Biography of James Merritt AVERY 1832-1913

James Merritt Avery was born 8 Feb 1832 at Charlotte, Chautaugua County, NY, the son of John and Sarah Ann Cooper. He married 6 Jun 1852 in Dewitt, Clinton County, MI to Sarah Emeline Campbell, born 4 Oct 1834 in Summerhill Twp, Cayuga County, NY. She was the daughter of Elson Campbell and Huldah Phinney. James Merritt Avery died 10 Feb 1913 but was preceded by Sarah who died 31 Jan 1913 and both are interred at Cherry Valley Cemetery, Nirvana, Lake County, MI.

He lists his occupation in the 1860 census as a Deguerre Artist (photographer). Photography was all the rage in this era. Such figures as Matthew Brady, who photographed the civil war became famous and prosperous during the war but Brady went bankrupt after the war. At this time James Merritt Avery was living within his father's household. After the Civil War, it appears that he was a farmer.

"James M. Avery—Settled on the northwest quarter of Section 28, Cherry Valley township, in the Spring of 1871; soil being plains, with pine, maple and oak timber. He has about 25 acres improved, and has recently sold 80 acres to H. B. Campbell, who will move on in the Spring. For fruit he has cherry, and small fruits in abundance. Has Balm of Gilead for ornamental, and intends to set out a number of sugar maples, in the Spring. Estimates the standing pine on his place at 200,000 (board) feet. Has a comfortable log house and log barn; supply of water from well. He has timber on the ground for a frame barn, 30x40 feet. His stock consists of a yoke of oxen, 1 cow, 3 young cattle, 8 sheep, 1 hog and poultry. In 1878 he raised 4 acres wheat, 4 acres rye, 1 acre oats, 3 acres corn, 2 acres buckwheat, and ½ acre of potatoes. Last fall he sowed 9 acres wheatand 2 acres rye. Has an excellent garden, each year, and seems well contented." source: The Lake County Star, newspaper, Lake County, Michigan. Article: "Progress in Lake County", February 13, 1879

James Merritt Avery served as a union soldier in the Civil War. His grave has a military marker. At the time of his enlistment, his appearance was height 5 ft 8 inches, light complexion, blue eyes, and auburn hair. He enlisted as a private in Company C, 42nd Wisconsin Infantry, enlisted at Dekorra, Wisconsin 29 Aug 1864 and was discharged 20 Jun 1865 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to his pension application record, he was discharged as a sergeant. There is no information concerning the reason he served in a Wisconsin unit. He had a great uncle Amos Avery who lived in Waupun, Wisconsin and thus cousins in Wisconsin, as well. See Pension Papers

James and Sarah had three children: Adolphus Sephronius Avery became a postmaster. Henrietta (Nettie) Medora Avery married William Riley Tripp and removed to Texas. Catherine Amy Avery married a Charles O'Dell (who died of a gunshot wound) and then Richard Henry Johnson. She was widowed twice, and an adopted daughter cared for her late in her life. John Edward Avery, supposedly adopted, married Mabel Grace Kuhns and had six children.

An obituary appeared in the Lake County Star, Baldwin, Michigan on February 14, 1913.

Now for the Juicy Bits

My grandmother (daughter of Nettie Medora Avery, the daughter of James Avery and Sarah Campbell) wrote in her journal about the "adopted" children. (I am not descended from those children). There was no DNA testing in her day. I have had my DNA tested and the Avery DNA comes through loud and clear. What is also interesting is that the descendants of the adopted children.(of James Merritt Avery) also have Avery DNA. This testing cannot positively establish that James Merritt Avery was the father of the adopted children but it definitely establishes that an Avery was a parent.

Dennis Ohara Avery - adopted - was born in 1857 and died 1935 in Lake County, Michigan. His mother’s maiden name was probably Ohara. Dennis married Ina Belle Baker and had 5 children. He was a constable at Yates Township.

John Edward Avery - adopted - was born in 1873 and died 1938 in Cherry Valley, Lake County, Michigan. His mother is unknown but possibly is Elvira Parazade Ketchum. He married Mabel Grace Kuhns and had 7 children.

Elvira Parazade Ketchum (a second wife) was born in 1837 in Oswego County, New York. She died in 1923 in New Albin, Allamakee, Iowa. In addition to - possibly - John Edward Avery, she and James Merritt Avery had the following children, Aldie, Anna Grace, Ida, Estella, and Lena Lillian Elizabeth Avery. Elvira claimed she was married to James Merritt Avery and that the children were his. She filed for a widows pension as the wife of James where she states she was married to James M Avery in 1857 in Clinton County, Michigan by B. Waterman. She stated that she divorced Avery in 1875 for desertion and that, at the time, she had four young girls and was expecting another child.

The parents of Elvira were Alexander Ketchum and Lana Laura Campbell. Elvira Ketchum and Sarah Campbell were cousins.

If you are descended from any of the adopted children mentioned, please get in touch with me. See the email link on the main page of this website.

© 2006 Mark L. Fields. This work may be reproduced and redistributed, in whole or in part, without alteration and without prior written permission solely for genealogy research purposes, provided all copies contain the following statement: "© 2006 Mark L. Fields. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of Mark L. Fields."

Bibliography of Sources

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See Groupsheet for more photos

James Merritt Avery and Grandson

James Merritt Avery

Location of grave is Cherry Valley Cemetery, Nirvana, Lake County, MI, USA. Wife, Sarah Emeline Campbell Avery is interred in the same cemetery.