Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Mike, Fred and the Apperson Women

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

University of Oregon

The plan was to meet Mike Lemeshko in Eugene yesterday to do a little research at the University of Oregon.  Mike, whose recent quest for information about Judge John Briscoe led him to write a book, (The Cantankerous Farmer vs. The Ilwaco Railway & Navigation Company and the rest of his neighbors on the Long Beach Peninsula) and form the ‘Friends of the Briscoe Burying Ground, is on another quest – this time for information about B.A. Seaborg of the Aberdeen Packing Co. and other early canneries along the Columbia. .

My interest was in finding more information about my Jefferson and Apperson forebears.  Nyel was going along for moral support.  But, as is often the case with us these days, we couldn’t keep our date.  So, Mike (bless him!) went on his own and actually did a bit of digging on my behalf, too. We had arranged to take a look at the Fred Lockley files which are housed at the Special Collections Library at the U of O.  According to Wikipedia:

Fred Lockley (March 19, 1871 – October 15, 1958) was an American journalist  best known for his editorial column for the Oregon Journal,  “Impressions and Observations of a Journal Man”, which appeared throughout the Western United States on a nearly daily basis. Lockley also authored many books which, like his articles, 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”.[1] He also interviewed Thomas Edison, Booker T. Washington, Ezra meeker, Woodrow Wilson, Count Tolstoy, General Hugh Scott and Jack London.

One of the interviews that was published in Lockley’s Conversations with Pioneer Women” was done in the early 1900s with my great-grandmother’s aunt, Elvira, who described the hardships her mother had endured when she came across the plains and settled in Portland in 1847:

Jane Tubbs Apperson (1809 – 1859) My three-tims-great-grandmother

My father, Beverly Apperson was born in Virginia.  My mother, Jane Gilbert Tubbs was born in Tennessee.  They were married in Missouri along about 1830.  Father died on the wa aross the plains.  He died at the second crossing of Ham’s Fork.  We had two wagons so mother had the men take the wagon bed of one of them to make a coffin. She abandoned the running gear, the ox yokes and some of our outfit and we finished the trip with one wagon.  They dug the grave in the middle 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. No, we couldn’t put up a headboard and after a few hundred wagons and long strings of oxen and loose cattle had passed over it, I doubt if we could have located the grave.

Mike sent two other Apperson interviews that I’ve not seen before –  one done with  two with Elvira’s sisters-in-law.  I am so grateful!  And so sorry I couldn’t be there to take a look for myself.  Maybe there will be a next time

Pokes, Probes, Procedures

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

It almost felt like Old Home Week when Nyel was wheeled into the cardiac ward at Emanuel Hospital yesterday.  So many familiar faces and friendly smiles and nurses and technicians who remember him from previous stays!  Even Nestor, the Food Service Assistant who takes meal orders, popped in to say “hello” and recommended Nyel have the blueberry muffins with his breakfast coffee.

The preliminary pokes and prods seemed, sadly, almost routine.  Even the ‘procedure,’ itself – another angiogram – was territory well-traveled.  This time, though, Nyel was conscious throughout, breathing on his own, listening to what was going on, but medicated enough so he was pain-free and, afterwards, couldn’t remember just why they chose not to put him under.

They found no surprises – just a good deal of fluid in/around the heart which happens with those who suffer from chronic congestive heart failure.  Now – massive amounts of diuretics all the while keeping a close watch on kidney function and perhaps another angiogram in a few days to see how his heart is responding.  And then there’s that leaky mitral valve.  Maybe it will require attention while we are here, too.

We were pleased to find that Nyel’s cardiologist is on duty here at the hospital this weekend.  That seems like an extra bonus.  He is incredibly patient with all of our questions – some, the same ones we’ve asked before, no doubt.  The heart is complicated.  Thank goodness for all the expertise surrounding us!  And the kindness.  There are lots of places we’d rather be right now, but given the circumstances we feel fortunate, indeed, to be right here.

