived by his wife Ada
and their two children.
|Daughter Mary Edith, Circa
1880's. Photo courtesy of the Oshawa Community Museum.
Keddie’s youngest child, daughter Mary Edith, was born on April 2,
1881. She went into nursing and became a California Certified
Registered Nurse on June 6, 1914 after which she worked at Letterman
General Hospital in San Francisco, California as a reservist in the
United States Navy. She died on October 25, 1955 and is buried in
the Golden Gate National Cemetery.
At the age of 58 Keddie’s wife Margaret died in Reno on November 16,
1901. Although she had been in poor health for some time, being
afflicted with tuberculosis, it was not thought that the disease had
made such progress that would result in such a sudden death. All of
the family was with her when she died.
A few months later, on March 12, 1902, Arthur W. Keddie along with
James M. Engle, a real estate operator at Quincy, surrendered
themselves to United States Marshal Shine in San Francisco to answer
indictments found against them by the grand jury. Keddie’s was an
indictment for conspiracy; Engle’s an indictment charging
subornation of perjury.
They were accused of being the leading spirits in connection with
alleged frauds and conspiracy which resulted in obtaining from the
United States for the Boca and Loyalton Railroad 18,000 acres of
valuable timber lands in Plumas and Sierra counties. Surities for
their appearance at trial were furnished, bonds in Engel’s case
being set at $2000, while half that amount was required to effect
Julian E. Pardee, an attorney, who resided in Susanville, had
surrendered himself to United States Marshal Shine the day before.
He having been indicted by the Federal Grand Jury for being
concerned in the Lewis-Engle timber grab in Plumas and Sierra
counties in the interest of the Boca and Loyalton Railroad, owned by
J. H. Roberts of Sacramento. Pardee was indicted on two charges, one
of subornation of perjury and the other of conspiracy to defraud the
United States. He was released on furnishing $2000 bonds. Albert S.
Parsons, John H. Engle, Richard H. Lewis and William S. Lewis had
been arrested February 28 on an indictment charging subornation of