Archive for the ‘Espy Family’ Category

The Louisville Sluggers in the North Room

Sunday, October 28th, 2018

Edwin, Dale, Willard – 1917

As long as I can remember, the three baseball bats have lived in the North Room of this house.  For those in the know (mostly family members) the “North Room” refers to the upstairs bedroom on the north side of the house.  There is also a downstairs bedroom on the north side, but it is referred to as “The Parlor” in deference its original purpose.  But, I digress.

The bats are known (also among family members) to have belonged to “the boys” who, it almost goes without saying were my uncles Edwin and Willard.  They are the only “boys” to have grown up in this house and when they “put away childish things,” they didn’t put them very far.  Those bats, for instance, got put in the back of the bedroom closet and there they stayed for sixty or seventy years.

Corner of the North Room

When Nyel and I moved in and redecorated a bit, all of the children’s things ended up in the North Bedroom.  My doll cabinet, Charlie’s little Mexican chairs, my grandmother’s triptych of framed paper dolls, and a corner case full of children’s books are all part of the décor.  It seemed only right that the bats should come out of the closet and be displayed (discreetly and casually) in the corner.  They have been there, untouched except for occasional dusting, for the last twenty years.  I hardly ever give them a passing thought.

So… a few weeks ago when Tucker brought three of his own bats over for his habitual Friday Night Show and Tell, and then proceeded to tell us all about them, I began to wonder about ours.  Tucker’s information was based on the logo stamped on each bat plus what he had learned from the online Keyman Collectibles site concerning Hillerich & Bradsby Co. Louisville Slugger site. I nipped (probably more like galumphed my way) upstairs and returned with our three bats to see if they were anything of note.

Apparently, two of them – the taped ones – are pretty decent bats.  Both are Louisville Sluggers. The ‘best’ one is stamped “Louisville Slugger 125… ” and its manufacturing period is listed as 1916 to 1933.  Edwin and Willard were born in 1908 and 1910, respectively, so the dates would fit perfectly.   Tucker, who is a collector and knows these things, thinks that bat might have sold for ‘around ten cents’ in 1918 or 1919 and might fetch as much as $60 now.

Louisville Slugger 125 Logo

To me, of course, they are beyond price.  Their value lies in knowing who played with them and in picturing the excitement when the boys got them… Were they Christmas presents?  Were they ordered from the Johnson & Henry Store in Nahcotta?  Did each boy ‘own’ one or were they shared?  And what about the third, not-quite-so-good bat?  Was it left here by a friend?  Or did it belong to my mother who, apparently, was quite a tomboy in her youth?

Unlike Tucker, my genetic makeup lends itself exclusively to keeping rather than to also collecting.  Value seldom enters my thought processes like it might to Tucker.  But I sure am glad he’s my neighbor!  I learn a lot from him — even about 1920s vintage baseball bats!

The Elephant on Willapa Bay

Friday, July 13th, 2018

            Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”
            They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.” All of them went where the elephant was. Every one of them touched the elephant.
            “Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man who touched his leg.
            “Oh, no! it is like a rope,” said the second man who touched the tail.
            “Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
            “It is like a big hand fan” said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
            “It is like a huge wall,” said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
            “It is like a solid pipe,” Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.
            They began to argue about the elephant and every one of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?” They said, “We cannot agree to what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features what you all said.”
            “Oh!” everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.
 From the Equus website:


Yesterday my cousin David came visiting.  We talked about family – about our grandfathers (who were brothers) and about our great-grandfather who settled here before there was Oysterville.  We talked about the neighbors who were here during our childhood and about the people and events who shaped our perceptions of this little village.  We talked about changing times, and transitions and civility.

What we didn’t talk about: elephants.

Another Oysterville Meeting

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Special School Board Meeting, 1912

It is a long-standing joke in Oysterville that many of our most productive “meetings” happen in the street.  Often, these gatherings occur while we are on our way to or from the Post Office.  A neighbor’s car slows and stops next to you as you stroll down Territory Road or, perhaps, two cars stop – one coming, one going – so that drivers can have a chat through open windows. Lots of big decisions are made that way –like when to convene for a picnic or whether a whiffle golf game will begin sooner rather than later.

If a vehicle is involved in the “meeting” chances are that traffic clots up a bit.  Locals know to “just go around,” perhaps pausing for a moment (if there’s room for three cars abreast) to join the conversation.  Visitors are amazingly patient, sometimes even joining into the discussion.  I often think that those encounters are one of the few remaining vestiges of true village life.

