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Philomath, OR 97370
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Benton County Historical Timeline: 1850s


Oregon Donation Land Claim (DLC) Act passes in Congress. It allows an adult white male to claim a half section of land for himself and, if he is married, another half section in his wife's name (640 acres) if he arrived before December 1850. The Act is one of the first allowing a woman to hold property under her own name. It is also the most generous land act in the history of the United States.

1873 Donation Land Claim certificate authorized by President Ulysses S. Grant, issuing ownership of 640 acres of land in Benton County Oregon to John and Mary Ann Foster. 1877 Donation Land Claim certificate authorized by President Rutherford B. Hayes, issuing ownership of 640 acres of land in Benton County Oregon to Andrew and Elizabeth Foster.    


The post office of Avery is established. The name is changed to Marysville later that year.



Benton County's population is 814.


March 1850

John Fiechter and Cynthia Ellen Newton are married and file on a 640-acre Donation Land Claim. Their first home is a log cabin. (This claim eventually becomes part of the W.L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge.)

The John and Cynthia Fiechter House was built in the mid-1850s.
<P>Photo taken circa 1998-1999 for an educational slide program entitled " width="75" border="0"> John Fiechter, born March 16, 1822, in Germany, died October 3, 1861, in Benton County, Oregon, USA.    


The town of Marysville is platted by Joseph Avery.

Pioneer surveyor Joseph C. Avery's surveyor's chains used to measure and lay out the town of Marysville (Corvallis) in 1851.    


William Dixon is granted a license to operate a regular ferry put into operation across the Willamette River at the foot of today's Van Buren Ave.

William F. Dixon    

Jan. 1851

In January 1851, Benton County is drastically reduced in size by the Oregon Territorial Government.


Jan. 23, 1851

Marysville becomes Benton County seat.


Oct. 1851

Steamboat service between Corvallis and Portland begins.


Dec. 25, 1851

A First Baptist Church is organized.



The first case of homicide in Benton County occurs. Nimrod O'Kelly is accused of killing Jeremiah Mahoney. O'Kelly pleads guilty and gives as a reason that Mahoney was trespassing on his land. On June 29, 1852, O'Kelly is tried and convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to be hanged. However, the sentence is not carried out. Eventually, he is pardoned by the governor in March 1856.



Post offices are established at Starrs Point (discontinued 1874) and Jennyopolis (discontinued 1857)



Corvallis is the principal shipping point for the southern mines. Large pack trains and freight wagons leave almost daily loaded with goods available from local merchandise stores - apples, butter, cheese, sperm candles, tallow candles, flour, wheat, white sugar, nails, cooking stoves, and lumber.



Because Marysville, California, is on the same stage line, postal authorities request that the name of Marysville, Oregon Territory, be changed. Corvallis, meaning "Heart of the Valley," is recommended.



In the spring of 1853, a wagon train of nearly 100 members of the United Brethren Church, including five ministers, began the arduous trip west. The caravan was formed in direct response to George Bethers' letter of 1849. The sixteen wagons arrived in the Oregon Territory in late September and early October; miracuously, only one person did not survive the trip. Many of the travelers ended up in the Marys River Settlement.



The United Brethren in Christ wagon train arrives under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson (T.J.) Connor, one of the men appointed by the church to answer the call to establish a church and be a pastor at the Marys River Settlement. Another missionary for the Marys River Settlement, Jeremiah Kenoyer, who brought his family, is also on the wagon train.


July 3, 1853

The Episcopal Church - Church of the Good Samaritan is organized.


Sept. 24, 1853

The Presbyterian Church is organized in Corvallis.


Dec. 20, 1853

Marysville becomes Corvallis. The name is reported to have been coined by J.C. Avery from Latin, meaning "Heart of the Valley." The name of the post office is officially changed to Corvallis, Oregon Territory, on February 18, 1854.

Painted on the underside of the trunk in black are the words    


Soap Creek Post Office is established and the name is changed to Tampico in the same year (discontinued 1860).



Matzger and Hartless build a grist mill on the North Fork of the Marys River about one mile west of Philomath.



The first Benton County Courthouse is constructed in the same block as the present courthouse.

Benton County, Oregon, courthouse, 1855.    


The American Hotel is erected on the southwest corner of Second and Madison in Corvallis, Oregon.

This hotel was erected in 1855.  It is shown here at a later date, when it was called the City Hotel.<br><br>The Sept. 15, 1855 issue of the Pacific Christian Advocate notes: The new hotel (The American) erected and nearly finished by Messrs. Graves and Pike is one of the finest of the kind in the Territory. The main building is thirty feet by sixty on the ground, three stories high, with a two-story wing in the rear, eighteen feet by thirty-six. Upon the top of the main building is an observatory, for a view of the town and the surrounding country.

