Beginning at the Southeast corner of Block 43 of Blalock Orchards, according to the official plat thereof of record in the office of the Auditor of Walla Walla County, Washington, in the South line of said Block 43, a distance of 1524.45 feet to the point of intersection of the South line of said Block 43 with the Section line between Sections 26 and 27 at a point which is 25 feet north of the corner common to sections 26, 27, 34 and 35 in Township 7 North, of Range 35 East of the Willamette Meridian, thence North on the line between Sections 26 and 27 aforesaid, a distance of 251.6 feet to the Southerly line of the right of way of the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Co.; thence Easterly, along the Southerly line of said right of way, a distance of 1584.5 feet to the Northeast corner of said Block 43; thence South, along the East line of said Block 43, to the point of beginning.
The location of this property is in unincorporated Walla Walla County, on a Walla Walla rural delivery route, as a result of which city directory information is not as complete as for homes in the City of Walla Walla.
Block 43 is part of one of several tracts known as Blalock Orchards. Dr. Nelson G. Blalock came to the Walla Walla area from the East coast in search of a better climate for his health. He received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and was practicing medicine in Mt. Zion, Illinois when he came to the Walla Walla area in 1872. Medicine was just one of his interests, however. He purchased numerous tracts of land including an island in the middle of the Columbia River bordered by Benton County in Washington and Umatilla County in Oregon. A map exists showing his plan for very complete development of orchards and streets for Blalock Island which he considered to be perfect because of its soil, climate and possibilities for irrigation. Railroad magnate James J. Hill, son of Sam Hill of Maryhill fame said that “the shores of the Columbia River will produce more fruit and grapes than the Rhine.” The island must have disappeared when the dams were built on the Columbia River.
In 1874 Blalock began purchasing a sage brush tract of land west of Walla Walla which was the beginning of Blalock Orchards. This tract was gradually increased to 640 acres. According to a paper written by Blalock’s daughter Phoebe Blalock, in1877 or 1878 sixty acres were “set out in fruit trees.” Then 40 acres a year were added until the entire tract was planted. Later 40 acres of this tract were donated to establish Walla Walla College. According to the 1905 Sanborn County Maps, Blalock Orchards contained a packing house, vinegar works, a fruit drying building, a Chinese Mess, Root Cellar, access to Mill Race for water, and a railroad access. The Sanborn Fire Map does not show any residences in 1905.
Several documents of record deal with establishing a railroad track through the Blalock Orchards land for shipping fruit. In November of 1877, the Walla Walla and Columbia River Rail Company bought a strip of land fifty feet in width on either side of the center of the track from Blalock but reserving to Blalock the right for their stock “to cross and recross the track at their own risk of damage or loss.” A later document in 1911 indicated that the railroad decided that a 25 foot strip on each side of the track was large enough and the extra 25 feet strips were sold back to Blalock.
Water rights and the establishment of an irrigation system were the subject of several other documents on file. In May of 1881 Jacob and Louisa Kibler deeded “a certain strip or parcel of land 10 ½ feet in width on each side of the center line of Mill Creek to Nelson Blalock. In April of 1889 W.S Offner and Frances E. Offner deeded to Blalock the right of way for a ditch and the right to “construct, maintain and repair a water ditch and run water from Mill Creek.” This deed stipulated that Blalock must maintain the Mill Creek bank as well. In September of 1925 a document provided Blalock “rights to the use of the waters of the Walla Walla River and its Tributaries in Walla Walla County.”
The first documented indication of the presence of a residence at 1216 Campbell Road was on November 17, 1923 when a lien on the property was filed against Carl B. Dysart and Ruth Dysart for non-payment of $333.45 for materials from the Williams and Olinger Lumber Company. That year begins the City Directory listing of the Dysarts with no definite address aside from “home: College Place.” In the 1927-1928 White’s Rural Directory of Walla Walla County, Carl B. Dysart is listed as owning two acres of Blalock Orchards assessed at $1445. An additional document of record indicated that the land Dysart owned had been increased with the purchase of an additional 10 ½ acres, which approximates the current size of this property. The lien document and the directories were the two pieces of evidence indicating that Carl B.Dysart and his wife Ruth Dysart built 1216 Campbell Road. Dysart was listed as holding several Blalock Orchard jobs, including manager in the 1931-32 City Directory. It would seem reasonable that the orchards manager live on the orchard site. Although there no deeds were located, it is apparent that Dysart sold the parcel to Eugene Tausick.
The 1931 Metsker Atlas of Walla Walla County has Eugene Tausick’s name on a 94.5 acre Blalock Orchards parcel that included this property. On May 13, 1930 there was a “Lis Pendens” filed with respect to an action to “quiet the title” to the numerous segments of this large tract. Tausick had numerous business interests in Walla Walla. He and J.J. Kauffman were dealers in wood, coal, ice that was made in Walla Walla (other businesses must have been importing it), a wholesale paper company, Walla Walla Steam Laundry and Walla Walla Meat and Cold Storage. Tausick lived at 108 N. 4th and died in 1956. According to the Karlene Ponti, who currently lives on the property, her grandmother Francesca Moro Ponti lived here with her husband Henry from 1931 until her death in July of 1935. Their children were Carl Ponti, the eldest, Madeline Ponti and Al Ponti, and had already been born by the time they moved onto this property. According to documents for this property, in October of 1941, Tausick negotiated a personal lease for Block 43 to Henry, Al, and Carl Ponti for $600 per year commencing on June 1, 1942. It was agreed that Tausick would pay irrigation district rentals and prune, spray and keep the land weeded. Family information provided indicated that this transaction occurred in 1931 rather than 1941. The Ponti family purchased the property from Eugene Tausick’s estate “on a handshake agreement” around 1955. Shortly before his death in December of 1975 a Quit Claim Deed was filed by Carl Ponti, a single man, to Al and Betty Jean Ponti, the current owners. Walla Walla sweet onions are grown on this property today.
Construction of the house
The Walla Walla County Assessor’s Office folder for this property has two dates written in pencil: 1921 and 1925. The County seems to favor the 1925 date. Eight hundred dollars is penciled in by the 1921 date perhaps indicating a construction cost. Considering the date of the lien on the property for construction materials in 1923, the date we recommend using for this property is “circa 1923.”
1216 Campbell Road and 1220 Campbell Road sit side by side, sharing a double garage, in front of a large onion field. 1220 Campbell Road was built by the Pontis in 1956 and is currently the residence of Al and Betty Jean Ponti. 1216 Campbell Road is the home of Karlene Ponti, who writes for the Walla Walla Union Bulletin.
Resources for this report:
Bennett, Robert A. Walla Walla: A Town Built to be a City: 1900-1919. Pioneer Press, 1982
Metsker County Maps
Pioneer Title Company documents for this property
Penrose Library Northwest Archives, Whitman College
Sanborn Fire Maps
Walla Walla City Directories
Walla Walla County Assessor’s office files
Metsker County Maps, 1931
Sanborn Fire Maps, 1905
Katherine Weingart Walla Walla 2020 P.O. Box 1222, Walla Walla WA 99362 June 15, 2005