Posts Tagged ‘Espy Family’

Of bonnets and bunnies and Easter bounty…

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Easter Sunrise

This morning’s sunrise over the bay was a gentle glow, not a spectacular splash like sometimes.  The new flags in the churchyard waved in a breeze that promised one of those ‘variable days’ weather-wise for this Easter Sunday of 2017.  A veritable hang-onto-your-hat day during that imaginary Easter Parade at the Beach.

At least, I think it’s imaginary.  Although the Easter Parade still happens in New York and in many other cities besides, it’s one festival I’ve never heard of here at the beach. Church services and clam digs and egg hunts, yes.  But no Easter Parade.  Probably the iffy-ness of Eastertime weather is the reason.

Churchyard, Easter 2017

Now that there aren’t any regular services in the Oysterville Church – not since the 1930s my mother said – and nothing special planned for Easter, we won’t even get the pleasure of seeing a procession of fancy hats going past our house for a service.  Not that most women actually wear hats anymore – not even to church.  Every once in a while, someone wears a hat to our Music Vespers services in the summer and I always hope it’s a fashion statement that will make a resurgence.  So far, though… not so much.

However, I’m happy to say that my cousins at the Red House are planning a little egg-hunt-around-town for later today.  Our girls in the coop even contributed some of eggs to that endeavor – three brown eggs collected by eight-year-old Ginger first thing Friday morning!

Oysterville Bounty!

Like her mom Abby, her late grandma Beeg, and her (before-she-was-born) great-grandma Barbara, Gin is one of the ‘visiting’ cousins.  I’m never quite sure if it’s the chickens or her elderly cousins she really wants to see, but she never fails to ring the bell, accept our invitation to come into the house and then sit in the library for ‘a good and proper visit’ before she checks the nest boxes at the coop!  What a gal!

As for Easter Dinner… we’ve been invited out!  “We’ll start with oysters, hors d’oeuvres, bubbles and bloodies” wrote our host, and then proceed to a meal “loosely based on the Easter feasts I remember growing up, but with about four fewer courses.”

I can’t wait!

Only in Extremis

Monday, November 14th, 2016

plimptonThey say “never say never” so I’ll say “only in extremis (feet first) or in the wake of a disaster (a tsunami)” would I move away from Oysterville. Maybe the word “willingly” should be in there somewhere.

Those thoughts occur to me periodically and, I have to say, oftener as I age.  It’s not just the thing about proximity of medical assistance and convenient transportation that are siren calls to move away from the isolation of our rural area.  There are all those day-to-day difficulties that crop up as we slowly lose our independence.  Getting someone to do the heavy lifting, change the lightbulbs in the fixtures on our eleven-foot ceilings, get down on hands and knees in the garden (and to scrub the shower stall, for that matter.)

Freddy Modeling Paris Review T-Shirt, 1960s

Freddy Modeling Paris Review T-Shirt, 1960s

And then there are the daily irritants such as not having enough oomph or whatever they call it to be able to stream Netflix on our TV.  So we get our DVDs the old-fashioned way and, even though they come within two days, we’ve often lost interest or don’t have time or whatever…

So it was last night that we finally saw “Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself.”  It’s been sitting on the shelf near our DVD player for six months.  At least.  And before that it had malingered in my Netflix queue for maybe a year.  I think I’d ordered it shortly after my cousin Freddy’s death in February 2015.  I knew there were clips of her in the film and I hadn’t seen her for ten years or so.  I felt the need.

Freddy was George’s first wife and also the mother of his oldest children, Medora and Taylor.  It had been even longer since I had seen them and their appearances in the film were an extra bonus.  Even their grandfather (my uncle) Willard showed up in one scene.  It was lovely to see them and to feel a reconnection (of sorts.)

Freddy and Sydney at 1947 Fiftieth Anniversary of their Grandparents

Freddy and Sydney at 1947 Fiftieth Anniversary of their Grandparents, the H.A. Espys

I wondered if I’d have felt any more pleasure from the film had I been able to stream it live a year and a half ago.  Probably not.  And surely not worth the tradeoff of living in the speedy hustle-bustle of the big city (or even five miles south where CABLE is available) rather than in slow-time Oysterville. At least that’s my current thinking.

Thank you again, Virginia!

