PRESERVING THE PAST FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE FUTURE
By Pat Edwards
Living in a 20′ trailer throughout an Oregon winter cannot be all that much fun. But, Jim and Shirley Reuscher feel that, although it’s been a long haul, it’s been worth it. The Reuschers moved into the trailer in December, 1993, in order to be closer to the project that they began in October–the restoration of the former Schaffer house located just south of Gillespie Corners.
The “David Zumwalt House” near Gillespie Corners, 6 miles north of Lorane
(PLEASE NOTE: The house and barn are now called “The Blue Rooster Inn Bed and Breakfast” and are now owned by Nancy Pelton)
Jim Reuscher and the newly restored front porch
The front of the historical house before the front porch was added
The house stood vacant for 16 years before they purchased it, the barn, and 68 acres of land in August, 1993. According to Shirley, “The only tenants have been pack rats, flies, barn swallows, and ‘bats in the belfry’ in the time since 1978. Despite this, the house was in remarkably good condition.” The house, built by Doak (David?) Zumwalt in 1850, has been given historical status by Lane County. It is considered to be one of the best examples of Type II architecture in the county. It’s of English design featuring two identical front and back doors with a central fireplace and bedrooms at opposite ends of the house . According to Shirley, “a remarkable feature of the property is that the original barn, built in 1898, still stands. There are only a few existing historic home/barn combinations or operating farms left in Lane County.” The property is referred to by local residents as the “Schaffer place”, but historical records refer to it as the David Zumwalt house (see “Making a Plea for the Past”).
The farm was purchased by Charles and Rose Schaffer in the 1920’s from the Stroup family and added to the Schaffer land holdings. The Schaffer’s 1,700 acres of land was divided among family members after Charles’ death in 1950. Sons, Charles (“Spike”) and Harvey Schaffer logged their share, the present Reuscher property, and later sold off the part of it that eventually became the Easy Acres development. The house was called home by a succession of renters until 1978, when it was abandoned because of deteriorating conditions that made it unsafe and uninhabitable.
The process of restoring a home with historical status requires considerable work and much enthusiasm. Jim and Shirley, who formerly lived on Briggs Hill Road before moving onto the property, have done much of the work themselves. Lane County’s requirements for the restoration of a historical home puts certain restrictions on what may be done to the dwelling under its preservation policy. These restrictions include a minimum of disturbance to the outside of the house; maintaining architectural integrity; no additions; and keeping the materials used as close to the original as possible. When they first began working on the house, there were blackberry vines growing inside the house, and trees, three inches in diameter, were growing horizontally from underit. Jim admits that one of the hardest tasks he’s faced in the restoration was removing the floors in the house and literally digging up all of the blackberry roots growing beneath it. The foundation had to be replaced, and the house had to be completely rewired. After the jungle of vegetation was brought under control around the house, a new front porch and back deck were built on, replacing those that had long ago deteriorated. The county allowed them to build a covered walkway between the house and garage, extending the kitchen area. It is expected that the Reuschers will be able to move into their home by late May. They have had many visitors inquiring about the progress and the history of the home since beginning the restoration project, and they plan to host an open house later in the year “after mud season” for those who wish to visit the property.
Jim and Shirley have owned Crow Mercantile in the neighboring community of Crow for the past 3+ years. Shirley was born in England and moved to the United States in the late 1960’s to work as a nanny, caring for the children of Beverly Garland of My Three Sons television fame. “I loved working for Beverly! I became a member of her family and worked in, out, and around her home for 3 1/2 years. She and I are still good friends. The children who are now grown still keep in touch, as well. Then, I went to work as secretary in the hotel that she and her husband built in North Hollywood, California and worked there for 8 years.” It was there that she met Jim, who holds an accounting degree from Arizona State, and who was, at the time, working for Howard Johnsons. Says Jim, “I went to check out a complaint she had about the dance floor. She said, ‘Rather than tell you, let me show you what the problem is.’ She grabbed me and hauled me out on the dance floor where we danced a few dances. That did it! I was hooked!” They were married on May 3, 1980, in Grand Junction, Colorado where they lived for 3 years before moving to Texas. They eventually moved to Oregon where Jim worked for Taco Bell before he and Shirley bought the feed store in Crow. They love animals and have a menagerie including horses, cows, goats, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats, birds, fish, ducks, and geese. “We bought Crow Mercantile because, with all of these animals, we needed a wholesale outlet for feed!”
