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The commander's house from Fort Hoskins, a Civil War-era fort in northern Benton County, sits near Pedee on a farm more than 5 miles from its original home.
July 17, 2012
PEDEE -- Not long after the U.S. Army decommissioned Fort Hoskins in the Kings Valley area in 1865, one dwelling on site, the post commander's house, was moved more than 5 miles northeast to a farmstead in the Pedee area.
How that happened is local "folklore," said Jeff Powers, director of the Benton County Natural Areas and Parks Department.
A story in the old Salem Capital Journal in 1959 references Rittie Kerber, a granddaughter of Polk County pioneer Sebastian Ritner, stating that the home was rolled the entire distance on logs.
And there's a theory that the Luckiamute River was dammed, the house placed on a barge and "surfed" closer to where it is now, said Phil Hays, chairman of the Benton County Natural Areas and Parks Advisory Board.
"It makes a great story in Kings Valley," Hays said. "Who knows how they got it here?"
Besides, the pressing issue now is getting it back.
Benton County and the Alliance for Recreation and Natural Areas are attempting to return the 155-year-old home, built by Civil War Gen. Philip Sheridan, to Fort Hoskins.
The groups need to raise more than $52,000 to haul the 25-foot-by-32-foot structure by semitruck; they have $23,000 to date, Hays said.
Time is of the essence. The home owner, Wombat Farms, is donating the house, but it and the county want the move to happen by the end of the summer, Hays said.
"We have a short time to get the money," Hays said. "And we're really looking to the public to help us out."
The house is one of only two surviving military buildings in Oregon from that era -- the other is a home at Fort Yamhill near Grand Ronde, Hays said.
Historical research at Fort Hoskins -- a pre-Civil War military installation -- has been happening for nearly 40 years. Benton County acquired the 126-acre property in 1991 and has been developing it as a historic park.
Benton County Natural Areas and Parks Department director Jeff Powers and others hope to move the house back to Fort Hoskins by the end of this summer.
The "Commander's House" would be an invaluable asset to that effort and would be restored and used for living history presentations, Powers said.
An original kitchen in the two-story dwelling is gone, and there's been a wing added. Overall, however, the basic structure is still mostly intact and the interior looks almost as it did when constructed back in 1857, Hays said.
"We brought state historic architects out here and it was like kids in a candy shop," Hays said.
The home is only occasionally occupied now, is overgrown and has signs of deterioration.
"You look at it and it's not in a perfect state of repair," Hays said. "But it's 155 years old, what do you expect?"
Hays said the home's owners approached Benton County officials about donating it in 2011. They wish to build a modern home on the land, but the fact their acreage is zoned exclusive farm use and has this existing dwelling there makes it difficult because of state land-use laws, Hays said.
They would have to remove it to build, Hays said.
According to the Polk County Assessor's Office, Wombat Farms applied for a permit to replace the house in September. The party has held off to accommodate the Benton County department and advisory board raising money, Powers said.
"The landowners have been gracious with the time frame ... they need to move forward and putting things off another winter complicates things," Powers said. "There's a mutual understanding that this should happen by the end of the summer time."
The upper and lower stories of the home would be moved separately for the more than 10-mile journey to Fort Hoskins by road, Hays said.
Civil war re-enactment groups, the Confederated Tribes of Siletz and the Kinsman Foundation in Milwaukie have all contributed funds for the move. Hays said getting the rest of the money in less than two months is a tall order.
"But it's not a question if we'll be able to move it," he said. "It's `when we move it.'"
You Can Help
* Anyone interested in contributing money to move the Commander's House from Pedee to Fort Hoskins can send a check to the Benton County Natural Areas and Parks Department, 360 SW Avery Ave., Corvallis, OR 97333. Please mark attention to: Commander's House.
Proceeds are tax deductible and will go to a fund for Fort Hoskins.
For more information: 1-541-766-6871.