Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

A Frazzle Dazzle One Step!

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Dale at 16, Oysterville, 1927

The use of colorful language runs in our family.  Not the colorful sort that seems to rage rampant in print and behind those bleeps on television.  I mean expressive without being offensive.  My grandfather Espy, for instance was pretty famous for never swearing but for getting his point across, nevertheless.

“Dad burn it!” I’d hear him say.  Or maybe “Dad gum it!”  and I knew he was more than a little frustrated about something.  Sometimes it was “Son of a sea cook!” or “Consarn it!” or perhaps “Ding Bust it!”  But the ultimate in epithets from Papa was “Devil!” and, lest you think those are all pretty tame, you had to be there.  As those of us who knew him well remember, those words came bursting from his mouth like thunderbolts!  Not often, but certainly memorable.

Mona at 7 or 8 — Oysterville, 1911

My mother’s colorful speech was a bit different from her father’s.  She wasn’t substituting the acceptable for the unacceptable.  Far from it.  She was simply being her usual, inimitable self.  “She just wore me to a frazzle-dazzle one step” she often said after being cornered by a particularly irksome neighbor.  Or, she was known to refer to women of questionable moral character as “woo woo girls” and when I’d asked one too many ‘why’ questions, “Why’s a hen” was the only answer she’d give me.  Or when she was wanting me to make up my own mind:  “You’re the doctor; I’m only the nurse.”

Charlie at Three – Claremont Day Nursery, 1959

Too, there were many stories about my Aunt Mona’s childhood expressions – words that became part of the family lexicon.  “I piddly stimbled!” was what we all said after almost falling down.  It must have been young Mona’s way of saying, “I practically stumbled.”  The best Mona-ism, though, is what I say to this day when I’m refusing seconds after a big dinner: “My shimmy shirt and pants are full” – Mona’s little girl understanding of the colloquialism, ‘my sufficiency is sophonsified.’

My son, Charlie, was also inventive word-wise.  He worried that the water in the bathtub might overfloat, and once commented on his well-endowed grandmother as being volumptuous.  My all-time favorite, though, was his three-year-old answer to “What do you call it when two people sing the same song at the same time?”  “A coincidence,” came his prompt reply!  Spot on, say I!

Down the Rabbit Hole

Monday, April 17th, 2017

I told myself that it was Easter Sunday.  I didn’t have to get anything ‘done.’  And, besides, we were going to out in mid-afternoon.  No time to really make headway on any other projects or even to get started in the garden.  So, I gave myself permission to fool around with my ancestry-dot-com family tree.  Seven hours later I was scrambling to get ready to leave the house for our dinner date.

So far, though, I don’t consider it time wasted.  I’m learning a lot about my father’s family that hadn’t been a glimmer before now.  I knew nothing at all about that branch of my tree except that the first Little in our line, my great-grandfather Henry Little, came from Inneskellin, Ireland.  Yesterday I learned that he was a baker and arrived in the U.S. with his wife, Margaret, in 1865 – the year they had been married. They subsequently had six children;  my grandfather William Oliver Baketel Little was the youngest.

William Oliver Baketel Little

What is astounding to me is that I not only didn’t know any of those great aunts and great uncles, I hadn’t even heard about any of them.  In comparison, I knew every single one of my great aunts and uncles on my mother’s side of the family, as well as their children, their grand-children, and now their great-grandchildren.  What a difference in family dynamics!

Unless, of course, all of those ‘greats’ on my father’s side died without issue. Doesn’t seem likely, but, in order to find out, I’ll need to spend more time down that rabbit hole!  Yikes!

A Pointless, Time-Consuming Indulgence?

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

The Espy-Espey Genealogy Book – Volume 3 ©1987

As my son Charlie said when he got his DNA results from, “Okay. So I’m sort of disappointed…”  Me too, a little.  There weren’t any surprises.  Not in my ethnicity – 77% Great Britain; 19% Europe West; and in the ‘Low Confidence Regions’ – Ireland 2% and Finland/Northwest Russian 2%.  But our DNA search was a Christmas gift to all of us and I feel compelled to be as appreciative as possible, so…

Yesterday I began filling in the template for the family tree that is provided.  For the first six or seven generations back, there are few questions thanks to the work done by my Grandmother Little (“Nana”) on my father’s side and my Uncle Willard Espy (“Wede”) on my distaff side.  Plus there are reference books… lots of books.  There is nothing much that tempts me to pay the monthly fee to get more information.  Not on my family and not yet.

