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WPA Historical Records
Benton Co., Oregon
Mark Phinney








May, 1938

Mrs. ALCORN was interviewed at her home on the corner of 8th and Adams streets in Corvallis, where she and her husband are passing their declining years. Mrs. ALCORN had not a great deal of information about the early times, and her recollections were supplemented somewhat by information gleaned from her brother, Lincoln ALLEN of Kings Valley, Mr. ALLEN'S recollections were so fragmentary that it did not seem best to write them up separately.

My grandfather, Charles ALLEN, took a donation land claim in Kings Valley about 1846. His claim adjoined that of Rowland CHAMBERS who built the mill at Kings Valley. He was not a member of the King party, I think, but came about the same time. Grandmother Allen died in 1864 and was buried in the Kings Valley cemetery, which was on grandfather's claim and for which he gave the land. Grandmother's name was Hetty Ann.  Soon after grandmother's death grandfather sold out and moved to Washington where he remarried and spent the rest of his life.

Grandfather's family, so far as I can recall them, were: My father, Joseph W.; Dave ALLEN; Morris, who married a girl named PITMAN (sic Nancy COOPER); and Emily who married a man named BUMP (sic Pitman BUMP). Emily's son, Clarence BUMP, now lives on a farm near Kings Valley.

My father, Joseph Witham ALLEN, was born in1846. My mother, Julia Ann RITNER, was born in Missouri in 1848. Mother's brother, Lew RITNER, is still living at the old home near Peedee, in Polk County. Grandfather, Sebastain RITNER, was a German-speaking Swiss and never really mastered English. He came to Polk County about 1845 and took a donation land claim on the Luckiamute River at the mouth of Ritner Creek just north of the Benton-Polk County line. Grandmother RITNER had been Sarah WOODLING. She first married John RITNER, my grandfather's brother, in Missouri. When grandfather sent word he had a claim located for his brother the family started west, in 1852.

On the way across the plains the Indians succeeded in stampeding the stock, including the oxen drawing the wagons. In attempting to stop his run-away team John RITNER fell in front of them and was run over and killed by the wagon. Grandmother afterward married her brother-in-law, Sebastian.

My mother was a daughter of Grandmother's first husband, John RITNER. My parents were married in 1864. They passed their lives farming in Kings Valley and are buried in the Kings Valley cemetery. Their children were Tom, who runs the Beaver pool hall in Corvallis; Netty (MILLER) of Albany, Sarah (BUSH) of Kings Valley, myself, Lucy, who died in childhood, Lille (SIMPSON), and Reatha (SIMPSON).

I was born in 1871. As a little girl I spent a good deal of time with grandmother RITNER. She used to tell me many things about her experiences but I have forgotten most of them. Grandmother always kept a large flock of geese. The soldiers from Fort Hoskins when riding that way would often take advantage of a living target and shoot one of grandmother's geese. As they always paid for what they killed, grandmother was not greatly put out.

In 1894 I married W. S. ("Bud") ALCORN, who had come from the east about 1890. We lived on a farm on the Luckiamute River above Hoskins, where our son Dale now lives. We have come to town to spend our declining days. Our children are Vernon, Irma (Mrs. ROCHE), and Dale.




Mrs. ANDERSON was interviewed at her home at 541 South Fifth Street, Corvallis, Oregon, in the interval of her attendance at sessions of the Circuit Court as a juror. She said:

"My father John CUMMINGS, son of Hugh and Beulah CUMMINGS, was born in 1844 and came with his parents by ox-team from Iowa to Oregon in 1852. The CUMMINGS family settled about three miles south of Peoria. Besides my father the children were John, Berry, Willia, Henry, Newton, Ollie, and Eliza. I have heard my father say there was no difficulty with the Indians and no serious sickness on the trip, and the greatest discomfort he suffered was having to help drive the stock barefooted through the cactus of the western plains. At the end of the day his feet would be raw and swollen from the sharp pines. "

"From about the time father was seventeen years old he carried the mail from Albany to Eugene on horseback. For four years he did this, making the trip in one direction one day and returning the next day. He washed dishes at the hotels to pay his board and on the nights he was in Albany he attended night school to improve his education. He had had little opportunity for schooling before that time. The night school seems to have been a private school and as I remember, there were several pupils. "

