Posts Tagged ‘Oysterville Cemetery’

Maybe it’s a sign… for Tucker?

Thursday, November 28th, 2019

New “Cemetary” Sign

When I saw the newly posted sign by the Oysterville Cemetery Road, I immediately thought of our neighbor, Tucker.  Not only is he the current president  of the Oysterville Cemetery Association, but he has an abiding interest in signs.  This one would a perfect addition to his sign collection!

Oysterville Cemetery

It is located just across the road from the large wooden “Oysterville Cemetery” sign which has been there for years.  The original one was done by Herman Eberhardt’s Boy Scout troop back in the 1950s or ’60s.  I think it’s been replaced at least once by the Oysterville Cemetery Association.  You’d think that the signage team might have noticed the discrepancy in spelling while they were installing the new marker.  But… apparently, not.

Once upon a time, Oysterville Road had another name…

I’m not sure if it’s State or County that bears the responsibility for the signs along the Oysterville Road.  Probably the County.  And, it probably falls to Tucker in his presidential capacity to call the Public Works Department (or whoever is in charge of signage) and asking them to correct their spelling error.  And, maybe — just maybe — since they will have to discard the incorrect sign, anyway — they will let him add it to his sign collection.

Come to think of it — I wonder if all the cemeteries in the County have been newly (and incorrectly) posted.  Further, I wonder if Tucker could successfully claim them all if nobody else wanted them.  After all, it’s not everyone who collects signs — especially those that have an interesting story.

Here’s hoping!

Another Oysterville Meeting

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Special School Board Meeting, 1912

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

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

Espy Plot, Memorial Day at the Oysterville Cemetery

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

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

I.A. Clark’s Tombstone, Oysterville Cemetery

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

If I had pots of money…

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Church Vestibule, Oysterville

Sometimes we play that “if we won the lottery…” game and we go off on wonderful fantasies – like the trips we’d take and the new car we’d buy and the charities we’d donate to.  Unfortunately, these wild spending fantasies always end with “but first we’d have to buy a ticket.”  And, like playing the slots or betting on the horses (or whatever people bet on these days), our shekels are just too hard-earned to fritter away.

At this time of year when every good cause and charity in Christendom is vying for our attention, I am tempted to fly a banner for the house for all to see:  “Our Disposable Income is Already Accounted For.”  And if we had any, it surely would be.  Accounted for, that is.  No problem.

In the best charity-begins-at-home fashion, number one on our priority list is the Oysterville Church.  Next comes the Oysterville Cemetery.  For lack of that imaginary lottery money, we make those two causes our first and foremost priorities in as many other ways as we can during the year.  But it occurs to me that we, too, should have been sending out reminders to people that both Church and Cemetery would be grateful recipients of their end-of-the-year charitable donations.

Entrance, Oysterville Cemetery

Last year, one of the ‘kids’ who grew up in Oysterville arranged for a monthly contribution to be sent to the Oysterville Cemetery Association directly from her bank.  It’s not a large amount – you couldn’t take yourself out to dinner on it – but month after month, here it comes.  It adds up!  And, as Secretary/Treasurer of the organization, I am reminded with each deposit that it we had ten or twenty such donations each month, our maintenance and upkeep worries would be over.  Ditto the church.

So, I think that will be my mission in 2017.  My terms are up on both the Oysterville Restoration Foundation Board and the Cemetery Association Board.  Time to switch gears and do a little public relations work for each organization, perhaps.  But, in the meantime, and before I begin my campaign in earnest, if anyone out there does win the lottery, do keep Oysterville in mind!

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”…

When We Were All Much Younger

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

PosterIn the late 1970s when the village movers and shakers were drawing up the bylaws of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation, they determined that the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend would be the best day for holding their annual meeting.  It was the one weekend of the year that “most people would be in town.”  You could count on it!

There were few part-time home owners here then.  “Most people” really meant family members who lived elsewhere – grown sons and daughters who had grown up here and settled elsewhere.   And their children.  Perhaps even their grandchildren. Memorial Day, after all, was a generational holiday – a time of coming together to honor those who had gone before.

IMG_8719So, the ORF annual meetings were well attended.  Often they were followed by a picnic lunch where there was the lively chatter of catching up with old friends – schoolmates, perhaps, of long ago. Or the neighbors’ visiting relatives that only knew one another from summer vacations.  Or even from Memorial Day gatherings back in the years when we still called May 30th “Decoration Day.”