Espy Plot, Memorial Day at the Oysterville Cemetery

Yesterday, as we were getting ready to go up to the cemetery with our flowers, a huge RV with Montana license plates pulled over in front of the house and the passenger rolled down her window and spoke to Nyel.  I was soon summoned and the driver introduced himself to me:  “Hi.  I’m Isaac Clark’s great-great-grandson,” he said.  Wow!  “And I’m Robert Espy’s great-granddaughter,” I responded.  Imagine!  All these years later, Espy and Clark’s descendants meeting in the town the two friends had founded back in 1854!

We chatted.  A few cars waited patiently to get by.  Ben didn’t know that Isaac Clark had married a second time and that he had half-cousins right here on the Peninsula!  A few more cars joined the queue.  Hurriedly, I got their email address.  “We’ll be in touch,” we said.  And the traffic moved on, everyone waving and smiling as if they knew that the generations had converged right before their very eyes.  It was just “that” kind of day in Oysterville – sunny, breezy, friendly feeling.  The best kind of day for a street meeting.

I.A. Clark’s Tombstone, Oysterville Cemetery

As Nyel and I distributed our flowers around the Espy tombstones, I took a moment to tell old R.H. about our encounter and mentioned it, also, to Isaac as we passed by.  I hope they were pleased that two more of their descendants have made contact!  We certainly are.

Memorial Weekend, 2018: Saturday Report

Sunday, May 27th, 2018

Driving south on Pacific Hiway from Oysterville yesterday was a tad hazardous.  Every side street, or so it seemed, was marked by arrows and signs to garage sales, many of them obliterated by cars waiting to enter the traffic mainstream.  There wasn’t much waiting for a break – cars darted in and out, willy-nilly.  Definitely a day for defensive driving.

We reached Long Beach and the Pickled Fish without incident, though.  We were meeting Kay Buesing, her daughter Kim and son-in-law Bob for lunch – a long-time-no-see situation all the way around!  It was comfort food for all of us – pizza and cassoulets and mac ‘n cheese.  But, in reality, who noticed?  We were having so much fun catching up that the time flew by and the food just seemed to disappear!

It wasn’t a bit crowded – a ‘first’ for our visits there.  The rest of the world was apparently otherwise occupied, still hard at it in the quest for the perfect garage-sale item.  We covered all ‘the usual’ topics – what we’ve been doing, what our kids are doing, the changes on the Peninsula and in our world.


And there was lots of catching up on the status of things.  Things like the Kite Museum that we really don’t keep up with now that Founder Kay has retired.  They still have no Director, apparently, and Patty Rolfe (bless her!) who was hired to run the gift shop, is holding down the fort.   But that has meant that new exhibits and programs and important kite contacts are on hold – or at least that’s what I surmised.  Kay was reluctant to talk about it.  I know the feeling…

Later in the afternoon, just as I was thinking about a nap before dinner, Cousin Abby came down from the Red House.  “I heard you might need a hug,” she said.  “Always!” was my response.  Her visit was the perfect ending to a day highlighted by friendship and fun!  When we take flowers up to the cemetery later today, I’ll have lots to share with the old folks…  I know they’ll be interested.

My Uncle Ed

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Dr. R.H. Edwin Espy, c. 1975

Among the many people in my life whom I never fully appreciated was my mother’s older brother, Ed.  For one thing, we lived on opposite sides of the country, so we didn’t see him very often.  For another, he had the rather imposing name, Robert Hamilton Edwin Espy and after receiving his doctorate from Columbia University was known to those beyond the family as Dr. R.H. Edwin Espy.  I was always impressed by that.  Not that we ever called him anything but “Ed”… but even so…

For another thing, from 1963 to 1973 he was the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches and, as such, was known as the “Protestant Pope.”  That was the culminating job in a lifetime devoted to the ecumenical movement – a lifetime spent traveling the world meeting with religious leaders of every denomination and working with youth groups everywhere.  That was not just impressive to me, but somewhat overwhelming to consider.

From the time I was born in 1936 until his retirement in 1973, he brought me a souvenir doll and a souvenir spoon from each country he visited. Most of the spoons, alas! were stolen in a house break-in years ago. I still have the dolls – most with heads and hands made of bisque and with cloth bodies and hand-made clothing.  (Does it go without saying that they were pre-plastic?)  Because he had no children and I was his oldest niece, I always felt that I received special treatment – which I loved, but it was a bit intimidating.  Even as a little tyke, I was not comfortable crawling up into his lap like I might with my Uncle Willard.

Willard, Edwin, Dale in 1916

My mother, Willard, and Edwin were the youngest of seven children and, because they were within three years of each other, were referred to as “the babies.”  Throughout their lives, they shared a closeness that I was always a tad bit envious of – particularly (probably) because I had no brothers and sisters, myself, and realized from an early age that such a bond would forever be foreign to me.

