Avery A Smith

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1858 – Avery A Smith
Avery Arnold Smith, 1st Secretary

The life and times of Avery A. Smith

Avery Arnold Smith was born in New York in 1820. He is suspected to be a descendant of Rev. Henry Smith, who is thought to have immigrated to New England to escape the persecution of Archbishop Laud, 1636-7. He settled first at Watertown, near Boston; afterward removed to Wethersfield, Connecticut, where he died in 1648. Rev. Henry Smith was the grandson of John Smith Harris, born 1542 in Withcock, Leicestershire, England. His son Ambrose Smith, born about 1561, married Margaret the daughter of Sir William Cecil, Knight, and Lord of Burleigh, Lord High Treasurer, and Chief advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. Richard Smith was born in Connecticut in 1640. He was a son of Henry Smith, who was thought to be the same as Rev. Henry Smith. Avery A. Smith can be clearly connected to this Richard Smith. Richard Smith, born 1640, married Bathsheba, the daughter of James Rogers, who had settled in New London, Connecticut. James was born on February 2, 1615, in Leiden, Holland; his father Thomas was a member of the English Separatist Church and had gone to Holland in about 1613 with his wife and children. His first wife Alice Cosford died before 1616, so James would have been the last child born before her death. Thomas Rogers married second to Grace Elizabeth Makin on January 24, 1616, in Leiden. Thomas Rogers and his eldest son Joseph sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620, leaving his wife and younger children in Holland. Thomas survived the trip but died on January 11, 1621, during the first winter at Plymouth. James Rogers came to America with his siblings andstepmotherr sometime after this. James Rogers married Elizabeth Rowland in 1639 in Stratford, Fairfield, Connecticut. Their daughter Bathsheba was born in Stratford on December 30, 1650. Bathsheba Rogers married Richard Smith and their son James was born in New London, Connecticut on April 12, 1674. James Rogers married his first cousin Elizabeth Rogers, the daughter of his mother’s brother, Jonathan Rogers. James Smith and Elizabeth Rogers settled in Groton, Connecticut where their son Richard Smith was born in 1715. Richard Smith, Sr. and his wife Abigail Gardner had a son also named Richard who was born in 1746 in Groton. Richard Smith, Jr. was a Revolutionary War Soldier, and served as a private in the 6th Connecticut Regiment. In 1774 Richard Smith, Jr. married Elizabeth Allen in Groton, and they had at least five children. Their son Avery Smith was born in Groton on February 18, 1779. Eventually the Smith family moved into western New York and settled in that part of Ontario County, which later became Yates County in 1823.

Avery Smith, Sr. settled in the area of the town of Milo in what was then Ontario County, New York. Around 1807 he married Susanna Lament, Wagener who was born on November 13, 178,7 in Worchester, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. They had 12 children between 1808 and 1830. Avery Smith was a Soldier in the War of 1812. He was the Lt. Colonel in the 103rd Regiment, New York Militia. First noted as a Lt. Col. in 1805, he continued his service throughout the war. As a politician; Smith served in the New York State Assembly as a representative from Yates County in 1826. He also served as supervisor of the town of Milo from 1818 to 1823.

