At the crux of the matter… maybe.

July 6th, 2019

Old Oysterville Sign

I have arrived at Paragraph #6 in my (increasingly infrequent) commentary on the article in Discovery Coast titled “Oysterville, A Simply Lovely, Living Ghost Town”:

By 1854, a community of several hundred, then called Oyster Beach, existed.  On April 12, 1854, I.A. Clark filed a 161-acre land claim that encompassed all of what is now the Oysteville National Historic District.

Hmmm.  I’ve seen a reference to “Oyster Beach” twice in my thirty plus years of research on Oysterville and its origins.  Both mentions have been in the Sou’wester , the quarterly magazine of the Pacific County Historical Society.  In the Summer 1975 issue in an article on early post offices in  Oregon Territory:  In a letter dated August 2, 1854 from Washington City, the Honorable Columbia Lancaster announced the post routes in the new Washington Territory, including “from Astoria to Chenook, Edmonton (John Edmonds Pickernell’s), Tarlit, Oyster Beach (an early name for Oysterville), Brigham City and the direct route to intersect the route from Olympia to Grays Harbor, 120 miles and back once a week .”  The second reference to Oyster Beach was three years later in the Winter 1978 issue of the Souwester and was a reprint of the same information about the early Oysterville (Oyster Beach) post office.

James Swan, One of the First Pacific County Historians

The only other contemporary information about Oysterville that I’m aware of (besides the statements by founders R.H. Espy and I.A. Clark) was written by James Swan in his book, The Northwest Coast or Three Years’ Residence in Washington Territory.  In January 1854, Swan took a trip to San Francisco, apparently to get out of the Northwest’s winter weather.  He returned in early June and traveled via the Peninsula on his way back to his home at Stony Point.  This is what he wrote: We reached a settlement some fifteen or twenty miles distant, called Oysterville, where quite a number of oystermen had collected during my absence to San Francisco.  

Although Swan traveled extensively around Shoalwater Bay during his stay here from 1852 to 1855, and although he mentions many early settlers as well as the only settlement on the bay at that time, Bruceport or Bruceville, he makes no mention of a place called Oyster Beach.

The rest of Paragraph #6 seems accurate as far as it goes.  Apparently, the land claim that Clark filed on April 12, 1854, was incomplete and had to be re-filed some years later.  However, it seems that Espy and Clark chose that April 12, 1854 date as the “founding” of Oysterville and over the years it has become known as the date they actually arrived here in their stolen canoe. (Well, they said “borrowed,” but that implies that it was returned to the graveyard where they found it and that’s one story I haven’t yet heard…)




Oh no! Another country heard from!

July 5th, 2019

During my childhood, when things got so complicated that my mother thought she’d probably have a nervous collapse, something else would invariably happen.  Whether it had to do with a person or an event or just an unexpected circumstance, my mom was sure to say, “Oh no!  Another country heard from!”

Those very words came tumbling out of my mouth just a few weeks ago.  Nyel was still at the Seaside swing bed facility and I was spending days with him and nights here at home.  I felt a little overwhelmed with things that Nyel needed,  household responsibilities, and did I pay that bill or not?

About the second or third evening, as I was moving through the laundry room into the kitchen, I heard a distinct rustling.  I turned on the light just in time to see a furry little mouse dart behind the freezer.  Another country heard from, indeed.

So… I checked the nearby shelving where we store extras — mostly household supplies from CostCo, canned tomato sauce (salt free for Nyel) for spaghetti or pizza or lasagna, bottles of mustard and mayo and catsup.  We laughingly call it our ‘pantry’ but it’s really our overflow.  Sure enough — mouse droppings, holes chewed through the cellophane wrappers of three (count ’em three!) packages of rice crackers — one package totally empty(!) and the other two with several crackers missing.  I pitched all of them, cleaned up the mess, and set a couple of mouse traps with peanut butter.  Adams peanut butter.  It’s the best.

Several days went by.  Then… peanut butter missing, trap sprung, no mouse.  I repeated the peanut butter and trap routine several times.  So did Ms. Mousie.  (Probably Mrs. Mousie.  She certainly stashed enough rice crackers to feed a large family.  Or maybe enough for an army and she’s General Mousie.)

