Late Breaking News…

Gathering at the Pacific House, 1870 — not recorded in the news.

Pacific County’s first newspaper was established in Oysterville in 1883 — nineteen newsworthy years after Oysterville was founded by R.H. Espy and I.A. Clark.  A lot happened during those nineteen years —  the development of a thriving oyster trade with San Francisco, the establishment of the County Seat here in 1855, and the building of the first school in 1860, just for starters.  But without a newspaper, the recorded life and times of Oysterville from 1854 to 1883 is spotty at best.  What we know of those important years are from oral histories, from surviving letters, or by reading between the lines of legal documents — not from the headlines and articles and advertisements of the town newspaper.

Although I’ve never been able to find out his reasons, it was Lewis Alfred Loomis who brought editor Alf Bowen to Oysterville.  Maybe it was a matter of happenstance or perhaps Loomis felt that a newspaper could help him as he developed his transportation empire.  In any event, Bowen’s Pacific Journal  was short-lived.  He moved his news operation to Nahcotta in 1889,  about the time the first train pulled in there, and finally relocated to Ilwaco, eventually merging with the North Beach Tribune.  Unfortunately, existing copies from the Journal’s Oysterville years are few and far between.

Building the first Pacific County Courthouse in 1875 didn’t make the news, either.

However, two years after his arrival in Oysterville, Bowen published a promotional pamphlet entitled “A Description of Pacific County, Washington Territory, and Its Resources.”  The booklet was intended as a promotional piece for visitors or other “outsiders” who might be interested in settling here.  In the booklet were descriptions of our healthy climate, of industries and “school privileges,” of churches and taxation and typical wages.  (Loggers, from $50 to $80 a month; mill hands, $25 to $50; oystering and fishing, $40 to $50; ranching, $25 to $30 and always including board.)

Thinking about how much we don’t know about the early years of settlement here causes me to reflect upon how blessed we are to still have a functioning weekly paper here on the Peninsula — especially in this day and age when so many newspapers, large as well as small, can no longer stay afloat.  For me, anyway, there is great comfort in being able to read local news and actually hold it in my hands, so to speak.  I wonder if 140 years hence, hard copies of the Chinook Observer will be as scarce as those first issues of the Pacific Journal are today.  I wonder where else our descendants will be able to find out about our life and times in this little off-the-grid byway.  Hard to imagine…

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