Biography of Sarah Fairbanks King

SARAH FAIRBANKS KING (Mrs. S.A. King). – The annals of Oregon women, who performed the hard duties incident to pioneer life faithfully, patiently and well, contain no name more justly honored, or more tenderly cherished, than that of Sarah Fairbanks King.

Mrs. King was a native of New York, having been born in Potter, Cayuga county, October 12, 1834. While yet in her infancy, she was taken by her parents to Michigan, then scarcely more than an outpost of Western civilization. Here she grew to womanhood, developing traits of gentleness and devotion to duty that were the distinguishing characters of all of her life.

She was married on the 1st of November, 1851, to Mr. George Olds, and with him in the following spring started for Oregon Territory by the usual mode of conveyance in those days, – wagons drawn by oxen. She crossed bleak and dreary deserts, forded dangerous streams, scaled high and precipitous mountains, encountered hostile Indians, endured the burning heat of summer on vast and cheerless plains, and was constantly surrounded by dangers seen and unseen. The journey occupied seven months; and her first daughter was given to her arms during the tiresome trip.

Arriving in Oregon in the late autumn, her husband located on a Donation land claim near Middleton, Washington county; and there they lived for nine succeeding years, the pioneer home echoing the voices of children, and attesting daily the blessings that a loving and gentle woman can bring to a habitation in a comparative wilderness and amid the most primitive surroundings. She began life in Oregon where nearly all old-time immigrants did, – at the very foot of the ladder of worldly fortune. But, with a brave heart and cheerful temper, she faced the future courageously, and moved right onward in the path of womanly, wifely, motherly duty to the conquest of that future. On the 12th of April, 1862, she was widowed by the sudden death of her husband, five children being the heritage of the marriage.

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On Christmas day, 1863, she was married to Mr. Samuel W. King, and removed first to Marion and afterwards to Yamhill county, where her husband was engaged in teaching school, she being in this, as in all things else, his valued assistant. They subsequently removed to Portland, Oregon, where she continued to reside until her death, which occurred suddenly on the 19th of January, 1887. Seven children survive her: Mrs. Helen Jolly, Mr. J.C. Olds, of the firm of Olds & Summers; Mr. W.P. Olds, of Olds & King; Mrs. Clara Summers, Mrs. Mary Southworth, Charles W. King and Ralph King.

The record left by Mrs. King – whether enduring the hardships of a wearisome journey across the continent, encountering the privations incident to pioneer home-building, or battling with poverty; whether in the schoolroom in the capacity of teacher, or in a home of refinement enjoying the fruition of her labors and the full meed of reward for her early toils – is one of uniform consecration to duty, of gentleness in her home and of devotion to its inmates. She erected a monument to her own memory worthy of the purest, the noblest and the best.

She died without warning, of heart disease, her husband and sons returning to their home in the evening to find that the gentle presence that they had left there at noontime had forever departed. In a grave in one of the most beautiful locations in Riverview Cemetery, three miles above Portland, were consigned all that was mortal of this loving wife, tender mother and gentle woman; and there, “after life’s fitful fever, she sleeps well.”



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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