"My mother was Katherine PALMER. Her father's name was Abel. Mother was born near New York City and her people came to Oregon at an early date on a sailing vessel around the Horn. Besides my mother the children were Marietta, Ann, Sally, Thomas, and Lyman. My parents were married in 1866. Besides myself the children were George, Hugh, and May. May married a Mr. IRVINE, brother to B. F. IRVINE, well known Oregon journalist. "

"My father never followed any business but farming. He was interested in fine sheep and raised much grain. He was not especially interested in politics and never ran for office. "

"I was born in 1872 and attended school first at the Lake Creek school house in Linn County and then at Halsey. The only teacher whose name I can now recall was a Mr. VAN WINKLE, brother of I. H. VAN WINKLE who has for many years been the attorney general of Oregon. "

"I first married Ed. WARD, but he was indisposed to support myself and our daughter and I refused to support him. Several years later I married Mr. Lee ANDERSON. Mr. ANDERSON was a farmer and later kept a general store in Philomath. He is now steward of the Elks' Club in Corvallis. "I believe those people get on best whom are willing to help themselves. Because I was not afraid to work I was able to support myself and daughter." My father's farm was about five miles south of Peoria on the Willamette bottoms."



Supplementing "MEMORIES" of
Mrs. S. E. S. YORK

Mrs. ANDERSEN was interviewed at the residence of her daughter on the Pacific Highway in South Corvallis. The address is Route 3. Mrs. ANDERSEN is in full possession of her faculties and speaks with interest of the past. Her interview is brief because the ground is so well covered in the 'Memories' of her sister. "My father was Conrad SLAGLE and my mother was Mary ROSS. They crossed the plains from Missouri in 1852. The story of the trip is told in the 'Memories' of my sister, Sarah SLAGLE YORK. Father stopped for a time with a brother, Jake SLAGLE, about thirteen miles from Corvallis. In 1853 he took a claim near Eugene, but sold that in 1860 and moved to the Applegate River in Jackson County.

"My parents had five children when they crossed the plains. They were David, Sarah, Martha, James and Temperance. My brother Jacob and I were born in Oregon. I attended school in the Missouri Flat Schoolhouse in Jackson County, This school got its name from Missouri. Among my teachers I remember were Mr. MYERS, Mr. DRAPER, Mr. CURTIS, and Mrs. BLACK. We studied just the common subjects. We had a class in History. "

"About 1877 1 came to Benton County and was working for a family near Bellfountain. There I met Jens P. ANDERSEN who became my husband. He was born in Denmark and had been all over the world as a sailor. He had been five times around the Horn. At last he tired of the sea and settled in Benton County. We were married in 1888, and spent our lives farming in Benton County. Our children are Mary (LYLE), and Neva (AYERS). "

"My sister's "memories" was taken down in shorthand just as my sister recalled them, by her daughter, Cora. This Cora YORK is now employed in an office in Portland, Oregon. "




Mr. ARMSTRONG was interviewed at the home of William CLARK, at whose home he is stopping at present. Mr. ARMSTRONG is a man of limited education, but he speaks intelligently of the early days in Central Oregon. He said:

"My father was Sylvester ARMSTRONG and my mother was Narcissa EDELMAN. They were married in Arkansas and came to Oregon sometime before 1860. They settled on a little farm on a creek near Burns in Harney County, I was born in 1863. Besides myself the children were Johan, Lansing, Anderson, Samuel, Arthur and Nannie. Anderson and Samuel are still living in Eastern Oregon. Arthur lives in Linn County and Lansing lives near Alpine in this county. Nannie is married to a man named CROSSLEY and lives in California. "

"Harney County was a grazing country in the early days. Cattle were raised there at first and sheep came later and more or less crowded the cattle back. There was trouble between the cattle and sheep men and much fighting and shooting on general principles. On one occasion I knew about two men who went back into the hills, and while one kept the sheep herder covered the other proceeded to shoot sheep until he was tired of the sport. When they left the herder let his sheep wander and trailed the two killers to their cabin. He watched all night and killed the men as they came out, one at a time, in the morning. "

"There was much drinking and gambling, and of course there were "bad men". On one occasion when I was a boy two gamblers especially posed as bad men. They were Til GLAZE and Bud HOWARD. GLAZE was a musician. There was enmity between them and one day they agreed to shoot it out. They allowed their left shoes to be tacked to the floor, toe to toe. Then they clasped left hands, drew their six-shooters and proceeded to kill each other. "

"We lived about six miles from Burns and I had to go about a mile to school. We had both men and women teachers but I cannot recall any of their names. The school was small as settlers were scattered. There was only five or six months school in a year. "