But, it is in the area of history and memories that I feel I most missed out with Edwin.  I just ran across these notes that he wrote for a never completed book of Willard’s: 

Ed Espy Horse Seining on the Columbia, 1924

 …In the spring months I had to get up at 3:00 or 4:00 A.M. to dig razor clams at the ocean beach on the early morning tides – the best time for this in the twenty-four hours.  This was not a picnic.  It would be in March or April or May, when it always was cold and usually raining.  The combination of salt water, cold, gritty sand and sometimes a miscue with the special clam shovel was not designed for people finicky with their manicures.  When I got home from clamming later in the morning – barely in time for a change of clothes, a quick second breakfast and a dash to catch the school bus – after my mother had done her best to treat my hands – there was not much capacity for study on the ride to school.  But it was a good opportunity to catch a nap!

Just that single paragraph evokes so many questions!!  And thoughts about our changing times…

Not only had he been to Oysterville, but…

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

In Seattle Yesterday – Definitely Fake Sky

It was about three o’clock yesterday when the doctor came in to talk to us before Nyel’s ‘procedure’.  We were back at the University of Washington Medical Center, this time for a long-planned implant of a cardio mems into Nyel’s heart.

“It’s essentially an antenna,” said the doctor.  “It has no battery, no moving parts, nothing to go wrong.  It will stay with you forever.”  In conjunction with the pillow-like device (in its own rolling suitcase) that Nyel will rest against each morning, the CardioMems device will send information back to his doctor in Seattle concerning the pressures in his heart.  It’s a way to keep track of his congestive heart failure without those frequent trips to the hospital – a management-by-long-distance-method.  Or so we all hope.

The doctor had a sample one to device to us and explained how it would be inserted into an artery in Nyel’s heart.  They would go in through the right side of his neck and the device would be placed in an artery on the back of the left side of his heart.  The process would take about 45 minutes.  No anesthetic required; just a bit of numbing at the insertion site.  Wow!

CardioMEMS Sensor


“Will I be able to drive afterwards?” Nyel asked.  “Sure,” said the doctor.  “Where do you live?”

Usually, we respond “the Long Beach Peninsula.”  We’ve found that people from the big city are more likely to have heard of the general area – not necessarily our little corner of it.  But for some reason I said “Oysterville” and Dr. Wood’s eyes lit up.  “Have you been there?” I chanced.  “Actually, yes,” he said “a friend of mine has a house there.”  And I thought to myself, “Probably not.  Probably out in Surfside.”

Dr. Gregory Wood

Imagine my surprise when he said his friend was named Lexie.  “Lexie Hook Bemis?”  I asked.  “Yes,” he said.  “Brock and I were colleagues.”  We chatted then about my Red House Cousins, their wedding at Timberline Lodge (which we found we had all attended back in 2007), and how the Bemis family had moved to Sun Valley a few years back. And how things weren’t the same anymore.

It was one of those small world moments to the max.  There’s nothing like a shared memory to make you feel bonded – unless it might be having someone look (literally) right into your heart!  Wow!  What a world we live in!

One Century Plus Four Years Ago Today

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

Helen Richardson Espy, c. 1908

Every now and then, like today, I feel the need to find out what was going on right here in this very house a century or so ago.  Fortunately, I have the letters written by my grandmother to her first born, Medora.  Those letters, plus their counterparts from Medora to Mama were the basis for my 2007 book, Dear Medora, Child of Oysterville’s Forgotten Years.

From the time that Medora entered Portland Academy as a sophomore in 1913 until her sudden death in January 1916, she and her mother corresponded two or three times a week.  The letters provide a wonderful glimpse of life in our little corner of the world when we were so remote that it was necessary, if you could manage it, to send your children to boarding school in the far-away city; there was no road from Oysterville to Ilwaco High School and the train from Nahcotta did not run at times convenient to school children.

The Espy Children in 1913 – Dale, 2; Willard, 3; Edwin, 5; Mona 9; Sue, 10; Medora, 14.

(Note the ‘Dear Little Sister’ greeting – an affectionate term my grandmother often used when writing to Medora, the eldest of her seven children.  In many ways, their bond seemed far beyond the usual mother-daughter relationship.  My grandmother, although a loving and devoted mother to her remaining children, never quite recovered from Medora’s untimely death.)

Tuesday, 3:30  January 27, 1914

Dear Little Sister,

It has been impossible to write because I have one of my weepy, blurry colds — only worse than usual.  This A.M. have my face all done up in flannel – am a beauty.  Have neuralgia due to having partially dislocated my jaw last night –I bit a cough drop.  It was hard and slipped, wrenching my face.  I will attempt a letter tho you may find it muddle-headed.