The eighth of twelve children born to Avery and Lament Smith was Avery Arnold Smith, born in Milo, Ontario, New York on February 14, 1820. Avery graduated from Geneva College, his father having relocated to that town sometime after his wife died in 1835 “He (Avery Jr.) lived in that state until twenty-two years old, then went to Dubuque, Iowa, where, for about six years, he worked at carpentering and mining. He helped to erect the first brick residence ever constructed there. In 1849 he went to the gold fields of California, by way of Panama, where he made much money and saw many exciting events. Later he made a trip to Oregon, but soon returned to California.” Avery returned to the east, but soon came back to Oregon. In 1853 he went to Indiana and joined the wagon train under Captain George Belshaw, Jr., and thereby again made his way to Oregon. The wagon train faced numerous problems, including a runaway stampede, a tornado, and floods. The Belshaw wagon train was said to have arrived in Oregon on September 6, 1853. Upon his second arrival in Oregon Avery Smith settled in Albany, Linn county, and secured a half-section of land. He was engaged in the general merchandise business there a year and a half, then moved to Eugene City, Lane county, and again engaged in the merchantile business. Soon after his arrival in Eugene City, he married Helen M. the daughter of Richard Henry Parsons. The Parsons had also resided in Ontario County, New York before making their way to Scipio, Seneca, Ohio where Helen was born on May 2, 1836. Members of the Parsons family were part of the Belshaw wagon train, and the brother of Captain George Belshaw, Thomas, was married to Helen’s sister Mariah Parsons. It has not been found clearly stated that the 17 year old Helen was part of the Belshaw train, but it seems most likley. Avery A. Smith and Helen Parsons were married in Eugene City on October 5, 1854.
P. Brattain Esqr., Dear Sirs:

Please record that Avery A. Smith Esqr. Of Eugene City, Lane County, Oregon Territory and Miss. Helen M. Parsons of Lane County, Oregon were by me married on this 5th day of October, A.D. 1854, recorded on October 10, 1854.

Thomas H. Pearne Minister of the Gospel.
____ Hawley Deputy Auditor Lane County.

Avery and Helen had 8 children between 1856 and 1870, all born in Eugene City.

1. Oliver Born April 21, 1856, Died July 20, 1856
2. Frank C. Born December 10, 1857, Died July 20, 1920
3. Herbert H. Born August 25, 1859, Died July 20, 1941
4. Avery Lee Born September 9, 1861, Died March 6, 1951
5. Freeman Born May 1, 1864, Died August 6, 1865
6. Mary Jane Born January 15, 1866, Died January 18, 1895
7. Jennie Louise Born June 26, 1868, Died December 10, 1910
8. Fred Herman Born September 14, 1870, Died March 27, 1940

Avery Smith took a very active part in politics, holding at different times nearly every office in Lane county. In 1854 he was elected a member of the territorial legislature, serving three years, and at one time he was the candidate of his party for governor.

“Avery immediately set his money to work and became involved in several business ventures. He had a mercantile in downtown Eugene between eighth and ninth on Willamette. He also had a flour mill, a large four-story building (there is a sketch of it in the Lane County Pioneer Museum) along with some other business buildings of that time.

He owned property along what is now the millrace, and went into partnership with Hilyard Shaw to build the Millrace out of what was then a natural slough. “The workers used crude hand tools, and were paid fifty cents to a dollar a day for a man and a team. When the Millrace was completed, Shaw built a sawmill, later a grist mill.”

Avery was a County Clerk and a member of the Oregon Chief Clerks Council in 1855. He submitted the plans for the first Lane County Courthouse. As history reads; Eugene Skinner and Charnelton Mulligan owned the land and were to donate it for the courthouse, but there was some dispute and eventually the plans of Avery A. Smith were accepted.

Avery was president of the first Lane County Fair and also Vice President of the Oregon State Fair. At one time he was President of the Agriculture Society.

Avery was very successful in the 1850’s and into the 1860’s. The 1860 Census showed Avery was a Lumber Merchant with $7,000 in Real Estate and $5,000 Personal assets. The Eugene City Register showed that in 1863 he had a General Merchandise business, the “Empire Store” in the old Herald Building. In 1865 he sold his stock to William Osborn and retired from that business. He had trouble with his debtors and pleaded for payment that same year. In 1868 he owned the “Cash and Country Produce” General Merchandise store , and in 1869 he owned a Harness shop at the corner of 9th and Willamette. His business dealings must have gone poorly for there is a considerable drop in his property value as shown in the census between 1860 and 1870. “ In 1870 he was a Well Driver with $500 in Personal assets and no listed Real Estate. The Eugene Guard notes on March 18, 1870 that Avery Smith was an Agent for “Green’s Driven Well”, the Green system worked by driving in a spiked tube pipe into the ground, without removing the earth, and using a vacuum to draw up the water.

