The Dibble House Building
The Horace Lasalle & Julia Ann Dibble House
620 South Molalla Avenue
By Gail J. McCormick
The Molalla Area Historical Society is the Horace Lasalle & Julia Ann Dibble House. It is located at 620 South Molalla Avenue in Molalla, Oregon. For the West Coast, it is a rare example of the colonial New England Saltbox Style of architecture, dating back to 1650. The Dibble House is an exact example of the Saltbox Style. The construction took place from 1856 to 1859. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Saltbox Style house has two stories in the front and one in the rear. The house has an unusual double sloped roof that extends downward in the back over a rear kitchen. The roof is often referred to as a “cat-slide roof”. This look is what gave it the Saltbox name. The house is built of hand-sawed post and beams and has hand-sawed lapped board siding. It is a simple looking house, with corner boards and a frieze-like board under a simple box cornice as the only decorations.
Inside the walls are hand-sawed cedar plank and the floor is wide planks of fir, originally laid with square nails. The roof-rafters are un-squared poles stripped of bark. The original roof was hand split cedar shakes. There are four rooms on the first floor: a living room, kitchen and two bedrooms. A double back-to-back fireplace serves the living room and west bedroom. A narrow, steep enclosed stairway leads to the upstairs which has a large bedroom and a small bedroom, with a storage space under the cat-slide portion of the roof over the kitchen. Upstairs is where Julia had a large loom and wove rag rugs to sell to neighbors. The thump, thump, thump of the loom was a familiar sound at the Dibble home.
Today, the house is completely furnished with period furniture. Some of the furniture and decor belonged to the Dibble family and the rest was donated by other local families. The most unique of the artifacts is a small heart-shaped table made of twigs. It was made for Granddaughter Ina Dibble, by her sweetheart. He served in World War I and was one of the fatalities of the War. Ina never married and lived in the house with her parents from 1914 until her death in 1978.
Horace Lasalle Dibble was born in 1815, at New York. His parents were Thomas Dibble and Ruth Gates. Julia Ann Sturges was born in 1825, at New York. Her parents were Aaron Burr Sturges and Eliza Hougland. It is thought that the Dibble ancestors immigrated, to America, around 1630, with the Puritan group. In 1852, Horace and Julia, with their three oldest children, emigrated to Oregon from Iowa. They first settled on a 640 acre donation land claim in the Needy area. One day, Horace was on horseback looking for cattle. He came upon a lovely home sight on a little knoll, just south of the Four Corners. He wanted it for his home, so he purchased the land from the heirs of William Larkin. The trip across the plains so weakened Horace that he was not able to take on the job of building a house. He hired a carpenter and signed over 320 acres of his land in payment.
Some records say there was only one apple tree. Other records say the apple trees were there when the Dibbles purchased the property. If you were lucky enough to know the late Ina Dibble, she might have related the story to you of how Beaver Trapper and other Molala Indians would come by the Dibble’s house looking for apples. The Indians idea of a good apple was not the same as the pioneers and they would often take last year’s apples and eat them with gusto.
Horace passed away in 1899, at Molalla. Julia passed away in 1904, at Molalla. In 1909, the house was sold to a development firm. In 1913, Dudley and Goldie Boyles purchased the house. In 1968, their heirs sold it to Mrs. Albert Powers, a lady who had the money to rescue old houses. In 1969, local history enthusiasts, Arden and Carol Eby and Harold and Dorothy Del Ridings, formed the Molalla Area Historical Society. That same year, the community gathered together and raised $7,000 to purchase the house. Thanks to many members of the Historical Society, today, the house is in excellent condition. If you would like to visit the Dibble House during the winter months, please make an appointment by calling 503-765-6432.
“Dibble House A Historical Treasure”, by Gloria Bledsoe, Capital Journal, October 27, 1970. Reprinted in The Bulletin, October 6, 1982
“Dibble House Story”, Unpublished manuscript by Marie Hardy, June 26, 1975.
Interview with Ina Dibble. By Edna Joan Chelson, Paper dated 1980.
“The Dibbles of Molalla”, Story in “Our Proud Past” by Gail J. McCormick, Self Published 1992.”
“The Dibbles of Molalla”, by Gail J. McCormick, Story in “Pioneers”, an award winning supplement of the Molalla Pioneer Newspaper, December 1996
© Gail J. McCormick, 2023