Corvallis, in the beginning. (from http://www2.wi.net/~census/lesson35.html)
Corvallis in the Steamboat Years 1851-1868
Donation Land Claims were still being taken in the current Corvallis
location in the early 1850s. Among those staking claims on land that is now
wholly or partially within the Corvallis city limits were James A. Bennett
(1825-? PA), Silas M. Stout, John D. Mulkey (1825-? MO), David B. Mulkey
(1830-? MO), and Frederick A. Horning (1824-? Prussia) in 1851, Prior
Scott (1826-? IN) and Charles E. Johnson (1804-? KY) in 1852, and Albert
G. Hovey in 1853.495 Many of these settlers were actually in this area earlier
but for various reasons did not secure a claim. For instance, Prior Scott
was here in 1846, having come with his sister Mary (1820-? IN) and her husband,
John W. Stewart (1800-? VA).
Other early arrivals who made bona fide claims in 1846 were: William
Whipple, Herman C. Lewis, Arnold Fuller, Thomas M. Read, Alfred Rhinehart,
John W. Stewart, J. C. Alexander, — Stemerman, Joseph Hugart, Wyman Saint
Clair, John Lloyd, William Miller, Nicholas Ownby, Augustus L. Humphrey,
N. C. Buckingham, Nimrod O'Kelly, Thomas Reeves, Col. J. S. Kendall, Alexander
Smith, Nahum King, Rowland Chambers, Aaron Richardson, Green Berry Smith,
and Lazarus Venbedder.
Joseph C. Avery
There are few names that appear more frequently in the pioneer annals
of Great Northwest history than Joseph C. Avery (1817-1870). [pictures in
Avery was born in Lucerne County, Pennsylvania, June 9, 1817. He was
educated in Wilksbarre, the county seat of his native county. He moved to
Illinois in 1839. In 1941, he married Martha Marsh. In 1845 Martha and Joseph
crossed the Great Plains, arriving at what is now Corvallis.
In the spring of 1846, Avery, who residents of Benton County remembered
as a "noble and generous man," settled on property on the north side of the
Marys River where sit flows into the Willamette.
Avery sold the first town lots, known as Little Fields, and in 1849,
after returning with others from the California goldfields, established a
store. He also built a general store which he operated for 23 years.
On January 8, 1850, Avery established a post office. The town was officially
platted and designated the seat of the newly created county of Benton in
February 1851. Known originally as Marysville, Corvallis was given its present
name in December 1853, to differentiate it from Marysville, California. Avery
coined the name Corvallis by compounding Latin words meaning "heart of the
In 1851, he platted the town of Marysville on his claim. The plat was
filed in February 1851 and consisted of 24 blocks and six fractional
blocks oriented along the Willamette. The area encompassed by the plat extended
from the Willamette west to Fifth Street, and from the current Western Avenue
on the south to Jackson Street on the north. The plat also included a ferry
lot on the Willamette between Jackson and Van Buren streets, and Avery operated
a free canoe ferry to encourage settlement here.
Avery, who died June 16, 1870, figured prominently in the politics
of the county for a quarter of a century. He was a member of the first territorial
legislature for Oregon, serving several terms.
William F. Dixon
In August 1851, William F. Dixon (1811-? MD) platted Dixon's Addition
to the town of Marysville. Dixon's Addition joined Avery's plat on the north
and consisted of six blocks between First and Third streets and Jackson and
Tyler avenues and two fractional blocks along the bank of the Willamette.
The decision to plat a town at this time was probably motivated by
several factors. J. C. Avery had already established a store, and, on January
5, 1850, a postal station called Avery in this location. The office was discontinued
September 9, 1850 when the name was changed to Marysville.
In 1851, the first steamboat navigated the Willamette as far as Corvallis,
making this location the head of navigation on the Willamette, and wharves
were heaped with freight brought up from Portland at $40 a ton. Additionally,
the Southern Oregon gold rush began in 1851. Corvallis, situated near the
overland trail to the mines and at the head of navigation, became a supply
center for those headed to and from the mines.
