The Olney Lottery

Did you know that in 1867, several Astoria families acquired their land through a lottery? Judge Cyrus Olney (pictured) had acquired the John McClure land claim, known as McClure’s Astoria, which consisted of several lots around town.

The judge, wanting to encourage residential development, came up with the scheme, known locally as the Olney Lottery. Tickets cost $50 each (about $790 now), and entitled the ticket holder to one Astoria city lot — which one, was a matter of chance — plus a shot at winning the grand prize, two lots and McClure’s original house. The lottery was considered a great success, and several houses were built in the eastern half of McClure’s old claim (

At Olney’s death only three years later in 1870, one biographer noted “he has accomplished much for (the Astoria) community, and there his loss will be deeply felt (” Judge Olney is buried in Astoria’s Pioneer Cemetery.

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or