Loren J. Smith was born February 8, 1908, the second son of Judson (Judd) G. and Laura Cauthorn Smith. The Smiths rented a house from C.W. Nixon that was originally built by George McBee on rich river bottom farmland in the Smith Loop area a few miles south of Corvallis. Loren spent his childhood roaming the grasslands and doing chores around the farm. He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse, which was named after his father, about a mile from home. In the first nine years of Loren’s life, Judd and Laura barely squeaked out a living, but thanks to Judd’s hard work and good management skills and Laura’s industry and household economy, they were able to purchase the property from Nixon in 1917. As the years went by, they expanded their property until they owned more than 1,000 acres. They raised sheep and grew various crops such as wheat, barley, and oats.
Loren graduated from Oregon State Agricultural College in 1931 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and then went into business with his father. During the height of the Depression, before there was a grass seed industry in the mid-Valley, Loren built a three-story seed warehouse and began offering custom cleaning for neighboring farmers. He went out in the evenings to look at his neighbor’s crops and persuade them to try his custom cleaning business. “He was a master salesman,” said Dean Jones, who worked for Loren from about 1933 until his retirement. According to Dean, Loren’s seed warehouse was the first building originally built for that purpose in the valley. At the same time, he began converting his land to grass grown for seed. Loren added square footage and equipment as the years progressed.
For a short period during and after World War II, Loren was involved in a government program and grew vegetable seed crops to send to Europe. During that time, he served on a national wartime food advisory board. In the mid-1970s, the nightly raiding of a persistent coyote convinced Loren that his sheep raising days were over. He sold the sheep and concentrated his efforts on raising crops. By the time of Judd’s death in 1945, Loren was managing more than 2,000 acres.
Loren was active in local political, civic, and community affairs. He was appointed by the Benton County court to the legislature for a one-year term in 1967, where he helped pass a bill allowing farmland to be taxed on its ability to earn rather than its sale value. He served on the first board of directors for Linn-Benton Community College and served for eight years on the Good Samaritan Hospital board. He was an active member of the Intermediate Education District and on the board for the Judd Smith Elementary School. In addition, he was a lifelong Elk, a member of the Willamette Grange, and was involved in various agricultural organizations. Loren died in 1983.
Audrey (Wiencken) Smith was born January 31, 1908, to Frederick and Nellie Kelly Wiencken. She grew up in Portland, Oregon. In 1923, she was chosen as the 4-H Girl of Oregon and won a trip to Chicago. She graduated from Franklin High School in 1924. After working for a year, she moved to Corvallis and attended Oregon Agricultural College. She graduated in 1929 with a bachelor’s degree in home economics. After graduation, she served as a district 4-H Club agent and taught at Woodburn High School. Audrey met Loren while at college, and they were married on August 28, 1931. Audrey was integral to running the farm and was known for her accounting and money management skills. “She would stay up all night making the books balance to the penny,” said her only son, Loren Jr. She resisted putting the business books on computer, preferring to keep manual records. “She loved to do a depreciation schedule by hand.”
Audrey was a member of the St. Mary’s Chapter No. 14 of the Order of the Eastern Star, Daughters of the Nile, Daughters of the American Revolution, Linn-Benton Women for Agriculture, Benton County Farm Bureau, Oregon Historical Society, and the Willamette Grange. She also served on the Benton County Historical Society and Museum Board. She was a charter member of the Alpha Rho Chapter of the Alpha Omicron Pi. She was honored as a Diamond Pioneer by the Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences and added to the College’s Diamond Pioneer Agricultural Achievement Registry. She had a love for glassware and gathered a large collection of knickknacks, figurines, and salt shakers over the years. Loren Sr. didn’t want to travel (“He thought the world stopped and started at the end of the county road,” said Loren Jr.), but after Loren’s death in 1983, Audrey did a lot of traveling around the world, especially enjoying a trip to see the Great Wall of China. Audrey died February 14, 2005.
The Loren J. & Audrey W. Smith Scholarship Fund fund provides scholarships to students wishing to attend Linn-Benton Community College majoring in manual or mechanical arts, with priority given rural Benton County students.