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016
The Keith Jone Family, 1947 - Virginia, Kathy, Kris (in front), Keith, Bruce

The Keith Jone Family, 1947 – Virginia, Kathy, Kris (in front), Keith, Bruce

Kuzzin Kris Jones has been going through her mother’s things – the sad but necessary activity by a loving and dutiful daughter following her mother’s death. Virginia Williams Jones (variously known as ‘Virginia,’ ‘Ginger,’ and ‘Gin’) died three years ago at the venerable age of 97.  As you might expect, considering her advanced years, she left behind a lot of “stuff” – quality stuff, for she was “a watercolor painter, a pianist, bridge player and much more.  Hers was a full life with humor and a keen intelligence” according to her obituary in the Portland Oregonian and, more importantly, according to all of us who knew and loved her.

Plus, she was born and raised in Ilwaco and remained in close contact with the Peninsula for her entire life.  After all, as my grandfather often said, the Williams family are related to almost everyone on the beach!  Among the treasures that Kris has come across are bits and pieces of both Williams and Ilwaco history.  Some things have gone to the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum and some have come to me!

"Ilwaco's Early Finns"

“Ilwaco’s Early Finns”

Among those items that I have happily received is a charming booklet called “Ilwaco’s Early Finns, Pacific County Washington.”  It was published by the Finnish American Historical Society of the West in January 1992 and contains reprints of many old photographs and recollections by old-timers of the early days in Ilwaco.

Among the articles, for instance, is one titled “Aksel Seaborg, Ilwaco’s Entrepreneur Finn” with a photograph of him – a handsome, bearded man who had changed his name from Sjöborg shortly after arriving in Astoria in 1873.  He was the founder of the Aberdeen Packing Company – the first salmon cannery on Ilwaco’s docks.  Here at the Peninsula’s north end he is remembered as the founder of the short-lived community Sealand which was on the other side of the tracks (literally) from Nahcotta.

An article of particular interest to me, though, is called “Going to School in Ilwaco.”  It begins, “The first public school in Ilwaco was built in 1882…” and continues with a fascinating history of the many schools that pre-dated the present-day Hilltop School and the (fairly recent) Ilwaco High School.  Much of it was ‘new’ information to me!

In fact, the 48-page booklet is chock-a-block full of great stuff and I am not only thankful to Kris for thinking of me when she ran across it, but also I’m grateful once again to Virginia for her love of Ilwaco history and for saving this particular treasure.  Some years ago, she had shared a memoir that she had written at age 80 when she was immobilized with a broken ankle.  She called it “Gin’s Tonic” and generously allowed me to edit the material for the Summer/Fall 2007 Sou’wester. So… for all of this and so much more, thanks again, Virginia!


Papa, My Bull Moose Grandfather

Friday, July 29th, 2016
Papa's Souvenir Bookmark

Papa’s Souvenir Bookmark

On June 22, 1912 my grandfather wrote home from Chicago:  The convention is over – or maybe I should say conventions are over – and both Taft & Roosevelt are nominated.  I had a hand in the latter but none in the former.

H. A. Espy — “Senator Espy” to his Pacific and Wahkiakum County constituents, “Harry”to his friends, and simply “Papa” to his seven children – had been an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention.  It was at that convention that Teddy Roosevelt tried, but failed, to win the presidential nomination and, in consequence, founded his own party, the Progressive, so-called “Bull Moose” Party.  Papa was a Bull Mooser.

I couldn’t help thinking about Papa last night as I watched the balloons and confetti rain down on Hillary Clinton after her acceptance of the Democratic nomination for President.  The differences between Papa’s situation in 1912 and mine in 2016 couldn’t be more extreme and yet it was the similarities – especially the ones that didn’t happen – that I thought about.

Senator H. A. Espy, 1912

Senator H. A. Espy, 1912

As a Bernie supporter, I held out a faint hope that he, like Teddy Roosevelt of Papa’s time, would somehow be nominated, possibly right along with Hillary, as Roosevelt was with Taft.  But, as pleasing as Roosevelt’s nomination was to his Bull Moose followers, it was that split among Republicans that enabled the Democrats to win both the White House and a majority in the Congress that year.

All these years later, Sanders knew better and, no doubt, took a lesson from history.  His goal, was to unify, not split, the Democratic Party and so he and his followers remained on the convention floor last night.  “Never Trump” said the signs; “Hold your nose and vote for Hillary — and hold her feet to the fire,” said one of the delegates.

