Thursday, March 5, 2020

Kings Valley: Memories of Retha Grieg

I've become interested in the first-hand accounts and reminiscences that are part of the Benton County Historical Museum's archive collection.  Some I've featured in earlier posts.  I've discovered there are lots more and including parts of them here is a good way to feature something we probably wouldn't show in a gallery.  Hope you like them too.

Today's account was written by Retha Allen Grieg, shown here is a young girl and as an adult.
Retha Allen Grieg
Retha Allen Grieg
Retha is the great great granddaughter of pioneer Nahum King. Here is what she wrote about her childhood.
“Ours was a family of four sisters.  Naomi, born 1897, Ethel, 1901, Retha, 1903, and Mabel 1906.  We were born and raised in Kings Valley, Oregon.  The valley was named for the several King families who took up their Donation Land Claim there.

“When I was two years old [1905] my father bought a large part of the Isaac King DLC.  We lived in the Isaac King house until we were grown.  The house was large and well built.  Every piece of lumber in it was hand hewn.  The old square-cut iron nails were used throughout. “
Isaac King House in 1985
“There were secret passageways in it. (To what purpose I never know).  Flush with the floor upstairs was a trap door with handle and hinges of thick leather.  We children would open the door and lower ourselves down between two floor to ceiling built-ins, a clothes-press and dish cupboard.  At the bottom we would edge our way on between them, then past the back and side of the fireplace.  This brought me to a low, narrow door.  We opened the door and, presto, we were in a ground floor room without coming down the stairs.  All this was done in near darkness, our only light being from the open trap door above.”
Martha's comment: When I was a child, I always liked to imagine a secret passage in the house we lived in then.  How cool to actually have one!!

Retha continues: “The windows were six feet in height.  It was three feet from the floor to window sill and three feet from window top to ceiling, making the walls twelve feet high.  There were hooks in the ceiling of one room for lowering the quilting frames or to pull them out of the way.

“Back of the house was a built-on room called the “cellar.” Its double walls and ceiling were sawdust filled for insulation. The room stayed cool in the hottest weather.  Dairy products and fresh meat were kept there.  When the fall butchering of fifteen to twenty hogs was done, the rendered out lard was put into four and five gallon earthen jars to be stored in the cellar. The hams, shoulders and sides were salted, then when ready were hung in a tight building and smoked over a slow fire of oak and applewood.  The pork trimmings were made into sausage.  Other things were stored in the cellar, smaller stoneware jars of green tomato and, or pear preserves cooked down so thick and rich they kept without sealing. Pickles and sour kraut in the big jars.  Sweet, ripe grapes were placed in wooden boxes between layers of grape leaves.  They would keep this way so well, that we always had grapes for Christmas and the New Year holidays.

“Hopestill, daughter of Nahum and Sarepta Norton King, married Lucius Norton. They named one daughter Sarepta, hence a second Sarepta Norton.  That Sarepta married Willard Price.  Dora, their daughter, was our mother.
In addition to grandmother Sarepta, I knew one other of Hopestill's daughter, Ashney Plunkett.  We used to visit Great Aunt Ashney.  I can see her at her big carpet loom.  I think she mad the rag carpets for most of Kings Valley folk. The loom and Aunt Ashney's operation of it fascinated me.  She would feed the long, many colored rag strips into the loom, then with a quick movement of her hands and feet and an almost deafening “Clack! Clack!” of the loom the ugly rag strips became beautiful carpeting and hall runners.  It seemed like magic.”
More of Retha's recollections next time. 

 By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon