Inasmuch as I am a direct descendant of Joseph Conant Avery (hereafter referred to as J.C., the name affectionately used by family members in my lifetime), I feel some pushback is fitting regarding the Oregon State University report on J.C. Avery and his times. The Oct. 13 Gazette-Times article on the report was headlined “Historic Report Connects Corvallis Founder to Pro-Slavery Newspaper.”
I have repeatedly read the subject report and would suggest that perhaps a more appropriate newspaper headline would have been “Historical Report Concludes No Direct Evidence of J.C. Avery being Pro-Slavery, A White Supremacist, Nor the Owner/Publisher of The Occidental Messenger.” Without themselves taking the time to read the full report impressionable students, and others, will most likely conclude just the opposite from viewing the headline used. The subject report did a decent job of exonerating the negative accusations currently being tossed about by many in their attempt to defame J.C. Avery. With regards to the ownership of the proverbial printing press: As a successful businessman there are other reasons J.C. may have owned that particular press and die set. Does anyone really know? Doubtful: after all, the events in question took place some 160 years ago.
I herein compliment the writers of the subject report for the detail of J.C.’s political life. Admittedly I knew nothing about the Salem Clique before the discussion in the report. Coincidentally, or maybe not, the OSU Press released a new publication this past summer titled "The Salem Clique," by Barbara S Mahoney. I am looking forward to getting my own copy and reading about the political machine that J.C. was up against. After having read the book's preamble it is safe to say that J.C. was not dealing with a group of choir boys. The political stakes were enormous! Can you imagine: If only J.C. had prevailed, Oregon would have entered statehood with the city of Corvallis being its state capital. Give that some thought.
I am critical of the subject report's discussion pertaining to the Corvallis School Board's naming of a new middle school after J.C. and Martha Avery 13 years ago. Board members elected to take the easy way out and they caved from the weight of anecdotal evidence and outright lies presented to them. Simply put, they were hoodwinked.
I am further critical as to how the summary and conclusion paragraph in the report is written. Why such a disconnect from the facts stated in the previous 15 pages? Was the summary and conclusion statement a consensus of the five team members involved or was it driven by one member only? By means of a brief background check on each of the five research team appointees I was able to determine that because of career agendas, one or more of those team members should have considered recusal. Being impartial is paramount here.
For the curious, here is my lineage by surname, and a couple of other Avery tidbits: Joseph Conant “J.C.” Avery (1817-1876); Punderson Avery (1843-1912); Grover C. Avery (1883-1971); Punderson Avery (1912-1992); Gary G. Avery (born in 1940), the writer of this letter.
When researching Corvallis history, you are apt to become confused when coming across the name Punderson Avery. Yes, there were two, my father and my great-grandfather. Also confusing is the fact that neither one of them was given a middle name. Within our branch of the family tree there was a grandmother whose maiden name was Hannah Punderson. On more than one occasion, Avery family elders told me that the Punderson Avery born in 1843, a successful Corvallis businessman and banker, did more for the advancement of the university than his father J.C.