When Corvallis was platted in 1851, the territorial legislature designated
the town as the seat of Benton County. That same year, the southern boundary
line of Benton County, which originally extended to the California border,
was adjusted to its current location.
In 1852, the Baptists erected the first church, and a school was started.
Out of this school in 1858 grew Corvallis College.
Because of the confusion created by two towns named Marysville—Marysville,
California and Marysville, Oregon—the latter was renamed Corvallis in 1853.
J. C. Avery is credited with coining this name which he made up by compounded
the Latin words for "heart" and "valley."
Corvallis somehow escaped the raw, rough period undergone by most frontier
settlements, though there was an occasional case of homicide— mob hanging
of a half-blood or an Indian who had made trouble for settlers.
With the establishment of Marysville (Corvallis) as the county seat,
Avery and Dixon both donated land for county seat purposes. The goal was
to donate the land, sell the lots, and use the proceeds from the sale of
lots for the construction of public buildings such as a courthouse. In 1853,
Dixon signed a bond for land he donated to the county for public buildings.
This land, including some that Avery donated, became the County Addition
to the City of Corvallis, platted in 1854. A bond had to be signed because
Dixon did not yet have the patent to his claim. The County Addition consisted
of 29 blocks. Lots may have actually been sold earlier, in 1853. In 1854,
Dixon also platted Dixon’s Second Addition which added 13 blocks to the city.
In 1855, the first Benton County Courthouse was constructed from the
proceeds from the sale of lots in the County Addition. The courthouse was
built by George Wrenn. A jail was built in 1856 with the stonework and carpentry
completed by E. E. Taylor and the brickwork by William Caldwell. In 1857,
the courthouse square was enclosed by a fence and in 1861, the grounds were
planted with 150 maple trees.
Corvallis as Capital
January 13, 1855, a bill was passed by the legislature removing the
seat of territorial government from Corvallis to Jacksonville. Legislators'
baggage and office equipment were moved up the Willamette on the steamer
Canemah, which was received in Corvallis with a great demonstration. Asahel
Bush, who had been publishing the Oregon Statesman at Salem, brought along
his presses and issued the paper here. He said that Corvallis at the time
first-class courthouse [that is] is nearly completed. There is but one better
in the territory—the one at Salem... The work on the Methodist Episcopal
church here is well advanced; a couple of stores and quite a number of dwellings
have also been erected here this summer.
Avery donated a two-story, wood-frame building on the northwest corner
of Second and Adams streets for use by the legislature. Several concerns
were raised by this move including the right of a territorial government
to make that type of decision without approval from the US Government and
the fact that the US Congress had appropriated the money for the Territorial
Capitol Building which was almost completed in Salem.
Since the work had already begun on the public buildings at Salem,
opposition to the change was very strong. Gov. George L. Curry referred the
matter to the secretary of the treasury, Nathan H. Lane (1855-1856) who deemed
the change inoperative until acted upon by Congress. Curry and Benjamin Harding
(1855-1859) then removed their offices to Salem, and for the second time,
Oregon had two capitals. Asahel Bush took his Oregon Statesman along with
December 3, 1855, both Houses convened at Corvallis, and the first
bill, which was introduced December 6, was to relocate the seat of government
at Salem. This bill became law December 15, 1855. The capital was removed
December 18, 1855, the legislature met in Salem. By a strange coincidence
the new State House in which the legislature met, was destroyed by fire on
the night of December 29. Considering the sudden loss of the State House
which contained the library and archives of the territory, the legislature
decided to submit the question of locating the capital to popular vote at
the next general election. If it appeared that no town had a clear majority
of all the votes cast, a special election would be held the first Monday
in October to decide between the two receiving the greatest number of cast
At the general election held June 1856, Eugene and Corvallis had the
most votes, but neither had a clear majority. As was provided for by the
legislature, the final decision was to be made between the two cities at
the popular election in October.