IMG_8714When the Oysterville Water company was formed in the 1990s they, too, chose that Memorial Day Saturday for their annual meetings. Ditto all the above except that our numbers now included people from the ridge (Douglas Drive) – neighbors but not property owners in the Historic District and, therefore, not members of ORF.  Traditionally, OW meets in the church at 9:00 and ORF at 10:00. The first meeting is usually fairly well attended but numbers dwindle after its adjournment.

In fact, ‘dwindle’ may be the operative word for the entire Annual Meeting on Memorial Day Saturday concept, at least for ORF.  There just aren’t as many generational families living here now – not as many ties to the cemetery or to the past and not as many reasons to come for this particular three-day weekend.  Certainly not for the ORF Annual Meetings.  Or so it has seemed in recent years.  Maybe this Saturday will be different. We can but hope!

See you at the church on Saturday?

Monday, April 4th, 2016

2009 10 19_0154 WANTED:  Interested community volunteers to join the Oysterville Cemetery Association and, perhaps, to serve on the Cemetery Board.  It’s not the sexiest job in the world.  On the other hand, it isn’t very demanding either.  A concerted search has revealed minutes from our last meeting — dated 1986!   Our ‘clients’ don’t complain and, as long as the work gets done, everyone seems at peace.

Back in the early ’60s (1860s, that is) F.C. Davis donated an acre of his land to be used as Oysterville’s burying ground. For the next hundred years, the residents of Oysterville looked after the graves of their loved ones, saw to it that the unknown sailors who washed up on our beaches were given a decent burial and a place to rest for eternity, and trusted to the local mortician to keep track of things.  Except for cleaning up the gravesites (a springtime community effort) there was never ‘much doin’ in the Cemetery.

Stevens GraveThen, in the mid-’60s (the 1960s, this time) when Cecil Espy retired from his banking career in Portland and moved back here to the house in which he was born, he took it upon himself to “clean up the Cemetery grounds.”  With a small hand scythe he cut the waist-high grass that had grown around and over the gravestones and carefully brought the cemetery up to his high standard of appearance.  He gathered up the bits and pieces of deeds and sales records and the old linen map and, as he aged, began to think of the Cemetery as his own.

In the late seventies, when Uncle Cecil could no longer do the physical labor, the neighbors began to talk about the future of the little graveyard on Davis Hill.  They formed a Cemetery Association — the initial membership list looks like a roll call of those now buried on the site they so lovingly tended.  Some of us are still at it, but we are getting long in the tooth, ourselves.  It’s time for us to look for newer, younger volunteers to take over.

2009 10 19_0049With that in mind, we are holding a meeting of the Oysterville Cemetery Association this Saturday, April 9th at the Oysterville Church.   Residents of the community are urged to attend.  There are no “pre-requisites” for joining us — only a love of our quiet little ‘final resting place’ and an interest in continuing the work that was started more than 150 years ago.

Please join us at 10:00 Saturday morning (April 9th) at the Oysterville Church to help us in this important “regrouping” effort.  Oh… and in case you need a little more enticement, coffee and cookies will be served!
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Division of Labor

Friday, March 25th, 2016
Oysterville Cemetery - Looking North from Stevens' Plot

Oysterville Cemetery – Looking North from Stevens’ Plot

We drove up to the cemetery yesterday to see how it was looking now that the huge spruce tree has been removed.  There is still a lot of blowdown, but the north end of the pioneer section looks fabulous – better than it has in many months.  Dead tree limbs and twigs that litter the cemetery after winter storms have been gathered up into six or seven neat piles – about a pickup load each – and await a trip to the dump. (Volunteers, take note!  Feel free to help out by taking a pile!)

Contrary to popular belief, there have been no invisible just-come-out-at-night cemetery elves at work here.  The cleanup can be attributed almost entirely to Corky and Ron Biggs.  They have put in hours and hours of work raking, hauling, and tidying.  They’ve been doing it for years but it has taken the magical transformation following our tree disaster to make their work really obvious.  They are definitely the unsung heroes of the Oysterville Cemetery.

Stevens' Marker, Knocked Off Its Base

Stevens’ Marker, Knocked Off Its Base

For almost three decades, Ron has served as President of the Oysterville Cemetery Association.  As such, he signs deeds and other important documents, but mostly he handles the physical aspects of cemetery stewardship.  When it comes time for a burial, it’s Ron who stakes out the plot so that Penttila’s will know the correct location.  When the road around the perimeter gets rutted, it’s Ron who arranges to get the gravel and, usually, it’s Ron who’s up there with his shovel doing the necessary road work.