Released from Protective Custody

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

An Open Gate

Farmer Nyel thought it was time.  Yesterday it had been exactly a month since he had fenced off an area of the chicken coop for the two new girls.  Although they were feathered out and, presumably, ready to be introduced to our established flock of four, he had decided to err on the side of caution.  Better to let them see and talk to one another first without full access.

Curious Alpha Hen

He didn’t want a repeat of the fighting that occurred the last time he added to his flock.  In that case, one chicken was killed – we think by the alpha hen.  She’s still head-of-the-coop and still aggressive toward anyone and anything new.  Farmer Nyel was definitely wary.

So, up went the chicken wire barrier and the broody box was refurbished to become a temporary coop for the newcomers – closed off from the main coop and run, but giving plenty of opportunities for getting acquainted.  Safely.  They could see one another and talk to one another – even touch through the sizeable holes in the chicken wire.  But they were seriously separated… just in case.

A Flurry of Feathers

Farmer Nyel opened wide the gate between the two areas yesterday.  He sat for several hours (at two different intervals) on an upturned bucket, dispensing scratch and encouraging commingling.  The old girls were curious; the young ones, cautious.  The newbies are Dominiques – black and white speckled hens – and are said to be America’s first chicken breed.  I don’t think our older girls – one Russian Orloff, one Americana and two Red Stars — give one cluck about that.   For them, it’s all about who was in Farmer Nyel’s coop first; they could care less about Colonial America or the chicken equivalent of the DAR.

Commingling Begins

It took most of the day, but finally there seemed to be progress.  The bravest Dominque came forward and, predictably, Alpha Orloff rapidly approached, neck outstretched aggressively.  Dominque skittered away in a flurry of feathers and outstretched wings and that seemed to be that.  She soon was pecking for grubs alongside the others, perhaps a bit warily but with enough confidence that the other Dominique (D-II?) soon sallied forth.

Farmer Nyel visited with them for another hour late in the day but left them to their own devices when it came to roosting time.  He’s on his way to the coop shortly to see if détente lasted through the night.  As I often say, you never can tell with chickens.

Nature or Nurture?

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Three tiny swallow tails hang out over the nest.  Like babies everywhere, the little birds are veritable poop machines but either mom and dad instantly trained them well, or they hatched out knowing not to foul their own nest.  Instead, they are making quite a splat at our front door.

Fortunately, the grownups knew to build to one side.  Their nest is smack-dab on the lintel, to be sure, but to the right as you face the door – away from the doorknob and leaving a fair amount of free space for large human homeowner and visitor feet to enter and leave without stepping in the guano pile.

We have been keeping sheets of cardboard at the strategic landing site, but even though we change it every day, it’s hard to keep up.  So far, no one has overstepped the boundary between ‘safe’ and ‘sorry’ and, also so far, no one has done anything but oooh and aaah at the nest and the babies.  There are three little ones, I think.  I haven’t climbed up to see.  When Susan Waters was here a few weeks ago, she did get up there to feel around.  She thought there were four eggs.  And there could very well be four youngsters.  It’s hard to tell with tails.

Mama Swallow is pretty skittish. As soon as someone opens our gate on the way in, or turns the doorknob on the way out, off she goes. I don’t know if Papa Swallow is a doting dad or not.  Unlike our Kitchen Garden Swallows, these two don’t seem to hang out within sight so we can watch them taking turns at their parenting duties.  I’ve only seen Mama.  Perhaps she’s a single parent.

Whatever her status, her babies are well-behaved.  I don’t know if that’s all instinct or if there’s some training going on.  It’s hard to tell with swallows.  Whatever the reason, though, they have good manners and that’s a fact!

Dear Patty Murray, Dear Maria Cantwell,

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

Dear Patty Murray,
Dear Maria Cantwell,

My name is Sydney Stevens.  I live in Oysterville, Washington, a village of fourteen full-time residents.  My family has been here since 1854 – long before Washington was a State; when it was a newly created Territory.  I am one of your constituents.