However, the picture was complicated by the fact that four counties
failed to make election returns according to law, thus causing the votes
to be tied between Eugene and Salem.
Naturally, the citizens of Corvallis were greatly incensed and the
public was much disgusted. So, when the first Monday in October arrived,
few people took the trouble to vote. In many places, no polls were opened
at all. Five counties made no returns to the secretary.
As a result of this shabby election, Eugene received the largest majority
of votes and became the seat of justice.
In the mid-1850s, Indian wars erupted in Southern Oregon. At least
one regiment maintained headquarters in Corvallis. As a result of the Indian
wars in Southern Oregon, government policy required the removal of Native
Americans from that region. Reservations were created on public lands located
in the Coast Range. One of these reserves, the Siletz Reservation, was located
in what was then Benton County. "The government held that it was outlawry
on either side." As a result, Fort Hoskins was built in King's Valley. Supplies
for the fort were shipped to Corvallis until the fort was decommissioned
In January 1857, the City of Corvallis was incorporated. J. B. Congle
became the first mayor. Corvallis was the fourth incorporated city in the
state. That same year, Avery platted Avery's Addition, located adjacent to
and south of the original townsite.
By the time Oregon achieved statehood in 1859, Corvallis had a population
of almost 500 people. Because mining activity has slowed, Corvallis experienced
economic lassitude at this time. In the early 1860s, gold was discovered
in Eastern Oregon and Idaho. While Corvallis was not on the direct route
to the mines as it had been in the early 1850s, there was still a demand
for resources of the area including grain, other foodstuffs and livestock.
Individual wealth was increased for those finding a more lucrative market
for their products and in some cases, by an actual trip to the mines.
In December 1861, there was a devastating Willamette River flood which
"destroyed" the rival town of Orleans located across the river from Corvallis.
Damage in Corvallis was not great. A warehouse was carried away and another
started from its foundations.
Perhaps because of the number of lots and blocks platted in the 1850s
met the demand for land, there was no real expansion of Corvallis in the
1860s even though the population had more than doubled during the decade
from 1860-1870—from 53 in 1860 to 1,220 in 1870.
In the decade from 1870 to 1880, population growth slowed with a gain
of only 576 people. In this decade, two additions were platted by J. C. Avery:
Avery's Second Addition, consisting of five blocks, was platted in 1871;
and Avery's Third Addition was platted in 1872. The end of the mining boom,
the Panic of 1873, and the completion of the rail line through Albany, may
have been among the reasons for the sluggish rate of "progress" in Corvallis
in the 1870s. With the exception of its own railroad connection, however,
Corvallis was poised on the brink of a new era. In 1879, The West Shore revealed
Since it has become a fixed fact that the Oregon Central Railroad will be
extended to Corvallis, next summer, real estate has perceptibly enhanced
in value, and is changing hands. Several new buildings will go up early in
the spring, and various improvements will be made. With railroad connections,
Corvallis is destined to be one of the liveliest and most desirable business
places, as it is the handsomest, in Oregon.
Stagecoaches rumbled over the crude roads, and in 1856, workmen strung
the city's first telegraph line to the state metropolis. The following year
the city was divided into wards, and an ordinance was passed prohibiting
people from riding horses on the sidewalks. The second newspaper, the Union,
began publication in 1859 and continued until 1862, when it was suppressed
for disloyal utterances. It was almost immediately succeeded by the Gazette,
which for a time in the early 1870s was owned and edited by Samuel Leonidas
Simpson (1846-1899), the poet.
Simpson has been called the "Burns of Oregon." His father, Benjamin
Simpson, who was Scottish, was born in Tennessee, 1818. His mother was a
granddaughter of Colonel Cooper, a companion of Daniel Boone (c1734-1820)
In 1846, Simpson crossed the Great Plains to Oregon with his parents.
