From The Columbian, Feb. 10, 1999:
HISTORY FILLS HOME NOW GHOSTS ARE GONE, BUT THE SPIRIT ON ONE OF THE COUNTY’S PIONEER FAMILIES LIVES ON IN A TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY HOUSE
By GREGG HERRINGTON, Columbian staff writer
The ghosts are gone now, but the spirit of an east Clark County pioneer family lives on in a 90-year-old house.
Three descendants revisited the house last week for the first time in a half-century.
Childhood memories came flooding back during the quiet, almost reverential reunion with the house that their long-deceased grandparents built about 1908 and occupied the rest of their lives.
Don, Leland and Philip Blair, all of Vancouver and all grandfathers themselves now, were shown through the home at 16015 N.E. 39th St. by its present owner, John Hardesty. Don and Philip are brothers; Leland is their cousin.
Hardesty has nominated the house for addition to the Clark County Register of Historic Places. The County Historic Preservation Commission will consider the nomination Feb. 22.
Hardesty isn’t a Blair, but his love for the house and its history is infectious, despite his suspicion that ghosts or spirits were frequent visitors in recent years.
The Blair House, whose first occupants, Mattison and Lucinda Blair, were influential in business and education in the rural east Mill Plain area, sits just west of busy Northeast 162nd Avenue. Across 39th from the house is one of the many latter-day subdivisions in the area, many occupied by first-generation county residents.
The two-story wood house was moved there in 1969 from its original spot on Mill Plain Boulevard about a quarter mile west of 164th Avenue, near the present-day Cactus Ya Ya restaurant.
Place in history secure
The Blair name is written indelibly into local history, with Mattison one of the first Blairs to settle here and start families. Blair descendants are still scattered throughout the county.
Mattison and Lucinda Blair’s legacy includes land donated for the former Union High School, which is today the site of Mill Plain Elementary School. Mattison Blair was on the East Mill Plain School Board, which eventually became part of the Evergreen School District.
The Blairs Mattison and others operated a prune dryer, a sawmill, a hotel, east county’s first telephone service and other enterprises, mostly in the east Mill Plain area and Fern Prairie, north of Camas.
The name was prominent in the area into the next generation, too. For example, Leland’s parents, Coy and Alice Blair, operated Blair’s General Merchandise at 164th and Mill Plain until about 1960.
More distant relatives include the late Donald Blair, who was the “Blair” in the prominent Vancouver law firm Blair Schaefer Hutchison & Wolfe, and Dorothy Blair, a retired Fort Vancouver High School English teacher.
As the “boys,” Leland, Don and Philip toured the house Thursday, Hardesty explained the changes that have occurred to the interior, with walls added and removed and rooms changed around.
They recalled the old 10-party-line phone hookup in which they listened in on neighbors’ conversations, and Halloweens, when they tipped over the outhouse.
“Grandpa wouldn’t have an indoor toilet,” Philip said. “He thought they were unsanitary. But when he died in 1934, Grandma had one put in.”
Hardesty, who moved into the house with his family six years ago, seems every bit as enamored of the history of the house as the Blairs themselves. He and his wife have furnished it in antiques and he has become an enthusiastic student of Blair family history in Clark County.
The ghost of Lauren Blair?
Hardesty adds his own chapter to the Blair House story: He thinks it might have been visited by Blair family spirits for several years after it was moved to its present site.
Hardesty tells about a “rancid smell” that came from one corner of a downstairs room every night between 1 and 3 a.m. and then “would go away.”
His wife, he said, occasionally heard knocks on the front door, often at night, only to discover no one was there.
The spookiest thing that happened came late one night when Hardesty was in the living room and glanced up at the TV set, which was turned off.
“I saw the reflection of a child, maybe 8 or 10, in the TV screen,” Hardesty says. “I thought it was one of my kids and I turned to tell them to go to bed. But there was no one there.”
What’s more, Hardesty says, the previous owner, a real estate agent who also was not a Blair, reported strange happenings, too. One time, he said, the elderly mother of the woman was living with the couple and she reported “being awakened one night by the ghost of a young boy. She ran out of the house and never again went back inside.”
Hardesty says he never figured he believed in ghosts, but now he’s not so sure.
Without endorsing any particular explanation for the alleged spirits, Hardesty throws out this bit of Blair-family history: One of the nine children of Mattison and Lucinda Blair was a son, Lauren, who was killed in a freak accident in front of the house in 1906 when he fell off a horse-drawn gravel wagon and was run over. He’s buried in nearby Fisher Cemetery.
“I’m not saying the house was haunted,” Hardesty says today, “but we had a minister come in about a year ago and bless every room. We haven’t been bothered since.”