Archive for the ‘Community History’ Category

What “normal” will be next for us?

Friday, April 24th, 2020

A New Normal?

There’s been a lot of talk by the “experts” about how the “new normal” will look and how we will segue into it after the worst of the current pandemic wave is over.  Although we who are sheltered here at the beach all seem to be doing the “one day at a time” thing, I’m sure the future is much on everyone’s mind.  It surely is on mine and Nyel’s.

But conclusions are hard to come by.  Instead, we spend a lot of time talking about what has happened in past generations — hoping, I guess, to find some answers we can apply to ourselves.   We always start with some of the hard facts about current times: our population is made up largely of retirees; most of our economy is based on tourism; 49% of residences here are second homes — many for the sole purpose of providing income as vacation rentals; “traditional” industries — logging, fishing, shellfish — are gone or are struggling.

Early ‘Oyster Boys’ Abe Wing and Jimmy Johnson

As I look backwards, I count my great-grandfather as part of the Peninsula’s first generation.  He came in 1854, helped develop the oyster industry and, one way or another members of his family stayed on.  But hundreds, maybe thousands, of his contemporaries came, either made their “fortunes” or not, and moved on.  This wasn’t where they settled for good.  Only a few stayed.

In his turn, my grandfather stayed in the village where he had grown up, became a dairy farmer and a mover and shaker in the community. He watched the oysters “decline” and the county seat move to South Bend.  He saw the tourist communities of Seaview, Long Beach, and Ocean Park begin and thrive.  And he watched the young people move elsewhere to find jobs. Of his seven children, none “stayed” but three came back when they retired.

Heckes House with Annex (r.) circa 1930

During my mother’s growing up years here she watched as abandoned houses “fell in and gave way to the elements.”  She worked summers at the Heckes Boarding House, developing life-long friendships with the “summer people” who vacationed here.  Some of her  childhood friends stayed on but she and her brothers and sisters went elsewhere.  There was no work for them here.

Mom saw to it that, when the time came, I spent my summers here as well.  I remember the influx of residents who came after the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.  Some stayed, found their niche here and their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren are now stalwarts of the greater community.  But many others left to find jobs and to build their lives elsewhere.

In my lifetime, I’ve watched as transportation improvements have made the Peninsula easily accessible to the point that the tourism industry calls the beach “a year-round destination.”  I’ve seen downtown Long Beach businesses outpace Ilwaco’s (the only “real town”  on the Peninsula in my childhood) and I am watching as Ocean Park become a commercial center in its own right.

Will our focus continue to be on festivals and tourism?

So… what will be next?  Will tourism come back full force or will future waves of pandemics cause some fundamental changes here?  What will our new normal be?  Will there soon be more second homes here or will they be abandoned and fall in as beach homes have done from the beginning?  Will we continue to be focussed on tourism or will we keep the beaches closed to driving and concentrate letting our natural environment heal and renew itself?  And what part will our County governmentplay in all of this?  Will their policies and regulations keep pace with the needs of now and the future?  Will they find ways to honor our past?

I hope I’m around to see the next chapter.  The possibilities seem limitless.


Hey, all you ‘old’ Community Historians!

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

Pacific County Community Historians – “One Wednesday Morning”

Quite a few of our Pacific County Community Historians over the past seven or eight years have stewed and stammered about a “project” to do.  I have one for anyone interested:  Correcting some of the mis-information that shows up on Wikipedia (constantly!) about our fair county.

Take for instance the name of Bruceport, a once-upon-a-time settlement on the east side of Shoalwater Bay.  Says Wikipedia:  The community was named after Robert the Bruce, King of the Scots.

Historic Marker – “Bruceville – Bruceport”

NOT!  It was named for the Robert Bruce, the 82-foot, two-masted schooner of one hundred and twenty-nine tons that burned to water level shortly after anchoring in Shoalwater Bay in 1851.  The stranded crew settled on the nearby shore and started Bruceport… and, of course, the rest is history, as they say.  But not necessarily well-researched by whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry.

There are so many more examples.  Oysterville, for instance was NOT settled by John Douglas who was NOT married to Katie Kettle Gale, a Coast Salish woman.

