Horace Dibble

Horace & Julia Dibble

Julia Dibble

The Dibble Family Tree

The Horace Lasalle Dibble House Legacy


Records of Dibbles are found at least as early as 1533 in the West counties of England. It is thought that Robert Dibble came from Devonshire to America as a passenger on the first trip of the Mary and John in the great Puritan emigration in 1630. Three of Robert's children followed five years later, one of which was Thomas Dibble who first went to Weymouth, Massachusetts and later settled in Windsor, Connecticut.


Thomas and his wife had eight children. Abraham, born in 1664, was the ancestor of Horace Dibble. The Dibbles lived in Connecticut for over 100 years. The family then began to fan out to various locations. Horace's father, Thomas M. Dibble, was born in Connecticut in 1778, but settled in Madison County, New York. He served in the New York State legislature. In 1837 Thomas moved to Iowa with his wife, Ruth Gates, four sons, and a daughter. Here he served in the Constitutional Congress of 1846, preparatory for Iowa Statehood. He also served as a judge in Van Buren County.

In Van Buren County Horace met and married Julia Ann Sturges on July 1st, 1845. Eliza Emily, their first daughter, was born on May 25th, 1846. She was followed by two sons, Fayette Lascelles in 1848, and Roswell Tousley in 1851. Together with other members of the Sturges family, they made plans to cross the plains by ox-drawn wagon to Oregon.


When they left Iowa in 1852, they could not have anticipated what a difficult journey lay ahead of them. Eliza was six, Fayette four, and Roswell just over a year old. Conditions were poor, water was scarce or contaminated, and the trail was crowded with wagons of people fleeing from the cholera epidemic and ill prepared for the journey. Eliza was bitten on the leg by a rattlesnake; her leg never grew properly after that. Horace was ill during much of the trip and never fully regained his health or strength.


Once in Oregon, the Dibbles purchased land in the Needy area northwest of Molalla, and were soon joined by Julia's parents and siblings. Julia was especially close to her sister, Ellen. Henry and Ellen Sturges Klise made the journey in 1853 with two small children, and a third was born on the plains. Although their little log cabin at Needy was cozy, Horace searched for the perfect site to build the permanent family home. He had purchased 300 acres in the hills south of the four corners of the old Indian trail where Molalla now sits, but continued to search for the perfect setting.


One day, as he was riding out looking for straying cattle, he came upon a knoll just south of the four corners with apple trees growing on it. He found that the land was part of the William and Rachel Larkin Donation Land Claim. William had died in 1850, and part of his half of the claim was listed as belonging to one of their sons, James. Since James was moving to the Oregon City area, Horace arranged to buy the land in 1854. He then arranged for an English carpenter and former seafarer named William Phillips to build the house of their dreams. In exchange, the builder was given the 300 acres in the south hills located near what today is the Molalla Memorial Cemetery. The house took three years to build, and was completed in 1859.


While they waited for their dream home, three more children joined the family: Thomas Leroy in 1854, Maria Sylvinia in 1856, and Jesse Morton in 1859. Two more children were born to them in their new home: Amy Florinda in 1861 and Walter Perry in 1868. Although Horace and Julia had eight children, all eight of them did not live in the Dibble House at one time, as young Jesse perished in 1863, and Fayette in 1868.



Horace DibbleHorace & Julia DibbleJulia DibbleIva Sawtell LewisOla Dibble at the organThe DIbble House, 1968The Dibble House kitchen, 1971AJ SawtellAaron Burr & Eliza Haughland SturgesAlfred J SawtellAmy Dibble John K WilsonThe Dibble House before restorationDibbles: Julia,Amy,Maria, Eliza 1899Dibble, Amy, Eliza, Maria 1899Eliza Dibble Sawtell, 1868Horace & Julia Dibble, 1845Maria Dibble Lewis KaylorOla Dibble, 1895Rod and JettRuth Gates Dibble, 1782-1868Winnie Wilson, Ola Dibble, Ednie Wilson 1900-190521 - 21<>


The Dibble Children and Grandchildren

Eliza was the first born, only six when she was bitten on the leg by a snake on the overland journey. She took up sewing at an early age, making a lovely quilt top when she was 10 years old, which is in the Molalla Area Historical Society collection. She was always an elegant lady, wearing her skirts to the ground to cover the special built up shoe she had to wear so she could walk normally. She married the youngest Sawtell brother, Alford Joseph, on March 23rd, 1869. He ran a successful teasel operation, the first crop grown from seeds that were packed among the dishes he and his sister, Mary Locke Sawtell Ogle, brought with them from England in 1852. Teasels were used to raise the nap on woolen fabrics, and the industry employed many people, including Chinese immigrants.


