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Mystery at the Rorick House

Jackie Williams, left, and Jill Durow of the Wasco County Historical Society pose with two pictures found on a bed at the historic Rorick House. How they got there is a mystery. 	Mark B. Gibson photo

Jackie Williams, left, and Jill Durow of the Wasco County Historical Society pose with two pictures found on a bed at the historic Rorick House. How they got there is a mystery. Mark B. Gibson photo Photo by Mark Gibson.

Annual meeting

The Wasco County Historical Society will have its annual luncheon meeting Saturday, Oct. 25, at Mosier Grange Hall #234 at noon. Business items include collection of annual dues (beginning at $20), election of officers and board members, and treasurer’s report.

Program will follow, with a presentation by Dave Wilson, Mayerdale history researcher, on the Japanese families that lived in the Mosier area prior to 1942. Wilson has done extensive research on past owners of the Mayerdale Estate and nearby properties. For reservations, call 541-478-3429.

Cost with lunch is $10, program only, $5.

Two pictures that mysteriously appeared inside the Rorick House will be a topic for discussion at the meeting of the Wasco County Historical Society during their annual luncheon Oct. 25, noon, at the Mosier Grange Hall.

Like all good mysteries, there are a number of pieces to this one:

ITEM 1 — 1929. Eck Rorick, the most recent owner of the historical Rorick House, served in the U.S. military during World War I. In 1991 the Wasco County Historical Society took ownership of the home, originally built around 1850, committing to its preservation.

ITEM 2 — June, 2014. Cracks in the oldest portion of the house are observed to be growing. The house is sinking. Volunteers Eric Gleason, Mark Poppoff and Tedd Lovell install jacks beneath the floor and begin slowly raising the front of the house. The cracks gradually begin to diminish.

ITEM 3 — Saturday, Aug. 16. A volunteer docent arrives in the afternoon, unlocks the door and deactivates the alarm. The house is opened for visitors until 4 p.m., at which time the door is locked, the alarm reset.

ITEM 4 — Saturday, Aug. 23. Jackie Williams, president of the Wasco County Historical Society, arrives at the house. She unlocks the door, disables the alarm. As they prepare to open for visitors, she and past-president Jill Durow find two framed pictures lying on the bed. They are covered in dust and cobwebs. One, a watercolor painting, shows evidence of severe water damage to the mat. Assuming the pictures were found by those working under the house, they slide them under the bed and open the door for visitors.

ITEM 5 — Saturday, Aug. 23 to present. Williams and Durow begin asking volunteers where the pictures came from, but nobody seems to know…

“They must have come from around here, but no one seems to know where they came from, or how they got on the bed,” explains a puzzled Williams. “Sometime that week (between Aug. 16 and Aug. 23), the pictures showed up. We’ve spoken to everyone who worked on the house, it looks like they came from around (the house).”

photo

DETAIL of recently found portrait of Eck Rorick.

The photograph, a black and white portrait photograph, is Eck Rorick in military uniform. He trained pilots for World War I, Durow noted, and other photographs of Rorick at the house confirmed his identity. Yet no one recalls ever seeing this particular portrait.

“We seem to have asked everyone who has a key and knows the (alarm) code,” adds Durow. “No one knows where (the pictures) came from.”

Both agree the pictures must have been somewhere on the property, although Durow knows it wasn’t in the large storage building. “When we got the house, we cleaned that all out.”

photo

This watercolor, badly damaged by moisture, was found recently at the historic Rorick House.

The pictures themselves offer few clues. The portrait is clearly Eck Rorick,from his service years. The painting is a watercolor of a village, with people and draft horses. The back of the frame bears the words “Barton’s Gifts.” Both were extremely dirty, which is why they thought at first they had been found by workers underneath the house.

When the society was gifted the house from the Rorick estate in 1991, all of the household furnishings remained.

The Roiricks had no children, and little had been removed. Furniture, books, photographs, all remained.

Eck and May Rorick were interesting, well-educated, well-traveled people, Durow said. May wrote a society column for The Chronicle, and was a home economics teacher at The Dalles High School.

“I didn’t take her class, but now I wish I had,” she said.

Over the years, a number of maintenance projects have been undertaken, including checking the house wiring, replacing the roof, plumbing repair and general maintenance of the house and grounds.

The Rorick House, 300 West 13th, The Dalles, is described in the Society brochure as “the oldest surviving home in one of the oldest continuously occupied communities in the West.”

Comments

BNiquette 3 years, 1 month ago

What a fascinating mystery. Like something out of a book. This is a great story.

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