CYRUS STEVENS AVERY 1871-1963

Biography

Early Years

Cyrus Stevens Avery was born August 31, 1871 in Stevensville, Pennsylvania to Alexander James Avery and Ruie Rebecca, whose maiden name was Stevens.

The Panic of 1873 swept away the fortunes of Alexander James Avery, and the family relocated to Missouri and later Oklahoma.

Cyrus walked to the Indian Mission School and later graduated from the Teachers Institute at Noel, Missouri, and the William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri.

Shortly after graduation he married his college sweetheart, Essie McClelland, and the moved to Oklahoma City where he was an agent for the Equitable and the New York Life Insurance Companies.

Cyrus moved his family to Vinita, Oklahoma, where he established the Avery Real Estate company, a farm loan business.

Cyrus later moved his family to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he opened an office to deal in real estate, insurance, farm loans, and oil leases.

Highway Contributions

Cyrus became interested in roads after a visit to his father's farm in Noel, Missouri. His father sent him to do some free work on some roads with a split-log drag. When Cyrus came home to Oklahoma he convinced Governor Cruce to declare a “Good Roads Day,” and the people in Tulsa County started roads from Tulsa to Red Fork, Broken Arrow, and Skiatook, which they finished and oiled. Avery became known as the “Father of Good Roads” in Tulsa County.

Cyrus Stevens Avery was elected Tulsa County Commissioner in 1913.

In 1919, Avery developed land he owned northeast of Tulsa building a restaurant, the Old English Inn, a gas station, and a tourist court. The development became known as "Avery Corner."

Cyrus was one of the original organizers of the Albert Pike Highway Association. The Albert Pike Highway Association helped develop the road system from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Hot Springs, Arkansas.

In 1921 he became President of the Associated Highways of America. His work in the organization had a nation-wide influence on state and national highway legislation and was influential in the construction of highways across the nation.

In 1924, Avery was appointed as the State Highway Commissioner of Oklahoma and is credited with being the chief agent in creating the state's highway system.

“In 1925, Avery was appointed Consulting Highway Specialist to the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads and was tasked with the creation of a national highway system and the assignment of numbers to those highways. His influence and efforts with the Bureau created a highway that stretched across eight states and three time zones from Chicago to Los Angeles – a road that would later become known as Route 66.” [1]

Thus, Cyrus Stevens Avery became known as the “Father of Route 66.”

Other Civic Contributions

“Cyrus Avery was a civic leader who had progressive ideas and sponsored many innovative projects. Those projects included the Tulsa Municipal Airport, Tulsa's Mohawk Park, and Tulsa's International Petroleum Exposition. He also served on Tulsa's Water Board and was instrumental in the development of the City's Spavinaw water supply system.” [2]

Cyrus Stevens Avery died in Tulsa on July 2, 1963 at the age of 91.

In 2004 the City of Tulsa renamed the Eleventh Street Bridge, which carries US Highway 66 over the Arkansas River, the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Memorial Bridge in his honor.

Cyrus Stevens Avery was also inducted into the Tulsa Hall of Fame.

[1] http://www.osu-tulsa.okstate.edu/library/images/CA3.gif

[2] ibid.

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Last modified July 25, 2011