Last Night at the DNC

Last Night at the DNC

I wonder what Papa would have said, had he been watching the convention with us last night.   Just like in 1912, he’d have seen history being made but also, perhaps, he would have had some words of wisdom about historic lessons learned.  I wish I could have that conversation with him.

Labor Day Weekend 2018

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016
Cousiin Barrett

Third Cousiin Four Times Removed, Barrett Gwinn

The  next Kearnes/Gwinn/Espy Reunion seems to be headed west for Oysterville!  Tentative Target Date: Labor Day Weekend 2018.   It’s possible that it will coincide and overlap with the with the 74th (I think) Annual Williams Reunion (which also includes Espys) traditionally held on Labor Day Sunday, sometimes in Oysterville, as well.  It could be the sinking of the little historic village on the bay!

Typically, the Kearnes/Gwinn/Espy group numbers 85 or miore!  The Williams could number about as many which would bring the total to about ten times the usual Oysterville population.  I’m not sure, though, if it will be the Red House Williams’ turn to host that year — they move around from place to place.  There are Williamses who live in nearly every Peninsula community from Ilwaco to Oysterville and take on the hosting duties by turns.

Marilyn with Harry ‘Buck’ Espy, Third Cousin Twice Removed

I talked with third cousine twice removed (maybe) Buck Espy about the possibikity today.  He’s my senior by three and a half years,  “Do you think we’ll still be around” I asked.

“Sure,” he answered.  “One way or another!”  I wasn’t sure just what that meant and decided I wouldn’t go there.  Instead, we laughed and promised that we’d try to get our kids to join the fun, too.  With two whole years to work on it, we might have a chance at success!


Where have all the flowers gone?

Saturday, May 28th, 2016
Memorial Day 2009 - Oysterville Cemetery

Memorial Day 2012 – Oysterville Cemetery

There’s something ironic about not having flowers in the garden ready-for-the-picking on this particular weekend of the year.  Today (the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend) is traditionally the day we take flowers to the cemetery.  For the first time in the thirty-eight years I’ve been decorating our family’s graves, we have no flowers in the garden.  None.

Not that they’ve “gone to young girls, every one.”  Not like in Pete Seeger’s lyrics.  They have simply finished their blooming several weeks earlier than usual.  And now we are hard pressed to find anything at all beyond greenery.  And, believe me, our cemetery has plenty of that already.  In fact, it’s the splash of color midst all the evergreens on “Decoration Day” that makes the statement of remembrance special.

I took a walk around the garden yesterday, stewing about the dilemma.  Should we actually go and buy flowers?  It seemed wrong somehow.  Like commercializing the day.  Bad enough that we’ve managed to take spirit out of every other holiday we celebrate.  Somehow, this one day of remembrance should be honored with a little effort and ingenuity – not by throwing money at it.

"That Bush"

“That Bush”

And then my eyes fixed themselves on “that bush.”  We don’t know what it is.  It grows just at the southeast corner of the house.  It’s been there all my life.  I’ve always thought that my grandmother planted it in the 1920s but it could have been planted by Tom Crellin and his wife back in the 1870s.  Or maybe even by a Baptist preacher back when this was the parsonage.  The defining thing about it right this minute is that it’s yellow.  Bright lemony yellow!  The only spot of non-green in our garden.

I’ve been thinking for some time that we really need to trim “that bush.”  What could be better than to arrange the trimmings in our Memorial Day containers and take that bit of sunshine up to the Espy family plot?  So… that’s the plan for this afternoon.  “Gone to graveyards, everyone”…

But what would the chickens say?

Sunday, March 13th, 2016
Yesterday on Facebook

Yesterday on Facebook

The suggestion on FaceBook that some branch of the military make Bernie an honorary colonel seemed perfect to me – not even a joke. I asked General Nyel of The Honorary Oysterville Militia (THOM) what he thought and he checked the hat box. Yep! There it was! The Colonel’s hat waiting for occupancy!

Readers may remember that THOM was organized at the time of Oysterville’s Sesquicentennial in 2004. It was Nyel’s idea that the village should have a cannon to replace the one that was used here in the early days on ceremonial occasions.

