Robert Avery was born in a cabin near Galesburg, Illinois in 1840.
In his childhood, he was heavinly influence by a great uncle named Rilet Root.
Mr. Root invented a rotary fan blower designed to clear railroad tracks of snow. Robert went on to school at the Academy of Knox College and was working part time at the Brown Manufacturing Company, which built a line of corn planters. After graduating from college, he went on to teach school.
With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Robert enlisted in the army.
He was captured by the confederacy in August of 1864 and spent months in several different prisons before being released in June of 1865. Robert returned home to Galesburg only to come down with typhoid fever, in which it took months to recover.
While Robert was away during the war, his younger brother John bought a 160 acre farm for the two of them. Once Robert had recovered from the typhoid fever, he worked on the farm and on several inventions. During the winters, he worked in a Galesburg machine shop, and used the money from that to develop the riding cultivator he envisioned while in prison during the war. He made patterns and castings were poured and this was the beginning of the company.
Robert's younger brother Cyrus thought the invention had the potential for huge success, joined in with him and provided some additional capital. Robert then sold his share of the farm to his brother John, and borrowed additional money to help fund the company, now known as the R.H. & C.M. Avery Company. Unfortunately for the brothers, they had plenty of machines, but no customers, and this took them to the brink of bankruptcy.
Robert then moved his family to Kansas, using the homestead act of 1862 to get back into farming. While breaking sod and planting, Robert tried something new, a spiral corn stalk cutter to be pulled by horses, and this time sales took off. A year later, Robert moved back to Galesburg and again with
brother Cyrus, started the Avery Company (1872).
Around 1878, The Avery Company brought out their newest invention, the Avery corn planter. They bought an interest in the oldest foundry in the area owned by Joseph Frost at this same time. The planter was built by the foundry and was the foundry's biggest account at the time. When Frost died, the Avery Company bought out the foundry.
Soon after buying out the Frost foundry, the Avery's outgrew the building, and looked for a new site in Galesburg. They were looking for a site with railroad fronting and had problems finding it in Galesburg. In 1882, they purchased land (18 acres) in Peoria and a year later were one of Peoria's most important employers.