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Arthur Walter Keddie

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The Arthur Walter Keddie Railroad Library is the official library and archives for the Feather River Rail Society.

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Who was Arthur Walter Keddie?

    "Arthur Walter Keddie, who is called the father of the Western Pacific Railroad, was born in Perthshire, Scotland on June 27, 1842, and moved to Ontario, Canada with his family when he was one year old. Keddie showed an early interest in surveying and engineering. He served a three-year apprenticeship under a provincial land surveyor in Whitby, Ontario, and later passed his provincial surveyors examinations. In the fall of 1863, Mr. Keddie left Canada for the United States. He arrived in California in September of 1863, where he found a job assisting in the compilation of George L. Holt's map of California and Nevada. In 1864, he was sent to Plumas County to survey a wagon road and he decided to settle there.

    In 1867, he surveyed the Feather River Canyon for the Oroville & Beckwourth Pass Wagon Road Company. Mr. Keddie noted the small grade in the canyon and realized that building a railroad up the Feather River Canyon instead of through the Sierra would be advantageous. Arthur Keddie's surveys and plans for a railroad through the Feather River Canyon were examined and rejected by Collis P. Huntington, who built the Central Pacific Railroad over the Sierra instead. It wasn't until 1903 that his plans were adopted by the newly incorporated Western Pacific Railway and the Feather River Canyon railroad route was constructed. Mr. Keddie was hired by the railroad to supervise construction and in December, 1904, he was promoted to Assistant Chief Engineer. After obtaining U.S. citizenship in 1868, Mr. Keddie was elected surveyor for Plumas County. The following year, he was appointed United States Deputy Surveyor.

    He was very active in the community of Quincy, serving a member of its first Fire Department, a notary public, a member of the Odd Fellows. He was also a Mason, becoming Master of the Lodge on three occasions, from 1877-1882, again in 1885-1886 and in 1889-1890. He produced a map of Plumas County in 1874, which was declared the official map of Plumas County by the county supervisors several times. Arthur Keddie advocated using the North Fork route of the Feather River as a highway. Other Plumas County citizens supported this vision by voting in 1909, 1915 and 1919 for highway construction bonds. On June 9, 1869, he married to Margaret Douglas Barnes in Whitby, Ontario. The Keddies had a son, William Arthur, and daughters Edith, Margaret, and Helen, a teacher who married Gilbert Palmer in 1905 and died in either 1945 or 1946. The town of Keddie, seven miles north of Quincy, and a mountain close to Indian Valley, were named after Arthur W. Keddie, who died in Quincy, California on October 17, 1924." 1


[1] Online Archive of California, ARTHUR WALTER KEDDIE FAMILY PAPERS.  Retrieved November 13, 2016, from http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c8m61ksw/

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