Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Henrietta Maria Mose Chamberlain King

     Born to Presbyterian preacher Hiram Chamberlain and his wife Maria (Morse) in 1832, Henrietta Marie Morse Chamberlain was thought to follow the family pattern and marry a minister. Instead she married a boat captain and speculator with little education known as Richard King. 

Henrietta Maria Mose Chamberlain King
After her mother’s death in 1835, Mrs. King grew up lonely but self-reliant. At the age of 14 she attended the Female Institute of Holly Springs, Mississippi for two years. Upon leaving the school she moved to Brownsville with her father where she would meet Mr. King.
     The couple met in 1850 when King came across the Chamberlain's house boat in what he thought to be his reserved loading dock. It is said that King then let loose a volley of curse words at the residents until 17-year-old Henrietta stepped on deck and reprimanded him. King fell in love with her from the start and in December of 1854, Reverend Chamberlain officiated at his daughter's marriage to Richard King. But Henrietta did not become the Queen of the King Ranch simply by taking Richard's last name.
King brought his bride to inhabit his newly claimed tract on Wild Horse Prairie. While their honeymoon was a dusty and treacherous journey across the dangerous and disputed territory, Mrs. King is quoted as describing it in a grandeous way.
Richard King

“I doubt if it falls to the lot of any bride to have so happy a honeymoon. On horseback, we roamed the broad prairies. When I grew tired, my husband would spread a Mexican blanket for me, and then I would take my siesta under the shade of a mesquite tree.” -Henrietta Chamberlain King
  Their first home was a mud-and-stick jackal so small that they hung their cooking pots outside the door. Wild Horse Prairie in that era was dangerous and disputed territory. On one occasion Henriette saved her sleeping child from a tomahawk baring Native American. She bargained with him and the man left with a loaf of bread and no disputes.
     The ranch had few buildings, and Mrs. King learned to live without even the small comforts of a border city. The Kings kept a house in Brownsville where their first children were born, but Henrietta had come to love the ranch and returned as frequently as possible. The first permanent home was built on the ranch in 1858. This house would be destroyed by fire in 1912 and lead way for the construction of the “Big House”.
Richard King, 1883
During the Civil War, King was involved in smuggling Confederate cotton to Mexico. When Union troops came to retrieve him, King fled leaving a Mexican man to protect his family. The troops raided the house before Henrietta's eyes. Soon thereafter she moved her children and herself to San Patricio and then San Antonio. King joined the Confederate Army and upon his return presented Mrs. King with a pair of diamond earrings that she would wear the rest of her life. 
     The ranch prospered in the years of the cattle drives, but upon the death of their only son, Robert E. Lee King, to pneumonia in 1883, King began considering to sell the land and give up. When Mrs. King heard this she reminded him of General Robert E. Lee;s words to “never sell”.
Richard King would never live to see the true accomplishments of the ranch due to his death of stomach cancer only two years later in 1885, leaving 53 year old Henrietta 614,000 acres and $500,000 in debts.
For the rest of her life Henrietta adorned black. For her remaining days, Mrs. King wore only black gloves, bonnets, gowns and her diamond earrings mourning her lost soul mate.

1 comment:

  1. Lol.... Richard King changed his appearance A LOT over the years...