I told Nyel about our visitor (read live-in companion) and he gave me advice — as in maybe I should call the exterminators who come once a month to spray our outer perimeter to keep us “pest free.”  Good idea.  The “technician” came a few days ago carrying a clipboard and wearing one blue vinyl glove.  I showed him the area and a bit of mousie evidence I hadn’t cleaned up.  He felt around behind one of the shelves with his blue hand and said (rather ominously, I thought), “Oh yes.  Still soft.”  Turns out he was sticking his gloved finger in a pile of unseen mousie doo-doo.

He explained their “rodent service.”  They set traps using Adams peanut butter and, if you aren’t too squeamish, they will lay those glue pads out — pretty much foolproof he said.   He appeared to be through talking so I said, “And what about the clean-up?”  “Oh we don’t do that.  That would be your responsibility.”  SAY WHAT???  FOR $250 YOU SET A TRAP OR TWO AND THAT’S IT?  “Pretty much,” was the answer.

We still have a mouse problem.  We are still putting traps (and a sticky pad) out.  Yesterday, no mouse, trap not sprung but there was one slightly nibbled rice cracker way out in the middle of the floor — as in nyah-nyah-nyah!  I’m trying to figure out how I can move that damned freezer.  I really do NOT want to see what’s behind it.  And I guess I’ll have to take everything off the shelves and see whether there are more “soft” spots.   eeeewwwww!  But first I have to get over that whole $250-to-set-a-trap-or-two thing.  Do they really sell such a service?  If so, there must be a lot of desperate little old ladies out there .  I hope I don’t have to join their ranks!

The Fourth and the Fifth

July 4th, 2019

Fourth of July Parade, Oysterville c. 1900

Here it is the Fourth of July and I’m only on the fifth paragraph (out of 14) in my commentary on that “Oysterville” story that was in the Discovery Coast insert in the paper.   Actually, though, Paragraph #5 seems hauntingly appropriate for this the birthday of our country, the “Land of the Free.”

The California Gold Rush of 1849 (wrote the author) drew significant numbers of settlers of European descent to Oysterville.  Gold miners spent their earning [sic] on Willapa Bay oysters.  Settlers and the Chinook Peoples gladly filled schooners with oysters to be shipped to San Francisco.

To me, this paragraph seems a fine example of half-truths and innuendo. It is true that Oysterville, like other settlements in Oregon Territory, got its fair share of adventurers — some from Europe, some from the East Coast — who had become disillusioned in their quest for gold.  But there were also a number of people who had come west on the Oregon Trail and had turned north, rather than south, in their search for a new life.  My great-grandfather, R. H. Espy, was one of those.  So was I.A. Clark.  So was  Gilbert Stevens family.  And many others.

The Oregon Trail 1830s – 1869

According to the 1860 Pacific County Census (taken by Robert H. Espy), there were 201 individuals living in Oysterville, 23 of whom were born in Canada or Europe, 27 born in Washington Territory, and the remaining 136 residents were  from 15 of the (then) 33 United States.  Of those born in Washington Territory (1853 – 1889), all were children, most under seven years old.   I can’t help but think that the writer of Paragraph #5 quoted above was trying to give a different impression of Oysterville’s beginnings.

On to Paragraph #5’s second sentence.  Yes, when the miners took a break from hardtack and jerky and went into San Francisco for a little r&r (and, hopefully, to visit the assay office) they were likely to have enjoyed a good meal or two in the city’s gourmet restaurants.  Oysters on the half shell (from Shoalwater Bay — it was not named Willapa until 1892) were popular, especially among the miners who hailed from the Atlantic Coast.  There, oysters were the fast-food of the 18th and 19th centuries — a lot like hot dogs were in the 20th century.  California restaurateurs capitalized on that demand to the point that San Francisco Bay was soon stripped of its native oyster stock and the search was on for more.

The Louisa Morrison, Oyster Schooner

The nearest source was Yaquina Bay in Oregon Territory.  Next was Netarts Bay, due west of Portland; then Shoalwater Bay, and finally Puget Sound.  Oysters in the first two locations could meet only a small fraction of the demand.  Puget Sound was so far away that seafood frequently spoiled in transit.  “But…” as the Shoalwater Storytellers used to relate:  “…that bivalve thriving in a barely known estuary just above the mouth of the Columbia River… Yes, gourmets declare that the native oyster of Shoalwater Bay was just a taste of heaven locked between pearly shells.”

