Letter From Luckiamute Valley

Anna Maria Allen, born March 26, 1823, married Stephen King on Christmas Day in Madison County, Ohio.  Her husband was the second son of Nahum and Serepta King and had been born there July 13, 1818.  Together they embarked on their overland journey to the Luckiamute Valley in the spring of 1845.  They were a part of a large family, headed by patriarch, Nahum King.  Most of Stephen's family were included in that wagon train, but Anna's family remained behind.  United States Census records of 1870 inform us that Anna was born in Massachusetts.  Her parents were John and Anna Bangs Allen.

The majority of the King family selected Donation Land Claims in the spring of 1846, settling in an area which is known today as Kings Valley, Benton County, Oregon.  In an effort to inform her family of the journey and perhaps to persuade them to make the same trip, Anna wrote a letter to her mother, brothers, and sisters on April 1, 1846.  It is unknown where her relatives were living at that time, but the letter was published in several newspapers, which encouraged others to make the journey to Oregon Country.

The letter was signed by both Stephen and Anna, but it seems quite clear that it was written by Anna.  She signed it Mariah King.  Throughout Anna's lifetime she used different signatures:  Maria, Mariah, Marie, Anne, and Anna.  Several copies of this letter exist.  One is reported to have been found in the pocket of Anna's second husband, Solomon King (brother of Stephen King), when he died on March 13, 1913.  Miss Ethel Price of Portland, Oregon had a copy of this letter which was mimeographed by the Works Progress Administration County and Historical Records Survey of Oregon during the 1930's.  It is from this copy that the following letter is taken:

Luckiamute Valley, Oregon
April 1, 1846

Dear Mother, Brothers and Sisters:

After travelling six months we arrived at Lynntin on the Willamette, November the 1st.  We had beautiful weather all the way, no rain of any account.  We got along finely until we came to Fort Boisien with 3 or 4(00) miles of Lynnton when along came a man by the name of Meiks, who said he could take us a new route across the Cascade mountains to the Willamette river in 20 days, so a large company of a hundred and fifty or two hundred wagons left the old road to follow the new road and traveled for 2 months over sand, rocks, hills and anything else but good roads.  Two thirds of the immigrants ran out of provisions and had to live on beef, but as it happened we had plenty of flour and bacon to last us through.  But worse than all this, sickness and death attended us the rest of the way.  I wrote to you at Fort Larim that the whooping cough and measles went through our camp, and after we took the new route a slow, lingering fever prevailed.  Out of Chamber L. Norton's (Lucius Norton's), John's (John King's) and our family, none escaped except Solomon (King) and myself.  But listen to the deaths:  Sally Chambers (Sarah King Chambers, wife of Rowland), John King and his wife (Susan Cooper King), and their little daughter Electa (Electra, age 3) and their babe, a son 9 months old (this family drowned in the Columbia river.  Only one son survived, Luther King, age 5), and Dulancy C. Norton's sister are gone.  Mr. A. (Arnold) Fuller lost his wife and daughter Tabitha.  Eight of our two families have gone to their long home.  Stephen was taken with the fever at Fort Boise; he had not been well since we left Ohio, but was now taken worse.  He was sick for three months, we did not expect him to live for a long time, but hi is now well and hearty, getting fatter every day, and he weighs as much as he did when he came over the mountains, and as for myself I was never heartier in my life since I left Missouri.  I have not had even one sick day.  The rest of our party are getting well and hardy now, I believe.

Those that went the old road got through six weeks before us, with no sickness at all.  Upwards of fifty died on the new route.

The Indians did not disturb us any, except stealing our horses.  We have made our claim on the Luckiamute, a western branch of the Willamette, now a day's ride from the ocean and 100 miles south of the Columbia river.  It is a beautiful country as far as I have seen.  Every person eighteen years old holds a section (of land) by making improvements and living on it five years.  They sow wheat here from October till June, and the best wheat I ever saw and plenty of it at 75 cents and $1.00 per bushel; potatoes 25 c. peas $1.00 per bushel, corn 50 c, beef c c and 8 c, pork 10 c. sugar 12 1/2 c. molasses 50 c. and salt is 1 c a pound and other things accordingly.  Mills are plenty, no trouble about getting grinding.  The water is all soft as it is in Massachusetts.  Soda springs are common and fresh water springs without number.  It is now the 1st of April and not a particle of snow has fallen in the valley neither have I seen a bit of ice a half inch thick this winter but it rains nearly all winter but this does not hinder them from plowing and sowing wheat.  We have the most frost in the spring.  They don't make garden until the last of April or the 1st of May, but it comes good when it does come.  There are thousands of strawberries, gooseberries, blackberries, whortleberries, currants, and other wild fruits but no nuts except filberts and a few chestnuts.  The timber is principally fir and oak.

You perhaps wish to know how I like the country.  I like it well.  It is an easy place to make a living.  Your can raise as many cattle as you please and not cost you a cent, for the grass is green the whole winter and cattle are as fat as if they had been stall fed the whole year round.  Wheat is raised without trouble and will fetch anything, the same as cash.  A wagon from $100 to 150, 100 dollars for a yoke of oxen, $50 for a cow.  And work will fetch anything you want at from $1 to $1.50 a day, a dollar a hundred for making rails, and so on.  And although I was much apposed to coming as anyone could be, if I were back there and know what I know now, I should be perfectly willing to come.

The land you get is sufficient to pay for your trouble and if you were here and John and Warren each of them and yourself a claim, I should like to live there.  We have all got claims joining.  What winter states will do for us I cannot tell.  You know more about that than I do.  The Indians appear to be very friendly, like to have the Bostons come, as they call them.  You think it is a long road and so it is, but the worst is over when you get started.  Be sure and have plenty of flour, that is the main object; start with at least 175 or 200 pounds, and 75 pounds of bacon to the person, fetch no more beds than you want to use, start with clothing a plenty to last you one year after you get here if you have nothing to buy with, after that you will raise a plenty to buy with.  Start with at least four or five yoke of cattle to the wagon, young cattle four or five years old are the best, fetch what coffee, sugar and such things you like, if you should be sick you need them.  I write to you as if I expected you to come.  I need not do that as I know of although I wish you were here.

I can't help but believe you would be suited not that it will do my dear mother any good to see her children well fixed to get a living.  That is if Congress ever does anything for Oregon.  It is not like any other new country--a farm to pay for--it is already paid for when you get here.  You don't know how I want to see you, and if I am never to see you let me hear from you as often as possible.  I want to know how you are all getting along and what you are doing.  Give my love and respects to all.

We have had two weddings in our family, Rolland (Rowland) Chambers and Livisa (Lovisa) King and Amos King to Melinda Fuller.  Young men have to pay five dollars a year if they don't live on their claim.  The people all look hale and hearty here.  We are all looking for Moses Moon (Moses Moore married Nahum King's oldest daughter, Saretta) and Herman Hallock (Heman Hallock married the King's second daughter, Lucretia) this fall.  (Moses and Aretta never arrived in Oregon and Hallocks made the journey in 1853, settling a claim south of Kings Valley.)

Write the first opportunity, and every one.  It has been so long since I have heard from you.

From you affectionate Children   
Stephen and Mariah King