Back When in Benton County

Part 6

Home Sites on Free Land

by Kenneth Munford

From their winter camp on Gales Creek near Forest Grove, the men and boys of the King family went out hunting for home sites.

At that time, 1845-'46, the boundary between Canada and the American part of the Oregon Country had not yet been drawn, but pioneers of the early 1840's felt sure the Willamette Valley would some day be U.S. territory.  One of their motivations in coming west was to "save Oregon from the British."  As they waited for Congress to act, they set up the Provisional Government with a land office where Provisional claims to a square mile (640 acres) of free land could be recorded.

If the King land hunters rode southward on the old Hudson's Bay Company pack trail along the western margin of the Willamette Valley, they would have found settlers in the Chehalem, Yamhill, Salt Creek, and La Creole (Rickreall) valleys.  From the ford on the La Creole, at present Dallas, the old trail crossed the Luckiamute and wound around the edge of the foothills passing present Adair Village, Lewisburg, and Corvallis to ford the Mary's River at present Philomath.

Other 1845'ers were coming this way.  Arnold Fuller and his son, Price, who soon married Abigail King, staked claims northwest of Lewisburg.  Thomas and Nancy Read settled south of Adair and soon started a house that still stands.  J.C. Avery and his wife's brother, Edmund Marsh, came to the mouth of the Marys.  Along this pack trail later in 1846, the Applegate brothers and others scouted out a wagon road that became known as the Applegate trail.

An alternate route on the old pack trail between fords on the La Creole and the Marys lay farther west through a cleft in the foothills along the Luckiamute.  We can imagine the excitement of the King land-hunters following that trail when they came up over the rise south of present Peedee and gazed down into the beautiful green valley on the banks of the meandering Luckiamute.  It had an abundance of what they sought:  rich, well-drained grass lands easy to clear for cultivation, forests to supply fuel and building materials, streams to supply water.  And, best of all, not a single settler!

Sons and sons-in-laws of Nahum and Serepta King set about staking claims to free land in this valley of the Kings.

Next week:  The Kings of Kings Valley