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Biography of J. C. Avery

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J.C. AVERY. – Mr. Avery, the first owner, and, in almost every respect, the founder of Corvallis, was born in Punckhannock, Pennsylvania, in 1817. He received his education at Wilksbarre, and thereafter studied medicine, but, preferring a less confined life than that necessitated by this profession, went as a pioneer to Illinois in 1837. Engaging in the land business, he at length undertook the life of a farmer, and was married in 1841 to Miss Martha Marsh. Farming upon the prairies at that early day did not prove remunerative; and in 1845 he came alone to Oregon, bringing an ox-team and about twenty-five stock cattle. Making his headquarters at Oregon City, he spent the first months exploring the Willamette valley; and, as all the land on the west side of the river south of the La Creole was absolutely without occupants except Indians, he had only to exert his judgment to select the best site from among the thousand good ones. He chose the plain lying at the Great Bend of the Willamette, where this river approaches nearest the Coast Mountains.

Moving upon this place in 1846, he sent for his family, who made the perilous trip across the plains with Sawyer’s company. Upon their arrival, he began the systematic development of his place; for it was not as a farm, but as the site of a city, that he had secured this magnificent situation upon the Willamette. By means of a store – the only one on the west side of Dallas – he facilitated and hastened the settlement of the surrounding region, and made this point the center. He was instrumental in forming a court for Benton county, of which O.C. Pratt was judge.

Mr. Avery’s public virtues, his integrity and breadth of views won for him the confidence of the community; and he was soon sent to the territorial and later to the state legislature to represent Benton county, and was re-elected many times. The power thus secured by him was ever used faithfully in the interest of the whole state, and for the benefit of Benton county and of Corvallis. By his care the county was so delimited as to make this city the center, and naturally the county-seat. He also secured this point as the site of the State University, and even gained it as the state capital. The legislative agreement was not, however, fully kept; and, upon the popular election in 1858, the capital was removed to Salem. He was also active in securing Corvallis as the location of the Agricultural College, and was a member of the committee to locate the college lands, and also of the board to prescribe rules and regulations for the government of the college and the course of study. He ever gave liberally of his means to the institution, and was very active in the promotion of the Willamette Valley & Coast Railway to Yaquina.

In early days, – 1853 to 1855, – he held a government position by appointment of President Pierce as postal agent for the district embracing Oregon and Washington. While conducting his mercantile business at Corvallis, he was very often called upon, and it was his practice, to credit needy and destitute settlers with necessaries. His generous and magnanimous treatment was never abused; and he believed that he never lost a cent by this course, having, moreover, the pleasure of doing substantial good to his fellow-beings. He was cut off by death in 1876, being then fifty-nine years old, and leaving a wife and six children to mourn his loss. The whole community was afflicted by this sad event.


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