Horse-Drawn Phaeton Toy

I guess too much vanity gave me my cold.  The buggy came from grandpa when I was in a hot kitchen baking.  I was so delighted with the “looks” of it that I ran out into the cold and rain to see closer.  It is the nicest looking buggy on the Peninsula – just what I wanted – a low, high-backed seat phaeton – rubber tired, roll back top.  Eva told me it was dilapidated but there is nothing wrong except a piece out of one tire.  It is not so shining new looking as the big buggy but it looks like the city and home to me…

Willard … has been having three days of slight fever and croup.  He is not in bed but looks wilted.  Dale has one of her wracking bronchial coughs and so has Mona.  In fact, every member of the household barks until we sound like a kennel.

Mrs. Wirt made an awful scene in church Sunday night.  We had a fine speaker from Los Angeles.  Beth grew fussy and Mrs. W. took her into the vestibule.  There was a great commotion and pretty soon in came Mrs. Wirt “right out in meeting” with, “Papa, papa I can’t make that child come home.  She won’t budge.  You will have to come take her.”  The minister stopped preaching and Mr. Wirt went in back for a lantern and handed it to Mrs. W. — then calmly took his seat.  This was not enough.  Mrs. W. spied Wesley who was peacefully sleeping and she trots over, stands him up, shakes him, yells at him — he acting all the time like Sue does when we try to get her awake.  She finally managed to haul him out and the three of them thundered out…

There certainly is a lot of dignity about our church.  The minister attended S.S. in the morning and, as usual, they sang without an organ.  An hour later at church, he sat down and played, himself, and if Mrs. Bowman did not blurt out, “Well why in the world didn’t you say you could play at Sunday School?”  He must have thought it a disorderly crowd.  We are to have a resident Baptist minister come next month.  Poor man!…

The Espy Family Seat and Other Stuff

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Sometimes I feel that Oysterville must qualify as the Espy Family Seat – the place Espys come when they are on the search for family information.  Or maybe, as my sainted Uncle Willard claimed, all roads lead to Oysterville when it comes to Espys.  I’m not sure the reason, but one way or another, we get to meet a lot of fabulous Espy relatives.

Yesterday, it was Debi Snyder, a fifth cousin twice removed (is that what we decided?) who is on a road trip from Provo, Utah with her husband Ron.  Our common ancestors are Thomas Espy and Anna Hamilton – Debi through their son William and me through their son Robert.  That much is well-documented, apparently, so there is no question of our cousinship.

Fifth Cousins Twice Removed

The big question among the genealogists seems to be about Anna Hamilton Espy’s parentage and that was part of the reason that Debi looked me up – hoping for a family Bible or other documentation (Sorry! Not here!) that would firmly establish Anna’s parentage.  That her father was Alexander Hamilton (not the famous one) seems to be true.  It also appears that for some years in the 1750s, after Anna’s mother died and while Alexander was off fighting Indians, young Anna lived with his parents, presumably her grandparents.  Anna rejoined Alexander (presumably her father) in 1760 when he remarried a woman named Amanda and began his second family of .

As far as my newly-discovered cousin and I are concerned, Anna’s parentage is neither here nor there.  But, Debi’s sister is apparently interested in qualifying for the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Being descended from Alexander Hamilton (not the famous one) seems to qualify you and until recently that’s been a fully legitimate reference.  But now, apparently, the DAR is questioning Anna’s paternity and until it’s all resolved… no acceptance by the DAR.

DAR Constitution Hall

I’m afraid I hold a “so what?” view of that entire DAR thing and my new-found cousin seems to agree, though she is pursuing the documentation quest out of sisterly loyalty.  My father’s mother was a passionate and active member in the DAR and, when I was a teenager, was eager for me to join.  I had absolutely no interest then or now. In my mind, the DAR is forever tainted by their treatment of opera singer Marian Anderson back in 1939 when they denied her the opportunity to perform in DAR Constitution Hall because of her race.

Actually, that fact has shaped many of my decisions through life.  I chose Stanford because it didn’t then have sororities; I have never joined AAUW and in several (though not all) other instances I’ve tried to avoid ‘exclusive’ groups which set their members apart from the rest of the world.  But that’s another story…  Yesterday I was proud as punch to be a member of an even more singular group – the Espys – and to welcome yet another cousin to the seat of the Oysterville branch of the family!

