Thirteen-month-old Newell Daniels slowly toddled up the stairs with help from his mother, Zanne Augur, on Saturday as they toured the A-frame dwelling on the historic grounds of Fort Hoskins outside Kings Valley.
More than 150 years ago, that baby’s great-great grandfather was born in the very same house. Undoubtedly, his little feet climbed those same wooden steps with help from his own mother, Jane Arnold Augur — wife of the fort’s first commander, Christopher Colon Augur.
The history of the pre-Civil War era house became more tangible Saturday as descendants of the distinguished Army officer toured the place, the only original building at Fort Hoskins. Zanne Augur, her husband Tom Daniels and their baby traveled from California; Zanne Augur’s parents, Newell and Suzanne “Tenney” Augur, came from Portland, Maine — all to see the Commander’s House.
“To be able to bring my son to a place where his great-great-great grandfather was, and his great-great grandfather was born — that’s a connection, that’s living history,” Zanne Augur said. “To be able to introduce your children to that is wonderful.“
The Augurs had requested a tour of the house, but they received a homecoming. More than a dozen people dedicated to the history of Fort Hoskins — researchers, county commissioners, a representative from the Siletz Tribe and members of the Fort Hoskins Citizen’s Advisory Committee — greeted them beneath the picnic shelter atop the hill overlooking Fort Hoskins and the Commander’s House.
They discussed the intertwining history of the fort, the Commander’s House and Christopher Augur.
Fort Hoskins, which was erected in 1856, was one of three forts built to monitor and protect the newly established Coast Indian Reservation. The Commander’s House was home to Capt. Augur and his family from the time of its construction until early 1861.
A series of captains took residence in the house during the Civil War years, at which time the fort was used to keep tabs on Confederate sympathizers.
Augur was promoted to general during the Civil War, and in its final years, was in charge of the Army at Washington D.C.
“He was responsible for all of the military actions and in charge of sending out the military search parties after Lincoln was murdered,” Newell Augur said. “Allegedly, he was at Lincoln’s bedside. In the famous paintings of Lincoln’s deathbed, he’s in the picture.”
There is another unbelievable part to that story, which, Newell Augur admits, may just be that — a story.
“There’s a family history,” he said, “that he may have closed Lincoln’s eyes — I don’t know if that is true.”
In 1865, Fort Hoskins was decommissioned and the buildings were sold and taken away.
Benton County purchased the fort property in 1991 and archaeologist David Brauner has led the way in reconstructing its history. Fort Hoskins became a county park in 2002 with a picnic shelter, historical markers and bathrooms.
The Commander’s House spent 142 years or so as a private dwelling in the nearby community of Pedee. It wasn’t until last October when enough funds were raised that it could be carted — in two pieces — to its original site at Fort Hoskins, and then reassembled.
Currently, a construction document is being prepared to restore the outside of the house, like the chimney and front porch, said George McAdams, community project manager for Benton County Natural Areas and Parks Department. Before any work can be done, however, money will have to be raised.
Frozen in time
Stripped of its sheetrock, insulation and layers of wallpaper, the interior of the house is, remarkably, almost exactly as it was when constructed. As visitors walked through the front door Saturday, they were met with a wide entrance, high ceilings and a staircase.
“This was a more formal room where Capt. Augur would meet with his military people,” explained Kathleen Bryant, as she pointed to the front room on the left. “This was the original mantel piece here. The fire box we’re fairly certain was original.”
The captain and his wife’s bedroom was on the ground floor, while the children — all nine of them — slept upstairs, according to Bryant, an Oregon State University teacher and graduate student. She is researching and preparing a restorative interior design of the house for her doctoral thesis.
“The interior would have been beautiful,” she said. “They had the means and the taste.”
Bryant said the Commander’s House was decked out in fine rugs, tablecloths, china and furniture.
Connecting with the Augur family, she said, is vital in learning the domestic side of the house’s history because it isn’t documented like that of military movements or land purchases. On Saturday, she spoke with Suzanne Augur, asking her about old diaries, letters, photos or oral history that could help paint a picture of life inside the home during that era.
An artwork assist
In fact, it was an Augur family heirloom that will help accurately restore the outside of the Commander’s House.
An oil painting that depicts the fort — the placement of buildings, the number of windows, the color of the roofs, etc. — has been in the Augur family since it was painted around 1860.
It wasn’t until Newell Augur toured Fort Hoskins for the first time in 2008 and then saw the painting hanging at his brother’s house a short time later that he made the connection.
“I walked into his living room and there on the wall was a painting that had been attributed to Fort Lewis, but I instantly knew that it was Fort Hoskins,” he recalled.
On Saturday, as Newell Augur stood on the hilltop from the same vantage point of the painting, he looked down at the Commander’s House, the addition since his 2008 visit.
“It’s very exciting,” he said, “to maintain family ties and geographical ties that connect all of us in this experience called life.”