The Mosier House

The Buce family in the front yard of the Mosier House

The Buce Family and the Mosier House

The Mosier House was built in 1896 by Jefferson Newton Mosier. Mr. Mosier plotted the town of Mosier, Oregon, along the Columbia River. Mosier is approximately 7 miles east of Hood River, and 14 miles west of The Dalles. Today the river is often dotted with windsurfers who come from all over the world to sailboard in this area. After my grandmother sold the Mosier House, it sat vacant for some time. Eventually the potential of this historic house was recognized, and the Mosier House was purchased by the Koerner family, when it was renovated and turned into a Bed and Breakfast.

To learn more about the Mosier House Bed and Breakfast, please click here: Mosier House

To view a news article about the Mosier House gardens, click here: Mosier Gardens

My grandfather, Jack McKinley Buce, was employed by the government US Dept. of Aeronautics to tend the beacons in the Columbia River Gorge. Anyone who has ever driven through this national scenic area can understand why early aircraft needed the beacon system. Like small lighthouses, they warned light aircraft away from the dangerous cliffs and pinnacles that jut up from the basalt cliffs and Cascade Mountains. Grandpa Buce eventually bought the Mosier House in Mosier, Oregon, in order to be more centrally located for his job.

Auntie's Autobiography

My aunt took a writing class several years ago, and the result was one of my most prized family treasures. She wrote an autobiography, and what a captivating story it is! Through her eyes, I have discovered a side to my family I had never seen before, and learned much about my grandfather, whom I never knew. My aunt recalls in her autobiography the time they spent living in Mosier. The following exerpts are some of her memories of that time:

Jack and Ethel BuceJack McKinley Buce and Ethel Breining Buce

My father Jack McKinley Buce was born January 20, 1897, the sixth of seven sons, to Charles Marion Buce and Omie Jane Breshears in Braggs, Oklahoma. My mother was Ethel Elizabeth Breining; she was born to Jacob Rahn Breining and Elizabeth Christine (Lily) Fels on September 20, 1901. She was the only daughter and had three brothers George, Walter and Arthur and later a half brother named Wendell. Jack's brothers were Lon, Joe and Robert. Brother Willie died as a young lad of the measles and there were two unnamed infants who died at a very early age. Jack's mother died when he was five years old of typhoid fever and little brother Bob was only a few months old. Grandad was a blacksmith by trade and the boys had to help in the shop and Jack for one never got much schooling. He was a brilliant man and self taught but it was beyond his comprehension that I could not master Algebra. He had his electrical engineer's license and was a member of the National Engineer's Society.

My dad was a very quiet person always seemingly deep in thought. He was a strict father and when he told us to do something we would hasten to obey. He did not tolerate any back-talk or questioning of his directions and to say "why" when he was giving instructions was tantamount to self-destruction. Mom was the sweetest lady--jolly, loving and very energetic. She had a very infectious laugh, snapping brown eyes, thick black hair and a very pretty face.

Beacon RockTending the beacons in the Columbia River Gorge

Dad applied for and got a job with the civil service and had to report to headquarters in Portland, Oregon. There used to be a beacon on Rocky Butte and dad would take us along up there to service it and I would use the Bon Ami to clean the lenses and the reflector. After I learned to do that so no powder or lint remained I had a job for many years. One day we climbed Beacon Rock on the Columbia, not only to the top of the rock but to the top of the tower on top of the rock. There I performed my cleaning duties. At that time there were beacons on both sides of the river spaced ten miles apart. For some of them we would park the car on the highway and then pack all the supplies up a trail to the beacon. I'm sure we kids were a great help! The beacons that were located at airports had green side light and the ones located on the mountains had red side lights and it goes without saying the red lights warned the pilots that here was great danger. There was a code each side light blinked that told the pilot how far he was from the airport or at least his position on the map. For my cleaning duties I used rags. Dad used to get great bales of rags from the government for this cleaning chore and when he got a new bale we used to scope the rags out. Sometimes there would be usable things in there and sometimes remnants of new material which I would confiscate. Some times there was nothing interesting at all! The government wanted him to live more in the center of his route and so our next move was to Cascade Locks. I spent the fifth and sixth grades in Cascade Locks school. While we lived there preparations for the building of Bonneville Dam were begun. At Cascade Locks there were many big rocks in the river causing rapids at that point. The locks had been built to bypass the rapids but for ocean going vessels to be able to navigate the river after the dam was built it was necessary to do a lot of blasting. Dad was excited about the coming of the dam and all the electricity it would produce. He drew pictures to explain to us how the fish ladders would work. He kept close watch on the progress at the dam-site.

The Mosier House in Mosier, OregonMoving to Mosier, Oregon and the Mosier House

On May 6, 1934 we moved to Mosier to be even more centrally located as dad's route by that time extended to Pasco, Washington. Before the move dad found a house; this time one that was for sale. It was the old Mosier house and at that time it wasn't so old...only 30 years but we loved it and still do. The house was the largest one we ever lived in. At first the long back room was locked and we used to peer through the keyhole to see what was in there as Mrs. Mosier had some things stored there. So until we got to use that room, the boys slept in the front bedroom upstairs. Ruth and I had the bedroom on the first floor and mom and dad slept in the front room..which worked out o.k. because we didn't have front room furniture anyhow and the den served us just fine as a front room.