And soon, if the Reuschers have their way, all of the animals and their owners can spend their days in contentment in the serene pastures and green woodlands that encompass what will eventually become “the Reuscher place,” knowing that they have done their part in preserving the past for the benefit of the future.”
ZUMWALT HOUSE: MAKING A PLEA FOR THE PAST
In a letter written on September 16, 1992, by Prof. Philip Dole, Professor of Architecture Emeritus at the University of Oregon, to Ken Howe, Associate Planner for the Lane County Planning Department, Prof. Dole expressed his concerns for the future of the historic David Zumwalt home, knowing that the property was in the process of being sold.
Prof. Dole was concerned that “the new owners may ask for permission to demolish the house and replace it by a new home. Such an action is foreseeable because of rural residential zoning restrictions and the building’s condition, and perhaps because of ignorance of the building’s unusual history and actual and potential merits.
”The house is part of a very early historic farm group with both house and barn, a spring and old plants and orchard. Beautifully sited, prominently located, the Zumwalt farm group is a major visible feature for public using the Territorial Road. The adjacent county road alignment was variously known in the 1850’s as the Territorial Road, the Oregon and California Trail, the Old Trail, the Stage Road. This is the only remaining house which was part of this historic road’s setting in the late 1850’s.
“The farm is connected with the 1850’s Overland Migration on the Oregon Trail through members of the David Zumwalt family covered wagon trip in 1852 from Pike Co., Illinois. Solomon Zumwalt was a leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church in the locality. The 1859 bridge built at Gillespie Corners to cross the Coyote Creek was the (Lane) County’s first.
“This long, one and a half story house, begun around 1854, standing by 1859, belongs to that set of earliest wood structures in the County and in Oregon, of which few remain. (Rear kitchen ell is an addition of ca 1875.) After log homes, the first lumber houses in Lane County were built in the 1850’s but of the hundreds built, only a dozen remain, most now in urban areas. Of Lane County’s few 1850’s houses remaining in an agricultural setting, the Zumwalt house is one of two still within an active farm.
“The building shape, symmetry and detail (doors, windows, mantle piece) of the David Zumwalt house express the Classical Revival style, fashionable in Oregon from the 1840’s to the 1860’s. In contrast, the dining room-kitchen ell (wainscot, doors, chimney, windows, etc.) represent the Gothic Revival Style of ca 1870-1880.
“A very important cultural feature is the plan with two separate, identically placed front doors into identical rooms. This plan, with the enclosed, winding staircase beside the central chimney can be traced back to East Coast colonial houses and across to sixteenth century farmhouses in Suffolk, England. This house type was found in many Southern States and, as such, carried by the Zumwalts to the Oregon Territory, a wonderful cultural phenomenon.
“Material and assembly in the main (1854) building represents hand work methods perfected over hundreds of years, useful to the conditions of pioneer settlement into the 1860’s in the Oregon Territory. Wood probably came from the farm. In contrast, the ca 1875 Zumwalt dining-kitchen ell represents the earliest phase in Oregon construction of the change over to ‘modern’ machine-produced materials and parts.
“A remarkable technological characteristic is the hand-hewn mortised and pegged wooden frame. Members include subfloor 8″x 10″ sills and cross girders, corner posts, 5″x 7″ intermediate posts, second floor girders, 6″x 7 1/2″ wall plates. Between hewn posts are walls of rough-sawn studs of two by five inches. This very early surviving example of balloon frame, and found in combination with a hewn frame, is nothing less than remarkable.
“Rough boards from a simply equipped sawmill (a muley saw?) probably at the site were recut and hand planed for all ca 1854 boards on the doors, the exterior and interior walls, ceilings, the inch-and-a-half partitions, mantel piece moldings, window sash, and most of the interior flooring.