Filling in the Blanks

What interests me most, of course, are the stories connected to the names and both Nana and Wede provided plenty of those.  Take Alexander Hamilton, for instance.  He is my five times great-grandfather on the Espy side, born in 1725, probably in Ayrshire Scotland and was ‘a millwright and a mechanical genius’ according to one account.  He came to America in 1741, was a “battoe man” in the French and Indian Wars and settled his family in Pennsylvania.

According to Wede, “there is no proof of relationship between our Alexander Hamilton and the Alexander, thirty years younger, who was George Washington’s first Secretary of the Treasury.  But I am bemused by the extraordinary coincidence of names in the two families.  Alexander Hamilton of Grange, grandfather of the Secretary of the Treasury had nine sons, including John Robert, Alexander, James (the great AH’s father), George, ad William (twice).  Our Alexander had eight sons, also including John, Robert, Alexander, James, George, and William.”

Sarah Hall Rand (1822-1865) & Horace Richardson (1814-1876), My Great-Greats

There is a place on the Ancestry Family Tree template to input stuff like that – to say nothing of pictures which I also have – but, I ask myself, is it worth the time and effort?  The only ‘plus’ so far to this entire, time-consuming job of transferring information from family notations to Ancestry’s Family Tree is that it can be compiled in one orderly, easily visualized form.  And what would I gain by spending a monthly amount to hook into other information?  I might be close to overload already.

Cuzzin Ralph can probably answer those questions for me.  So far, though, I don’t think I can justify the expense.  I’m pretty sure that I have access to more information about my forebears than I can make use of.  But, have to admit… it’s tempting… and the jury is still out.

So far… better than good!

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Marta’s Package

Even though I’d had a bit of warning, the package that arrived in the mail yesterday took me by surprise.  A belated birthday present from step-daughter Marta!  The ‘warning’ part had been a phone call from her while she was shopping at some sort of ‘everything’ store near her home in Marin County.  She asked me about the kinds of hats I like and favorite colors in socks and preferences in snacks.

Marta’s Wrapping Paper

“Not berets or ball caps,” I said.  “They point right to my sticky-outie ears.”  And we laughed.  “Yes, striped socks are great,” I said.  “And blue denim color, not navy, is best.”  We laughed some more.  “Snacks?  Salty, not sweet,” we said in unison.  More laughter.  She told me upfront she was on a quest for my belated birthday but, apparently, what stuck in my mind was the fun of talking to her while she shopped.  So, when the package arrived I was clueless – until I saw the return address.

In typical Marta fashion, the wrapping paper was hand-decorated, the card designed and fashioned by Marta and there were signs and messages throughout.  I smiled – even laughed out loud – as I opened each item. Two pair of socks, a jar of my favorite freeze-dried decaf coffee, and a package of Tex-Mex nibblies.  I could hear the echo of Marta’s giggle with each rustle of tissue paper.

“I hope these fill the bill… a little munchie, a little drinkie, a little fashion wear!” the card said.

Marta’s Card

I thought back to my birthday on February 28th.  Nyel was in the hospital for five days and I was right there with him.  When he worried about how I was spending my 81st, I told him I’d make up for it by finding a way to celebrate all year long.  So far, so good.  When we got home in March, my friend Maggie gave me a special birthday luncheon and the guests even brought presents!  And then a bit later in the month, our friends Petra and Michael took us to a belated birthday lunch in Astoria!  I felt blessed.

And now it’s April and… make that so far, so much better than good!

Required Reading

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Conversations with Pioneer Women by Fred Lockley

If I ruled the world, or preferably just the education part of it, I would set out a social studies curriculum that included the reading of two books by Fred Lockley:  Conversations with Pioneer Women and Conversations with Pioneer Men.  In my world, reading both of those books and in-depth classroom discussions of them would be a pre-requisite for graduation from eighth grade.  And it goes without saying that my requirement would also extend to the teachers of those students.

They say I am hard and bitter said Matilda Jane Sager Delaney.  If some of the people who have life made easy for the had been through what I have, maybe they would feel bitter and vindictive, too.  Nowadays, the child is everything.  When I was young, children had no rights.  They were to be seen, not heard, and to be seen as little as possible.  She goes on to tell about being one of the orphaned survivors of the Whitman Massacre and how she was passed from home to home until, at 15 she married a 31-year-old miner from California.

