Saturday, June 9, 2007 12:08 AM PDT
Avery marked city’s borders
in early days
By Ken Munford, Local columnist
(Editor’s note: Over a period of 12 years beginning in 1983, local historian
Ken Munford wrote 561 columns for the Gazette-Times. As part of the city’s
150th anniversary, the newspaper will publish a selection of these columns
each Saturday. This one was originally printed on Nov. 18, 1985.)
More than 150 years ago, Joseph Conant Avery laid claim to 640 acres at the
mouth of Marys River.
What is now Benton County was still part of the Yamhill District, one of
the four divisions into which the Provisional Government had divided the
At Oregon City, Avery’s claim was recorded in the “Provisional Land Claims”
book on page 44 of Volume I, dated Nov. 5, 1845.
He had placed markers at each corner of his mile-square claim. At the southeast
corner, in the language used in the claim, he marked a tree “on the bank
of the Willamette.” Floods since then have changed the contour of south Corvallis;
no one today can say exactly where his marked tree stood.
His stake on the bank about one mile north was at the foot of present-day
“Thence west about a mile,” again in the language used in the claim, is a
straight line that crosses the Courthouse block and Central Park and joins
Jefferson Avenue at 11th Street. The city blocks for Marysville (Corvallis)
were laid out parallel and at right angles to the river. West of 11th Street
and Kings Boulevard, streets run on north-south and east-west alignment.
Avery’s stake at the northwest corner of his claim was on Jefferson Way beside
the Memorial Union on the Oregon State University campus. The late Preston
Onstad, president of the Benton County Historical Society, said that once
there was a marker in the street defining Avery’s corner. It has disappeared.
Avery’s west line (“thence south about one mile crossing Marys River to a
tree marked”) is along Southwest 26th Street passing Gill Coliseum, over
Philomath Boulevard and paralleling Brooklane Drive.
His south boundary (“thence east about one mile to the place of beginning,
being as near a square mile form as the material situation of the premises
will permit”) includes all of Avery Park and Avery Avenue.
At Oregon City on Nov. 23, 1847, Avery recorded a new description of his
claim, giving more precise measurements in chains and links. He attested
then that the claim was “taken & marked October 1845, improved by the
building of a cabin in Jan. 1846, and personally occupied by the making of
further improvements and residing upon same since 20th June 1846.”
Most of the immigrants of 1845 — like Avery — had come into the Willamette
Valley from the north, via the Oregon Trail to The Dalles and then through
the Columbia Gorge. Many of them wintered in the northern part of the valley
and in the next year, some of them pushed on southward beyond the Marys River.
Also in 1846, settlers came from the south over the Applegate Trail. Tolbert
Carter, arriving on the South Road, wrote in his diary that the pole cabin
at present Eugene was “the first sign of civilization we had seen in traveling
2,000 miles.” Several days later he tells, “Crossed Mary’s River ... about
50 feet across ... Here we found another pole cabin, more attractive to us
than a gorgeous palace ... inhabited by a lonely civilized ‘white’ man, whose
name was J.C. Avery.”
The Rev. A.E. Garrison reached the Marys River at about the same time: “We
took our wagons to pieces and ferried over on the smallest canoe I ever saw.”
One woman wrote, “They had to raft the wagons across. We crossed in canoes.”
Avery had left his wife, Martha Marsh, and their three small children, Charles,
Punderson and Florence, in Illinois. He arranged to have them join a wagon
train and come west in 1847. Mrs. Avery’s outfit consisted of a five-yoke
ox team and a wagon filled with provisions. She also brought two milk cows.
Her husband met them in eastern Oregon and guided the party from The Dalles
over the Cascade Range on the Barlow Trail south of Mount Hood. They left
Illinois on April 2 and arrived in Benton County of Oct. 2.
The Averys’ homes — the cabin J.C. built in 1846 and the two houses that
were later destroyed by fire — were at the south end of Fourth Street.