Our corner of the world still feels remote from the mainstream.  It takes a concerted effort to get here and an even greater determination to live here year-round, to find work here, to provide for a family and to take care of our elderly.  Like rural communities everywhere, we struggle, we cleave together, we look after our own.  And, we depend upon you to look after our interests in the ‘other Washington.’  We are your constituents.

Right now our neighbors are under siege.  Day before yesterday a mother of three young children (little girls all under 12) was taken by ICE.  She is the 22nd person to be snatched from our little corner of the state by lawmen who sit in unmarked cars and wait.  And watch.  Until their target steps from private property onto public land.  And then they pounce. The friends and relatives of these victims are your constituents.

I am a contemporary of Anne Frank.  The year she and her family were taken by the Gestapo was the year I began fourth grade.  It would be some time before any of us here in ‘the land of the free’ knew of the horrors that had been occurring in Europe in the name of ‘the law.’  And now my own community is under siege.  Your constituency, Senators Murray and Cantwell.  Your constituency is under siege.

I am told that the per capita number of arrests by ICE in our little corner of Washington far exceeds that of other comparable areas.  I don’t know why, or even if, that is true.  Our local newspaper stopped coverage of the problem at the first two arrests.  I don’t know the why of that either.  Our ‘grass roots’ information is spotty, at best, and comes directly from our Latino neighbors who dare to speak – in whispers to trusted friends in the hopes that someone can help.  Can we?  How?   What help can you provide?  Do your constituents need to whisper, too?  Do you?


Great Aunt Verona

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Mossy Marker

As I scrubbed the moss from her gravestone, I idly wondered if everyone had a ‘Great Aunt Verona’ – a forebear shrouded in mystery, beloved yet not much talked about.  She was the eighth and youngest of R.H. and Julia Espy’s children, and although my mother and her brothers and sisters remembered her, no one spoke about her much.

She was born in 1889 here in Oysterville, as far as I know an unremarkable birth.  She was named Ida Laura Verona and, although her mother referred to her in letters to the older children as “Laura,” the rest of the family always called her Verona.  Only the name ‘Verona Espy’ appears on the tombstone that was placed over her grave in 1923 – perhaps because her mother was no longer living and couldn’t have her say. I don’t really know.

Aunt Verona – c. 1900

The references to her in that early correspondence indicate that she was a spirited little girl, perhaps slow to talk or to pronounce words correctly.  One of the family stories concerns three-year-old Verona and her older sisters meeting their mother at the train in Nahcotta.   Julia had been in Portland for a few weeks and Verona apparently was quite upset that she came home in a new “set.”  A year or so later, Julia wrote to the older children, “Ida says to tell you that she can now say “dess” instead of “set.”

When Julia died (at 49 of a cerebral hemorrhage) in 1901, Verona moved to Portland with her twenty-three-year-old sister Susie.  From that time on she lived with one of her sisters or with other relatives and grew progressively worse from a disease which was subsequently described as “similar to multiple sclerosis.”  In later years, she lived with a companion/nurse and, as far as I can tell from contemporary correspondence, was doted on by family and friends.  I want to make some Butter Scotch for Verona, as she is so fond of homemade candy and does not get any, my grandmother wrote in 1908.  And another time, Remember to send Verona a card.

At The Oysterville Cemetery

There was more moss on Verona’s stone than on any of the others.  The logical reason is that her grave is the most northerly in the Espy lot and is often shaded by the stand of spruce trees nearby.  But, as I peeled back the soft, encroaching layers to reveal the lettering on the old grave marker, I couldn’t help but think that it was wrapping Verona’s memory in a protective layer – much as the family safeguarded and nurtured her when she was living.  I had mixed feelings about leaving the gravestone bright and shiny…

Poets I Know and Love

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Casey’s Corner in The Bar

Hanging over the sink in the little hidey-hole that serves as our bar are two framed poems – “what will I say to her at 90” and “60 turns nyel.”  The first was written for my mother on the occasion of her 89th birthday and the second, many years later, for Nyel’s 60th.  The poet was our friend Casey Killingsworth, Oysterville’s ‘Singing Postmaster.’