Margaritas at the Red House

Monday, May 29th, 2017

The Red House at Easter

As we drove by the Red House on our flower delivery to the cemetery, we noted that the cousins were hard at work.  Two were on the porch roof painting the west wall and we had no doubt that others were hard at it elsewhere on the property. Five cars parked in the lane next to the house sported license plates from Idaho, Oregon and Washington.  Work Weekend at the Red House.

It happens once or twice a year – maybe oftener.  R.H. Espy descendants (through the Cecil Espy line) gather at the old house to patch, paint, prop and otherwise keep the 1872 structure in good enough shape for year ‘round visiting and vacation fun.  The worker bees included R.H.’s great, two-times-great, and three-times great grandchildren – the oldest in their seventies, the youngest barely two years old.

The Youngest Descendant

On our way home, we stopped by.  I was hoping for a photo or two to ‘document’ the Memorial Weekend activities at the Red House but already the ladders and paint cans were being stowed and Anna was in the dining room squeezing about a gazillion limes for Margaritas.  As they say, timing is everything.  Photo ops forgotten.  Let the cocktail hour begin!

We stayed long enough to exchange family news, village gossip, county stupidities.  I wondered idly what our venerable ancestors, R.H. and Julia Espy, might be thinking if they were watching from on high.  Pretty pleased and proud, I imagine.  As the eldest R.H. descendant at the gathering (and perhaps the eldest, period), I know I was!  Proud as punch!  Or, in this case, Margaritas!

“…and never a damn Yankee!”

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

Helen Medora Richardson – 1896

To me, my grandmother, Helen Medora Richardson Espy, has always symbolized the women of her generation.  Her parents had lived through the Civil War and, in many ways, she was a product of that turbulent time, as much as if she had lived through it herself.

Helen was born in Mexico City on May 28, 1878.  Her mother, Annie Medora Taylor, had grown up there after fleeing the war-torn South with her own parents and brothers. Young Annie had a fiery disposition and was fond of saying she would ”never marry a short man, a blond man or a damn Yankee!” And, of course, she married a man who was all three – Daniel Sidney Richardson, Secretary of the American Legation in Mexico City.

Dan had been born in Massachusetts and had moved to California at age four.  He could not have been more opposite Annie in temperament or sensibilities, but love is love and it was ‘at first sight’ for them both.  I imagine they had intended to live the better part of their lives in Mexico City as members of the American diplomatic circle, but on the death of Dan’s father in California they had to return there to take care of his sisters.  My grandmother was then a year and a half old and, so the story goes, was carried on a litter from Mexico City to Guadalajara where the family boarded a sailing ship for San Francisco.

Helen Richardson – November 24, 1897

Helen was raised according to her mother’s Southern sensibilities.  She was taught to arrange flowers, set an elegant table, cook fancy desserts and instruct the hired help.  She played the mandolin, wrote poetry, read copiously, and enjoyed attending musicales and theatrical performances in the sophisticated City by the Golden Gate.  When she met California College student Harry Espy of Oysterville, Washington, and they fell hopelessly in love, it never occurred to either of them that their lives would take them away from the genteel life Helen had always known.

In 1901, four years after their marriage, Harry’s mother died and Helen and their two eldest children accompanied Harry ‘home’ to Oysterville to assist his aging father.  The move, they thought,  would be for only a short time.  “We’ll be going home soon,” she assured the youngsters.  “Home to Oakland.”   Meanwhile, they were as close to the ends of the earth as young Helen could imagine — no gas lamp-lit streets, no running water, no trolley cars or convenient shops and markets.  And no hired help to be had.

But for the next fifty-three years, Helen cooked and cleaned, tended animals and gardened, and ‘made do’ mostly without help except, perhaps, for a few weeks after each baby was born.  She raised seven children, assisted Harry with his work on the dairy farm and with his duties as a State Senator (one term) and Justice of the Peace (forty years).  She managed things when Harry was bedridden for several years after a farm accident and survived on mostly cabbage and canned beef during the Great Depression.  The only poem I know that she wrote after leaving California was on the occasion of her 17-year-old-daughter Medora’s death.

Helen and Harry Espy’s 50th Anniversary – November 24, 1947

Though Oysterville was a far cry from the life she was expecting, I don’t think she ever complained.  She adored her husband always, and she never wavered in the belief that ‘home’ was by his side no matter what.  With regard to Oysterville – as she aged, she sometimes likened herself to Byron’s “Prisoner of Chillon” who grew to love his prison cell and even to prefer it to the outside world.  Somehow it’s fitting that her birthday coincides with Memorial Day Weekend.  We’ll be taking flowers to her today — up to the Oysterville Cemetery where she rests by Harry’s side forever more.