His mother taught him the alphabet when he was four years old by tracing
letters in the ashes on the hearthstone of the primitive cabin in Marion
County in which the family lived.
The first poems he ever read were selections from a worn volume of
Robert Burns (1759-1796) which were presented to him mother by John McLoughlin,
at Oregon City, where the Simpson family spent the first winter. An occasional
country school of three months afforded the only opportunity for the boy
had for education until he was 15. Then he was employed in his father's sutler's
store at Fort Yamhill, a military post near the Grand Ronde Reservation.
Here he became acquainted with then 2nd Lt. Philip H. Sheridan (1831-1888),
who gave him a copy of Lord Byron's (1788-1824) poems.
When he was 16, Simpson entered Willamette University in Salem, where
he graduated In 1865. Soon afterwards he became editor of the Oregon Statesman,
continuing there until the paper folded in 1886. He was admitted to the bar
in 1867, but clients were few and the law was not to his liking. In 1868,
he wrote his only popular piece, "Beautiful Willamette."
Benton County Mills
In May 1846, with his two sisters and a brother-in-law, judge Augustus
L. Humphrey, Jacob M. Currier migrated to Oregon. The John Baker family and
Joseph Alexander traveled West with them. The party arrived in Corvallis,
December 5, 1846. Currier took out a claim at Dallas in the autumn of 1847.
In November, he enlisted in the army and fought under Cpt. John Owen
in the Indian War that raged east of the Cascades.
He left for the California goldfields in the autumn of 1948, but returned
to Oregon in 1849; and in 1850, he homesteaded a 1600 acre stock ranch in
Currier and his wife had seven children: William A., Manly C., Laura,
Elizabeth II, John B., Sarah and Eva.
The first gristmill in Benton County, built prior to 1850, was known
as the Herbert Mill. A very primitive operation, it was built on Beaver Creek
near the Currier place. The meal, as it came from the burs, was carried up
stairs and run through the bolt by hand; one man ran while the other put
in the meal.
In 1853, Rowland Chambers built a gristmill at Kings Valley, and the
town developed around it. The original wheel and several of the feed grinders
were still in use in 1951. The power for the mill was furnished by the Luckiamute,
named for the Lakmiut, a subdivision of the Calapooya, who made their homes
on its banks.
Another gristmill was built some three miles further up Beaver Creek,
in 1854. A sawmill was built in that same location in 1852, and in 1884 was
removed to Monroe.
Herbert crossed the Great Plains in 1845, and settled in Benton County
in 1847. John Foster and John Baker also settled on their claims in 1847,
and Isaac Winkle settled on his claim in 1848.
In 1847, the Old California Trail crossed Marys River near the Eldridge
Hartless place. It passed near the home of J. M. Currier, following the foothills,
and continued up Long Tom River, which was dreaded by winter travelers. The
low banks invariably overflowed at flood times, which made it appear to be
an almost interminable swamp.
The same—or the following—year, Joseph White built a sawmill on Long
Tom River in the vicinity of the town of Monroe. This mill made a great deal
of lumber for a few years, and was the main supplier of lumber for all the
surrounding country. By the time the mill needed repairs, the timber was
exhausted and it was allowed to elapse into decay.
Water-powered mills, with up-and-down malay [sic] saws, cut the boards
for Oregon's earliest houses. The first steam-driven mill, with a circular
saw, was built in Portland in 1850, while teams of oxen were busy hauling
logs down skidroads which are now Portland streets.
By 1890, when the exhaustion of the forests of the Great Lakes region
was in sight, Oregon began to be prominent as a lumber state. The lumberjacks
followed the timber west. It is common to find loggers in Oregon today whose
fathers helped cut the pine of Michigan, and whose grandfathers helped fell
and saw the spruce of Maine.
Timber owners built mills in the Willamette Valley and pushed logging
railroads into the foothills.