<br><br>This building burned in 1873. See Fagan (1885) for an account of this fire.    


The Oregon Statesman is published in Corvallis by Asahel Bush, and becomes Benton County's first newspaper. Mr. Bush brought the newspaper to Corvallis when Corvallis was declared Oregon's capital, and he returned to Salem when Salem was again declared the capital.



Kings Valley Post Office is established.

Kings Valley, Oregon, postmark.    


The United Brethren in Christ Church is organized in the Union Schoolhouse in Philomath.



The Fiechters begin construction on a lumber house. They complete the two-story Classical Revival style farmhouse in 1857. According to family tradition Cynthia's father offered suggestions for the plan and style. The central chimney with double hearths and double entrances on the front are similar to a southern vernacular double house. It faced the Applegate Trail. (Today the house is located in the W.L. Finley Wildlife Refuge.)

John Fiechter, born Mar. 16, 1822 in Germany, died Oct. 3, 1861 in Benton County, Oregon, USA.    

Jan. 16, 1855

On January 16, 1855, the Territorial Legislature declares Corvallis the capital and meets there briefly, voting itself back to Salem almost immediately. Salem officially was declared the capital on December 12, 1855.


Nov. 5, 1855

By Presidential Executive Order the "Coast Range Indian Reservation" is established mostly in Benton County.



Liberty Post Office is established northeast of Corvallis (discontinued 1867) in what is now the vicinity of Adair Village.



The U.S. Army establishes Fort Hoskins in Kings Valley to monitor traffic entering and leaving the newly established Coast (Siletz) Indian Reservation. The 200-300 troops serving at the fort are charged with protecting the reservation from encroachment and harassment by settlers and with confining and monitoring the tribes on the reservation.



Telegraph lines are completed between Corvallis and Portland.



Kalapuya Indians are sent to Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in western Polk and Yamhill counties. Some were later moved to the Siletz Reservation.



African-Americans Mary Jane Holmes and Reuben Shipley are married. It is said that a sum of money was demanded of Reuben by the man who claimed to be her owner for Mary Jane's freedom. They settle near Philomath.



Alsea Indians sent to Siletz Indian Reservation in what is now Lincoln County.



African-Americans Eliza Gorman and her mother Hannah purchase property on Fourth Street from William and Julia Dixon and build a small house. It is unusual for women to own property and since they were African-American even more unusual. (The house still stands.)



Corvallis is incorporated as a city and chartered by the Territorial Legislature. J.B. Congle becomes the first mayor.

1859 Kuchel and Dresel Print of the J. B. Congle House.    

June 8, 1857

The Masonic Lodge, Corvallis Lodge #14, A.F. & A.M. is chartered with 18 members. The group meets on the upper floor of the Friendly Store.


Oct. 6, 1857

Town of Monroe platted on October 6, 1857. It was centered around Joseph White's sawmill.



The Methodist Episcopal Church South is organized in Corvallis, Oregon.



Corvallis College is chartered by the Southern Methodist Church.



Emily J. York, resident of Benton County, graduates from Willamette University, becoming the first person to graduate from a college west of the Rocky Mountains.



James Stewart is fined $3.00 for allowing his horses to run at large in town. James Roberts is charged $5.00 for leading his horse on the sidewalk. William Girl pays a $10.00 fine for shooting his pistol on the downtown street, and P. Newton pays $12.00 for driving across a sidewalk with a team and wagon.



Lewis Southworth (frequently misspelled Louis), an African-American slave, makes his final payment on the $1,000 ($23,000 in today's dollars) to buy his freedom from his master James Southworth. He was allowed to leave the Territory to earn his freedom. He was an industrious man and held a variety of jobs to raise the money. At one of the jobs, he earned $400 teaching violin and playing fiddle for a dancing school in Yreka, California.

Lewis Alexander Southworth Lewis Alexander Southworth    

Feb. 14, 1859

Oregon is admitted to the Union as the 33rd state and the 18th free state. Oregon is known as the Valentine State.


April 4, 1859

High school opens at Monroe, Starr's Point, under the management of Benjamin F. Giltner, an experienced teacher from Pennsylvania. There is tuition, and board can be obtained on reasonable terms.



Return to Timeline Homepage

1840 | 1850 | 1860 | 1870 | 1880 | 1890

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© 2008 - 2014 Benton County Historical Society & Museum
Philomath, Oregon
The Benton County Historical Society is a nonprofit corporation that operates museum facilities for the preservation of history and culture.  Its mission is to:

  1. Preserve the material and intellectual culture of Benton County, Oregon, by acquiring and caring for significant collections that illustrate and interpret the history of the area and its relationship to the world;
  2. Enrich people's lives through exhibitions and educational programs.