A decade ago, I wrote about a historic wooden house alongside U.S. Highway 12 near the Ethel store slowly falling into disrepair.
When nobody stepped forward to fix the two-story pioneer home built in 1886 by German immigrant Paul C. Lindeman, I feared yet another historic site would simply fade away.
That is, until I received an email this week from Onalaska’s Bryce Blair. He and his father, Rob, purchased the White Pass Highway property from the Perry family in 2018.
“Last weekend we cleared all the brush away from it,” Bryce Blair wrote. “It’s in pretty tough shape now.”
The porch is gone. Tar paper covering the dilapidated roof has peeled back from the edges, leaving holes in the corners with exposed wood. Boards block the narrow windows. Weather has faded much of the once-white trim to gray.
Yet the 134-year-old house built without nails still stands.
A historic marker in a stone block in front of the house recounts the significance of the Lindeman House, which “possesses particular value in commemorating or illustrating American history.” It was placed on the Washington State Register of Historic Places Feb. 25, 1977.
“We would like to try and save it if possible,” Blair wrote. “I think it would have to be taken down and ‘rebuilt.’”
More than a century ago, that’s how the St. Helens Club in Chehalis restored the nearby historic Jackson House at Mary’s Corner, which was literally falling down by 1915. Workers preserved as much of the original wood as possible, including the steep staircase.
Matilda Jackson and her sons, Barton and John Koontz, who crossed the Oregon Trail in 1847, probably considered Lindeman a newcomer when he arrived in the mid-1880s.
Paul Lindeman was born in January 1841 in Kreupe, Germany, grew up around the Hamburg docks, and signed on as a cabin boy at 15, traveling to European ports, according to 1985’s “The History of Lewis County” by Alma Nix and her son, John. At 21, he sailed around Cape Horn and settled in San Francisco, where he ran a flower shop and later a grocery and fruit store. He married his sweetheart from Germany, Doris Cheerman, in 1867.
The couple had two sons — William born in 1872 and Rudolph in 1876 — when they moved north to Washington Territory, lured by tales of large wheat harvests in the Palouse, the book states. Their third son, Edward, was born in 1882 while Paul worked on construction of the Washington State Penitentiary, which opened at Walla Walla in 1887.
By then, though, Paul Lindeman had moved west in search of milder winters and found land at what later became Ethel. He filed paperwork on the property and lived in an old lean-to cabin while constructing his family’s sturdy home on Lacamas Prairie from a nearby grove of virgin cedar trees. He used hand-hewn cedar — two feet wide and six inches thick — for the walls of the salt-box-shaped house. Instead of nails, he used wedge cut joints at the corners and tightly spaced timbers. The upstairs floor is anchored with notch supports visible from outside. A rear expansion for the kitchen and porch was added in 1914 and a front porch built in 1936.
In the 1995 book “Exploring Washington’s Past: a Road Guide to History,” authors Ruth Kirk and Carmela Alexander said the Lindeman House “remains one of the least-altered pre-statehood houses in Washington.”
According to his obituary, Paul Lindeman served as Ethel postmaster for 32 years. He passed away in 1924 at the age of 82. Doris died in 1908.
Their son Rudolph, or “Rudy,” and his wife, Margaret Bowers Lindeman, raised their family of six girls and three boys in the historic home and operated a dairy farm and raised grain. Margaret sold the home to Roscoe Perry, who owned the grocery store at Ethel, before her death in 1980. His children owned the land until the Blairs bought it two years ago.
Gordon Harper of Centralia, who hauls corn from Eastern Washington for National Frozen Foods in Chehalis from July through October, passes the house regularly and noticed the brush clearing. His family homesteaded in the Shoestring area near Cinebar so he’s intrigued by old buildings.
He contacted Blair to talk about the historic home. Harper said he’d love to see it restored, perhaps turned into a bed and breakfast or the centerpiece of a fruit farm.
But the person who first brought the Lindeman home to my attention in 2009 was Dan Forrest, a Morton native who was worried the historic home would simply rot away. Unfortunately Forrest, who loved local history and helped establish the Cowlitz River Valley Historic Society, passed away in June.
I imagine he’d be happy to know the Blairs plan to preserve the historic home for posterity.
Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.