A Miracle for Mary

The recent outbreak of measles in Washington put me in mind of Mary Douglas, the daughter of Jalek, an Indian woman, and her husband John Douglas who was one of the first white settlers in this area.  John, a cooper on a whaling vessel, had been to this area in the early 1840s, liked what he saw, and when he suffered an injury in 1846 – an injury serious enough to put him out of seafaring – he returned here and laid out a donation land claim on land just south of what would become Oysterville a few years later.

The story of Mary and the measles is best told by Lucile McDonald in her book Coast Country:  Douglas built a “studdin’ ” of upright posts, with a cedar shake roof and an attic with a gable-end door and an outside stair.  Is daughter Mary slept up there on a feather bed on the floor.  An attack of measles had left her blind in early childhood.  She had no medical attention until she was fourteen, when Dr. James R. Johnson (in 1854) began to practice across the bay at Bruceport.

Douglas arranged for her to live at the doctor’s house for a short period.  It was a fearsome adventure for Mary, who was dependent upon her mother.  Her clothes were packed for the journey in a tiny trunk adorned with bright nailheads, which her father had brought from San Francisco.  This was the only familiar object the blind girl took with her.  That night she went to bed in the doctor’s house, lonely and disturbed, wondering how she would manage to dress in the morning in a strange place where she could not find her way by touch.

Day dawned and Mary awakened.  A miracle had happened.  She could see again!  During the night the doctor had treated her eyes; likely some very simple thing had been wrong with them… By the time John Douglas died… Mary had become Mrs. Frank Garretson.  Her daughter treasured the little trunk with the bright nail heads, taken on that miraculous voyage across the bay to Bruceport.

And, in the Small World Department:
Frank Garretson was one of “The Bruce Boys” who entertained my great-grandfather, R.H. Espy in 1853 and who R.H. described as ” a clever fellow” which meant he was a good poker player!

Tommy and Irene Nelson’s Cannery, Oysterville

Frank and Mary’s daughter, Irene Garretson, married Tommy Nelson and lived across the street to the south of the Oysterville Church.  When I was a girl, she and Tommy had a small cannery behind the house and, in the late 1940s, canned gourmet quality smoked oysters under the label “Espy’s Own” which was an enterprise of my grandfather Harry Espy’s and my uncle Willard’s.
Both Irene and Tommy are buried in the Oysterville Cemetery (as are Frank and Mary Garretson.)

Also buried there is Dr. James R. Johnson whose daughter married Richard Osborne Goulter, our Oysterville neighbor Bud Goulter’s great-grandfather and making Bud Dr. Johnson’s great-great-grandson!

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