Conversations with Pioneer Men by Fred Lockley

Matilda’s story is the first of some ninety interviews in Conversations with Pioneer Women, conducted in the 1920s and 1930s with women (then in their 80s and 90s) who had come to the Oregon Territory in the mid-1800s. Most had come over the Oregon Trail.  Lockley (March 19, 1871 – October 15, 1958) was an American journalist best known for his editorial column for the Oregon Journal Oregon Journal, “Impressions and Observations of a Journal Man”, which appeared throughout the Western United States on a nearly daily basis. He was also the author of many books that were largely about his travels and interviews with early settlers in the Willamette Valley. It was said that he interviewed “bullwhackers, muleskinners, pioneers, prospectors, 49ers, Indian fighters, trappers, ex-barkeepers, authors, preachers, poets and near-poets.  His interviews are contained in fifty-seven unpublished notebooks called “The Lockley Files” and the current volumes in print contain interviews culled from them.  If I can’t rule the world of education, maybe I could be reincarnated back in time as Lockley’s assistant.

Jane Gilbert (Tubbs) Apperson

One of my own forebears is mentioned in this second edition (1993) of Conversations with Pioneer Women.  Elvina Apperson Fellows said:  I was one of ten children… My father Beverly Apperson was born in Tennessee.  My mother, Jane Gilbert Tubbs, was born in Virginia… Father died on the way across the plains… We had two wagons, so Mother had the men take the wagon bed of one of then to make a coffin…They dug a grave in the idle of the trail and buried Father and when the grave was filled they corralled the oxen over the grave so the Indians would not find it and dig up the body to get the clothes…We came by way of The Dalles and over the Cascades by the newly opened Barlow road… The oldest child William Poindexter, had died before we started, so when we reach Portland our family consisted of my mother and nine children.  Mother was in her early thirties…In 1851 Mother was pretty hard run to earn enough money for us to live on, so when a man named Julius Thomas, a cook in restaurant, offered to marry me, Mother though I had better take him, so I did.  He was 44 and I was 14…

Beverly and Jane Gilbert Tubbs Apperson were my three times great-grandparents.  My great-great grandmother was Matilda Jane Apperson, Elvina Apperson’s sister.

Trees: Heirloom and Otherwise

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Our Pear Tree

Bright and early this morning, Kathleen Davies and Nancy Allen are coming to have their picture taken with our pear tree.  Cate Gable will be photographing them for her next week’s column on their Heirloom Fruit Tree project.  Hunting down and documenting the heirloom fruit trees in Pacific County is an ongoing Community Historian enterprise for Kathleen and Nancy.  They’ve been working on it for more than a year.

That our pear tree qualifies, I have no doubt.  My mother, who was born in 1911, remembered it being here “always.”  It was part of an orchard along the south part of the Espy property and could well have been planted by Tom and Anne Crellin who built the house in 1869 and lived here for a decade or so.  The tree still bears fruit – Bosc pears as hard as rocks.  “Only suitable for stewing,” said my mom.  “Or for the birds.”

House with Orchard c. 1900

Truth to tell, the birds aren’t crazy about those pears either.  They take a peck or two and that’s that.  I have a vision of slightly bent beaks among our feathered population.  Our four-legged visitors, though, gobble them right up if we don’t think to clean up after the first big winds of September and October.  Kathleen tells me that next fall she will be collecting pears to try out my grandmother’s Pickled Pear recipe and to save and preserve some of the seeds.  A worthy project, indeed!

Speaking of projects, later today, I’ll be working on a heritage tree of another sort – my family tree on the site.  Though my genealogy has long been clear on both my mother’s and father’s sides, in many cases back to the seventeenth century – thanks to the diligence and passion of my mother’s brother Willard and my paternal grandmother Molly – the records are in narrative form.  They are hard to follow and difficult to read since many of the earliest accounts are in longhand.  Plus, in many cases they start with the now and go backwards.  And not always in a continuous line.

Pears for Breakfast

I decided that I would try to fill in the traditional family tree template offered by  Presumably, it will give a clearer picture of my forebears and may be useful in finding “long lost” branches of the family.  However, just on the basis of the information I originally supplied, I have 5 ‘close’ matches (all of whom I know) and 364 matches in the 4th to 6th cousin category, most of whom I don’t know and certainly more than enough to keep me busy should I want to make contact.

The Espy/Little branch of our tree, ends with my son Charlie – at least as far as I know to date.  But… that’s probably what our pear tree thought, too.

By Geometric Proportions!

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Nyel, Cousin Diane, Sydney, Gayle

Yesterday we drove into Portland and back just to have lunch.  It’s not a trek I recommend for a blustery, stormy day but I wouldn’t have stayed home for the world.  It was a red-letter occasion for sure.  We met living proof that Nyel is not an orphan!

This was not one of those “meet your biological mother” events like many of my friends have had.  And it wasn’t as a result of discovering people with the same genetic markers.  But it was, indeed, a serendipity spinoff from the high tech internet world we flail around in even in isolated Oysterville.

