Block House (Fort)

Block HouseThe blockhouse was constructed in 1855-56 by the government at the junction of the Skookumchuck and Chehalis Rivers. The blockhouse was built by Captain Francis Goff, Commanding 26 Oregon recruits, with the help of local pioneers (Patterson Luark, James Lum, and Joseph Borst) in the spring of 1856. Logs were cut on the south side of the river, hauled to the stream by Borst with an ox team, floated across the river, and then peeled, scored, and hewed. The fort's near-perfect dove-tail corners and close-fitting sides are a monument to pioneer axmen skills since nothing other than axes was available to shape the logs.

It was never actually used for the protection of pioneers but was used extensively for the storage of grain brought down the Chehalis River by Indians and others in dugout canoes. The blockhouse is traditionally styled. It has the upper portion projecting four to five feet over the lower portion, which was seven feet high and 24 feet square. Originally, the structure had no windows and one door. It featured 12 loopholes for shooting in the upper portion, eight in the lower, and several on the floor of the upper portion which overhung the lower. The loopholes were beveled on the inside to allow a marksman to swing his gun in nearly a 180-degree circuit, instead of being forced to shoot straight ahead. The upper portion had puncheon, or split log, flooring, while the lower portion used the earth as floor.

The blockhouse was built 100 yards from any object so Indians would have to cross a large open space to reach it. The building was convenient to the area quartermaster (believed to be James K. Hurd) to bring grain down from Claquato by Indian canoe prior to shipping it north to the White River and Puyallup River Indian campaigners. Close examination of the exterior walls of the fort will reveal bullet holes- the result of target practice.

After the war, the blockhouse was purchased by Borst for $500 from the United States government. It was used twice as a residence: in 1857, James Smith rented the family farm, and Joseph and Mary Borst lived in the blockhouse. It was at this time that the windows and the door on the upper level were added. Ada Borst, the second child of the couple was born in the fort. For a time the Borst children used the fort as a playhouse, but in the early 1860s, the entire family renewed their occupation of the blockhouse as a residence while their new home was being constructed nearby.