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 deconstructed it. 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 had been taken by Hershel Stuart on February 4, 1958, and given to the museum on September 6, 2006, by Mabel Johnson. 

Then 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 at a list in the county clerk's deed record index of people who gave perpetual easements to the Corps of Engineers in 1956 as a condition for the construction of the breakwater that closed the gap, I saw Otto and Maldeenna Notdurft listed as the owners of lots 24-26 of block 57. They had purchased them in 1943 and 1944.

Searching online, 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. He said they only visited the cabin a couple of times each year, so didn't get to know many of the Bayocean residents. But Norm did get to know Sally Bagley, who was about his age. They later got reacquainted while attending Oregon State University. Norm and Sally's husband ended up on the same military base, where they socialized. 

When the Notdurfts viewed the damage wreaked by the 1952 storm from Cape Meares, they assumed their cabin was lost and never went back. The 1999 edition of Bayocean: The Oregon Town That Fell Into The Sea the Notdurfts purchased doesn't have a caption saying that their cabin was the last to fall, so Otto and Maldeenna died not realizing they had that distinction. And even though they know their cabin had been lost, they kept paying taxes until Tillamook County stopped charging them. It's still in their name. 


  1. Wonderful read, thanks for sharing.

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