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Conser family supports plan to turn pioneer house into Jefferson museum

Conser family supports plan to turn pioneer house into Jefferson museum

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Descendants of Jacob Conser support a plan to turn the settler’s home, the city of Jefferson’s most historic building, into a local museum.

“We need to preserve our Oregon heritage, especially the pioneers who came across the Oregon Trail,” said James Conser, the great-great-grandson of Jacob Conser.

He sits on a city of Jefferson committee that will determine the final use of the Conser House, 114 Main St.

During Jefferson’s annual Festival of Flowers from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, attendees can tour the Conser House, which will be transformed into a living history display.

Residents also can take part in an informal vote about the future of the city-owned structure, which served as Jefferson’s library for decades.

The Conser family remains proud of their ancestor’s part in shaping the Willamette Valley, and of Jacob Conser’s business acumen.

They think, over the generations, the apple never fell far from the tree.

Jacob Conser helped found the city of Jefferson, became the first mayor of the town and served as an Oregon Territory legislator.

The savvy businessman also had several irons in the fire.

The pioneer created a ferry so other settlers could travel across the Santiam River; Jefferson was initially called Conser’s Ferry.

Jacob Conser also owned a sawmill, and he used that to build his 1854 house, the first structure in Jefferson that wasn’t a log cabin.

A portion of the house was used as a hotel and a stage stop for people wanting to use the ferry. He later created a flour and grist mill, and became part owner of a stocking factory, the Beaver Hosiery Manufacturing Co.

The extended family operation of businesses was named Jacob Conser & Sons, or sometimes J. Conser & Sons.

That latter name would be apropos for the current development and building businesses for the family, the Conser Group.

In their own way, the Conser family continues to shape the region and demonstrate entrepreneurial and pioneering spirit.

“I guess it’s in the genes,” added Matthew Conser, one of James Conser’s three sons.

James Conser founded the organization in 1974, and his sons now are all part owners with him and his wife, Mary Kay Conser.

Greg Conser, 58, is the builder of the family. Matthew Conser, 54, is in charge of development for the Conser Group. Stuart Conser, 51, acts as the chief financial officer.

The father now serves as an adviser for his sons, who take turns as president of the Conser Group.

The organization started out as a manufactured home retailer, but ended up doing a lot of site improvements.

James Conser naturally branched out into creating mobile home parks, such as Columbus Greens in Southeast Albany.

His sons helped develop the parks, digging ditches, planting trees and more.

“We started talking over cocktails, ‘Why don’t we start building houses? It can’t be any harder that what we’ve been doing,’” Greg Conser recalled.

With the city of Albany selling foreclosed building lots in the Deerfield Addition area, the business evolved again.

Building their own houses ensured that the family was selling quality products, James Conser said.

People purchasing those homes needed to sell their own houses and help with financing, and that led to two additional aspects of the Conser Group, real estate and mortgage services.

In recent decades, the Conser Group has built more than 500 houses in the area, including the first modern subdivisions in North Albany, Millersburg and Tangent.

The organization also branched out into developing apartments and commercial sites, and was instrumental in creating Heritage Mall, the Albany Lowe’s store and more.

Throughout all the changes, the family has focused on its reputation.

“What’s the most important thing you own? Your name,” James Conser said.

And that name has deep and meaningful roots in the mid-Willamette Valley.

Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.

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