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Provisional and Territorial Records Guide

Benton County History and Records

Benton County was established by an act of the provisional government legislative assembly on December 23, 1847. The seventh county formed in Oregon, it was named for Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, a strong advocate of US expansion into Oregon. Benton County stretched from the Polk County boundary in the north to the California border in the south and from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Willamette River in the east. In 1851, the territorial legislative assembly created Umpqua County from the southern portion of the county. Benton County's boundaries remained unchanged until 1893, when Lincoln County was created from its western portion.

Benton County occupies 670 square miles of the central Willamette Valley. It is bordered on the east by the Willamette River, on the west by the summit of the Coast Range, on the north by Polk County, and on the south by Lane County. Numerous rivers (including the Alsea, Luckiamute, Mary's, and Willamette) and rich alluvial soils combine to provide the county with a strong agricultural and forest industries base.

Benton County was originally inhabited by several Indian tribes. By the time white settlement had reached the area, most tribes had been decimated by disease. The Kalapuya tribe ceded all claims to lands in the county through the Treaty of Dayton (1855). Grand Ronde Reservation was established in western Benton (now Lincoln) County and all remaining Indians were placed there.

In 1849, Joseph Avery platted the town of Marysville on the west bank of the Willamette River. Marysville became the Benton County seat in 1851, and was renamed Corvallis in 1853. Later that year, commissioners to construct a territorial university were appointed by the legislative assembly. Corvallis Academy was incorporated in 1858, and in 1872 became the Corvallis State Agricultural College. It is known today as Oregon State University.

A county courthouse was erected in 1854 and a county jail was added in 1856. Corvallis was briefly the Territorial Capital during 1853. The territorial legislative assembly met once in Corvallis, to move the capital back to Salem.

Benton County established circuit and county courts in 1847. US District Courts replaced the circuit courts in 1848. Benton County was attached to the Judicial District from 1849 until 1853, when it was transferred to the 1st St. Judicial District.

Series Descriptions for Benton County

Assessment Rolls
Census Rolls and Abstracts
Estate Account Ledger
Estate Index
Probate Case Fee Ledger
Probate Court Case Records
Probate Court Journal
Probate Estate Settlement Record
Tax Rolls
US District Court Case Index
US District Court Case Records
US District Court Execution Docket
US District Court Fee Ledger
US District Court Journal
US District Court Judgment Docket

QUICK LINK to the records inventories!

1. Assessment Rolls (BENCOUN009)

1850-1857
.25 cubic feet
Microfilm Reel 1 

Series used to assess real and personal property to determine tax liabilities. Assessment rolls show tax year, taxpayer's name, real and personal property values, taxes assessed, and assessor's name. Items assessed include gold dust, scrip, land, livestock, boats, and wagons. The 1853 roll also includes a censUS Series is arranged chronologically by tax year.

 

2. Census Rolls and Abstracts (BENCOUN007)

1853-1858
.1 cubic feet
Microfilm Reel 1 and Calendar Microfilm

 Series used to document county population and to report statistics to the territorial government. Census rolls show resident's name; number of legal voters, adult males and females, males aged 10 to 21, females aged 10 to 18, and number of males and females under age 10; totals; and census date. The 1856 census also includes an abstract which does not include individual information. Series is arranged chronologically by census year.

 

3. Estate Account Ledger (BENCOUN003)

1852-1859
.1 cubic feet 

Series documents final accounts for probated estates. Ledger entries show estate name, administrator's name, entry date, transaction description, and final estate account balance. Series is arranged alphabetically by estate name.

 

4. Estate Index (BENCOUN001)

1852-1859
.1 cubic feet 

Series used to access probated estates. Index shows estate number and estate name. Series is arranged alphabetically by estate name.

 

5. Probate Case Fee Ledger (BENCOUN005)

1852-1858
.1 cubic feet

Series documents fees charged against estates for probate court services. Entries show name, date fee charge entered, description of fee, amount charged, estate total, and satisfaction date. Series contains an alphabetical index by estate name. Series is arranged chronologically by date of first case entry.

 

6. Probate Court Case Records (BENCOUN014)

1852-1859
.75 cubic feet

Series documents the probate of estates, and the administration of insanity and juvenile guardianships. Records include administrator's bonds, vouchers, petitions, estate inventories, property appraisals, receipts, correspondence, estate account ledgers, letters of administration, and bills of sale. Series is arranged numerically by case number.

 

7. Probate Court Journal (BENCOUN002)

1850-1859
.25 cubic feet
Microfilm Reel 1 

Record of probate court actions shows term, location of court, judges' and officers' names. session date, and summary of court actions. Actions include the appointment of estate administrators and guardians; the filing of wills, accounts, bonds, and appraisals; the release of guardians and administrators from their duties; and the payment of estate expenses. Series includes an alphabetic index by estate name. Series is arranged chronologically by date of court action.

 

8. Probate Estate Settlement Record (BENCOUN004)

1852-1857
.1 cubic feet 

Series documents annual accounts and final settlement for probated estates. Entries show estate name, administrator's name, date of annual settlements, and date of final settlement. Series is arranged chronologically by date of first case entry.

 

9. Tax Rolls (BENCOUN008)

1851-1859
.25 cubic feet
Calendar Microfilm 

Series documents tax collection. Tax roll entries show taxpayer's name, poll tax owed, county tax owed, school tax owed, territorial tax owed, and total tax owed. Some years also include "paid" notations. There are duplicate rolls for 1852, and 1854 56. Series is arranged chronologically by tax year.

 

10. US District Court Case Index (BENCOUN011)

1855-1859
.1 cubic feet

Series used to provide access to US District Court case records. Index entries show case number, plaintiffs name, defendant's name, and the year case was closed. Series is arranged alphabetically by plaintiffs surname.

 

11. US District Court Case Records (BENCOUN012)

1852-1859
2.0 cubic feet 

Series documents cases heard in US District Court. Records include executions, attachments, summons, briefs, judgments, fee bills, pleas, motions, subpoenas, petitions, transcripts, complaints, answers, correspondence, jury lists, verdicts, depositions, and exhibits. Causes of action include trespass, claims for debt, theft, selling liquor to Indians or without a license, replevin, arson, divorce, murder, assault, and rape. Many cases have been appealed from lower courts. Series is arranged numerically by case number.

 

12. US District Court Execution Docket (BENCOUNO15)

1852-1856
.1 cubic feet

Series documents the processing of sentence executions in US District Court. Entries show plaintiffs and defendant's names, cause of action, date execution issued, date execution returned, and date entered in docket. Series is arranged chronologically by date of entry.

 

13. US District Court Fee Ledger (BENCOUN013)

1851-1859
.25 cubic feet 

Series documents fees charged to litigants in US District Court cases. Ledger entries show case name, cause of action, date of entry, fee description, date charged, and satisfaction date. Series are arranged chronologically by date of first case entry.

 

14. US District Court Journal (BENCOUN010)

1848-1859
.25 cubic feet
Microfilm Reel 1 

Series documents actions taken in cases heard by the US District Court. Journal entries show court term, location of court, court officers' and justices' names, session date, and summary description of court actions. Actions include jury selection, appointment of prosecuting attorneys, and case hearings. Series is arranged chronologically by session date.

 

15. US District Court Judgment Docket (BENCOUN006)

1852-1859
.1 cubic feet 

Series documents the processing of judgments entered in US District Court. Docket entries show plaintiffs and defendant's names, cause of action, judgment amount, volume and page number, date entered, and judgment satisfaction date. Series is arranged chronologically by date of entry.

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