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Cox Island might be named for the ship captain and businessman who bought it in 1895, but the historic two-story home that inspired a local icon, that occupies a spot in American literature and Northwest lore, was named for a businessman named Benedict.

Byline: Mark Baker The Register-Guard

Cox Island might be named for the ship captain and businessman who bought it in 1895, but the historic two-story home that inspired a local icon, that occupies a spot in American literature and Northwest lore, was named for a businessman named Benedict.

Edwin Benedict built the house with his son, Elbert, in 1902 as a wedding gift for Elbert and his fiance, says Louis Campbell, curator at the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum. Benedict later purchased the island and the Siuslaw Booming Company from William Cox, who is buried in the cemetery across the highway with his second wife and a son.

Ten decades and five years later, the old house is still standing, albeit a heaping mess with a northern lean.

Still visible from Highway 126, although the clump of spruce, Douglas fir and hemlock trees on the island's north side have grown all around it and mostly obscure its view, the house was the late author Ken Kesey's inspiration for the Stamper house in his 1964 novel, "Sometimes a Great Notion," says his widow, Faye Kesey.

As a boy, Ken Kesey worked on a nearby dairy farm with his father, and always had a chance to view the home that's been vacant since at least the 1950s, Faye Kesey says.

"He was always intrigued by it," she says.

The Old Stamper Place first appears on page 4 of the famous novel that was made into a 1971 film of the same name starring Henry Fonda and Paul Newman.

"Along the whole twenty miles, from Breakback Gully, where the river crashes out of the flowering dogwood, all the way to the eel-grassed shores at Wakonda Bay, where it fans into the sea, no houses at all stand on the bank," Kesey wrote.

"Or no houses at all on the bank if one excludes that blasted home, if one excludes this single house that acknowledged no zone of respect for nobody and surrendered seldom a scant inch, let alone a hundred or so yards."

The Benedict House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The house would have been used in the film if it had been more structurally sound, according to a study of Cox Island done in 1977 by the Nature Conservancy, which inherited the island that year from its last private owner, Champion International. (Instead, the Stamper house you see in the film is actually a Victorian house on the Siletz River near Kernville, just northwest of Salishan.)

The Nature Conservancy wanted to restore the Benedict House 30 years ago, but it was too far gone, even then.

The home, like the island, is reachable only by boat. That's the easiest way to get there. Of course, if you're already somewhere else on the island and want to venture over, it'll take some doing. After hiking through knee-deep and waist-deep shrubs, you've got to fight through that clump of trees to finally get to it.

The Nature Conservancy tries to discourage folks from going too close to the house for obvious safety reasons. For the curious, however, a peek inside is difficult to resist.

Rotted wood cracks beneath your feet. A beer bottle with a peeled label sits in a pile of wood next to a chunk of white ceramic tile. A rusted can of Copenhagen chewing tobacco sits at the base of the tree out front. Pieces of a shattered liquor bottle lay nearby.

The doors and windows are missing; rotten cardboard and cloth peel from the walls and blow in the breeze. Or is it a ghost?

After Elbert Benedict and his wife, the house was occupied in 1912 by the Sanborn Family, Campbell says. Evidence of remodeling by the Sandborns could be seen in the home in the 1970s, according to the Nature Conservancy study, because "Sandborn, Cushman Ore." was found written on underlying wall boards in the living room.

The Sandborns built a barn and blacksmith shop near the house, as well as a boathouse. The family had chickens and pigs and as many as 100 head of cattle during summertime grazing in the marshy fields, according to a tape-recorded 1976 conversation with Lillian Wheeler, Charles Sandborn's daughter.

The Sandborns sold the island to Grace Beistel in 1939. She married Thomas Bryant and they sold the island to Richard Shore Smith in 1945. Smith sold it less than a year later to E.M. Hinshaw. Who lived in the house during these years is unclear.

Hinshaw sold the island in 1949 to Siuslaw Forest Products. U.S. Plywood (which later became Champion International) became owner in 1953 when it took over Siuslaw Forest Products.

Thomas Boyd / The Register-Guard

CAPTION(S):

Trees nearly obscure the crumbling house that provided inspiration for a house in a Ken Kesey novel. An old photograph shows a more visible Benedict House, vacant since at least the 1950s. Boldfaceand this is light text and this is more light text Siuslaw Pioneer Museum As a boy, Ken Kesey worked on a nearby dairy farm with his father, and always had a chance to view the home. ... The island is named for Captain William Cox, who is buried in the cemetery across the highway with his second wife and a son.
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Title Annotation:General News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 30, 2007
Words:878
Previous Article:Spartina is an invasive plant that found its way to Cox Island from the East Coast and chokes out native plants that support the island's wildlife.
Next Article:Springfield Library to hold teen story contest.


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