The house hadn't been lived in for several years and I can just picture the ropes of spider webs that extended from the ceiling to the floor all over the house. I'm talking about ten foot ceilings too. In the yard, the grass and weeds had grown to tremendous heights even that early in the spring. The first day we were there mom killed a huge rattler just a few feet from the back much as I know, the only one we ever saw on the place as long as we lived there.

When we bought the place in Mosier we bought all of block nine. We eventually had a couple of pigs, chickens and at one time a total of ten cows and calves. Every fall we would butcher a calf or yearling and a pig for meat for the winter. Mom was really handy with making hams and bacon and we used to can around five hundred jars of stuff, fruits, vegetables, salmon, jams and pickles... just anything that came our way. We had black walnut trees in the yard. This was during the depression and before we got our own livestock going we would purchase a pound of hamburger or sausage or pork chops or roundsteak and that had to do for six children and our parents. There was always plenty of potatoes, bread and milk. They could really slice the steak and chops thin!

We all had our chores to do and it was quite a hustle on school mornings to get up, feed the animals, milk and deliver the papers. We had to do the dishes before we went to school but we made our bed when we came home and sometimes just crawled in as was! On Saturday we cleaned house and the three of us each took our section. The kitchen, pantry and bathroom was one job..the dining room, den and front room was another and the upstairs was yet another. We would sing as we worked and when we were done with our allotted section we were done and things were always ship shape by noon on Saturday.

Growing up in Mosier

Mosier, Oregon was a fun place to live. In the summer we would swim in Mosier Creek. In the winter we would haul the bobsled out of Camp's barn and up on the mountain road. I don't know if that was the proper name or just what we called it. Seven or eight of us would pile on and down we would go. At the bottom was a cement wall and also a curve in the street and we were fortunate that a car never arrived at that corner the same time a sled full of kids did. We would slide for hours and when we went home mom would stuff us with Chili and hot cocoa. The year Monopoly came out or rather our first introduction to the game was one Christmas vacation when Mick got the game for his Christmas present. A lot of the kids in town would come every night during Christmas vacation to play. When they would come up the path mom would mix up dough and after we played till about eleven or so she would start frying raised doughnuts and make a big canning kettle full of cocoa and we would have whipped cream. What wonderful refreshments! Mom was such a good sport to go to all that work for our entertainment.

I was a girl so I was never allowed to go away at night to my friends house. My main outing would be to go to the city library and twenty to thirty minutes for the trip was maximum. So I especially appreciated mom's efforts because I could have company. The kids were always allowed to come to our house any time they wanted. Some of them were in awe of my dad.

When we first moved to Mosier the grass was grown up around the house quite tall. Dad had a scythe that you swung standing up, by that I mean it was a big haying scythe. He told us kids to stay off of the grass and not to trample it down. Pretty soon here was this little boy scooting down the terrace on his butt just having a good time because as the grass lay down it got slick. Dad grabbed this little guy by the over-all straps picked him up and whopped him a couple on the butt. The kid started to cry and instead of heading into the house to mom this little boy took off down over the terrace and on down the street. It was a little neighbor boy, Harold, instead of a little Buce boy, Hank, that dad thought he was paddling. When he realized his mistake he had to go down and apologize to the boy's parents and they were pretty grim about the affair. It wasn't very long before Harold was a frequent visitor. He and Hank were pretty good pals.

A few of my memories of the Mosier House

Family sing-a-long in Mosier, OregonWhile my grandfather died before I was born, my grandmother Ethel continued to live in the Mosier house until the late 1980's. I have many fond memories of visiting her in that house. My cousins and I would slide down the curving staircase on our butts. The one bathroom had two doors... one that led to the kitchen, and another that led to Gram's bedroom. We kids used to love running around in circles as we ran in one bathroom door, then out the other! I remember my cousin and I jumping on the bed in the upstairs bedroom, and when the bed broke and the mattress fell through onto the floor, Gram was sure mad! My dad, Mick, and I used to mow Gram's lawn every weekend. The grandkids used to watch the goldfish in the pond under the walnut tree, and timidly venture into the old garage out back where our long-dead grandfather used to have his shop. Some say his ghost still haunts the place! Holidays were always filled with good food and family laughter. I have fond memories of my aunt Ruthie and aunt Bobbie playing the piano in the front parlor, and leading us on family sing-a-longs.

I remember one particular Thanksgiving when my uncle Tom and his family were there. Tom, who was an engineer for Boeing at the time, took a phone call from work, which was an unprecedented event on a holiday. When he got off the phone he said, "Some son-of-a-bitch has just hijacked an airplane! That was, of course, the infamous D.B. Cooper who has gone down in the annals of Pacific Northwest history as one of the most elusive hijackers of all time. Tom's son told me years later a little-known fact about the hijacking. In the weeks just prior to the hijacking, Boeing engineers had been experimenting with that exact scenario: could someone parachute from a jet in flight and survive? The FBI thought it was an inside job, and had their phone wire-tapped because, for a time they suspected Uncle Tom might have known who the hijacker was (he didn't.)

My dad's brothers and sisters all genuinely loved each other, and in many ways I believe they were each other's best friends. They are all gone now, except my aunt. I'm grateful for my memories of the big, white house in Mosier, and the connection with family we have had.

--Susan Buce



EMAIL WEBMASTER: [email protected]