Once, when we had a vacancy on the Cemetery Board, I suggested that Ron’s wife, Corky, might fill the position.  “Why would you do that?” she asked.  “As long as you have Ron, you get me, anyway!”  And, that is the absolute understatement of all time.  Often, it’s Corky who goes up to the cemetery after a storm to check it out.  She’s usually the one who spots a problem and sees to it that it gets fixed.  And, if there were medals for Cleaner-Upper Extraordinaire, Corky would have a trophy case full of them.

Fence Remnants Hidden in Salal

Fence Remnants Found Hidden in Salal

What’s even more impressive to me is that Corky never ever says a word about what she’s done.  Ron brags on her a little, sometimes, as a good husband should!  But, I doubt that the general public has a clue about her efforts over the years.  If you see her, you might tell her “thank you.”  But, knowing Corky, she’d be more pleased if you just pitched in and helped.  There’s more blowdown to gather at the south end of the cemetery.  And, if you have a truck and a little time, there are all those piles that need to be taken away.

The Kindness of Friends and Strangers

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016
Before the Cleanup - Photo by Corky Biggs

Before the Cleanup – Photo by Corky Biggs

The calls of concern and donations toward cleanup are coming in.  They are from friends and strangers, about in equal numbers.  One of the first checks came from a woman in Maryland whose father had lived in Long Beach.  As far as I know, her only connection to Oysterville and to our cemetery is through the occasional visit.  I’m not even sure how she heard about our troubles unless, perhaps, she gets the Chinook Observer online or in person.

The disaster has made the paper’s front page headlines two weeks in a row now and, each time, the articles have suggested getting in touch with me with offers of help.  And people have been doing exactly that!  We are so grateful – and by ‘we’ I mean, first and foremost The Oysterville Cemetery Association which, like all such groups here on the Peninsula, is composed of volunteers.  Aging ones, at that!  Also – ‘we’ is the greater ‘we’ of the entire Oysterville community and the ‘we’ who have loved ones buried up in the old graveyard.

Before the Cleanup - Photo by Corky Biggs

Before the Cleanup – Photo by Corky Biggs

It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that DPR Builder and Developers and Hill & Son Excavating, Inc. donated their equipment, their manpower, and their time to remove the huge spruce that fell across the road and onto the Stevens (no relation) gravesite.  What a wonderful community service!  And, as far as I know, neither firm has a direct connection with the cemetery, as in forebears buried there.

The closest connection I can make is that Pat Lucero (of DPR) and Parker Hill (of Hill & Son) were both students in my 1st/2nd/3rd grade classes at Ocean Park School back in the 1980s/1990s.  Undoubtedly, we took a field trip to Oysterville and maybe even went up to the cemetery.  Maybe.  Probably wishful thinking on my part, but it doesn’t matter how that seed of community service and caring might have been planted – they get our undying (no pun intended) appreciation and admiration.

Stevens Cemetery Plot - Drawing by Larry Weathers, 1978

Stevens Cemetery Plot – Drawing by Larry Weathers, 1978

Getting an evaluation of damage to the stones (which looks to be minimal) and how to fix them is a whole other ballgame.  The “only monument company in town” is not in town at all but in Astoria.  They are short of workers and won’t be able to be here for a month or more.  Actually we’ve had calls in to them for more than a year about other gravestone matters but, in this case, they have offered to provide advice with regard to stone adhesives etc. to a qualified worker.  We have a call in to the best mason in the area and our fingers are crossed that we’ll soon get a response.

Meanwhile, thank you to everyone who has come forward with donations and offers of help.  Once again we are so grateful and proud to live here in this very special and caring place!

Grave Damage at the Oysterville Cemetery

Friday, March 11th, 2016
Peter Janke Photo

A Peter Janke Photo

The ink was not yet dry (so to speak) on yesterday’s blog before Dan Driscoll wrote that contrary to my storm damage (as in the lack thereof) report, the North End of Oysterville had suffered considerably. Especially the cemetery. And he referenced our neighbor Peter Janke’s photos.