General Nyel

General Nyel

According to all accounts, R. H. Espy (who had been accorded the rank of Major in the briefly formed Oysterville Militia of 1855) donned top hat and linen waistcoat to give the starting signal for the Oysterville Regattas. It is also duly recorded that sometime in the ‘80s (the 1880s, that is) a few of the celebrants got a bit overly enthusiastic one night, loaded the cannon with too much black powder, and blew it to smithereens. Years later (like about a century) Pete Heckes found a part of that cannon down on Oysterville’s waterfront and, for a time, it was mounted on the hood of his pickup.

Ready for Bernie?

Ready for Bernie?

Well… these days cannons are expensive, so we formed The Honorary Oysterville Militia and offered friends and family the opportunity to buy commissions. We raised enough money to purchase an 1842 replica of a mountain howitzer and have it shipped from the factory in Coolville, Ohio. It, like its long-ago predecessor, is fired only on ceremonial occasions and only with blank charges.

Never mind that Major Espy and most of the other movers and shakers of 160 years ago were probably political opposites of today’s Democrats, not to mention the more progressive party representatives. And the entire fast food bucket thing would be completely lost on them. Time marches on, as they say. Making Bernie an honorary colonel in THOM seems too fine an opportunity to pass up. Colonel Sanders of The Honorary Oysterville Militia! Perfect!

But what would the chickens think? General/Farmer Nyel has it on his agenda for today’s roll call.

My Great Grandmothers!

Thursday, February 18th, 2016


Jane Gilbert (Tubbs) Apperson 1809-1859 -- My three times great grandmother

Jane Gilbert (Tubbs) Apperson 1809-1859 — My three times great grandmother

Yesterday, our speaker at the Community Historians gathering was Irene Martin. Her topic dealt with the way early settlers along the Columbia got here – the men who jumped ship and the women who were mail order brides. The stories about the hardships the women faced really ‘spoke’ to me, although none of my direct forebears were of the mail order variety.

My great great grandmother, Matilda Jane Apperson was born in Tennessee in 1830 and, according to my Uncle Willard, had sat proudly beside her own mother Jane in 1847 as their ox team plodded into Oregon City. They had lost Jane’s husband Beverly to cholera at Hamsfork on the Oregon Trail. Delos Jefferson took the same trail a year later from Ohio, and married Matilda in 1850. Delos, though he lived by farming, was considered a cut above his neighbors, because he had an ear for music, and at one time even taught singing in Portland.

Julia Jefferson Espy 1851-1901 -- My Great Grandmother

Julia Jefferson Espy 1851-1901 — My Great Grandmother

Delos and Matilda had eleven children, eight of whom lived to maturity. Two of the girls, Susannah and Clara died within a few days of each other of diphtheria (in those days called “putrid sore throat”) and were buried in one grave. Matilda never completely recovered from their deaths and was mentally unbalanced for many years, shuttling in an out of the mental hospital near Salem where they lived.

That left the much of the care of the younger children to Julia, the eldest, who left home in 1869 at the age of eighteen to teach here in Oysterville. The following summer, she married Robert Espy who was twenty-four years her senior and who was already well established in the Shoalwater Bay oyster business. No doubt she was happy to escape the domestic duties of her parents’ household. However, hers certainly was not the life of Riley.

When Julia was ready to deliver her first baby in 1871, there was only one doctor in the entire Shoalwater region. He was located across the bay in the Bruceport area and, by the time he was needed in Oysterville, he was off in the woods somewhere attending to a case of smallpox.

At the Oysterville Cemetery0004

At the Oysterville Cemetery

It fell to the neighbor ladies to deliver Julia’s firstborn. They had to use “distressing methods” which meant, it was whispered in the family, that the infant had to be dismembered in the womb in order to save twenty-year-old Julia’s life. Over the next fifteen years, Julia would have seven more children, all healthy, and according to family lore, ever after that first experience, her husband Robert made arrangements for the services of a doctor or a midwife well in advance of her due dates.

I’ve often wondered if Julia was ‘made of sterner stuff’ than her mother. Or was it watching her mother’s long suffering that made her bound and determined to carry on for the sake of her husband and family. In any event, I take great pride in being descended from these women – and from their husbands, as well. It’s difficult to imagine the hardships they endured… just as a matter of course.

Another Cousin Connection!