And about Ocean Park, Wikipedia wrongly informs us that One of the oldest buildings in Pacific County is the Taylor Hotel building, built in 1887, currently in use as Adelaide’s cafe and bookstore named after Adelaide Taylor the wife of the original hotel owner.  (There are at least three errors in that sentence — can you spot them?)

Adelaide’s at the
Taylor Hotel, by Jean Stamper

I’d be happy to assist anyone interested in taking on this project.  I’d like to do it myself, but am currently maxed out time-wise with too many irons in my own fire.

If you’d like to delve into this, please contact me and we’ll “talk.”  Maybe several people could work as a group…   I think it would be a righteous use of sheltering time.  And Community Historian wannabes could certainly weigh in, too!

P.S.  This idea is not officially sanctioned, as in I did not run it by Betsy or Donella at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, so if you decide to  jump in and want CH credit, you might make your idea an actual proposal.  Or… you could just do it because it’s the right thing to do!

Robert, Julia, Lewis, and Louise – 1869-1871

Friday, April 10th, 2020

Photo Courtesy of the Pacific County Historical Society

Yesterday, this marvelous photograph of the Teachers’ Institute, September 1-6, 1902 was posted on the Pacific County Historical Society’s facebook page.  It was labeled “Oysterville” and Keith Cox tagged me, asking if I could identify the setting more specifically.  I couldn’t.  Neither could Tucker.  But I do have a related story…

Some of the names were written on the back of the photo, though they are not matched up to the individuals pictured.  One name called out to me:  Mrs. L. A. Loomis.  I doubt very much if she was teaching in 1902.  More likely the Institute included a luncheon for all Pacific County teachers and former teachers.  (Those pictured here probably number many more than all the teachers in the county at that time.)

Julia Jefferson Espy on her wedding day, 1870

My story about Mrs. Loomis begins in the late spring of 1869.  My great-grandfather, Robert Espy, and his friend Lewis Loomis were both on the Oysterville School Board and they were going to need a teacher for the following school year.  (Felicia Brown who had held the position for the 1868-1869 year had taken a position elsewhere.)

So, in the Spring of 1869, Loomis and Espy journeyed to the Normal School at the University of Salem (now Willamette University) to interview young graduates who might be interested in the job.  They chose Miss Julia Jefferson.  She was 18 years old, was graduating with honors, and was the prettiest young lady in her class.

In Oysterville, she managed the school, grades one through eight (sometimes numbering 50 students), with a firm hand and boarded at the Stevens Hotel.  Two of the Stevens girls who were near her age were not at all pleased with the attention Julia received throughout the year from Robert Espy.  He was, after all, one of the most eligible bachelors in town and they felt that, as long-time neighbors, they should have proprietary rights.

Oysterville School 1875-1907

When Robert proposed to Julia, she agreed to a late summer wedding and the Oysterville School was again without a teacher.  Again, Robert and Lewis journeyed to Salem to interview prospective teachers and again they chose the prettiest and brightest member of the graduating class:  Miss Louise Glover.  The following summer Louise married Lewis, becoming Mrs. L.A. Loomis.

End of story.  Except that the teacher who was hired next was an Oysterville woman, Harriet Wing…

The Next Best Thing

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

Looking South on Territory Road, Oysterville c. 1930 – Stony Point Pictures

Stony Point Pictures (aka Keith Cox) has been posting old photos on Frank Lehn’s “Long Beach Peninsula Friends of Facebook.”  I love them!  They are worth the “price of the ticket” for sure!  Many I’ve seen before but with some it’s a first time thing.

Today I came across one of Territory Road (once called “4th Street”) that was taken of “our end” of the road looking from north to south.  It was new to me.  Almost.  I have one taken at a similar time period, but from south to north.  No cows in this one, though.  Just chickens.

Looking South on Territory Road, Oysterville, c. 1920 – Espy Family Archive

Some other all too familiar and sad images of Oysterville  that have recently been posted are of the Oysterville Church when the steeple was boarded up, and one of the little Captain Stream House — perhaps also the same time period.  Although, on second thought, the photo of the church is in color which probably puts it closer to 1980 when its restoration began.  (From 1930 to 1980, it looked much the same.) The big spruce tree in the right foreground (our garden) puts it much closer to 1980.