As for settlers and Chinooks “gladly” filling schooners with oysters to be shipped to San Francisco…  Yes, indeed!  I think I would have joined right in, had I been lucky enough to snag a job with one of the oyster companies in town.  A peach basket  filled with oysters brought a dollar in gold on delivery to a schooner anchored in Shoalwater Bay – a schooner which might hold up to 2,000 baskets.

It saddens me that our colorful history, told accurately by so many over the years, has now been reduced to a few misleading half-truths. And for no apparent reason. Happy Fourth!

Miki, Me, and the Multigrade

July 3rd, 2019

Miki 2019

Miki Frace’s likeness smiled back at me from today’s paper.  Perhaps she smiled at you, too.  She’s on the front page of the Chinook Observer because she has just retired from the Ocean Beach School District.  (Was there an article about me when I retired?  I don’t think so, but it’s been too many years for my foggy memory to recall.)

I was on the team of teachers who interviewed Miki when she came here in 1986 or ’87. We sat at a big table in my classroom at Ocean Park and, as I remembered, it felt more like a chat among friends than a formal question and answer session.  That’s just the way Miki makes you feel.    And besides, her daughter Dorothy who was at the crawl-and-explore stage of life  — I remember that she was 18 months old; the paper said “seven months” which is probably closer to the truth — and we were all captivated immediately.  Miki got the job and right from the get-go we were friends.

Miki and Dorothy 2013

At first she taught down the hall from me.  She had Kindergarten; I had 1st/2nd/3rd.  We often shared ideas, talked strategies, commiserated when days were difficult.  Her room was full-to-overflowing with projects and ideas and enthusiasm.  “Messy Bessy” she called herself.  “Magic Miki” the rest of us thought.  And never mind that she is my son’s age.  Years had nothing to do with Miki’s life experiences or with her wisdom or with her huge heart.

The following year, some of her graduates came into my room and so we collaborated a little more fully.  We found that if we were writing something — a grant proposal, a curriculum expansion — we could easily begin or end one another’s sentences.  Then, suddenly it seemed, Dorothy was in first grade and in my class and  I remember feeling a bit schitzy for a minute or two.  I needn’t have worried.  Teaching a friend’s child when the friend is Miki turned out to be a non-problem.

Then came the time when my classroom was getting a lot of attention from the school board — especially from Chairman of the Board, Jack Williams. Initially, he came to observe as he did in every classroom.  “But I can’t tell who are the third graders and who are the first graders,” he said.  “That’s the point,” I told him.  “None of us come with a manual that says when we’ll learn what.  What grade you’re in really doesn’t matter.  It’s that you are continually building on the skills you’ve mastered…” said I.  And we talked some more.

“Why don’t all the teachers do this?” Admiral Jack asked.  Why indeed?  When I talked with Miki about it, she said she’d love to teach a “one-two-three.”  And soon she and I were, as she said, “joined at the hip” — taking our cause “on the road” so to speak.  We met with other teachers, other school board members, with our principal, and with our superintendent.  We met with parents and with the greater community.  We talked “multigrade.”  And we created the Ocean Park Multigrade School.

It lasted for about ten years, I think.  Maybe more.  Through it all, Miki and I continued spreading the good word — to other schools and other districts.  We even gave classes to teachers from all over the state.  I don’t think we called it Multigrade 101 but we could have.

Miki and Me – January 2019

When I was moved to Long Beach School, I missed the multigrade and when I retired, I missed the kids and my colleagues.  But I never had to miss Miki.  Our friendship has endured and I think it’s here to stay.  Thank goodness!


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

July 2nd, 2019

Bardheim Dairy, Oysterville c. 1930 – c.1990

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

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

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

Methodist Church 1872-1921

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

County Courthouse in Oysterville 1875-1893

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

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

Perpetuating Errors of Fact

July 1st, 2019

At the Oysterville Cemetery

A number of years ago, more-or-less out of the blue, Wikipedia came up with a new factoid about Oysterville — that John Douglas had founded it in 1841.  It’s amazing to me how this “fake history” has spread over the years despite contemporary documentation by both actual founders, Isaac A. Clark and Robert H. Espy.

The “John Douglas settled Oysterville” statement is an erroneous bit of information that has been picked up by writers for Discovery Coast several times previously, but no matter how much alternative “proof” is provided, it seems a popular enough notion to continue resurfacing.  In Paragraph #4 of this season’s “Oysterville” article, author Webb states:  Native Americans have always lived here.  Oysterville itself was first settled in 1841 by John Douglas who married a local Chinook woman.

