Robert Crouch Kinney

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Robert Crouch Kinney
Robert Crouch Kinney.png
Delegate to the Oregon Constitutional Convention
In office
Constituency Yamhill County
Member of the Oregon Territorial Legislature
In office
1849 and 1851
Constituency Yamhill County
Personal details
Born (1813-07-04)July 4, 1813
Belleville, Illinois
Died March 2, 1875(1875-03-02) (aged 61)
Salem, Oregon
Resting place Salem Pioneer Cemetery[1]
Political party Anti-Democrat
Spouse(s) Eliza Bigelow Kinney

Robert Crouch Kinney (July 4, 1813 – March 2, 1875) was an American businessman and politician in what became the state of Oregon. A native of Illinois, he helped found Muscatine, Iowa, before crossing the Oregon Trail and settling in what became Oregon. In Oregon he was a prominent businessman in the milling business and served in the Oregon Territorial Legislature before being a member of the Oregon Constitutional Convention.

Early life[edit]

Robert Kinney was born on July 4, 1813, in the town of Belleville in St. Clair County, Illinois, near St. Louis, Missouri.[2] His parents were Samuel and Polly (née Gibbons) Kinney, both from Kentucky.[2][3] Robert’s uncle was William Kinney, who served as Lieutenant Governor of Illinois from 1826 to 1830.[3] Robert Kinney was raised in Illinois where he received an education in the common schools of Springfield.[2][4]

In 1833, he married Eliza Bigelow, and the couple had eleven children, with eight living to adulthood.[2][5] The eight children were Mary Jane, Albert William (married daughter of William T. Newby), Augustus Crouch, Marshall Johnson, Eliza Lee, Alfred Coleman, Josephine Elarena, and William Sylvester.[6] The year they were married the couple moved to what became Iowa, where they helped found the town of Bloomington (now Muscatine) along the Mississippi River.[6] Kinney built a hotel along with a wharf, and operated a boat from the town downriver to St. Louis.[7] Later he entered the milling business, running a sawmill and flourmill, while also reading law under judge Serranus Clinton Hastings,[7] though he never practiced law.[8]


Kinney and his family, including brother Samuel, headed west overland on the Oregon Trail in 1847 in a wagon train that included Joel Palmer.[2] He settled on a land claim in the Oregon Country in the Yamhill District near Lafayette.[7][9] The next year the region became the Oregon Territory and in 1850 the Donation Land Act secured title for the settlers on their land claims. Kinney farmed his 640-acre (260 ha) land claim in the Chehalem Valley and raised orchards.[2][9] Kinney left Oregon for the California Gold Rush in 1848, but returned the next year without having gained a large fortune.[8]

After farming for ten years he moved to McMinnville in 1858 where he purchased the flour mill of town founder William Newby in 1859.[2][9] Kinney expanded his business by buying the Brooklyn flour mill in Portland in 1862, followed by buying into the wool mill owned in part by Daniel Waldo in Salem in 1868.[2] He moved the family to Salem and began running the flour mill part of the business, the Salem Milling Company.[2][8] The company expanded and opened branch offices in San Francisco, Portland, and England, and at one time milled a quarter of all of the grain crops in the state.[2][8] The company also was the first to ship flour from Portland to Liverpool in England, along with several other ports around the world.[8]

Political career[edit]

In 1849, Kinney was elected to represent Yamhill County in the first Territorial Legislature.[9] After taking the 1850 session off, he returned in 1851 to again represent Yamhill County.[9] In 1857, he was elected as a delegate for Yamhill County to the Oregon Constitutional Convention. Held in Salem in September and October, the convention creating the first Oregon Constitution and paved the way for Oregon’s entry into the Union. Kinney was a free stater and Anti-Democrat in philosophy, and he voted against the adoption of the constitution, though the convention did adopt the document and Oregon became a state in 1859.[9]

Later life[edit]

Some of Kinney’s sons became partners in the milling business, including Marshall as manager of the San Francisco office.[8] Kinney also entered the livestock business and had an extensive ranch in Eastern Oregon near Heppner where he raised sheep.[2] Robert Crouch Kinney died in Salem on March 2, 1875, at the age of 61 and was buried at the Salem Pioneer Cemetery.[2][4]


  1. ^ "Robert Crouch Kinney". Salem Pioneer Cemetery. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Corning, Howard M. (1989) Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing. p. 135.
  3. ^ a b Gaston, Joseph; George H. Himes (1912). The Centennial History of Oregon, 1811-1912. Vol. 1. S.J. Clarke Publishing Co. p. 346. 
  4. ^ a b Mattoon, Charles Hiram (1905). Baptist Annals of Oregon. 1. Telephone Register Pub. Company. pp. 66–67. 
  5. ^ Lang, Herbert O. (1885). History of the Willamette Valley... Himes & Lang. p. 678. 
  6. ^ a b Bancroft, Hubert Howe, and Mrs. Frances Auretta Fuller Barrett Victor. History of Oregon. Vol. 1. San Francisco: History Co, 1886. p. 633.
  7. ^ a b c Portrait and Biographical Record of Portland and Vicinity, Oregon: Containing Original Sketches of Many Well Known Citizens of the Past and Present. Chicago: Chapman Publishing Co. 1903. pp. 120–121. OCLC 181326315. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Gaston, Joseph. 1911. Portland, Oregon, its history and builders: in connection with the antecedent explorations, discoveries, and movements of the pioneers that selected the site for the great city of the Pacific. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co. Vol. III. pp. 414-417.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Biographical Sketch of Robert Kinney. Crafting the Oregon Constitution, Oregon State Archives. Retrieved on June 20, 2016.

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