Beneath the Vast and Empty

This is not an easy house to track down. It’s several side roads away, with dirt and dust piling upon them. You can catch it as you crest a hill, and the road back to it is rough, though public.

The house itself can’t be found on either the 1915 map (likely too early) nor the 1932 map. It was probably built in the late 30s, and if so, it was quickly abandoned.

In 1915, the land belonged to C. Bese, but no records anywhere can be found for that name. By 1932, the same unchanged tract was owned by Jacob Buse – more on him in a bit.

The maps of the early 1900s were surprisingly accurate, however, they did make a mistake now and then. Seeing that Besel and Buse were close spellings, I checked to see if the records on Jacob Buse revealed his parents. They did!

Jacob’s father was Kasjen Buse. Is it possible that the person creating the map took “Kasjen” to be spelled with a “C” and mistook Buse for Besel. It makes some sense.

And yet, I see that one of Kasjen Buse’s sons married Katherine Besel, whose uncle’s name was Conrad. In 1921, he ran a work crew near Leavenworth, Washington.

What’s most likely is that Conrad Besel owned the land before selling it to Jacob Buse, now related through marriage. Aside from that, Kasjen Buse, Jacob’s father, owned land a mile away to the northeast.

But there were a slew of Besels in this area, all coming from George Frederick Besel, who arrived in the states from Russia in 1901. The names George, Conrad and Katherine were incredibly common. George, Sr., named two of his children George (George Jacob and George Frederick – both of whom lived at least into their 40s).

As for Jacob, the land owner by the early 1930s, he took his own life when he learned that he had terminal cancer in 1938 at the age of 32. His widow, Elizabeth, would live another fifty years. She never remarried. They had no children.


‘Beneath the Vast and Empty’

Camera: Ricoh KR-10
Film: Polypan F (x-2006); 100iso
Process: Rodinal 1+25; 10.5min

Douglas County, Washington


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