The Sawtells lost their son, Perry, in 1872, the same year he was born. They adopted a young boy, Ralph Rankin, who died in 1875. Their one daughter Iva May married Arthur Lewis, had 4 children, many grandchildren, and lived for 87 years. After Alf's death in 1901, Eliza traveled to live closer to her daughter and grandchildren, but always came home to see her Molalla family, who cherished her visits.


The second Dibble child, Fayette Lascelle, died at the age of 20, the same year his youngest brother was born. He was buried in the Dibble Jackson Austin Larkin Pioneer Cemetery, sharing a stone with his little brother Jesse.


The third child, Roswell Tousley Dibble (after his paternal uncle), was known as Rod. He married Jett Louise Milster from Silverton in 1876. They lived for a while in the Dibble house with Rod's parents, presumably to help with the farm. They had one daughter, Ola Nancy, born in 1878. Rod was afflicted with frequent seizures, which often caused considerable excitement during Molalla Grange activities. Apparently, Jett believed that the seizures were hereditary, so when Ola married a local boy who helped out on the farm, James Melton, Jett prevented them from living together as husband and wife.


Their marriage soon ended in divorce, and James married again and moved to Portland. Ola remained with her parents, teaching music to children, until after Rod's death in 1918. When she wanted to marry widower John Calvin Warrick in 1924, she was 46 years old and past childbearing age, so there could be no maternal objections. Cal built her a fine house off of Warrick Road. They spent their days traveling to visit family and leading an active social life. Throughout her life, Ola always had at least one pet dog that frequently appeared in portraits of her.


The fourth child was Thomas LeRoy Dibble. He married Marian Long on December 9th, 1879. They lived in the Dibble house and on family property until he bought land near Russelville southeast of town in 1908. He paid $1,000 in a sheriff's sale for 220 acres. In 1912 they built a homestead frame house. Daughter Ina was born in 1880, son Guy in 1884. They were a very musical family, playing fiddles, and Ina playing her dulcimer. They made up the Dibble Orchestra and played at many long ago celebrations and dances. Tom was a hard worker - farming, logging, and working a clay mine on their property.


Guy married Mary Mulvihill in 1915. He had an interesting business selling a medicine and mineral powder. Guy and Mary had no children, and are buried in the family plot at the Russelville Community Cemetery.  Ina never married and lived to be 98, the last of her family in the Molalla Area. She did once have a sweetheart who was killed in a war. There is a little bent twig table with a heart design in the Dibble House that was his gift to Ina, but his identity remains a secret. Ina spent her entire life living in the hills south of Molalla. She was alone but never lonely. She believed in hard work and a simple life. When someone suggested that she give up her home and move to town so life would be easier for her, her reply was “Silliest thing I ever heard of. Why would I want to move? ‘Got everything I need right here.”  Her needs were simple; her special love was music. She played her dulcimer for those who would listen, and loved her dog, her home, her friends, crossword puzzles, games of solitaire, and a full woodshed. She died in 1979 and was buried in the family plot at Russelville.


The fifth Dibble child, Maria Sylvinia, was married first in 1876 to William H. Lewis, a divorced photographer from the Salem area, who had three daughters. Together they had two sons, Mark Twain (1879-1944) and Rex Wayne (1883-1964) who, themselves, had no children. The marriage broke up and Maria was married again in 1898 to a Molalla man, Henry Kayler, a widower. His late wife was the former Lucy Sawtell, a niece of Maria’s brother-in-law Alf.


Henry became widowed once more when Maria lost her life in a tragic accident four years later. They were part of a group that included her niece Ina, who had traveled to Cow Creek in southwest Oregon to look at investing in tree claims. They were walking along a trestle at night and thought they heard and saw a train coming. The group fled, but Maria either jumped or fell into the creek and was washed downstream to her death. She was buried in the Molalla Memorial Cemetery.


The sixth Dibble child, Jesse Morton (1859-1863), died at the age of four and was buried in the Dibble Jackson Austin Larkin Pioneer cemetery.

The seventh child was Amy Florinda. She married John Kilgore Wilson in 1885 and moved to Walla Walla, Washington to be near his family. There she bore two daughters, Winnie and Edna. Amy and John were divorced by 1910. John lived with Winnie and her pianist husband, Odessa Sterling, in the Seattle area until his death in 1931. Edna married Drew Clerin and moved to Portland. She was a career woman, working as a bookkeeper for the School of Medicine, now OHSU. Neither of these daughters had children. Amy moved to Southeast Portland and lived in the same house until her death in 1950. At times, her sister Eliza, brother Walter, and daughter Winnie resided with her. She was also instrumental in the Dibble house being included in the 1934 Historic American Building Survey project. She was cremated after her death and her ashes were scattered.