Envelope with I.A. Clark History

Well, in 1844 John Douglas did, indeed, settle about a mile south of the area that would become Oysterville ten years later.  Douglas even took out a Donation Land Claim in July of 1854 and, interestingly, signers of supporting affadavits were I.A. Clark, R.H. Espy, and George Dawson.  But Douglas no more “settled” Oysterville than George Easterbrook settled Long Beach.  (Easterbrook took out a Donation Land Claim in the [now] Cranberry Road area in 1854, but Long Beach was “settled” by Gilbert Tinker in 1889.  Look it up.)  Taking out a DLC is not synonymous with founding a town.  Nor is settling in the area nearby.

John Douglas was, however, a very interesting man.  As I wrote in my October 5, 2010 blog: Douglas was born in Maine about 1811 and first arrived at Fort George (now Astoria) in 1840.  He was a cooper aboard a whaling vessel that had docked to unload blubber for rendering into lamp fuel.  On its next voyage to the Columbia in 1841, the ship wintered in Astoria and Douglas took advantage of the time to have a look around.  He liked what he saw and decided to come back some day and “drop anchor” permanently in the Shoalwater area.

My Great Grandfather R.H. Espy (The H is for Hamilton)

For the next few years Douglas sailed the South Pacific.  He was off Hawaii in 1846 when a barrel rolled against him, breaking one of his legs.  The resulting lameness put an end to his seafaring career.  He returned to Shoalwater Bay and laid out a donation land claim of 320 acres along its western shore, somewhat south of the location that would later become Oysterville.  There he built a “studdin’” house of upright posts, with a cedar shake roof and an attic with a gable-end door and an outside stairway.  And, there, John Douglas settled with his Chinook wife, Jalak.

Douglas is buried in the Oysterville Cemetery and two tales are told regarding his death.  One says simply that he died of pneumonia at the age of 59, though his grave marker puts him at 67.  The other story says that in the 1870s, while serving as a United States Marshal, Douglas had the misfortune to severely injure his foot.  He died from gangrene because he stubbornly refused to allow a new boot (hard to come by in those days) to be cut from his swollen, infected foot.  If that’s the true story, it puts a whole new twist to “dying with your boots on.”

Personally, I think the facts (as far as I’ve been able to research them) about Douglas are far more interesting than the fanciful idea that he settled Oysterville.  Oh well…  And, by the way, his granddaughter, Irene Nelson, lived across the street when I was a little girl.  I knew her.  And that’s a fact.

Coming Soon: Music in the Gardens!

June 30th, 2019

Perhaps you’ve noticed.  There’s a lot of fluffing and buffing going on in Peninsula gardens these days.  The gardener-owners of seven properties — from Stackpole Road in Oysterville to Sahalee Hill in Ilwaco — are giving ‘what-for’ to potential weeds or other pests and talking sweetly to buds about to burst forth.  They are, of course, all readying for Water Music Society’s 13th annual Music in the Gardens Tour!

Tickets ($20 each) are already on sale.  If you haven’t yet ordered yours, they are available online through the Water Music Society’s Music Gardens Tour webpage at or by phone at 1(800) 838-3006. But, even if you have your tickets, the venues will remain a deep, dark secret until July 6th.  Not until then will the maps with garden locations be revealed!  Tickets purchased online or by phone must be presented at one of our three local outlets in order to receive the Official Garden Tour Map with the addresses of the gardens. This is also your ticket to the Gardens. Outlet locations will be posted the week before the Tour.

By now, most of us know that the gardens on these annual tours are full of surprises — unusual plants and plantings, imaginative solutions to common coastal garden problems, and eye-candy that goes far beyond the expected.  In addition each garden will feature an artist (in some cases, working at their craft) and musicians, both local and imported!

Musicians this year will include guitarist George Coleman; jazz pianist, Tom Grant; two music duos, “Tanz” and “Sea Strings”; guitarist Brian O’Connor; guitarist Terry Rob; Jean Pierre and Al Perez; guitarist Dave Drury; and pianist Tom Trudell and his son, saxophonist Tristan Trudell.  Wow!  And the line-up of artists is equally impressive — Susan Spence (basketry); Stan Reidesel (watercolors), Renee O’Connor (tile work), Nansen Malin (welding for topiary);  Jason Moore (Sculpture); and Somsri Hoffman (eclectic paintings on unusual objects!).

