Enduring Historical Buildings of Molalla
By Gail J. McCormick for The Molalla Pionneer
The Vonder Ahe House and Kitchen are located at the Molalla Area Historical Society Complex at 600 South Molalla Avenue in Molalla, Oregon. It was the home of Christian Frederick and Marie Vonder Ahe of Carus, Oregon, and was located on the main wagon road from Oregon City to Molalla. For many years, the house was a popular stage coach stop. In 1972, the house and summer kitchen were acquired by the Molalla Area Historical Society and moved to its present location adjacent to the Dibble House. In addition to displaying artifacts, it holds the resource library for the Historical Society. The summer kitchen was a separate building used for canning and big meals.
The architectural style is Vernacular Federal Style. The Federal Style is named after the Federalist Party which was dominant in American politics at the turn of the 18th Century. In the newly formed United States, the emphasis was on home life. The Federal Style grew out of the needs of a growing middle class and was most popular from 1780 to 1830. The Style usually revolves around a central hall floor plan and a side gabled roof. Vernacular refers to the use of the local material and knowledge that would have been available at the time.
Christian Frederick Vonder Ahe
Christian Frederick Vonder Ahe, known as Fred, was born in Prussia, in 1828. He was the son of Cord Heinrich Vonder Ahe and Marie Louise Wehmer. At the time, King Wilhelm ruled Prussia and there was not much opportunity for farmers. When Fred was 19, he heard of a place of opportunity – America. He made the decision to leave for America to seek his fortune. It was a hard decision as it meant leaving behind his beloved, Marie Louisa Kline. Promising to send for her when he could, he departed on a sailing ship for New York City. When he reached New York, he traveled however he could, including by foot, until he reached Blue Island, Illinois. The Erie Canal was being built and jobs were had for $1 per day. From there, he went to work for a farm, in Illinois, where he was paid $6 per month plus room and board. He stayed on the farm for three years.
In 1852, Fred joined a wagon train headed for the Oregon country. Upon arrival in Oregon City, he took a job at Pope's Hardware Store. He made $5 per day delivering for Pope's which was located near Warner Milne and Leland Roads. In his spare time, Fred would take long walks across the countryside. Eventually, he met a man who had taken out a 320 acre donation land claim, but had only cleared six acres of land. By then, Fred had the means and bought the property, on August 15, 1857, for $600 in gold coin. Ten years had passed since leaving Marie and his family.
Fred moved into the log cabin on the property and sent for Marie. Marie had accumulated quite a large trousseau over the years. It included bolts of colored and plaid linens for suits and dresses and bolts of white linen for sheets, pillow cases and towels. Many handmade decorative pieces were also included in her collection. Marie, along with her sister, Elizabeth, left for America in February of 1858. They sailed, for New York, on the ship Airstias. In New York, they spent some time buying new dresses and bonnets. They left New York in the spring and sailed for San Francisco, arriving in July. They traveled from San Francisco to Oregon City by stagecoach.
At the time, Oregon City was a little settlement nestled below the falls of the Willamette River, with a few houses straggling up dusty streets. We can only imagine the meeting of Fred and Marie after waiting such a long time. Their love had lasted and they were married August 13, 1858. Fred was able to clear the land and built a drying house. They went into the business of raising and drying apples. They also made an excellent vinegar to sell. The house was a stopping place for travelers and Indians often camped out in their front yard. Today, that farm is called Evans Farm and is a thriving nursery. It has been operated by descendants of Fred and Marie all these years.
Fred built the house in 1865 and they raised a large family. Fred died in 1909, at Carus. Marie died in 1905, also at Carus. The old house is now over 150 years old. You can tour it at the Molalla Area Historical Society Complex at 600 South Molalla Avenue on Friday and Saturday afternoons from 1 pm to 4 pm.
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