And the youngest Dibble child was Walter Perry. He never married, but there are photographs of him enjoying outings at Wilhoit Springs with a group of other young people. It was said that he was a railroad man, but there is no evidence of this to be found. He stayed on with his mother in the house, and after her death in 1904 sold off the property to developers. He eventually moved to Portland where he stayed with his sister Amy, then at the Odd Fellows Home, where he died 10 days after his sister in February of 1950. Both his and Amy's ashes were picked up from the Portland Memorial Funeral home by family. Winnie and Ola were most likely the ones to find a final placement.


It is interesting to see that Horace Dibble was not living in his family home when the 1880 census was taken. Julia lived there with her two youngest children, and the rest of her sons were close by to work on the farm. Horace lived in his own dwelling nearby on the teasel farm owned by Alf and Eliza Sawtell, with no discernible occupation. He died in 1899. A property purchase in Milwaukie was credited to J. A. Dibble, which may have been an investment. Horace and Julia have separate and differently styled headstones in the Pioneer Cemetery.


The family lore that comes to us through Ina was that Grandpa Dibble was always “poorly” and that his sons had to do all the farm work. The one surviving story about him was that he traded apples to the local natives, Molale and Kalapuya. His obituary simply states that he was known for his thrift, while Julia is praised for her generous, helpful, and neighborly spirit.


Ina Dibble recounted many memories of her grandmother Julia growing roses, making willow baskets, weaving rugs on her loom, and making soda biscuits and molasses for her grandchildren. She appears to have been a strong woman, a force to be reckoned with, outliving three of her children and her husband. Many of the townsfolk later referred to “Grandma Dibble”, but nothing was said of Grandpa. Was he a recluse? A drunk? So little is actually known of Horace Dibble, but his family in Iowa continued to prosper. His younger sister, Mary Hannah, married the Honorable George Wright and was a pillar of the community. His nephew Charles, was coincidentally the builder of another Dibble house in Iowa that was famously immortalized in Grant Wood's 1930 painting, American Gothic. Charles later moved his family to Portland, Oregon where they were in contact with their Molalla cousins. http://www.americangothichouse.net


The Dibble House

Included in the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1934 and added to the National Registry of Historic Buildings in 1974, the house itself was built in the New England Salt box style of the colonial 17th century. Its chief distinguishing mark is the long sweeping back roof, often called a cat slide roof. The house is constructed of hand-hewn posts and beams. The original siding on the house was of sawn lapped boards. There are a total of 14 windows in the house, 12 of which are 6 over 6 paned double-hung sash windows with thin mutins and simple surrounds. Some of the panes are original with all of the attendant waves and bubbles of mid-19th century glass. The rooms and windows are larger than was typical of the period. The house is simple in design, with corner boards and a frieze-like board under the simple box cornice with a slight return at the gable ends as the only decorative element.


Under the house was a full cellar for food storage with a dirt floor, accessed from the west side of the house by an exterior cellar door. This is only accessible as a crawl space today, with no discernible entryway. Inside the walls are hand-planed cedar planks and wide-plank fir flooring. The kitchen floor has a second layer of plank flooring over the original that was undoubtedly added at a later date.


There are four rooms on the first floor, considered to be a living room, kitchen, and two bedrooms. A double back-to-back fireplace serves the living room and the west bedroom. The bricks are handmade and in poor condition. Because the fireplaces are very shallow, with no evidence of cooking hooks, it is assumed that the cooking was done on a stove connected to the small chimney in the kitchen. This chimney collapsed in the 1970s and was not replaced. There is some speculation that the chimney may not have been original to the house, though it was present in 1934. The fireplaces have mortar damage and are no longer functional.


An enclosed, narrow, and steep stairway leads from the living room to a large east-facing bedroom upstairs. A smaller bedroom is to the left, along the northeast corner of the house. There is an unfinished lower attic space on the west side of the house under the steep slope of the cat slide roof. Interested visitors have the opportunity to see authentic mid-19th century construction element up close.


The separate wash-house was, at one time, attached to the kitchen by a half-walled, roofed woodshed. This breezeway was thought to be inappropriate and removed when the historical society renovated and plumbed the old wash-house for use as a restroom. The wash-house is still connected to the main house via a wheelchair access ramp. It is inaccurately named on the Oregon Historic Sites Database as a summer kitchen.