Oystreville Church Prior to 1980 Restoration – Stony Point Pictures

All of them make me think that seeing these photos is the next best thing to being able to travel back in time.  All of them also make me think of the improvements that have been made since we became a National Historic District and the Oysterville Restoration Foundation was formed.

Now, though, we may be over the top.  It seems to me that upkeep and restoration have been conflated, in some cases, with a good dollop of fantasy.  I’m glad to have these old photos to help us remember where we’ve come from.  Thanks, Keith!

Connecting the dots — at last!

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

John Peter Paul, 1827 – 1909

Yesterday, I finally had a face-to-face encounter with a man I’ve greatly admired for many years.  Never mind that he lived and died way before my time.  He’s the horticulturist who, in 1869, was the first to cultivate wild cranberries here on the Peninsula.  He’s the master carpenter who built the Oysterville Courthouse and the two-story Oysterville School in 1875.  He’s the farmer who bought John Crellin’s DLC plus an adjoining 320 acres and engaged in stock-raising.  And, he’s the man who platted, laid out town lots, founded, and named Nahcotta.

He was John Peter Paul.  During the last forty years, I’ve read about him, written about him, and admired his industriousness and his ability to successfully turn his hand to whatever interested him or was needed by the community.  But, until yesterday, I had no idea what this man looked like.

Then, as I was thumbing through Volume II of History of Washington, The Evergreen State, From Early Dawn to Daylight with Portraits and Biographies (great title!) edited by Julian Hawthorn (Nathaniel’s son) and published in New York by the American Historical Publishing Co., 1893 — whew!! — I happened to run into John P. Paul.   He was a handsome fellow, indeed!

Oysterville School 1875-1907

He was born in Ohio on August 10, 1828 (which made him two years younger than R.H. Espy, my great-grandfather.)  He attended public schools until he was sixteen and then went to Cincinnati where he learned the carpenter’s trade.  He subsequently worked in Lexington,Kentucky and in Nashville, Tennesee before deciding, in 1853 to investigate the comparatively unknown region beyond the Rockies.

After mining in Nevada City and Placerville (then called Hang Town), California, he followed that trade in a number of locations between California and British Columbia until 1867.  That year he arrived in Knappton (then called Cementville) on the Columbia River.  There he stayed for two years before moving to the North Beach Peninsula where he lived in the Nahcotta area and, later, in Oysterville.  In 1882 he married Mary L. Andrews of California.

Hawthorne concludes his biography of John Peter Paul with these remarks:  The life of our subject has been one of great activity and frequent changes.  Blessed with a rugged constitution,he is still hearty and vigorous, and is enjoying all the comforts  of a happy home with his good wife, surrounded by many friends, and possessing the respect and esteem of all who know him.

Pacific County Courthouse, Oysterville (1875-1893)

On the chance that he was buried locally, I looked him up in the Ocean Park Cemetery Find-a-Grave site and, wouldn’t you know!  There was his picture, taken directly from Hawthorne’s book!  Apparently, I could have met John Peter face-to-face long ago.  His gravestone has him born in 1827, a year earlier than Hawthorne’s biography reports, but hardly important in the great scheme of things.  He died in 1909.

All-in-all, I am left wondering who else I can “meet” by taking the time and expending a little due-diligence!


A Sign of Heightened Awareness

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

From Days Gone By

For as long as I can remember, there has been an old “Quarantine” sign hanging above the kitchen door in the Red House.  That’s what we’ve called my great-grandfather R.H. Espy’s house ever since my uncle Willard painted it barn red in the mid-1940s.  The house has remained in the family since it was built in 1872 and many of its contents have remained as well.

No one knows when that Quarantine Sign was used or even if it was recycled for more than one go-round.  It could have been used as early as 1903 when a scarlet fever epidemic swept the area.  Or, it could have been used during the 1918 flu epidemic — the “Spanish inflenza” as it was called, believed to have been brought to the United States by WWI soldiers returning home.

“The Red House” by Sedem Akposoee

With all the family correspondence and Oysterville School documents that I’ve perused over the years, I have never seen reference to either of those epidemics.   I have no knowledge concerning any of our family members being affected by either scarlet fever or influenza.  The closest I can come is my mother’s memory of neighbors vaccinating one another against smallpox with an early vaccine, perhaps derived from cowpox.