He left the state of Oregon and came to Washington in 1878, locating about seven or eight miles southeast of Cheney, where he followed farming and mining. In 1881 he served as probate judge for a term of two years and was the first Probate Judge in Spokane, then known as Spokane Falls District. Later he was probate clerk for two terms. He was Justice of the Peace for 18 years and for three years a member of the Washington State Legislature. The 1880 and 1900 census’s showed that Avery was a Farmer. By 1900 he was located in Rock Creek Precinct, Spokane. His wife Helen died on February 23, 1910, and Avery moved to Pioneer Precinct, Spokane, Washington, where he lived with his son Fred and his family. Avery A. Smith died in Spangle, Spokane, Washington on March 18, 1911, at the age of 91.
Masonic Service:

We are not told when Avery Smith joined the Masonic Fraternity. It may have been while he was in New York, but that seems unlikely since he left the state, at age 22, have just passed his majority. His years in Iowa are a more likely time for him to have joined Masonry. We do know that he was indeed a Mason by the time he arrived in Oregon in 1853. He may be the same as the Avery Smith who was a member of Salem Lodge #4 in 1853. He was soon associated with the Masons of Lane County, and with them set to work to Charter Spencer Butte Lodge, whose name was changed to Eugene City Lodge No. 11 at the time of Chartering. At the formation of the Lodge Avery Smith was duly elected Secretary on October 6, 1855, and was elected to that position for the years 1856 and 1857. He was elected Worshipful Master for the years 1858-1860, 1863, 1865 and 1869. In between, he served as Senior Deacon for the Lodge in 1864. After his sixth term as Master of Eugene City Lodge No. 11 in 1869, Avery Smith did no further service as an officer for that Lodge.

In the Grand Lodge Avery Smith served as the Senior Grand Warden for Grand Masters Benjamin Stark in 1858-59, Amory Holbrook in 1859-60 and John McCracken in 1863-64. Brother Smith was the Deputy Grand Master during MWB John McCracken’s 2nd term in 1864-65. Avery Smith was elected the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Oregon in June of 1867 after the previous Deputy Grand Master C. H. Lewis declined election. MWB Avery Smith served as Grand Master for two consecutive terms 1867-68 and 1868-69.
As noted Avery’s fortunes in Eugene City seemed to have diminished by the 1870’s and he eventually removed from the Oregon jurisdiction and settled in Cheney, Washington near Spokane in 1878. His dues falling into arrears he was dropped from Eugene City Lodge on March 3, 1880. He seems to have made an attempt to rectify the situation on July 7, 1880 when a sum of $42 was ordered “taken in payment of Bro. A.A. Smith’s note and the same be assigned to Bro. J.G. Gray who was Bro. A.A. Smith’s security”. What this means is unclear, but it did not result in his reinstatement. MWB Smith did not follow up on this until 1895. He was thereby effective dropped from Masonry for the next 15 years. Finally, on December 27, 1895, the Lodge received a letter from Bro. Smith requesting that the Lodge remit his past dues, reinstate him as a member in good standing and then allow him to demit so that he could again participate in Masonry. His request was granted by the Lodge.

A local Lodge was started in Cheney, Washington in about 1882, and was Chartered on June 7, 1883 as Temple Lodge No. 42 F.&A.M. To what degree, if any, Bro. Smith participated in the events and affairs of Temple Lodge prior to 1895, is unknown. It is certain that MWB Smith joined Temple Lodge after getting his demit from Eugene City Lodge No. 11. Brother Rowe Weber researching, in 1955, how such an eminent member of the fraternity could be dropped, contacted the Grand Historian of Oregon John C. Wilkinson. Brother Wilkinson contacted the Grand Secretary of Washington RWB John Preissner and was told that having received his demit from Eugene City, Lodge No. 11, Bro. Avery Smith was made a member of Temple Lodge No. 42 on April 30, 1895. This is not likely as his demit was not granted until December 27, 1895. It must therefore be an error and should probably read that he was a member starting on April 30, 1896. Bro. Smith remained a member of Temple Lodge for the rest of his life, and it was that Lodge which conducted his Masonic funeral service in 1911.