“The entire front chimney is original and characteristic of the 1850’s, from the stack on the roof to the two fireplaces and the brick base beneath the house (except for some modern patching). The handmade bricks and the “mud” mortar, almost pure clay, perhaps came from nearby Coyote Creek.
“A barn sits a few hundred feet back of the house. This vertical board, end opening structure is also a significant historic building and an imposing element on this site. Its mortised, tennoned and pegged frame is of rough-sawn material except for six hand-hewn beams. The date “1898”, drilled above the main door, is appropriate. It is unusual in Oregon to have both an early house and an early barn still remaining on the same site. This building group, house and barn, is not on the National Register, although it is an outstanding candidate for that recognition.”
In summary, Prof. Dole continued, “The quality of structure and materials of the 1850’s work was excellent, carefully and substantially designed, assembled, and finished.
“As architecture of the 1850’s (and 1870’s ell) this building is unusually intact. Minor interior wall changes have hardly affected the historic characteristics of the spaces. Some hardware and a mantel are missing.
“To make this home suited to late twentieth century living, technical improvements and some spatial changes could be made and with minimum effect on the historic features and the significance of this remarkable house.
“I wish that the further parts of this Lane County code (16.233 Historic Structures) contained at least one paragraph that was definitely encouraging to the owners of historic properties. And more helpful about the kinds of alterations which (can be made to a) historic building to accommodate modern amenities. The code as it stands presents the owner with disincentives rather than helpful guidance. If the purpose of the code is to ensure that historic buildings are preserved, the code should strongly promote their continued use. And so should each step of each application review.
“Code emphasis on the severe, confusing term ‘integrity’ is unfortunate and naive. ‘Integrity’ from Websters is… ‘an unimpaired condition…adherence to a code of moral, artistic, or other values…the quality or state of being unimpaired or undivided.’
“While ‘integrity’ in historic buildings is an objective, it is a relative one requiring some sort of balance with an equal objective–which is to continue the ‘historic’ building as part of present twentieth century life, and of the lives to come.”
FROM THE EDITOR
I wish to thank Marna and Bob Hing for their willingness to contribute information and their interview with Lincoln and May Diess to The Lorane Historian. I am hoping that others will be inspired to do the same. You don’t have to be considered a “good writer” to do interviews and submit material. All it takes is a willingness to interview your friends and neighbors who are probably even more interesting than you realize. If you get an article started for me, I’ll follow up on the information that I think needs to be added. The interview that Marna and Bob gave me was beautifully done and I had to do very little to complete it. The words are almost exclusively theirs. It is this “flavor” that I would like to add to The Historian.
LINCOLN AND MAY DIESS
By Marna and Bob Hing
Yesterday, March 21, 1994, Bob and I went over to May and Lincoln Diess’ home to interview them for an article in The Lorane Historian. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, and we heard a lot of stories of years gone by. We have known May and Lincoln since we moved to Lorane, and we had interviewed them when we wrote Sawdust and Cider, but every time you talk with them, you find out something you didn’t know before. As I sit at my computer going over my notes from yesterday’s interview, it is snowing like crazy outside, and the ground is white. All my bright yellow daffodils are covered with snow. Oh well, maybe next week we will have spring!
Lincoln Diess was born in the community called Hadleyville. The Hadleyville School was off Territorial Road on Briggs Hill Road (between Lorane and Crow). Lincoln was born on the property on Territorial Road located on the north side of Territorial Road, south of Briggs Hill Road. Lincoln’s sister, Opal McDaniel , still lives in the house that is now on it. Lincoln’s father, Benjamin Franklin Diess, was also born in Hadleyville in about 1879 in a house that was on the ridge behind and between the Ellis “Hap” Rackleff home near Gillespie Corners and the Mike Atkinson home located across Territorial Road from Powell Road. Lincoln’s grandfather came to the United States from Germany, and Lincoln is not sure when the family originally settled in the Hadleyville area. Lincoln remembers as a young boy that there were a lot of jack rabbits but not many deer in the area.
