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b. Feb. 20, 1790
d. June 27, 1866
27th Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio
Term
Feb. 6, 1847
to March 1, 1851

EDWARD AVERY

Born on Feb. 20, 1790 in Stamford, Conn. to John and Ann Hazard Avery, Edward Avery attended Yale University in New Haven, Conn., where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1810.

Avery studied law in Connecticut and was admitted to the bar in his native state. In 1817, he moved to Wooster, the county seat of Wayne County, Ohio. Opening his legal practice, he joined the only other lawyer in town, Levi Cox, who arrived from Pennsylvania in 1815. In 1824, another lawyer from New York, Ezra Dean, arrived. The three men were the leading attorneys for Wooster and surrounding counties for many years.

In 1819, Avery was appointed prosecuting attorney of Wayne County by the president judge and the justices of the Third Judicial District. He served until 1825, when he resumed his law practice in Wooster. Wayne County voters elected Avery to the Ohio State Senate in October 1824. His election was a contentious one, with a local committee formed to consider petitioning the Ohio General Assembly to change the incorporation provisions of the city of Wooster. Avery’s opponents charged that Avery wanted to limit the right to vote solely to property owners, while his supporters contended that was not Avery’s opinion at all. Avery served from Dec. 6, 1824 to Dec. 4, 1826. He did not seek a second term.

After completing his term in the Ohio Senate, Avery returned to his Wooster law practice. In 1832, he served as one of four trustees for the town of Wooster. Avery was one of three school examiners for Wooster Township in 1837. He also mentored law students and allowed them the use of his library.

Avery was elected by the Ohio General Assembly to the Supreme Court on Jan. 15, 1847. His term started on Feb. 6, 1847 and was for seven years. During this period, the Court conducted circuit courts around the state, meeting in Columbus in December each year to decide difficult cases. The work of the Supreme Court justices was arduous, requiring them to travel around their districts in conjunction with other judges, attorneys and court staff. Avery’s opinions can be found in volumes 16 to 19 of Ohio Reports. Due to ill health, Avery submitted his resignation to Gov. Reuben Wood on March 1, 1851. Rufus Ranney was elected by the General Assembly to succeed him on March 17, 1851.

Returning to Wooster, Avery retired from the practice of law. Interested in providing higher education to Ohioans, he helped establish The College of Wooster and gave generously to this institution. Avery was one of several prominent citizens who guaranteed promissory notes so the Wooster Cemetery could be established in 1853 to provide for a central cemetery not associated with a church. Avery was a member and elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Wooster and was instrumental in building a new church, which opened in 1854.

Avery and Jane Galbraith were married on Nov. 25, 1823 in Steubenville. Jane died in 1824. Avery married Gennette Maria Sherwood on Feb. 3, 1834. They had no children.

After a long illness, Avery died on June 27, 1866. He was buried in Wooster Cemetery next to the headstones for his two wives and his daughter.

Martin Welker wrote in an 1889 tribute in the Ohio State Bar Reports, “As a lawyer, Judge Avery was able, reliant, honest, and safe. He always carefully studied his cases and was therefore prepared to try them. He was a cultivated debater, clear and forcible in his logic, convincing in his arguments and ranked as one of the best lawyers of the State…As a judge, he was an active, hard worker…The decisions made by him on the Circuit, were always short, clear and to the point, disposing of cases very rapidly and satisfactorily. Possessed and imbued as he was to a remarkable degree with the elementary principles of the law, he was able, in his written opinions to make them models of perspicuity and force, and plain to the comprehension of all.”