Intrepid travelers, Elijah and Margaret Chaffin, headed west in 1864 from their native Tennessee through Kansas. They traversed the wild west by ox-drawn wagons, bound for Oregon with their three children, his two brothers and their wives, and two other families. By summer, they made it to Bannack, Montana, where they met up with Mary Polly (Polly) Chaffin, Elijah’s younger sister, who had moved west a year earlier.
The Chaffin clan met Jack Slack, who was traveling between Bannack and the Bitterroot Valley at that time. Jack convinced the Chaffins to winter with him in the Bitterroot. In the fall of 1864, Jack Slack and the Chaffins constructed two rough, log cabins on farm land a few miles north of present-day Corvallis, near where a free flowing Willow Creek once flowed into the Bitterroot River. A few months later, in the community known as Chaffinville, the first Caucasian boy in the Bitterroot Valley was born to Margaret and Elijah Chaffin. In February of 1865, Jack Slack and Polly Chaffin were married in the first legally recorded marriage ceremony in the valley.
In 1865, Elijah, Margaret and family set out for their original destination in Oregon, only to return a year later, to their spot along Willow Creek in the Bitterroot Valley where they finally planted their roots. Elijah built a proper log home, approximately 16′ x 34′, with a roof made of sod laid over poles. In the 1870s, with nine kids living under one roof, Elijah expanded the home, by removing the sod roof, raising the walls, and adding a staircase. The upstairs included one large bedroom and a small space under the eaves (now a bathroom). The windows in the front parlors of the house are thought to be the original, hand-shaped glass.
After giving birth to their 11th child in 1877, Margaret died of child bed fever when she was only 36. Polly Slack, Elijah’s sister, cared for the baby boy for his first three years in her home, while Elijah again added two large rooms onto the house-now the parlor and a bedroom. In 1884, at age 55, Elijah died of pneumonia. His son Moses lived in the house with his wife Mary, until it was passed on to their daughter and husband, who then passed it on to their son. He sold the house and the property to Otto Teller in 1986 when Otto began accumulating land for Teller. Otto added the two rooms that now serve as a dining room and kitchen, and the screened porch.
Today, the Chaffin Home (previously named the “Teller Lodge” by Otto Teller) is a blend of old and new, a charming contrast between uneven floors and cracks from settling over the years, and a modern kitchen and appliances. Relaxing on the large screened porch looking out onto Teller Wildlife Refuge, one can only imagine what life was like more than 100 years ago.
For more information, or to book a stay, go to Reservation Information.