King, William M., 1800-1869

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William M. King was a merchant, civic leader, and territorial legislator of Portland, Oregon. A native of Danbury, Connecticut, King was identified with a number of enterprises in the northeast, including the Pennsylvania extension of the Erie Canal and a sawmill at DeWitt, New York. He brought his family overland from Missouri to Oregon in 1848, settling at the new town site of Portland and starting a sawmill. He entered the mercantile business with various partners, including George Kittredge, and he served as president of the Portland and Valley Plank Road Company. He held many public offices, including Inspector of Revenue for the Port of Portland, and he served as a Democratic member of the Oregon State Legislature. He was a commissioner for the construction of the state penitentiary, and his firm King & Kittredge were suppliers to that institution. He died in Portland in 1869.

From the description of William M. King papers, 1832-1873. (Oregon Historical Society Research Library). WorldCat record id: 65223874

William M. King, of English-Welsh ancestry, was born March 4, 1800, in Danbury, Connecticut. He lived later in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, and finally Oregon. He married Mary Hadley of Middlebury, Vermont, by whom he had six daughters and a son.

In the course of his career, King was involved in a large number of business and civic ventures. He is first identified between 1832 and 1840 with the firm of King & [Hiram] Hammon, doing contract work on the Pennsyvania extension of the Erie Canal. During this time (1834-1836) he was a contractor at Rutland, Washington County, New York, supplying water, lime, and plaster for small jobs in that area. In 1837, with two other men (Joel Murray and Jared House), he bought a sawmill at De Witt, New York, sawing lumber and manufacturing water cement. King bought part of a mill at Conneaut, Ohio, in 1839, and in 1842 he purchased land in Palmyra, Missouri.

While living in New York, King was appointed a major in the 176th Infantry (June 27, 1835) and colonel in the 170th infantry (June 24, 1839). He was known as "Colonel King" during his later life in Oregon.

King brought his family overland to Oregon from Missouri in 1848, and settled at Portland. The following year he built Portland's first sawmill, but it was destroyed by fire shortly after completion. In the same year, he erected a frame structure at First and Oak streets which was known for many years as "The School House," because of the school opened there by the Rev. Horace Lyman in the winter of 1849-1850. Between 1850 and 1855, King was in the mercantile business, first in partnership with J. B. V. Butler (1850) and later with George Kittredge (1854-1855). King was a member of the Portland and Valley Improvement Company, and later he suceeded Thomas Carter as president of the Portland and Valley Plank Road Company.

In 1850 King was appointed Surveyor and Inspector of Revenue for the Port of Portland. He also served in the Oregon legislature of 1850, and again in 1857. The 1852-1853 legislature appointed King, Shubrick Norris, and Samuel Parker to act as a board of commissioners "to build and locate a penitentiary." In 1854-1855, King and Kittredge were suppliers to the Penitentiary Company.

An active Democrat, King was caricatured along with several other leading Oregon Democrats in 1852 by William L. Adams, in a locally famous satire, "Treason, strategems, and spoils." King was one of the nine anti-organization members of the legislature who, in 1857 and 1858, called a convention of National Democrats for the purpose of nominating candidates for state office. He died in Portland on November 8, 1869.

From the guide to the William M. King Papers, 1832-1873, (Oregon Historical Society Research Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Hobbs, Thomas J. Thomas J. Hobbs letter to Col. William M. King [[manuscript], 1850 January 1. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
referencedIn Portland and Valley Plank Road Company. Portland and Valley Plank Road Company records [manuscript], 1848-1852. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf King, William M., 1800-1869. William M. King papers, 1832-1873. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf William M. King Papers, 1832-1873 Oregon Historical Society Research Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adair, John person
associatedWith Anderson, John A. person
associatedWith Apperson, Milton person
associatedWith Bennett, Charles person
associatedWith Bush, Asahel person
associatedWith Butler, Joseph Bradley Varnum, 1809-1879. person
associatedWith Butler & King corporateBody
associatedWith Butler & King corporateBody
associatedWith Campbell & Boise person
associatedWith Chapman, William Williams person
associatedWith Conser, Jacob person
associatedWith Cooley, Randoph M. person
associatedWith Deady, Matthew Paul person
associatedWith Dyer, Thomas Jefferson person
associatedWith Hammon, Hiram person
associatedWith Hammon, Hiram person
associatedWith Hammon & King corporateBody
associatedWith Hammon & King corporateBody
associatedWith Hastings, Loern B. person
correspondedWith Hobbs, Thomas J. person
associatedWith Huntress, F. D. person
associatedWith King & Kittredge corporateBody
associatedWith King & Kittredge corporateBody
associatedWith Kittredge, George, fl. 1854-1855. person
associatedWith Lane, Joseph person
associatedWith Lownsdale, Daniel H. person
associatedWith Lownsdale, Daniel H., 1803-1862. person
associatedWith Lynde, J. B. person
associatedWith May, Samuel E. person
associatedWith McEwan, William Layton person
associatedWith Moore, James M. person
associatedWith Portland and Valley Plank Road Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Portland & Valley Plank Road Company corporateBody
associatedWith Post, John Dennison person
associatedWith Powers, Trueman P. person
associatedWith Pratt, Orville C. person
associatedWith Reed, Cyrus Adams person
associatedWith Shannon, Wesley person
associatedWith Sherman, George person
associatedWith Simpson, Ben F. person
associatedWith Stark, Benjamin person
associatedWith Sulger, Abraham person
associatedWith Thurston, Samuel Royal person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Erie Canal (N.Y.)
Chenango Canal (N.Y.)
St. Lawrence Canal
Portland (Or.)
Erie Canal (N.Y.)
Portland (Or.)
St. Lawrence Canal
New York (State)
Chenango Canal (N.Y.)
Plank roads--Oregon--History--19th century
Ferries--History--19th century
Ferries--Oregon--Portland--History--19th century
Pacific Northwest History
Canals--New York (State)
Plank roads--History--19th century


Birth 1800

Death 1869

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SNAC ID: 14947904