Finley Keller IV and Jane B. Robinson
By Marilyn Morrison of Poulsbo, Washington

The risks and uncertainties of new beginnings in far places surely entered their thoughts when in 1853, both in their 50s, they left Maine to make new lives in Washington Territory.  A heritage from pioneer ancestors may have bolstered their courage and resolve.  Finley Keller IV and Jane B. Robinson were born in mid-coast Maine, Finley in 1802 and Jane in1803.  He was a linear descendant of early Warren settler Finley Kelloch.  She was directly descended from Moses Robinson, another pioneer of the area.

Finley and Jane were married Feb. 21, 1825, possibly in Cushing.  They were probably living in East Machias by 1828, from which port Finley followed the sea.  Vessel register and enrollment records name him as master of the sloop James in1828, the schooner Carroll in1844 and the schooner H.B. Foster in 1850.  It is likely there were other vessels under his command during that time.

We know of four sons born to Finley and Jane: Andrew R. about 1827; Albion M. in 1831; Zebedee Mayhew, 1839; and William R., date unknown.  The 1850 U.S. Census for East Machias lists Finley Keller, Sea Captain, age 48; Jane, 47; Andrew, Sailor, 23; Albion M., Sailor, 18; and Zebedee M., age 11.  Albion died July 6, 1853, and is buried in East Machias.

Finley sailed from East Machias for what was probably the last time on February 8, 1853, as mate on the schooner L.P. Foster.  The Foster’s destination was Teekalet (Port Gamble) in Puget Sound.  The task of those on board was to deliver the machinery for the new mill and have it in operation as soon as possible.  They “came directly by sea, via Boston, to Hood’s Canal,” reaching Port Gamble in late summer.  The mill was producing lumber within a week of their arrival.  This would become the longest continuously operated sawmill operation in North America, the first industrial enterprise of the company that became Pope and Talbot.

We do not know how or when she traveled, but Jane was in Port Gamble by March 5, 1854, when Finley and she applied for a Donation Land Claim.  The 306.5 acre claim was in T27N R1E, Sec. 22 and 23, bordering on Hood Canal about 3.5 miles south-west of the Port Gamble mill. Kitsap Memorial State Park now occupies the site.  This beautiful park is a place to picnic and walk, with a play area for children, and to gather oysters at low tide.  It is only four miles northeast of our home.

Three sons were listed on the claim: Andrew R., William R., and Zebedee M. Records indicate that Zebedee may have been among those enrolled in the first class of the University of Washington in 1861.  He appeared in the 1857 Slaughter (later Kitsap) County and 1887 Kittitas County Censuses, and in 1897 claimed land in Douglas County.  Son Andrew was listed as a lumberman, age 33, in the 1860 Port Gamble census.  The same census shows five-year-old Mary J. Keller, born W.T., in the same household with Finley and Jane.  Perhaps Mary was a granddaughter.  We have been unable to find son William in any Washington records dated after his listing on the land claim.

W.T. records show that on Oct. 11, 1862, Findley Keller of Kitsap County received a deed of land in King County from J.W. Grant.  The land was in the rapidly developing Seattle area, too far from Port Gamble for commuting.  It is possible but not certain that the transaction marks the approximate termination date of Finley’s employment with the Puget Mill Company.

Finley died an accidental death approximately 10 years after coming to Washington Territory.  The Seattle Gazette, Aug. 6, 1864, reported: “Finley Kellar d. July 15, 1864, in King Co.  He drowned in the Duwamish River having fallen overboard from a ferry; age 62 yrs 3 mos and 24 days.  He was born in Thomaston, ME.  He came to W.T. in 1853 with his nephew, the Hon. J.P. Kellar, in the schooner L.P. Foster.”

Jane married John Buckley Dec.18, 1865.  It was a brief marriage, and John married again in 1868.  Jane is shown on the U.S. Census for 1870, Freeport, King County.  Seattle was the post office address.  A substantial shipyard operated there until 1872.

Jane’s death came on August 8, 1872, and was reported in the Seattle and Rockland newspapers.  The Seattle Weekly Intelligencer, Aug. 12, 1872, reads in part, “Mrs. Jane B. Kellar died in this city on the 8th of consumption, age 60 yrs & 6 mos; formerly of ME.”  On the same page is written, “Widow of Findley Kellar arrived at Port Gamble Mch 1855 [sic].  Her husband was an uncle of J.P. Kellar, formerly of the Puget Sound Mill Co.  She was a resident of East Machias, ME long before coming here and has brothers living in that state.”

It had been more than 125 years since Finley Kelloch and Moses Robinson helped open the Maine wilderness to settlement, and 52 since the admission of Maine as the 23rd state.  It would be another 17 before the sons of Finley and Jane Keller would in 1889 see Washington become the 42nd: two frontiers 3000 miles and more than 100 years apart, but brought to statehood through the same pioneering spirit that came west with their parents.

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