When Walter Dibble sold the house, after the death of his mother, it was rented out by the Molalla Clackamas Land and Development Company, owned by J.J. Metzler. Dudley and Goldie Boyles rented it after their marriage in 1909 and bought it in 1913. This was during a boom time in Molalla, when the city was incorporating and the railroad had come to town. Many of the old farms were being broken up and developed into residential neighborhoods. After the Boyles family left the area, they rented the house out until Goldie was able to return in the mid-1940s. She lived there until her death in 1968, when her heirs sold the house to preservationist Ruth McBride Powers. Mrs. Powers made some immediate renovations and encouraged the founding of the Molalla Area Historical Society to purchase and continue caring for the property. She had approached Arden Eby, who had experience with the restoration of the Pittock Mansion in Portland after the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, and Dorothy Del Ridings, a Molalla history teacher and mentor to many. These three became the nucleus of the Society.


Between 2014 and 2017 the south wall of the house was re-sided and new studs, sills, and beams were hand-planed and notched to replace damaged ones. Thanks to the efforts of Gregg Olson of Historic Building Repair, the methods and materials used in this reconstruction are true to the original building, and this unique example of Settlement Era architecture has been preserved.


Every effort has been made on the part of the Molalla Area Historical Society to furnish and decorate the house as it would have been when the Dibble family lived there, a time spanning 45 years. A microscopic paint study revealed that the woodwork trim in the living room was originally painted in a faux wood grain style. This was a popular and sophisticated way to give the appearance of say, mahogany wood trim, when fir was actually used. That technique was duplicated by artist/muralist Victoria Knight with a stunning impact on the authentic appearance of the interior.

In the summer of 2018, the exterior walls will be painted a shade of green that was found trapped under an original window stop of an attic window, an area never exposed before. This is assumed to be the original color that the house was painted between 1856 and 1859. The existing chimney will also be rebuilt using nineteenth century style bricks and mortar, in a typical period style built to an appropriate height. Thirdly, the roof will be replaced with cedar shakes. The house most likely was originally roofed with hand-split cedar shingles, but neither the technique nor the quality of old growth cedar is available now, and the look of modern cedar shakes will somewhat resemble the look of early roofing.


It is through the efforts of the Molalla Area Historical Society and generous donations from the community, the Oregon State Historical Preservation Office, The Kinsman Foundation, and Clackamas County, that this unassuming piece of Oregon's early history continues to be preserved for future generations.


Membership in the society is open to all for reasonable dues. Donations are welcome, and the MAHS is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization. The museum is open for visitors on Fridays and Saturdays from 1-4 between April and November, and by appointment. More information is available on our web site at http://dibblehouse.org


This publication of the Molalla Area Historical Society was written and edited by members of the MAHS over the years. This edition with expanded information was updated in 2018.



1. Robert Deeble married to "Goody"; came to America from England previous to 1 635.


2. Thomas Deeble married to "Sister" came to America from England on May 5, 1635.

Born: 1614

Died: October 17,1700; Windsor, Connecticut


3. Thomas Dibble married Mary Tucker, October 10, 1672. Born:  February 1, 1647 Born: October 4, 1653 Windsor, Connecticut

Died: Before 1719


4. Abraham Dibble married Hannah Hosford August 18, 1709 in Windsor, Connecticut.


5. Thomas Dibble married Hannah Woolworth December 22, 1743 in Windsor, Connecticut.

Born:  July 10, 1718 Born: around 1720

Died:  August 20, 1758 Windsor, Connecticut


6. Ebenezer Dibble married Eunice Gillette May 26, 1773. Born:  June 21, 1750 Born: August 28, 1775

Died: December 1834 Sharon, Connecticut New York army captain Died: March 10, 1835


7. Thomas Dibble married Ruth Gates in New York Born: May 8, 1778

Moved from New York to Iowa in 1837. Died October 12, 1864

Ruth Gates Dibble born: Dec 30 1782 in Connecticut, Died Oct 13 , 1869 in Harrisburg, Van Buren, Iowa

They are buried in the Dibble family cemetery in Utica, Van Buren, Iowa


8. Horace Lascelle Dibble married Julia Ann Sturges, July 1, 1845 in LaSalle, Van Buren, Iowa.


Born: July 17, 1815 Madison County, New York Died: December 23, 1899

Molalla, Oregon


Born: January 3, 1825 New York

Died: September 8, 1904 Molalla, Oregon




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