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North Side: Charles Avery


Charles Avery
BORN: 10 December 1784.(57)
DIED: 17 January 1858.(58) 
BURIED: Allegheny Cemetery.(59) 
  • Charles A. Avery came here in 1812. He entered the wholesale drug business by founding a firm which today [1953] is George A. Kelly Co.
    His interest turned later to the cotton industry, and while on buying trips to the South, he was drawn to the plight of the Negro slaves. Joining the abolitionist forces, he aided the escape of slaves from the South to Canada in the underground railroad. (60)

  • Whatever Mr. Avery's motives, they caused him to extend his help to the Negro American by first becoming active in the abolitionist movement. Later he fought against the Fugitive Slave Laws, and he gave sums of money to help found Liberia, the West African nation developed by returned American slaves. And he became interested in creating educational facilities for Negroes. (61)

  • [Allegheny Institute and Mission Church, later known as Avery College,] built with funds from Mr. Avery's fortune, was a three-story structure heavily influenced by the Greek Revival architecture being used in many eastern cities at that time. The basement of the school, accessible by hidden trap doors, was most probably a "station" (hiding place) in the secret Underground Railway. The Underground Railroad was organized to help runaway slaves escape from the plantations to freedom. The first and second floors were used for education, and the third floor for religious purposes. The congregation that met on the third floor called their church the Allegheny Mission Church. (62)

  • When Avery died, his fortune was estimated at $800,000. Among the bequests was $20,000 for Oberlin College the first college in the United States to admit Blacks. $150,000 was assigned to "dissemination of the gospel of Christ among the tribes of Africa" and also for "the education and elevation of the colored people of the United States and Canada." (63)

  • In stark contrast to today's [1969] racial rancor, Avery Church stands as a reminder that Negro and white Americans--deliberately or inadvertently--have worked together to build this nation and contribute to each other's good fortune. Avery stands as a symbol of that facet of American life about which not enough is said. Its story needs to be told, and all of us need to be reminded of that story periodically. (64)

  • Workmen demolished a red brick building ["Avery College"] in Old Allegheny's Dutchtown the other day to make way for the much disputed highway through the East Street Valley. Outside of a few sentimental old-timers, nobody noticed the demolition of the old structure. But to the old-timers, the passing of the building meant the end of a prominent Alleghenian's dream. (65)


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