Friday, January 22nd, 2016
Uncle King

Uncle King

I’m not sure how she found me, but yesterday here came an email from a pleasant sounding woman who says that Alexander King Wilson was her great uncle. Mine, too – but by marriage.

Uncle King (as he was known in our family) married my great aunt Dora Espy on August 7, 1895 right here in Oysterville at her parents’ home. They, of course, were my great-grandparents, R.H. and Julia Espy who on Dora’s wedding day were celebrating their own 25th anniversary.

Aunt Dora

Aunt Dora

The wedding was smallish by today’s standards but, if the surviving pictures are any indication, it was quite an affair. They were married by the Baptist minister Rev. J.T. Huff (who lived in the Espy home for twelve years and was the impetus for R.H.’s purchase of our present-day house from Tom Crellin – for a parsonage!). Julia’s sisters came all the way from Oregon for the affair, King’s brother was best man, and the noon meal afterwards was catered by the chef at the Breakers Hotel.

Uncle King was an attorney, originally from Maryland, and was practicing law in Portland at the time of their marriage and that is where they lived for their first ten years together. Then they moved to the up-and-coming suburb of Oswego where they were both active in community affairs. At the time of his death in 1918, King was mayor of Oswego. They had three children, the last of whom died about twenty years ago.

The Wedding Feast, 1895

The Wedding Feast, 1895

Aunt Dora lived into old age (until 1955) and was my very favorite of all the “greats.” She loved to tell about the olden-days and was the one in the family who had all the ‘bawdy’ stories! It was Aunt Dora who told about the young man-about-town who kept a snippet of pubic hair from each of his conquests and bragged to the other local boys about his ‘souvenirs.’ And it was Aunt Dora who remembered (and talked about) the ‘fancy ladies’ who occasionally came to town in the days of her childhood – the ‘beautiful creatures’ her mother wouldn’t allow her to speak to.

Of course, I never met Uncle King, but he must have been quite a guy to have married spunky Dora Espy! His great-niece is planning a trip our way in March and I hope we manage to meet so I can gather in a few more of the puzzle pieces regarding yet another family connection!

How many degrees of separation in 1854?

Saturday, November 28th, 2015
R.H. Espy circa 1918

R.H. Espy circa 1918

Among my forebears are the garrulous Espys, the taciturn Espys and, on the Richardson side, the Scribbling Aunts. It is somewhat unfortunate that my DNA is liberally sprinkled with the scribbling genomes but that my great-grandfather, Major Robert Hamilton Espy, was the epitome of the strong silent type. So, although I’d love to write about him and how he spent his time after he and Clark founded Oysterville, he didn’t leave much to go on.

Here, on Shoalwater Bay, at the same time as my great-grandfather (and if the few facts we know about him are true) was James G. Swan. Mr. Swan left us a fabulous documentation of the life and times here from 1852 to 1855 in his book The Northwest Coast or Three Years’ Residence in Washington Territory. For the better part of 1853, Espy and Swan lived only a stone’s throw from one another – Swan at Stony Point and Espy on the Palix River. Yet neither ever mentioned the other as far as I know.


James G. Swan

Swan did write about Oysterville, however: 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. (Swan had left the bay on January 1, 1854 and returned five months later which would jibe perfectly with the April 12, 1854, date of Espy and Clark’s arrival here and the accounts which say “in no time the town boomed.” Everyone apparently had the Oyster Fever.

Last night, Kathleen Sayce brought me two fairly extensive excerpts from the diary of James Graham Cooper (for whom Cooper ’s hawk is named). He was a naturalist and physician with Isaac Stevens’ Pacific Railroad Survey expedition of 1853 and took some time to explore this area. Kathleen is transcribing his diaries and brought me some printouts of his descriptions of Oysterville and his mention of Mr. Espy. On the other hand, Cooper doesn’t mention Swan. But, Swan mentions Cooper – twice.


James Graham Cooper

One wonders… just how much interacting and networking went on in Shoalwater Bay in the early 1850s? There were only a handful of permanent settlers on the bay when my great-grandfather arrived in 1852. Surely they all knew each other. Beyond the rivalries over the oyster bounty, was there some sort of pecking order as far as who was considered worthy of mention and who was not? Obviously, Great-Grandpa Espy treated everyone equally. He remained silent. Damn! If I hadn’t inherited that scribbling gene from his daughter-in-law (my grandmother) I probably wouldn’t care.