Nyel’s Mother and Diane’s Mother, c. 1940s

First let me say that by the time Nyel and I met he was forty and had already outlived both parents.  He was an only child and though he had four cousins – two on each side of his family – he had not seen or heard from or of them since his early teens.  “For all intents and purposes, I’m an orphan,” he told me and that seemed to be the way he liked it.

Over the years, I’ve often marveled at how my orphan husband has embraced my family – first my parents and my uncles and aunts, then my cousins (first, second, third, and beyond,).  To his further credit, he has taken on the stewardship of my grandparents’ house and takes pride in Oysterville, the village co-founded by my great-grandfather.  Adoption works both ways and Nyel has adopted more family than he could have imagined thirty-five years ago when we met.

Fast forward to last fall when I received an email from a woman named Diane.  She lives in Arizona and ran across one of my blogs online. “I have a cousin Nyel Stevens who was born in 1943. I haven’t seen him since high school…”   OMG!  I was so excited!  But, Nyel dragged his feet in getting back to her.  Fortunately, she is a patient woman and last week, out of the blue, we got a phone call.  Diane and her daughter would be in Portland for a few hours on Tuesday. Could we meet for lunch?

Nyel’s Uncle Grove and his Mom, Muriel c.1940

When they realized that Oysterville was much farther away than they imagined, we suggested meeting at our favorite lunch place, Papa Hayden’s on NW 23rd.  “I’ll make the reservations,” I heard Nyel say.  “Is it just the two of you?”  As it turned out, it was Diane and her husband Gayle, their daughter and son-in-law and five grandchildren!

At their suggestion, we sat at separate tables – us old ducks at one and the young folks across the restaurant a bit.  I don’t know about the others, but it was non-stop talking at our table!  Almost sixty years of catching up for Diane and Nyel,  common backgrounds for Gayle (a retired school principal) and me, introduction by photos to their other nine children and their many grandchildren and now great grandchildren!  (There were sixty of them at their Thanksgiving gathering for ‘immediate family’ last year!)  And so many memories and stories triggered by old snapshots Diane had brought along!

We parted with promises to visit them in Mesa with a reciprocal visit on their part to Oysterville.  I hope those things happen.  It’s pretty special to go from ‘orphan’ status to ‘cousin of the multitudes’ in one fell swoop!  Once again, hooray for my Oysterville Daybook and the World Wide Web!

Content in the knowledge that…

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Annie Medora Taylor Richardson – My Great Grandmother Wearing Mantilla

“I know it’s here somewhere…”  I think for those of us who have a genetic proclivity for saving almost everything that comes into the house, those are the words we utter most frequently as we age – right up there with “I can’t find my keys…” and “I just saw them…”

Now that I am working on a seemingly endless project to inventory everything of significance in this house, I am making discoveries about items I squirreled away decades ago for safekeeping and ‘knew’ (though never tested that assuredness) that they were safely tucked away.  Yesterday I had one of those fabulous encounters – right on the (yuckily dusty) top shelf of my very own closet:  Two well sealed boxes with the following labels:

This box contains clothing that belonged to Helen Medora Richardson Espy (1878-1954) and Harry Albert Espy (1876- 1958).

  1. 1 black, hand embroidered scarf – wedding gift from Helen to Harry, November 24, 1897.

    Rachael Taylor’s Mantilla

  2. 1 black lace mantilla – belonged to Annie Medora Taylor Richardson (1856-1902), Helen’s mother
  3. 1 white knit, pearl studded fascinator (This may also have belonged to Helen’s mother.)
  4. 1 full-length black lace undergarment
  5. 1 pair white satin slippers – perhaps Helen’s wedding slippers – in black embroidered slipper bag

This box contains clothing that belonged to Helen Richardson Espy (1878-1954).

  1. Linen handkerchief edged in hand-made lace
  2. 1 pair of linen bloomers, lace trimmed
  3. 1 corset
  4. 1 shift, lace trimmed
  5. 1 satin bodice with bow at front of neck and back of waist
  6. 1 silk tucked-front bodice – this was the top to Helen’s wedding (1897) dress; made of Japanese silk which was gift from the Royal Family of Japan, as was the silk fabric for most of her trousseau.

Treasure Boxes

My task today is to unwrap each item, photograph it, prepare an identifying label, and paste photos and labels into a scrapbook – one of five, so far, documenting this houseful of ‘stuff’’ for posterity.  Another frequently asked question these days – “Why?  Why am I doing this?”  So far, there is no good answer.

Searching for Origins

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Captain Richard and Rachael Medora (Pryor) Taylor, my great-great grandparents

It seems to me that hunting down our roots has become a national pastime.  Not a day goes by but what I don’t have a conversation with someone who has recently spit in a vial or swabbed their inner cheek and is now waiting for news about their origins.  Me too.  Nyel’s Christmas gift to all of us (Marta, Charlie, himself, and me) was one of those Ancestry DNA kits. We should all hear any day now.

