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As It Was: Chris Kenney Memoirs Describe Early Jacksonville Life

Chris Kenney was born in Jacksonville in 1883, a descendent of William T’vault, a Jacksonville pioneer who supported the Confederacy during the Civil War.  In 1966, Kenney wrote his memoirs, looking back on the town and its residents.

Kenney was a teenage prankster.  He admits that he and his friends should have been severely punished on several occasions, such as when they entered a barber shop with a skeleton key on Halloween and coaxed a neighbor’s cow inside. The next morning the irate barber found his shop a mess created by a very unhappy cow.

As a young man working in a hardware store, Kenney married Nan Lyden, whose father owned the Lyden House hotel and restaurant in Jacksonville.  Kenney knew about everyone in town, including a former owner of the Jacksonville Inn who liked to sunbathe in the nude and pioneer sheriff William Bybee, who reportedly washed his false teeth in the horse trough outside a saloon.  He knew where people dumped illegal liquor during prohibition, who greased the railroad tracks, and who surreptitiously picked their neighbors’ cherries.

Kenney died in 1971, leaving memoirs donated to the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

Sources: Kenney, Chris. "Memoirs of Chris Kenney." The Table Rock Sentinel, vol. 5, no. 6, June 1985, pp. 7-16.   

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.