Lincoln graduated from Crow High School in 1931. He went to the University of Oregon and graduated in 1937 with a degree in accounting. He was also the 1934 Light-Heavyweight Boxing Champion while at the University of Oregon. At one point during the “hungry 30’s”, tuition dropped to $21.50 a term, with an optional $5.00 student body fee if you wanted to attend any athletic events. While in college, Lincoln and two other Crow boys “batched” together. His first job was working for Weyerhaeuser in Washington where he worked for one year. He came back to the Eugene-Lorane area and worked as a farmer and logger. He never used his accounting degree after the first year.
May moved to Lorane with her parents, Rose (Streiff) and Charles Schaffer when May was nine years old. After May’s grandfather, Louis Schaffer, died in 1920, her father bought the family’s original 600-acre farm near Lorane in 1921 (see Sawdust & Cider). The farm had been in the family since 1905. May attended the Green Door School and graduated from Lorane High School in 1929. She went to the University of Oregon for two years and then went to work cleaning houses for some wealthy families in Eugene. May and her sister, Pearl, drove a 1929 Model A back and forth to Eugene for a year while they were going to college. The two girls raised pigs to earn enough money for their college tuition which was, at that time, $25.75 per term with an added $10.00 lab fee. With all of the traveling and tending of the animals, it did not leave much time for studying. After one year of traveling back and forth they rented a room and stayed in town.
May and Lincoln started going together in 1933 when May was working in Eugene. May told us that she would not marry Lincoln until he graduated from college because she figured if they got married before he received his degree, he would not continue with his education. They were married on June 8, 1937. They moved back to Lorane in 1944, renting the original Schaffer place located on the west side of Territorial Road about a mile south of Marlow-Jackson Road from her parents. They eventually purchased the 500+ acre farm. Lincoln and May again moved from the area for a time and returned in the early 1950’s, buying another 500+ acres on which they built their present home in 1953. They raised two boys, Frank and Floyd who attended Lorane Elementary School and graduated from Lorane High School. Floyd lives in the Salem area and is retired from his job with the city of Salem. He and his wife, Clare, have two children and no grandchildren, as yet. Frank lives in the Eugene area and works for Eugene Sand & Gravel and is thinking about retiring soon. He and his wife, Judy, have three children and no grandchildren.
Lincoln is an avid hunter and fisherman. May is one of the best cooks in Lorane and is seen almost every day during the spring and summer, working in her garden. They have always been involved in community affairs. May has been a volunteer for the Lane County Blood Mobile program when it used to come to Crow on a regular basis. They have been active members of the Lorane Grange #54 for 43 years. Lincoln served on the Lorane School Board for several years and was a substitute school bus driver for the district.
I asked Lincoln and May what has been the biggest changes in the Lorane area and they both agreed that it is the way people make a living. When they were growing up, everyone made a living by farming. The more land you had, the more farming you could do. May remembers what a big event it was for the threshing machine to come to their place to do their fields. Everyone knew when it was time for their fields to be done. Elmer Crowe did the work for the Lorane area people. His crew would go from one farm to another until all of the fields were done. Lincoln remembers it as being a lot of hard work, but the food was great. He never ate so much fried chicken in his life as he did during the time he worked on the threshing crew. There were always plenty of pies and cakes, too. He remembers that May was considered one of the best cooks by the threshing crews. Any time that they would hitch a wagon to go the considerable distance to Eugene for supplies, they would take something to the market to sell to make the trip worth their while. That could mean vegetables or livestock of some kind.
May and Lincoln have had some rough times over the years, but are enjoying their retirement in Lorane with all of their good friends. May told me, “If we had our life to live over, we would want it to be the same.”
I have been very encouraged by the recent number of submissions that I have been getting, and I want those people to know that everything that I receive will be included in future issues. Thank you for your participation.
Jim and I and the Edwards family would like to thank all of you who sent cards, food, and expressions of condolences following the death of Jim’s mother, Mae Rose, on May 1. It was a rough week for a close family. Mom was the matriarch of the Edwards family and the remaining parent. The grief we felt, however, was for ourselves because, at almost 83 years of age, Mom “did it right.” She never had to spend a day in a hospital except for the births of some of her 8 children.
It helped to know how many of you were thinking of us in our grief. Thank you so very much from each of us.