I don’t know if that Quarantine sign is still in the Red House.  My fondest desire is that we will have no use for it during this current Coronavirus pandemic.  Meanwhile, we continue to wash our hands, sing the Happy Birthday song, and limit our forays out and about.  No hugging, no hand-shaking — but many admonitions to “Stay Well!”


Puzzle Pieces and Aha Moments!

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Details of Stevens Addition Plat Map

Several of my friends have a jigsaw puzzle always in progress, usually located on a table where visitors, as well as family members,  can work on them in odd moments.  They delight in those aha moments when, suddenly, the picture clarifies a bit and they find the perfect spot for a puzzling piece.  I’ve always admired that use of free time but find that my own leisure is often taken up with another kind of puzzle.

I have a built-in desire to pour through files and papers almost anywhere, but especially right here in my office.  Many times I come across a little fact or piece of information that I have overlooked for years and I experience my own aha moment!  I can’t explain why it’s an all-of-a-sudden thing.  Perhaps, I’ve finally gleaned enough other pieces so that my own mental picture clarifies enough to make a little more sense of things.

Take the copy of the 1984 letter that I just found (again!) written by Sedoris Daniels, a descendant of two early Oysterville families — the Crellins and the Stevens.  The letter was sent to the late Pacific County historian, Larry Weathers, and he photo-copied it and sent it to me.  It is full of interesting information, but what struck me this time were her remarks about the Stevens Addition in Oysterville.

For years I have wondered why we have a framed copy of the “Stevens Addition”  plat map hanging on our wall in the East Room along with other historic documents and photographs.  Finally, Sedora’s remarks made sense:  Aha!

My mother told that her father, Gilbert Stevens, bought half of Oysterville from I.A. Clark.  I have no idea as to the date.  Grandfather Stevens died in 1889 in Portland.  I believe the Espys bought the Stevens’ property after that date.  My mother, Laura Stevens Jordan, received $1,000 as her share of the sale.  Sedoris then names three others who shared in the proceeds.

Stevens Addition Plat Map

At the bottom of the plat map is written in longhand:  Recorded May 5th 1886 at 10 o’clock P.M. EB Wood, Recorder Pacific County, W.T.  I wonder if Larry looked up the information and wrote to Sedoris that the sale to R.H. Espy occurred before, not after, her Grandfather died.  Or was that a piece of the puzzle that she never did find out about?  Unless another, related piece of information shows itself, that’s a part of the puzzle that may well remain unsolved… at least for Sedoris who died not too many years after she had written that letter to Larry.



Remembering “The North Beach Journal”

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

Page 9, North Beach Journal, October 1985

Every once in awhile, I lament the family’s “saving” gene — that proclivity the generations have had to keep just about everything.    When the three or four generations of “stuff” in this household becomes overwhelming, I dream of a simple life furnished by Ikea and sustained by GrubHub.

This morning, however, I am regretting that genetic quirk the other way around, as in why didn’t I save more of the old North Beach Journal issues.  If you were here in the mid-eighties, perhaps you remember the short-lived tabloid-sized newspaper published in Ocean Park by Peter Campbell (I think.)  I recently ran across two partial issues — pages 9-12 part of the October 1985 issue and pages 9-12 of the June 1986 issue.  They are definitely a walk down memory lane!

Page 10, North Beach Journal, October 1985

I’m not sure why I saved the 1985 pages — perhaps for the article on the “Peninsula Firemen’s Muster” highlighting Jack McDonald and Ossie Steiner and Max Weidner, among others.  Or perhaps it was for the double-page spread by Dale Hill on shipwrecks, featuring stories of the Robert Bruce, “Bad Food Sinks Ship” and the Alice, “Hard-Hearted Alice.”  Both articles were great, starting with those provocative and pun-ish headlines.

The first tells of the cook of the Bruce who burned the ship to the waterline shortly after its 1851 arrival in Shoalwater Bay.  Presumably, crew and captain had not been appreciative enough of his culinary efforts and so he “hotly” retaliated and rowed off in the ship’s dinghy.   Some years later, in 1909, the Alice ran aground near Ocean Park and, though the ship was unharmed, she could not be re-floated because her cargo of dry cement immediately solidified on contact with the salt water washing over her hull.  Somewhere under the beach sands off “The Park,” as my forebears called it, the cement cargo remains even now.

