At the crux of the matter… maybe.

Old Oysterville Sign

I have arrived at Paragraph #6 in my (increasingly infrequent) commentary on the article in Discovery Coast titled “Oysterville, A Simply Lovely, Living Ghost Town”:

By 1854, a community of several hundred, then called Oyster Beach, existed.  On April 12, 1854, I.A. Clark filed a 161-acre land claim that encompassed all of what is now the Oysteville National Historic District.

Hmmm.  I’ve seen a reference to “Oyster Beach” twice in my thirty plus years of research on Oysterville and its origins.  Both mentions have been in the Sou’wester , the quarterly magazine of the Pacific County Historical Society.  In the Summer 1975 issue in an article on early post offices in  Oregon Territory:  In a letter dated August 2, 1854 from Washington City, the Honorable Columbia Lancaster announced the post routes in the new Washington Territory, including “from Astoria to Chenook, Edmonton (John Edmonds Pickernell’s), Tarlit, Oyster Beach (an early name for Oysterville), Brigham City and the direct route to intersect the route from Olympia to Grays Harbor, 120 miles and back once a week .”  The second reference to Oyster Beach was three years later in the Winter 1978 issue of the Souwester and was a reprint of the same information about the early Oysterville (Oyster Beach) post office.

James Swan, One of the First Pacific County Historians

The only other contemporary information about Oysterville that I’m aware of (besides the statements by founders R.H. Espy and I.A. Clark) was written by James Swan in his book, The Northwest Coast or Three Years’ Residence in Washington Territory.  In January 1854, Swan took a trip to San Francisco, apparently to get out of the Northwest’s winter weather.  He returned in early June and traveled via the Peninsula on his way back to his home at Stony Point.  This is what he wrote: We reached a settlement some fifteen or twenty miles distant, called Oysterville, where quite a number of oystermen had collected during my absence to San Francisco.  

Although Swan traveled extensively around Shoalwater Bay during his stay here from 1852 to 1855, and although he mentions many early settlers as well as the only settlement on the bay at that time, Bruceport or Bruceville, he makes no mention of a place called Oyster Beach.

The rest of Paragraph #6 seems accurate as far as it goes.  Apparently, the land claim that Clark filed on April 12, 1854, was incomplete and had to be re-filed some years later.  However, it seems that Espy and Clark chose that April 12, 1854 date as the “founding” of Oysterville and over the years it has become known as the date they actually arrived here in their stolen canoe. (Well, they said “borrowed,” but that implies that it was returned to the graveyard where they found it and that’s one story I haven’t yet heard…)




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