Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Last House

Two of Bert and Margie Webber's books on Bayocean have slightly different photos on the front cover of the last house to fall into the sea. One was taken by Howard Sherwood on January 30, 1960; the other was taken by Burford Wilkerson on February 15, 1960 (the Bayocean sign where Dike Rd meets the mainland erroneously gives that as the date the house fell). On December 21, 1960, an article in the Tillamook Headlight Herald added earlier and later Wilkerson photos to show a progression. No one identified the owners of the house or the lot it sat on, which gave me an interesting subject to research.  

I first asked Bayocean alumni if they knew who owned three houses shown in a 1957 photo from the Maxwell Collection at the Salem Public Library. They identified the one in the middle as that of Lewis and Hilda Bennett, but no one knew who owned the cabin at the top of the hill. Given the nature of gravity, that one seemed like the best candidate. 
After following many leads down rabbit holes, I was looking at Webbers' What Happened At Bayocean and noticed a photograph on page 11 of Lewis Bennett holding another photograph of a house in shambles that the caption said fell into the sea. Bennett's property was in the foreground sans house, because he'd already disassembled it and used the lumber to add onto a place he bought on Cape Meares. Looking at a Bayocean Park plat map I saw that the property just above Bennett's was lot 26 of block 57. 

At the Tillamook County Pioneer Museum I found the original of the photo that Bennett was holding. A note on the back said "Last House In Bayocean." It was taken by Hershel Stuart on February 4, 1958. Mabel Johnson gave it to the museum September 6, 2006. Thank you, Mabel, and others who make such gifts: you often make my day!

Now the trick was figuring out who owned lot 26 in block 57. Since deed books in the Tillamook County Clerk's office are indexed by the last name, and not by the lot numbers, I had no way to get there directly. But while looking in the direct index for something else I came across a list of people who gave perpetual easements to the Army Corps of Engineers in 1956 as a condition for construction of the breakwater that closed the gap. Notes next to each name showed the lot and block numbers. Lots 24-26 of block 57 were owned by Otto and Maldeenna Notdurft. 

Searching online directories I was sorry to read that both Notdurfts were deceased. Norman Notdurft was suggested as a possible relative by People Smart, so I called and left a message. Ten days later he responded, saying he was the only son of Otto and Maldeenna. Norm confirmed the house on the cover of Webbers' books was theirs. Tillamook County deed books show that Otto and Maldeenna bought the cabin and two other lots during 1943 and 1944. 

Norm said they only visited their cabin a couple times a year, so didn't get to know the permanent Bayocean residents. This explains why Bayocean alumni didn't remember them. Norm did play with Sally Bagley, who was about his age, and got to know her again when they attended Oregon State University. Norm and Sally's husband ended up on the same military base so the couples socialized. 

When the Notdurfts viewed the damage wreaked by the 1952 storm they assumed their cabin had succumbed and never went back. The 1999 edition of Bayocean: The Oregon Town That Fell Into The Sea, that they possessed, doesn't have a caption saying that their cabin was the last to fall, so they didn't realize they had that distinction. Despite that, they kept paying taxes until Tillamook County stopped charging them, and it's still in their name. 


  1. Wonderful read, thanks for sharing.

  2. Good research Jerry ! Thanks for your blog, love reading it!