Casey and his wife, Cynthia, live up the Columbia Gorge now and we don’t see them very often, but yesterday I noticed those poems and wrote them a note, in part to twit Casey a bit that there wasn’t a poem for me.  He wrote write back – not a poem, but with the news that he had applied for a Master’s Program at Oxford! Okay, you guessed it: I wasn’t selected. But I did make the final short list, so at least I feel ambiguous instead of dejected.

 Oxford’s loss, I say. I dug out Casey’s slim volume of poetry, a handbook for water, published by Cranberry Press in 1996.  I turned to “the end of april as we know it” and read the first few lines:

there was a time not too long ago,
maybe even last year
when i could go on a jog with bill and feel
like when i picked my left foot up and
when i brought it down
the world would be there to catch it

 Yes.  Oxford’s loss.

Cate Gable

And yesterday I spent the lunch hour with Cate Gable who, last year completed her MFA in Poetry at Pacific Lutheran University.  Later this week she goes to Olympia for the launch of an anthology, Washington 129, compiled by Tod Marshall, our state’s Poet Laureate.  One of Cate’s poems is included!

We talked about her recent (as in last week!) trip to Berkeley where she delivered a paper on Alice B. Toklas based on a chapbook she did some years back after extensive research at the University of California’s Bancroft Library.  While there she hobnobbed with the editor of “Poetry Flash,” (was asked to become its Northwest Correspondent) and other literary moguls.  Did I say that she prepared a fabulous lunch for us?  No Alice B. Toklas brownies, though…

Robert Michael Pyle

And Bob Pyle does Bob Pyle have a new book of poetry out?  How did I miss that?  Why didn’t we have a book gathering à la our House Concerts for him like we did for his first book of poetry?  I think I’m losing my grip.  Or maybe it’s just one of those wishful thinking rumors.  Nevertheless, I’m clapping and cheering for all of my poet friends’ milestones and accomplishments!  I am in awe.  And probably in love, as well!  Such awesome people!

Propping, Patching, Painting

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Mahatma Gandhi

You’ve probably heard the old joke about aging.  (Pay attention to the punctuation.)  “When you are 40, it’s Patch.  Patch.  Patch.  When you are 60, it’s Patch, Patch, Patch, Patch.  When you reach the venerable age of 80, it’s PatchPatchPatchPatchPatch.”  Well, it’s as true for houses in this neck of the woods as it is for people – maybe more so.

Of course, I don’t really have a straight-across comparison between our house and any living person.  The house was built in 1869, the same year that Mahatma Gandhi and Henri Matisse were born.  Gandhi lived until 1948 – 79 years; Matisse until 1954 – 85 years.  Not too shabby for either of them, but certainly not the age of our house.

Henri Matisse

Or, for a closer comparison, I could look at the building materials in addition to the age. Granted, redwood lumber (brought north on an oyster schooner) versus flesh and blood is definitely an apples and oranges sort of deal.  But, it is telling that some living redwood trees are 2,000 years old and more.  That’s definitely ‘flesh’ of a different sort and the statistics bode well for our house – to a point.

I’ve been reflecting on all of this because it’s looking like a new coat of paint is in order.  I’m not sure when we painted last (and by “we” I do not mean us, personally.)  It’s been at least ten years, maybe closer to twice that.  We had one side painted a year in the interest of our budget and I’m sure that will be the way of it this time, too.  It’s a big project.

