Pre-Civil War era house brought back to original location at Fort Hoskins
Men placed greased timber planking under the two-story house and skidded the structure — with a footprint of 25-by-36 feet — down an embankment. The former post commander’s house at Fort Hoskins was then floated on the Luckiamute River a few miles away to its new location in the rural community of Pedee.
Or, according to a different telling, beasts of burden hauled the house away from Fort Hoskins along the old fort road.
No matter how the men in 1869 or 1870 moved the pre-Civil War era house, Oregon State University archaeologist David Brauner can appreciate the achievement, especially after watching the move in reverse Sunday.
“Following this today, watching it on a modern highway — how big it is — I’m astounded that they moved it that far at all,” said Brauner, who has been researching and excavating Fort Hoskins since the mid-1970s.
After Benton County and community partners spent years talking, planning and then fundraising, the only original structure known to exist from the fort — dubbed the Commander’s House — made the eight-mile journey back to its original home Sunday.
The fort, erected in 1856 in what is now Kings Valley, was one of three built to monitor and protect the newly-established Coast Indian Reservation. It was used during the Civil War to keep tabs on Confederate sympathizers and then decommissioned in 1865. The buildings were sold and carted off the property.
The house had been built under the supervision of Lt. Philip Sheridan, who went on to gain prominence during the Civil War. The first commander of the fort was Capt. Jamestopher Colon Augur, who lived in the house from after its construction in 1856 until early 1861. A series of captains took residence in the house during the Civil War years.
Locals have known the historical significance of the house, referring to it as the Sheridan House or Augur House, since it moved to Pedee, Brauner said. In the 1950s, Polk County attempted to acquire the structure in order to turn it into a museum. Returning it to Fort Hoskins has been a conversation even before Benton County purchased the fort property in 1991.
Jennifer and James Vandenberg, who lived in the house from 1997 until 2011, said the structure was worth preserving for historic purposes, but the more than 150-year-old house was not ideal to live in.
“We had been trying to donate it for 10 years,” James Vandenberg said.
The Vandenbergs were happy to see the house go Sunday morning.
The moving crew loaded it in two parts — the ground floor and the A-frame second floor — to avert the expense of taking power lines down along the way. It took up both lanes of Kings Valley Highway and had several spectators following its slow progress.
Movers from James Dent LLC didn’t bat an eye as the tires under the main floor of the house spun in a pit of mud at the Pedee site, but Jennifer Vandenberg said she was nervous. The moving crew placed boards under the tires and rocked the dollies under the house back and forth, pulling it out using a winch.
It worked. The tires were freed from the mud, and the house was ready to hit the road.
There were a few inconveniences along the way — such as an overheated radiator on one of the trucks — but it eventually made the trip down Pedee Creek Road, south onto Kings Valley Highway and west on Fort Hoskins Road. It bypassed the park’s main entrance and plans were made to pull it up a steep road.
Within a week or two, a concrete foundation will be laid and a crane will reassemble the house on its original footprint, said George McAdams, community project manager for Benton County Natural Areas and Parks Department. The department has led the $52,500 project with the help of nonprofit Alliance for Recreation and Natural Areas and other community partners.
Once the Commander’s House is fully restored — which will take research, time and fundraising — McAdams imagines that it will be open a few times a year for tours.
The good news, Brauner said, is the Commander’s House is more intact than even originally thought.
Historians had believed the original kitchen was lost and that the current kitchen was an addition from the 1920s or 1930s, but when the crew took the structure apart for transport, a secret was revealed.
“When they separated it from the house, you could start seeing the old lumber from the inside,” Brauner said.
The kitchen had been remodeled and attached in a different way from when it was originally built.
“We got really excited because we thought we just had the front part, and the back part had gotten trashed years ago,” he said. “We didn’t even think they might have carried the back part out to Pedee, but it’s there.”
Most research has been conducted on Fort Hoskins in general, so now Brauner will focus more narrowly on the house.
“When we restore this house, we want it to be accurate, so we have to do a lot of architecture history, we want to do more oral histories (of descendants of locals)…,” Brauner said. “Getting the house here is really the start of the story.”
Reporter Canda Fuqua can be reached at 541-758-9548 or email@example.com.