Voices from the Walla Walla Valley: Muriel Kenyon

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Muriel Kenyon

Muriel Kenyon's father, Stephen, grew up believing his grandfather, James Otis Kenyon, had passed away long before he was born. To his surprise, Stephen found James alive and well nearly 50 years after he had disappeared from the Kenyon family, with a remarkable story to tell.

James never discussed the incident - when he was convicted of arson - that alienated him from his family. Stephen and his wife Deborah, however, were able to piece the story together from news clippings. When Stephen found him, James was 85 years old.

James Otis Kenyon never again met his former wife, Alice Kenyon, who divorced him in the mid-1920s and moved to Walla Walla. A former schoolteacher, Alice was forbidden to teach because of morality clauses that blocked single mothers or divorcees, Muriel said. Alice, along with friends who taught at Whitman College, changed those laws so Alice could teach science at Walla Walla High School and Whitman College.

James Otis Kenyon lived to be 101, and saw the birth of his first great-grandchild, Muriel. He passed away before the birth of his great-grandson Samuel Otis Kenyon.

Find out more about Muriel Kenyon and the project at wallawallavoices.com

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