Tom Crellin/H.A. Espy House, 1964

Plus, there’s always the scary possibility that the painter will run across a rotten board or some other dire contingency.  In her dotage, my mother worried that the little marble fireplace in the erstwhile parlor was sinking into oblivion.  More than once she had the Mack brothers or Bob Bredfield crawl under the house to reassure her.  And… speaking of fireplaces, what about that fern growing out of our east chimney?

As I say – PatchPatchPatchPatchPatch!

Oysterville’s Provenance

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

prov·e·nance – a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality.

Holway House, 1949

I’ve been thinking about the changes in our little village’s demographics, not only in the forty years I’ve lived here full-time, but going back forty before that to my childhood and forty before that to my grandfather’s childhood and even back before that.  I know that ‘provenance’ is not the correct term when applied to an entire village, but in my mind, the history of property ownership in Oysterville is a provenance of sorts.  Especially since I think of Oysterville as being ‘a work of art’ albeit on a large scale.

Thanks to the research done by those who nominated Oysterville for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places back in the 1970s, we have a pretty clear understanding of who built the buildings that remain from the early days and who has owned them since.  As far as I know, there is only one 19th century structure – the R.H. Espy House (1872) – that has remained in the same family since its construction.  In addition, of course, there are homes have been built more recently that are still occupied by their ‘original’ families, but even those are diminishing.

John Crellin House, 1870

There was a point a year or so ago that it felt like the entire village was for sale.  Obviously a gross exaggeration, but three residences out of our little total of 23 seemed like a lot.  Since then, one house has been taken off the market and surprise! surprise! one never listed has sold quietly and without fanfare.

In the art world, according to the website LOFTY, “experts are interested in the provenance of an item for several reasons, the most important of which is that well-documented provenance helps confirm that an item is authentic. Undocumented gaps of time in an object’s history could indicate that the item may be a forgery with a fabricated history.”


Clearly, there is no easy correlation from artwork to residential structures – at least not as far as the provenance is concerned.  But… if there were an Antiques Road Show for early settlements, what would the ‘experts’ say about Oysterville?  Would the ‘provenance’ of the structures count for anything at all?  Probably not, but it’s always interesting to know who used the plumbing before you or even when the first plumbing came indoors.

For the Record

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

Hiway 26

We slogged and slid over Hiway 26 again yesterday for the second day in a row, but this time with another hospital stay for Nyel in the offing.  No long lost relatives or lunch at Papa Haydn’s this time.  Just a couple of procedures and hopefully home on Friday.

The world was wet and gray just as it was yesterday.  “I think we’re actually driving through a cloud,” Nyel said as we approached the summit.  “How can you tell?  It looks like the same-old, same-old,” was my somewhat uncharitable reply.

According the statistics on Mike’s Long Beach Weather, we have had rain every single day this month.  Furthermore, so far this year, we have had 56 days with rain and there have been no consecutive days without rain.  That’s wet!

On the other hand, all those rainy days are conducive to inside projects of all kinds and, if my sainted Uncle Willard is to be believed, our rain is especially helpful to historians!  In a book he began (but alas never finished) about his childhood, he wrote:

Wachsmuth Barn

The past was everywhere – in the houses and sheds that tipped further each winter, until a gale blew them down; in the Wachsmuth barn, which had been the county jail, and ours, which had been the county courthouse; in the wreckage of 50 vessels on the ocean beach, disappearing gradually under the sands and then emerging years later as the currents shifted to scour the sand away; in the overrun cranberry bogs in the marshes and the deserted launches and bateaux among the driftwood in the tidelands; in the bones of long-dead whales that made our porch chairs; in one-legged Indian Pete.  The past raged against us with every sou’wester, and drenched us with every rain; and since sou’westers and rain were the order of the day at Oysterville, we were pretty well permeated.  The past would have been hard to escape even if we wanted to.  But we didn’t; we loved it.  It shaped and sheltered us.  It wasn’t until we had to emerge from the past and become part of the present that my troubles began.

Aha!  I wonder how my fellow Community Historians would react to those ideas.  Perhaps that wily Willard was onto something.