"There were no religious services in the community. There were great gatherings and shooting matches on the holidays, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. There was always a good deal of drinking. There was little organized cattle rustling for the markets were too far away. Anybody who needed beef for food felt free to kill one on the range. Often he could find unbranded cattle, but if not he killed one with a brand on. "

"When I was old enough I rode the range for six years, and believe me, that is hard work. Then I worked on the ranches, herded sheep, or helped with the shearing. At first all the sheep were sheared by hand power. Some man would collect a gang of shearers and go from ranch to ranch and from district to district, from early spring until well into summer. Some of the men became so expert that they could shear 150 or more sheep in one day. In later years gasoline engines were used for power and many sets of clippers were geared to one drive shaft. In this way a man could shear many more sheep, and do it better and with less exertion. "

"For a time I carried the mail from Diamond post office to Anderson and Smith post offices. Diamond was about fifty miles from Burns, and the other places were ranch post offices about seven or eight miles apart. In 1924 I came to the Willamette and have worked about in town and country since. I was never married. "



Mrs. AVERILL was interviewed at her home just across the Willamette River from Corvallis, in Linn County, Mrs. AVERILL'S keenness of mind is indicated in her manner, and her recollections deserve fullest confidence. She said:

"My parents were Samuel L. and Lucina ROBISON. They came from Missouri to Oregon in 1871, when I was eleven years old. Father went first to the Applegate country in Josephine and Jackson Counties, but did not like the prospects there and went to Coos County in 1873. He followed fanning, dairying and stock-raising. Butter was packed in kegs and shipped to the San Francisco market, but the business suffered from the varying quality of farm butter. On one occasion, at a neighbor's solicitation, mother put her butter in with others to take advantage of the better price obtained in San Francisco. Because the butter in the keg was not uniform in color the whole lot was sent back to be worked over and blended thoroughly. Potatoes came to be raised quite extensively in the Coos Bay district for the San Francisco market. "I went to school in Coos County in what is now called the Fish Trap district. It was a large district then, with a log school house on a ridge of hills. Mrs. Addie PAULI and Mrs. LAMEY were some of the teachers. After a few months in California my folks moved to Bandon in the early 'nineties'. There I married William Henry Harrison AVERILL in 1892. "

"My husband's father, came to Oregon in 1852 and took a claim at the Riverside Community in Linn County just above Albany, The claim was on the low ground near the river and there was a scourge of malaria. There he lost a wife and several small children. He sold his place and moved to Tangent. He married a Mrs. JACK, and the children were Henrietta (step-daughter), and Alfred, Pearne, and my husband William H. H. "

"My husband first engaged in business at Summer Lake in the Klamath country in Eastern Oregon. There he had a store and traded with the Indians. He was the first settler at that place, but was soon followed by his brother Alfred, and others. All the merchandise in his store he hauled from Oregon City or Portland, up the middle fork of the Willamette River along the general route of the present Natron Cutt-off of the Southern Pacific R.R. "

"At his farm on the west side of the lake he raised grain, garden truck and fruit. His farm was sheltered by high bluffs to the west and the cold was tempered by the lake, and he was able to raise peaches and apricots, even though the elevation is high and the winters severe. "

"Mr AVERILL came to Coos County in 1880, and there he became engaged in business in partnership with George DYER. They conducted a general merchandise store and Bandon was built on their land. We were married in 1892. My husband's children by the first marriage were Euphemia Ann, James Stevens, Lorena Alice, Edgar Francis, Harry Cleveland, and Harrison Moss. Edgar AVERILL has been president of the State Game Commission, and has for years been employed by the Federal Biological Survey, and interested in the preservation of wild life and game. "

"My children are Almira Henrietta, William Samuel, Warren Lamson, Linn, and Lucina. William is now Agricultural Agent for Benton County. "

"In 1895 we came to Linn County and my husband farmed near Brownsville. He also built a grain warehouse and conducted a grain business in Brownsville. At that time there were almost no gardens and no clover raised in all this district. The land was being killed by continuous cropping to grain. Now it is being brought back. People are realizing that the soil values must be conserved and built up. Soon the original fertility will be brought back. "

"My father's children were Arvilla Ann, John Oregon (so-called because father had long wanted to come to Oregon), George Texas, Franklin Benton, Rocky Cincinnatus, Caleb Tennessee, Price Seth, and Martha Jane, which is myself."

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