Back When in Benton County

Part 14

Rowland Chamber Families

by Charlotte Wirfs

Family history relates that Rowland Chambers arrived in Oregon with ten cents in his pocket. Twenty years later he had become the patriarch of the King family and had amassed a small fortune which he kept locked in a safe in his bedroom.

Approximately 450 people living today are direct descendants of Rowland Chambers, son-in-law of Nahum and Sarepta King.  He was born March 12, 1813, the son of Joseph and Susan (VanGundy) Chambers.  On August 15, 1841, he married Sarah King, born July 25, 1823, had two children, James and Maragret, when the Chamber family left Missouri in the spring of 1845.

Five months later, "Sally" died of "camp fever" on September 3, 1845, and was buried on the Oregon desert French trappers had named Malheuer, "Evil Hour." Her grave was one of the few marked graves of the 1845 emigration, for most graves were deliberately camouflaged to discourage Indian robbers.

Care for Sally's two babies undoubtedly fell into the hands of her 17-year-old sister, Lovisa.  In Washington County, Oregon Country, on February 22, 1846 Lovisa King became the bride of Rowland Chambers.  That same spring land claims of approximately 640 acres each were laid out in Kings Valley.  Members of the King family drew lots from a hat.  Rowland promised to build a gristmill for the community if he could have first pick of location.  That was agreed to and in 1852 Rowland Chambers and Mr. Reynolds, with the help of Stephen King, raised a two-story mill on the banks of the Luckiamute where a natural outcropping of roc provided a four-foot waterfall.  For 50 years, the mill ground flour on the stone burrs, which had been shipped around the "Horn" from France, before modern machinery was installed.  The mill survived until 1963 when the ruin was burned.

The first home of Rowland and Lovisa was a log cabin.  Later a large house was constructed with numerous high-ceilinged bedrooms, large halls, a parlor, dining rooms, kitchen, cheese room, and a pie room where unbaked mincemeat pies were set on shelves to freeze in the winter.  This house was nearly destroyed by fire and replaced with the house, which still can be seen alongside the road in Kings Valley.  A memorial plaque is posted in front.

Before his death in September 1870 in Kings Valley, Rowland was able to return for a visit with the family he's left in Ohio.  Lovisa died December 1889 at her home in Kings Valley.  They were buried in Kings Valley Cemetery.

Next:  Heirs and Memories of Rowland Chambers