Of the four of us, I am probably the least curious about the results of my own test.  Thanks to family members on both sides, genealogical data has been accumulating for many generations – in some cases going back to the fourteenth century!  On my mother’s side, it was her brother, Willard, who spent more than sixty years in the avid pursuit of our roots.  And that was in the low-tech days of visiting county seats and city halls and searching through dusty military archives up close and personal.

Willard Espy, circa 1940

In my most-likely-never-to-be-published biography of Willard, I call the chapter I’ve devoted to his genealogical endeavors, “Chasing the Begats.”  It begins like this:

That Willard had read the Bible three times by the time he was eight without once skipping so much as a word – especially not in Genesis – was an oft told family story.  When asked about his diligence in his study of that particular book, he explained that the begats were the foundation of all that came afterwards.  He never changed his mind on that score, but on the matter of which begats were included and which were not, he had this to say:

“The Bible is very clear about when and how the Lord created Adam, but I cannot find anything about the creation of Espys.  We tend to explain away the omission as a bad translation.”

Besides looking for family roots, Willard was interested in word origins.  Of his dozen and a half published books, all but two or three had to do with word derivations, meanings, and usage.  Had he been born a generation later, he would have reveled in the possibilities of searching the World Wide Web.  Maybe.

“Almanac of Words at Play” ©1980

I have to admit that there is something about getting instant answers that’s just a wee bit disappointing.  Like this morning when I looked up “must have gone down my Sunday throat” – an expression used in my childhood when someone choked while eating. Sure enough, there was the etymology right on a site called “World Wide Words:  Investigating the English Language Across the Globe.”  Damn!

Though I probably knew better in my heart of hearts, I liked to think that it was an expression used only in our family – especially since I’ve never heard anyone else use it.  On the other hand, I’ve always been told that none of us ever has an original thought.  It’s probably a DNA thing…

Heart Healthy Soup and Turkey Sandwiches

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Visitors bearing gifts of food and a personalized show-and-tell performance from Oysterville’s very own Peter Pan – what could be a better beginning to a New Year!   Plus, Nyel was out of bed most of the day!  In his bathrobe and slippers, to be sure, but “up and taking nourishment” and being happily distracted from his very much unwanted ‘invalid’ state.

First, Cousin Abby Hook Ronco bopped over from the Red House.  She brought some decaffeinated tea with her (“I love it.  I always carry it in my purse!” she said) and I made Nyel a cup on the spot.  For a lifelong double espresso aficionado, decaffeinated anything will take a bit of getting used to, but… one step at a time.

On Our Piano — A Few of Tucker’s Cards and Ornaments

Then came Sandy Stonebreaker with a big container of homemade “heart healthy” soup – almost looked like a hearty (no pun intended) beef stew – plus a loaf of bread still warm from the oven!  We enjoyed both for dinner and there is even soup left for lunch today, plus plenty of bread for sandwiches.

And speaking of sandwiches… last in our parade of food-bearing visitors came Tucker and Carol with turkey slices and hunks, vacuum packed and frozen!  Tomorrow’s lunch on the road back to Portland for fine-tuning Nyel’s heart – turkey sandwiches!  (That turkey sort of came full circle.  It was to be our Christmas dinner but we left it, uncooked, with Carol as we made the dash to Portland on the 24th!)

Tucker also brought several boxes of his hand-made wooden ornaments to show us.  A few years ago, I blogged ( about Tucker’s yearly Christmas gift to friends and relatives – his hand-made Christmas Cards.  I might also have mentioned that, in addition to those cards, Tucker makes wooden ornaments for each of the people in attendance at Carol’s annual Christmas Dinner.

Some of Tucker’s Many Hand-made Wooden Ornaments

This year, the plan was for Carol and Tucker to come here for dinner on Christmas and so Tucker made an ornament/place card for each of us, too. He gave them to us on our rush out of town—personalized Christmas reindeer that graced our trays of hospital food in Nyel’s room on the 25th!

Yesterday, he showed us all of the ornaments he has made over the years – Carol’s and his from Christmas dinners going back to the first one of their marriage forty-plus ago.  It was the most diverting and entertaining way I can imagine to spend a winter afternoon.  Not once but several times afterwards Nyel spoke of one or another of the ornaments and said, “That man is wasting his talents!”

But maybe not.  Tucker’s show-and-tell went a long way to cheering us up.  That’s not a waste of anything by my reckoning!  Not by a long shot.