His death was noted by the Oregon Grand Master Thomas Baldwin at the Grand Communication held at the Masonic Temple in Portland on June 12, 1912.

There is one piece of Eugene Masonic lore that needs correcting. The histories of Lodge No.11 include an inherited flaw based on the use of the word “from” instead of “by”. The minutes of the Lodge clearly state that the Lodge room was rented by Avery Smith. The word “by”, however, was replaced by the word “from” and the story was passed down incorrectly thereafter. A deeper look into the minutes of the Lodge reveals the correct answer. At the first recorded meeting of the Lodge on September 29, 1855, the following was noted: “On motion of Bro. Hiram Smith, it was ordered unanimous that this Lodge receive the room rented by A. A. Smith and assume the rent thereof from the fifteenth of June 1855. At the rate of one hundred and sixty two dollars and a half per annum.” This informs us that the room was rented by Avery Smith and that the members had been meeting since the previous June. The following year, on August 9, 1856 “On motion, the Secretary was ordered to draw on the Treasurer for $162.50 dollars in favor of Thomas Belshaw for rent.” This reveals that the Lodge rented their meeting room from Thomas Belshaw. Thomas was the brother of George Belshaw, Jr. who was the Captain of the wagon train in which Avery Smith made his way to Oregon. Thomas was also on that wagon train with his wife Mariah, who was the sister of Avery’s wife Helen. So the Lodge rented the room from Avery Smith’s brother-in-law, not from Avery Smith. The Lodge worked to reduce the rent and pay in quarterly installments. The next payment for rent was drawn on January 24, 1857, it was then found that the rent was being paid to Misters Belshaw and Dunn. F. B. Dunn gained a favorable opinion of Masonry through these dealings and later joined and was an important and influential member of Lodge No. 11.

Foot Notes:
An illustrated history of Spokane county, state of Washington (1900) page 333-34 Author: Edwards, Jonathan, 1847-1929 Publisher: [San Francisco?] W.H. Lever
George Belshaw Jr. (1816-1893) captained a wagon train over the Oregon Trail in 1853, keeping a diary of mileage, weather, geography, and people encountered along the way — intended as a guide for later travelers. He settled west of Eugene, and later became known for his prize-winning grains, at one time having almost 150 varieties of wheat growing on his farm. He fathered eight children with his wife, Candace McCarty Belshaw. One daughter was born on the trail in 1853, while the party camped along the Columbia River. She was named Gertrude Columbia, and lived but two weeks.
Biography by Robert Smith great-grandson of Avery A. Smith.
An illustrated history of Spokane county, state of Washington (1900) page 333-34 Author: Edwards, Jonathan, 1847-1929 Publisher: [San Francisco?] W.H. Lever
An illustrated history of Spokane county, state of Washington (1900) page 333-34 Author: Edwards, Jonathan, 1847-1929 Publisher: [San Francisco?] W.H. Lever
Lane County Historian Vol.. XV #2 Summer 1970.
Eugene City Register March 28, 1865 page 5.
Eugene Guard November 21, 1868 page 4.
Eugene Guard March 6, 1869 page 3.
Biography by Robert Smith great-grandson of Avery A. Smith.
The Andrews brothers, who owned a controlling interest in the Green system in the United States, were in litigation for 14 years before the Supreme Court ruled their patent valid in 1887.
“Not Made With Hands” Centennial History of the Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, by Paul W. Harvey 1958 pages 210-211.
Oregon Freemason, Nov. 1975 page 27.
Proceedings of the 62nd Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Oregon, June 12, 1912 pages 20-21.

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