(Julia Ann Miller) Bybee-Howell House

Bybee-Howell House

Off Sauvie Island Road,
Sauvie Island Multnomah County, 1856

Bybee-Howell House
National Register of Historic Places Multnomah County, Oregon
Date Built 1856
Historic Function Residence
Style Category Classical Revival
Architect / Builder Bennes, Hendricks & Tobey
Nris# 74001716
Date Listed 11/5/74
Owner Category Mixed

James Francis Bybee

Julia Ann Miller married James Francis Bybee on July 3, 1842. They moved to Oregon in 1845 and built the Bybee House in 1856 - 58. The popular and familiar Bybee-Howell House is a highly crafted and rare example of the Classical Revival style from the mid-19th Century. The handsome two-story frame residence was built for James Bybee, who later to become one of Multnomah County's first Commissioners. Bybee sold the house in 1858 to Dr. Benjamin Howell and his wife, Elizabeth. The house remained in the Howell family until 1961. It is now owned and maintained by the Oregon Historical Society. The facade of the structure is formally arranged, with symmetrically placed chimneys, double-hung sash windows with six-over-six lights, and fully pedimented gable ends.

James Francis Bybee a Brief Biography

James Francis Bybee was born on 16 June 1818 in Winchester, Clark, Kentucky. James was part of the Stephen Meek wagon train in 1845. He was interested in horse racing, and is credited as being instrumental in bringing this sport to Portland. James Bybee was a politician for many years, being named Multnomah County Commissioner in 1854. He ran for, and lost, a race for governor in the late 1850's. James enjoyed dabbling in gambling and land prospecting, and by 1873, he had lost much of the fortune won in California. In his later years, James Bybee traveled between his horse ranches, and continued to race horses. He and his wife Julia were estranged for much of this time, although from family letters it was clear that they did have a cordial relationship. James moved in with his daughter Mary Rose Lockhart in the Sellwood district of Portland. He died there on 24 Jan 1901.

Brief Chronology:

June 16, 1818
Winchester, Clark, Kentucky -- BIRTH

about 1830
moved to Monroe County, Missouri

Jan 1834
John Sog and Nancy moved family to Santa Fe, Missouri (founded by James F.'s great uncle John S. Bybee)

July 3, 1842
Married Julia Ann Miller in Missouri

Moved to Oregon

about 1848
went to California Gold Rush with brother William Bybee

January 1850
Returned to Oregon

Began construction of the Bybee House on Sauvie Island

Bybee House completed.

Sold home on Sauvie Island, and went to Washington for some time

January 24, 1901
Died in the Sellwood District, Portland, Oregon.

The following is a column written by Connie Lenzen for the Vancouver, Washington newspaper, "Columbian," 22 June 2000.

Sauvie Island's Pride: The James and Julia Bybee House

Today, we have a guest editor. Jennifer Blacke, director of the Howell House, agreed to tell us about the Bybees and their beautiful house on Sauvie Island.

Says Jennifer: James Francis Bybee knew what he was doing when he built his home on high ground on Sauvie Island. Bybee's house stayed dry as a bone, despite annual floods which submerged much of the Island until dikes were constructed in the 1930's. The distinctive Greek Revival style architecture of the structure is one of the more elaborate examples in the Northwest. But then, Bybee knew what he was doing, and he had the money to do it.

An 1847 Oregon pioneer, James Bybee made it big in the California gold fields. His wife Julia Ann, who had traveled sans husband to Oregon with her parents and two small children in 1845, welcomed the appearance of her affluent spouse. The two claimed 640 acres of good farmland and had a family of eleven children. In 1855, James began work on a grand residence complete with expensive plasterwork, elaborate wood trim, and an impressive white facade.

Money was not a friend to James Bybee, and by the early 1870's his disappointing political career and bad financial luck resulted in a desperate situation. The Bybee house and the entire donation land claim it stood on were sold to neighbors John and Amelia Howell. James Bybee and Julia parted company as well, with good ol' Jeems spending the rest of his life as a successful horse breeder and racer.

The Bybee home was occupied continuously by members of the Howell family until the 1960's, when the dilapidated structure was sold to Multnomah County by Rose Howell, daughter-in-law of John and Amelia. The entire structure had been seized by blackberry bushes and insects, but Rose lived there, carrying water from a well and stoking the flame in a crumbling parlor fireplace.

Recognizing the significance of the home, the Oregon Historical Society teamed with the county to restore the building. Today, where once the river rose to within only a few feet of the foundation, the Bybee House is operated as a museum and is open weekends during the summer for guided tours. An impressive collection of historical artifacts and antique furniture await visitors. To get there, take the bridge to Sauvie Island and go straight until Howell Park Road. The Bybee House stands on a small hill, dry and safe, just as James intended.