And did I mention that raffle tickets will be for sale for items yet to be revealed?  (I do know that a lovely floral by Marie Powell is among the items that a $5.00 raffle ticket could win.)  All-in-all, Saturday July 13th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. promises to be a feast for all the senses.  Oh!  I didn’t mention that most venues will also offer “small bites” — taste treats to keep you going in case you don’t want to take time out for lunch!  Pack a sandwich, I say.  You’ll have trouble tearing yourself away from each garden, as it is!

The best part of all, of course, is that Music in the Gardens is a fundraiser put on by the Water Music Society each year to raise money to support Ocean Beach School District’s music program.  It just doesn’t get better than that!






Double J and The Boys – Here Tomorrow!

June 29th, 2019

Charlie, Janet, Judy — Double J and the Boys

I’ve decided to take the weekend off from my 14-day rant about the Discovery Coast article on Oysterville.  While I fume, there are too many other super things going on that I’d rather be talking about.  Like Vespers tomorrow!  Sunday, June 30th!

Double J and the Boys will take center stage over at the hour-long church service which begins at three-o’clock.  If you haven’t been to a Music Vespers Service at the church, you may want to know that it is mostly music — at least 40 minutes of the featured musicians so, if you are familiar with tomorrow’s group, you know that it will be 40 minutes of zany, thought provoking fun.

When asked what they were planning for this year’s program, the response was:  Double J and the Boys happily return to Vespers, still full of their cowboy spirit. This year they will take you fishing for sturgeon, sailing on Willapa Bay, and will musically transport you on a free trip to a Parisian café.  Several songs will surprise you with a new slant on aging.  Hmm, sounds cheery. . . Janet’s lively fiddle, Charlie ‘s happy accordion, and Judy’s western yodeling are sure to fill the space with fun and frolic.

An Old Favorite

I’m especially looking forward to that “free trip to a Parisian Cafe.”  I hope it’s one of our favorites — but any will do!  And I hope it’s upbeat and doesn’t make me too nostalgic.  Paris is  one of the few places in the world where I feel as truly “at home” as I do in Oysterville.  (I’ve tried to analyze that over the years and the closest I can come is that it’s something about the quality of the light.  Ditto San Francisco,)

Of course, the songs that resonate most with me are Judy’s whacky numbers on aging.  Her Social Security song should go viral in my opinion!  I have yet to hear her “mirror song” — one about seeing her grandmother in the looking glass, I think — but I’m sure it will also be full of familiar images.

Deacon Dick Wallace

Also, I’m hoping Charlie has a solo or two — maybe the one about his “sharp, snappy snake boots.”  And whatever Janet plays is a pleasure to listen to and to watch!  I can never get over that she is self-taught and didn’t begin until an age when most of us were getting serious about retirement.

Tucker Wachsmuth is on deck for the “Oysterville Moment” — that five minute welcome and (often) pithy story about the village.  Sandy Nielson, pump organist extraordinaire, will be playing the music to accompany the congregational hymn singing.  And, most importantly, Deacon Dick Wallace of St Mary’s parish in Seaview, will conduct the service. This is one of the few summer vesper services in which every participant has a familiar face.  All  are vespers veterans and all are favorites in the community!  Don’t miss it!



The Rich Fantasy Life of Outsiders

June 28th, 2019

And now we come to Paragraph #3 of the article about Oysterville that appeared in the 2019-2020 issue of Discovery Coast — the article I’ve chosen to examine paragraph by paragraph in hopes of setting the record straight.

Its history is rich in detail.  Sure, times have changed, but if there is one pace that resembles that fictional Shangri-La — an idyllic community where life is frozen in time — this is it.

I’ve heard similar descriptions before — Camelot…or Brigadoon, for instance.  Just to make sure that I am on solid ground as I tackle the Shangri-La idea, I turned to my trusty computer to find a definition.  Shangri La  A fictional land of peace and perpetual youth; the setting for the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by the English author James Hilton, but probably best known from the movie versions. Shangri-La is supposedly in the mountains of Tibet.

A land of peace and  perpetual youth!  Wow!  Don’t I wish!  Never mind that all our full-time residents (except for Dan and Linda) are of retirement age and beyond.  We are wrinkling faster than you can say “botox”  Only our part-timer-newcomers are still of working age — but not here, of course.   And, peace?  I’m glad that we who live here give that illusion.  Perhaps it gives others something to strive for.

