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Benjamin Young: When Ambition Meets Opportunity

A prominent monument stands on the point of land at Greenwood Cemetery that overlooks Young's Bay near Astoria, Oregon. An entire block of graves, surrounded by a native stone border, is the final resting place for an unlikely business pillar of Clatsop County and his descendants. Enter the name of Benjamin Young, Astoria, Oregon in a Google search, and the top entries will be for the Benjamin Young House or Benjamin Young Inn. His nineteenth-century house still stands, though he has gone to his long home. Benjamin Young was born Bengt Ljung in Lomma, Sweden in 1843. Looking to broader horizons, he turned to the sea, bouncing from port to port, serving on various vessels, until, seeking something more profitable and personally satisfying, he jumped ship from the sailing vessel Australian in 1868 and disappeared into a growing Swedish population in Clatsop county. A fascinating array of possibilities lay before him. He chose fish.

At age 30, he met and married a girl from his home town. Kristen Swenson was seven years his junior, but the two of them saw on-shore possibilities. In 1874, the couple started a home cannery in Astoria. By 1882, Ben owned the British American Packing Company, which in turn built canneries in British Columbia, Canada. Nine years later, Benjamin Young was known as the Salmon King. He consolidated his holdings in 1891, selling his Canadian canneries. With capital and leverage, he gained stature in the Astoria business community. With varying help from his brother, Anders (known stateside as Andrew), Ben started the Astoria Savings Bank, and bought several buildings and businesses. The two brothers were involved in organizing both the Fisherman's Packing Company and the Scandinavian Packing Company, and the Ben Young Land Company.

Ben and Kristen (known as Christine) had seven children, some significant in the culture of the area in their own way. Benjamin Young died in 1911, and rests among Oregon pioneers at Greenwood Cemetery, having risen from humble beginnings to a position of wide-ranging influence when personal drive met opportunity of local and far-reaching importance.

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