A Corky Biggs Photo

A Corky Biggs Photo

A Peter Janke Photo

A Peter Janke Photo

Hard on the heels of that notification, Ron Biggs came by to say that he was contacting a couple of contractors to see who could take care of the tree that had fallen across the Stevens’ plot. “They’ll need a bucket truck,” he said. “It may be spendy.”

As President of the Oysterville Cemetery Association, it is Ron who oversees the graveyard’s physical needs. Often he and his wife Corky do necessary cleanup themselves, but this time is different. We’ll need professional help and, as the official Secretary/Treasurer and writer-of-checks, that’s where I come in. All I could think of was “at least our hillside didn’t slide away like at the Ilwaco Cemetery.” And, “I wonder why the Peninsula’s poor old cemeteries are on Mother Nature’s hit list right now.”

Ron also said that he had locked the gate to the cemetery for the time being. People can still walk in but vehicles won’t be permitted until the road is passable. “Until then,” he said, “it would be hard to get around without running over the grass; we don’t need more damage.”

A Peter Janke Photo

A Peter Janke Photo

I haven’t been up there yet to see for myself. The Stevens’ (no relation) plot is right next to the Espy section and is one of the oldest in the cemetery. Ron said he doesn’t think the main stone was damaged although it looks like the top section might have been knocked off. “We’ll know more when they get that tree out of there and we can see it clearly,” he said.

Ditto, I guess, the sign that marks the graves of unknown sailors. It looks as though the wooden posts broke off and it just toppled over. Corky says that Ron can take care of that one. Bless him!

Marriage of ‘Mrs. Nippers’ and Other News

Monday, February 22nd, 2016
Annual Regatta, c. 1870s

Annual Oysterville Regatta, c. 1870s

This morning I ran across two interesting letters (actually copies sent to my mother by the late Ruth Dixon). The first, from Isaac Smith of North River, was written to Mary Richardson Wells Bristow of “Eugene City, Oregon.” Written July 2, 1872, it is choc-a-bloc full of interesting ‘news’ including this bit about the upcoming boat race on Shoalwater Bay:

…there is not much of anything going on except there is going to be a boat race on the Fourth. I have got the “Lib” fitted up and intend going up to get “cleaned out.” I will write again and give you full particulars after the race…
Oh!! “Mother Nippers has got married to an old fellow at Oysterville by the name of Franklin.

Wells, Richardson, Woodward Tombstone, Oysterville Cemetery0003

Wells/Richardson/Woodward Tombstone, Oysterville Cemetery — according to Marie Oesting in her “Oysterville Cemetery Sketches” this is “the most puzzling” marker in the cemetery.

An added comment (perhaps by Mrs. Dixon) at the bottom of the letter perhaps is in explanation of Isaac’s boat’s namesake: “Lib (Elizabeth Miranda Richardson) who was first married to a man named Pope, was a sister of Mary Jane Richardson, who was married first to William Benjamin Wells, who was a famous steamboat man on the Willamette and Columbia rivers. He founded the town of Port William at Toke’s Point, at the lighthouse, and had a general store there. He carried the mail from Oysterville, and Miles Standish Griswold was the postmaster at Port William. Captain Wells was drowned soon thereafter, and has a large tombstone in the Oysterville cemetery.”

Mary Bristow forwarded Isaac’s letter on to her mother with this additional information:

Mrs. Nippers that Isaac spoke of is Mrs. Doctor Johnson…
I believe I wrote you the particulars about the boat racing. There is a boat club at Oysterville. Isaac belongs to it. There is no betting, but everyone pays a certain amount and prizes are bought with the money. Those that win get the prize.

In the Pioneer Section of the Oysterville Cemetery, Espys are in Lot #1, Wells is in Lot #61

In the Pioneer Section of the Oysterville Cemetery, Espys are in Lot #1, Wells is in Lot #61

The letters are full of other tidbits about local happenings. Mrs. Dixon’s comment: “It seems the living Espys did not know the Wells, but the deceased are close neighbors in the Oysterville Cemetery…” Actually, not very close by my reckoning. Espys are in one corner and Wells in another.

As usual… these bits and pieces conjure up more questions than answers. Why do you suppose they called her “Mrs. Nippers” for instance? And, since Dr. Johnson’s tombstone in the Oysterville Cemetery says he died in 1877, how did his wife, “Mrs. Nippers,” happen to re-marry five years previously? Maybe Bud Goulter, a descendent of Dr. Johnson, might know.  You could spend a lifetime trying to connect the dots…