Page 9, North Beach Journal, June 1986

It’s easier for me to determine why I kept the 1986 fragment.  On the upper left corner of Page 9 is a picture with the caption, “After their annual beach clean-up trip, Ocean Park elementary students construct sand sculpture.”  My class began that field trip in 1981, the year Ocean Park re-opened after a two year closure.  It soon became an annual event for the whole school.  I like to think of it as the forerunner to the present-day Garbage Gang, but perhaps I’m erroneously filling in too many blanks.

I do wish I’d kept every issue of the North Beach Journal.  I wonder if there are copies at the Ocean Park Library or at the Heritage Museum…  Just what I need.  Another quest!

Gather ’round! It’s the visiting season!

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

Friday Night in November 2019

Last night it was SRO at our usual Friday gathering.  We ran out of chairs so we spilled over from library to living room.  Hal sat on the floor and I meant to see how he’d manage to get up — but I forgot.  I can still do it, but it’s not a pretty picture — not popping up like toast as it was in the days before I got old and creaky,

Sue, Carol, Sandra — All A-Tangle?

The fiber arts ladies (or so I call the knitters and quilters) sat on the couch and played cats cradle.  Not really, but that’s what it looked like.  I think they were helping Sandra with a problem.  It took a while but they got it solved.

Tucker actually brought a hand truck loaded with his show-and-tell for the evening — some of his sign collection which included  few old Oysterville signs, a discarded tsunami sign,  and a yellow stop sign.  Yes, yellow.  Only a few of us remembered them. Ahem!  From The Manual of Traffic Signs on

The first STOP sign appeared in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan. There were a variety of colors used for STOP signs until the late 1920s, when the background color was standardized on yellow for maximum day and night visibility. Remember that this was a number of years before the invention of glass-bead retroreflectorization for sign faces, so a red sign looked very dark at night.

Until 1954

By 1954, signmakers were able to use durable fade-resistant red coatings for sign faces, so the background color of the STOP sign was changed to the red color you see today. This change also served to distinguish the regulatory STOP sign from yellow warning signs, and also made the color consistent with that of red traffic signal indications, which for decades had used red to signal “stop”.

So there you have it.  We learn a lot on Friday nights!


“Cuzzin Ralph, Meet Reverend Crouch”

Saturday, November 9th, 2019

I’m pretty sure my Cuzzin Ralph knows more about that scoundrel Reverend Josiah Crouch than anyone else in the current world.  Or in the last one, either.  Crouch, as you might remember was the husband of sweet Sarah Crouch back in 1892.  He was the minister for the church across the street and they lived in this house which, at that time, served as the parsonage.

When Sarah drowned under mysterious circumstances, Josiah left town in a hurry and showed up later practicing law in California.  All of that was known and documented well before the turn of the last century.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Crouch settled in to become the ghost of this house.  She’s not the least bit scary — just a little mischievous and unpredictable.

Ghost Stories by Candlelight, 11-8-2014

Over the years that I have known Mrs. C, I’ve told her story many times and in many forms — in talks at Vespers, in performance with the Shoalwater Storytellers, and in a starring role in my 2014 book, Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula.  It was when I was working on that book for History Press that I introduced the Crouches to Cuzzin Ralph and asked him if he would put his considerable research skills to work.

Ralph got right on it and provided a lot of corroboration for what we already knew, as well as some tantalizing new information.  But, there wasn’t quite enough to add to whai I already knew so I left the story as it was… for the time being.

But now, six years later, opportunities to gather information have increased exponentially as our traditional depositories for  information are digitizing their files and making them available online.  Birth records, marriage records, military records, newspaper accounts — you name it and it may well be a source for another puzzle piece in the story of our ghost.

And… Ralph is on it!  When I wrote him last week that I’m working on the sequel to Ghost Stories, I hardly had time to pose my questions before he began filling my computer screen with new information!  Great stuff!  The sequel to the Crouch story should almost write itself.  Although… I keep wondering if Mrs. Crouch will weigh in somehow.  I am ever alert for her take on the “what happened next” part of her story.

Meanwhile… my own part in this ghost story is more than clear.  I’ll not be away from my writing duties for the foreseeable future.