“Idyllic community” the writer says.  Apparently he has not been paying attention.  Like its boomtown past, Oysterville’s Design Review Board (ODRB) is now history.  With the thunk of a gavel, county commissioners Frank Wolfe and Steve Rogers voted to end the board’s 40-year reign as arbiter of all things Oysterville… began the July 19, 2016 story in the Chinook Observer. 

But it wasn’t “the board’s 40-year reign.”  It was actually 40 years of Oysterville residents managing their own affairs when it came to design review.  Since that gavel’s thunk, life in the village has been far less than idyllic.  Not that it ever was Shangri-La, mind you.  But once in a while 30 or 40 years ago, it seemed almost close.

“Frozen in time,” though, we are not.  I have documentation about life in this village from the very beginning.  And, trust me, no matter how it looks to the wishful thinkers passing through, nothing here is frozen in time.  Not the people.  Not the buildings.  Not the flora or fauna or even the waters of the bay.  Yes, times have changed here just like everywhere else.  And, like everywhere else, not necessarily for the better.  Still, most of us who live here wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Not even for the fantasies of those looking over our fences or through our windows.



Or is it just a matter of semantics?

June 27th, 2019

Map of Oyster Beds in Willapa Bay, 1889

In case you haven’t been keeping up, this blog is Installment #2  of my commentary on the article, “Oysterville, A Simply Lovely, Living Ghost Town” in the recently published Discovery Coast 2019-2020,

Paragraph two of the above named article states:  The Chinook Peoples came to the area that is Oysterville for untold centuries to harvest its bountiful oyster beds.    Probably true enough, though reefs of oysters were bountiful in many other areas of Shoalwater (now Willapa) Bay, as well.  (As an aside — did you know that in their natural state oysters form reefs; beds are created by commercial growers as a place for oysters to lie while growing to maturity.)

I had always understood that the Indians came to Leadbetter Point in the summer from all over the Shoalwater region to gather berries.  “Wild raspberries” is what I remember being told by Oysterville old-timers.  The redoubtable James Swan, in his book, Northwest Coast or Three Years’Residence in Washington Territory (Harper and Brothers,1857),  tells of spending one fourth of July at Leadbetter Point… where we found a number of Indians camped, and any quantity of berries — strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, black currents, and huckleberries.  These berries the Indian women and children picked when the tide was up, but at low water they collected clams for dring, while the men shot seals or caught sturgeon.

tiapsuyi or Tiyapshul – Village #4, top left

As I think about it, I guess I have no objection to Paragraph #2 in and of itself,  But in the context of the article it seems to intimate that the Chinooks “occupied” the area of Oysterville as in had a village here.  I don’t believe there is any archaeological evidence for that assumption.

In Figure 1 of  “Chinookan Villages of the Lower Columbia”, a monograph by Zenk, Hajda and  Boyd, there is only one village noted on the east side of Willapa Bay.  It is difficult to tell from their map exactly where the village was located but, since there are numerous references by early pioneers to an Indian village where the town of Nahcotta is now, I believe that was the only place of Chinook “occupancy” in our vicinity.

The name of that village was tiapsuyi or tiyapshul (a mixture of Chinookan and Salishan) according to the authors, and meant grass or grassy place.  That is of particular interest to me since my grandfather (who spoke some Chinook jargon) named this house Tsako-Te-Hahsh-Eetl and said it meant “place of the red-topped grass.”

Our Place

None of this, of course, should be confused with Uppertown which was a “village” (of sorts) built somewhat south of Oysterville.  My mother and her siblings remembered remnants of Uppertown which they said was built by early oystermen for the Indians.  Since Chinooks and Quinalts came to this area only seasonally, providing housing seemed a logical way of ensuring that they would stay year-round to provide a more stable work force.  I don’t know how effective the scheme was — only that by the time I came along, Uppertown was no more.

Since Paragraph #1 (discussed yesterday) spoke of “human occupants” and is followed by the paragraph currently under discussion, perhaps my concern boils down to a matter of semantics.   Some might say seasonal visitations qualify as occupancy.  To me, though, “…always had human occupants” infers a sort of permanence, as in a village. Before you weigh in, read the original article in its entirety.  Context also matters.