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The Bush House
John and Susie Bunyard
404 Townsend Street

The Bush House in Cedarville (click to enlarge)

This 3 ½ bedroom Victorian home with its unusually spacious and airy floor plan, was most likely built around 1907.

Original owners Franklin J. and Frankie Powers purchased a half-interest in the property for $10. It was owned briefly by Walter Johnstone who acquired it in 1915 and sold it on May 10, 1918 to Fred E. and Bessie Bush who paid $1000 for the property. 

As a young man, Fred moved to Modoc County from Iowa. By the age of 22, he had married Miss Bessie Fitzgerald of Alturas and begun working at the Modoc County Bank. Over the next 28 years, he supervised the opening of bank branches in Fort Bidwell and Cedarville, and was eventually promoted to the position of Bank President.

One historical account characterized Bush as “an intelligent student of public questions. He believes in Republican principles and gives his allegiance to that party. As to matters of a fraternal nature, he has no especial connection except with the Knights of Pythias.”

Despite his dedication and expertise, fate intervened in the early 1930s as the Great Depression continued to worsen. All the various branches of the Modoc County Bank failed in 1933, soon after Congress enacted the National Bank Holiday following within days of Franklin Roosevelt’s inauguration on May 4.  Almost half of the nation’s 25,000 banks met the same fate.

An undated Modoc Record item of the day stated, “One reason for the failure was that the bank overextended itself in trying to help cattlemen who had been hit hard by a three-year drought.”

Notably, the Bush family sold their Cedarville home the same year; it was purchased by Ruby and Edgar Harris on September 14 for $1000. Years later, it was briefly owned by Louis and Gertrude Grove from November 1948 until it was again purchased by Fred and Bessie in October 1949.

In the intervening years, the Bush family moved onto a small ranch south of Cedarville where Fred became the first in the valley to raise Aberdeen Angus cattle. The Victorian-style home facing County Road 1, where they lived for 16 years, is still referred to by many local residents as “The Bush House”.  

Though Bessie is remembered fondly by many, it’s reported she had an imposing presence. “She had beautiful posture and commanded respect”, recalls one who knew her in her later years. “I would NEVER have called her ‘Bessie’ – something about her demeanor just required she always be addressed as ‘Mrs. Bush’!”

Sometime during the years before he died in 1957, Fred added on the home’s sizeable back porch, motivated primarily by a desire for a home office located “out of Bessie’s way.” Bessie passed away in 1982 at the age of 99; both she and her husband are buried in the Cedarville Cemetery.

Oliver and Mary Phillips acquired the home in 1987 and spent the next five years remodeling it, most notably modernizing the large kitchen. The home was often used for family parties, weddings and memorial services while they lived there.

At present, the home belongs to John and Susie Bunyard who have incorporated it into their motel business.  The “Guest House” is available to rent and both the lovely gardens and the home have continued to serve as the setting for many special events, including weddings, receptions, and large family reunions.

The downstairs bedroom features a photo of Susie’s grandparents who immigrated to the Arizona Territory from Yugoslavia.

As you climb the stairs, the banister you are holding onto is original.

At the top of the stairs hangs a wedding photo of Mary Bunyard’s Basque mother, Jeanne Lartrigoyen. She was born in 1903 and married in Winnemucca in the early 1920s.

While most of the home’s furnishings were acquired locally, one notable exception is the large wooden chest in the living room which Susie’s mother, Bonna Ytcaina, purchased in Davis, California from a German woman who explained why it has a false bottom.  Years ago, the chest was positioned over a secret entrance to her family’s basement; it was used in their efforts to help hide Jews from the Nazis during WWII.

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Page modified: 19 Feb 2024 10:17:36 -0800

Surprise Valley Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 518, Cedarville, California 96104

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