Benton County Commissioners of the territorial period 1849-1859
Note: The dates contained in the parenthesis are the dates of service in office.
The original governing body of Benton County was the Probate Court comprised of three elected judges. Shortly after Oregon was granted territorial status the County Court system was adopted and comprised of two elected commissioners and the elected County Judge. Many Oregon counties have maintained the County Court system to this day.
George Belknap (1850 – 1852)
Belknap was born on August 30, 1817 in Hardin County, Kentucky and died on September 16, 1897 in the Bellfountain area of Benton County. He was the last member of the original settlement to pass away. Belknap married Keturah Penton on October 3, 1839 in Ohio, and moved to Iowa the year after. They left Iowa, along with a significant portion of Belknap’s family, to settle in Benton County in 1847 as part of what was referred to as the “Belknap Settlement” in the Monroe area. Several of his siblings were also members of the wagon train of 1847. Belknap served as a Judge of the Probate Court from 1850-1852 and he and his wife were prominent supporters of Willamette University in Salem.
John Stewart (1850 – 1852)
Stewart was born in Knox County, Virginia, on February 12, 1799, and died at his home near Corvallis in February of 1885. He was very young when his family moved first to Indiana and then, in 1842, they continued west to Missouri. In 1845, Stewart joined a wagon train and immigrated to Oregon along with many other families who would later become prominent residents of Benton County. Stewart arrived in Benton County in the spring of 1846 and secured a land claim of 640 acres where he lived the remainder of his life. According to her obituary, Stewart’s wife Mary was J.C. Avery’s inspiration for naming Corvallis “Marysville” when it was founded. The First Methodist Church was originally organized in the Stewart home before it relocated to Corvallis.
Judge Oscar Fitzhallen Clark (1850 – 1853)
Clark was born in 1824 in Tioga County, New York and moved to Oregon in early 1846. In 1850, he married Mary Ann Allen and the couple moved to eastern Washington shortly thereafter. Clark took part in the wars with the Cayuse Native Americans. Prior to and during his time residing in Benton County, Clark owned a butcher’s stall in Yreka, California catering to the gold rush. After his tenure as Probate Judge, Clark also served as the County Assessor from 1855-1856, and later was elected the Superintendent of Schools, having been a teacher both in Oregon and New York. Later, he moved to north eastern Oregon, settling in Umatilla County and became a County Commissioner there in 1866. Clark was instrumental in establishing Pendleton as the county seat of Umatilla County where he resided until 1877 when he moved to Dayton, Washington. In his remaining years he served as Justice of the Peace and was well known for his even temper and impartial decision making. Clark died 1898. Information provided by the history of old Walla Walla County, embracing Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield and Asotin counties.
James Watson (1853 – 1856)
Watson settled in the King’s Valley area in early 1846 and had the second officially recognized claim in the area in 1850, the first being Nahum King. Watson was a rancher/farmer who was noted to have improved the existing breed of cattle in the area. During the various wars with the local Native American tribes, Watson served in the Second Regiment of Mounted Rifles of the Oregon Volunteers. He was appointed as one of the first electoral “judges” in the precinct encompassing portions of southern Benton County and selected to serve on the first grand and trial juries in the County. Watson may have served as a juror in the very first murder trial in Benton County, convicting Nimrod O’Kelley of second degree murder.
John Lloyd (1853 – 1858)
Lloyd was born on August 22, 1796 in Caswell County, North Carolina and came to Oregon in 1846. He was an Executive Director of the Oregon Company wagon train and secured a donation land claim in the Monroe area. He had nine children with three wives, Nancy Walker, Adalia Snelling, and Lucinda. Nancy died in February of 1853, Adalia and Lloyd divorced in 1961, and Lucinda died on June 4, 1869. Along with Watson and several other future commissioners, he acted as one of the first electoral “judges” in the 1856 elections for the southern portion of Benton County and as one of the first grand and petit jurors in the County for the O’Kelley murder trial. Lloyd died in Colfax, Washington on January 6, 1877.
Jacob Martin (1854 – 1858)
Martin settled a land claim in Benton County southwest of Corvallis in 1847. In 1851, he was selected as Supervisor of Road District Number Two and served as an electoral “judge” for the southern Benton County Precinct in the 1856 elections. Martin also served on the first grand and possibly the trial jury for the O’Kelley murder trial.
James Gingles (1857 – 1858; 1862 – 1864; 1870 – 1872)
Gingles was born on February 18, 1819 in Columbia County, Pennsylvania and died on October 17, 1889 in Benton County. He came to Oregon in 1850 after living for a time in Illinois with his family. Like most of the early pioneers, Gingles secured a 640 acre donation land claim which was just south of the Polk County border near the now extinct town of Wells (destroyed to build Camp Adair), north east of the current site of Adair Village. In 1851, he was appointed as the Supervisor of Road District Number One for Benton County, and later, in addition to his terms as County Commissioner, Gingles served as the Postmaster of the town of Liberty from 1856-1864 when the office was closed. He also spent three terms as Benton County’s State Legislator in 1864, 1868, and 1876, and was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Corvallis Seminary, which evolved into Corvallis College and to today’s Oregon State University.
Jacob M. Currier (1858 – 1859)
Currier was born in Orleans County, Vermont, on February 12, 1827, but moved with his parents to Lowell, Massachusetts, then to New York in 1842, and lastly to Andrew County, Missouri in the fall of 1844, where both of his parents died the following year. In May of 1846, Currier, his two sisters, and a brother-in-law, A. L. Humphrey, set out on the Oregon Trail arriving in what would become the City of Corvallis on December 5, 1846. Currier moved further north near to current-day Dallas, Oregon until the fall of 1847. In November of 1847, he enlisted in Captain John Owen’s volunteer rifle company out of Portland and took part in the battles with the Native American tribes east of the Cascades. During this period he took part in battles along the Deschutes, Columbia, and at Wells Springs; he was also part of the burial party at the Whitman Mission. After his six month term of service expired he returned to Corvallis for a short time but decided to try his luck in the gold mines of California, returning again to Oregon in the spring of 1849. Finally, in 1850 Currier secured a donation claim southwest of Corvallis where he resided until his death. Ultimately, his holdings, located about ten miles south of Corvallis, exceeded 1,600 acres where he farmed, ranched and raised a family of seven children by two wives, Mariah Foster and Helena Buchanan. Currier was also active in the local Free Masons, Lodge No. 14 as member and past master. His son-in-law, R.W. Scott, later managed the family farm and was himself elected commissioner in the 1920’s.
Perman Henderson (1859 – 1859)
Henderson was born on September 19, 1801 near Knoxville Tennessee, and settled in Benton County around 1859. He married Sarah Trapp in Kansas City prior to 1852. The Henderson’s first attempt to move to Oregon was aborted due to a cholera epidemic along the route, which they completed the following year. Henderson and family secured a donation land claim a mile outside of Wren, then purchased another farm three miles south of Philomath, which at its height was 1,300 acres in size. Henderson may have been a Professor and President of Philomath College in 1868 (listing has “E.P. Henderson”).