Deaf Ears, Blind Eyes – So what’s new?

Bardheim Dairy, Oysterville c. 1930 – c.1990

As I’ve ranted on these past days about the Discovery Coast article on Oysterville, I’ve been doing (read “re-doing”) my own research about the beginnings of the village.  I enjoy the fact-checking and am constantly amazed at how each new reading of familiar documents brings a fresh perspective or another question.

Yesterday while I was reviewing what I know about early settler John Douglas, I ran into a blog I had written back on July 19, 2012.  I could have republished most of it when the current issue of Discovery Coast hit the stands and saved myself a lot of T & A (time and angst.).  Here it is in its entirety:

What first caught my eye in the new Chinook Observer’s 2012 Visitor’s Guide was a long-ago picture of Jazz and Oysters and the accompanying text that said it would be held in Oysterville this August.  Obviously written by Aliens.  J&O has not been held in Oysterville since 2010, much to our distress.  Would that the information in the paper were true… but it’s not.

Methodist Church 1872-1921

My attention thus arrested, I read the rest of the article with the enchanting-if-overused title:  “Historic and lovely Oysterville is a ‘Shangri-La’ on the bay.’  I was treated to an entirely new history of Oysterville.

According to the paper (and, we all know what happens to “facts” once they are in print), Oysterville was first settled thirteen years earlier than all the first-hand accounts and history books have told us for the past 158 years.  Plus, according to this confused account, it was settled not by Espy and Clark but by John Douglas..  And by 1854 (when Espy and Clark built the first house in the area according to their own accounts), there was already a settlement of several hundred people here.  And by 1854, says the article, there were 800 people here. WOW!

Where does this stuff come from, anyway?  I’m being literal here.  Where does this information come from???  I called the editor to find out exactly that.  I had to leave a message and, admittedly, I was irate to the point of incoherence – probably said things about responsibility and ethics in journalism and what were they thinking.  Mostly, I wanted to know the source of this new history.  My call has yet to be returned.

Pacific House in Oysterville, c. 1860s – c. 1900

Perhaps my ‘favorite’ part of the article (is it possible to have a favorite part of something that you really hate?) is this paragraph:

Old for a West Coast town, Oysterville is brand new in geographic terms.  Oysterville could be the only place in the United States that has always had human occupants. Native American people probably settled Oysterville as soon as it was created.  Chinook peoples came to the area that is Oysterville at seasonal intervals for untold centuries to harvest its bountiful oyster beds.

I’ve read and re-read these words and still cannot understand what they mean.  Who were those earliest human occupants?  Apparently not the Chinooks who “settled Oysterville as soon as it was created.”  Huh?

Meanwhile… a dedicated group of local historians have been working for more than a year to develop a Community History Program.  Its purpose will be to explore Pacific County history through field trips, visits with experts and opportunities to explore various history archives.  The goal is to provide certification to those interested in perpetuating our local history.

County Courthouse in Oysterville 1875-1893

I do hope that whoever wrote that “Shangri-La” article takes the course – for the part on verifying sources and the ethics of documentation, if nothing else.  And, just in case there is still a question …for the second year in a row, J&O will  again be at Wilson’s Field in Ocean Park.  I checked.

So, it seems that I’ve been wrong in my criticisms of Mr. Webb.  It’s not that he didn’t do his research.  He just picked up the words of someone else who was equally lax in scholarship. I apologize.  But, I’m continuing on in my paragraph-by-paragraph examination of this year’s story.  Coming soon: paragraph #5.

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