Brotherly Houses; Neighborly Remorse

May 16, 2015 | 1 comment

John Crellin, Jr. circa 1870

John Crellin, Jr. circa 1870

In 1852, Oysterville on Shoalwater Bay, Oregon Territory was only an adventure or two away from The Isle of Man in the Irish Sea off the coast of England. Nineteen-year-old John Crellin, Jr. made the 5,000 mile journey the soon after he heard the news of the big 1848 gold strike in California.

Tom Crellin, circa 1870

Tom Crellin, circa 1870

My knowledge is sketchy as to what came next except that John returned home, consulted with his family, and, all of them – father, mother, teen-aged brother and sister – pulled up stakes and left home for good. They crossed the plains in 1852 and, in 1855, took out a Donation Land Claim in the area that is now Nahcotta. It would be a good many more years before John and his younger brother Tom would build their homes in Oysterville – John in 1867 and Tom in 1869.

John Crllin House with Stevens Hotel in background, c. 1920

John Crellin, Jr. House with Stevens Hotel in background, c. 1920

They built twin houses (almost) on Territory Road facing the bay – not quite next door to one another. The Stevens Hotel was in between. The Crellins had brought their house plans with them from the Isle of Man and though the shape and layout of the buildings were identical, younger brother Tom made all his rooms just a tad larger, added bay windows on the east and north, and made the gingerbread a bit fancier than older brother John’s.

Tom Crellin House, c. 1930

Tom Crellin House, c. 1930

The Crellin brothers were both active in community affairs – John was an early County Commissioner, both were members of the Pacific County Reserve Volunteer Rifle Company, and eventually they invested heavily in Lewis Loomis’s railroad. Their primary focus was in the oyster business which had been the source of their livelihood on the Isle of Man, as well. In the late 1870s, they moved to California to concentrate on the business end of their oystering interests.

In our family it has always been said that the Crellins were the only people to arrive in Oysterville with money and to also leave with money. I don’t know the truth of that, but I do know that it didn’t seem to bother them that their substantial, nearly new houses remained empty for a good many years.

Eventually, in 1892, my great-grandfather purchased Tom’s house to be used as the parsonage for the new Baptist Church across the street. Ten years later, my grandfather Harry bought the house and our branch of the Espy family has been here ever since. John Crellin’s house, on the other hand, has had a number of owners. In 1884, Richard Carruthers, owner of the Pacific House Inn, bought it. Subsequently it was owned by Sid Slingerland, T.J. Andrews, Glen and Helen Heckes and, most recently, by Mike and Mary Gray of Portland.

Mike Gray died last month after a long battle with cancer. During the past ten or twelve years, Oysterville neighbors have watched the deteriorating John Crellin house with increasing concern, hoping for a miracle that would save it and its owner. Even as we mourn the loss of our friend Mike, we are hoping that the John Crellin house can yet be rescued. It is, after all, our house’s brother – or at least that’s how I think of it.

1 Comment

  1. Deirdre Purcell

    Right you are about the decay. My first images of the house were quite different than the more recent ones which showed the deterioration of the roof shingles. I can see why Nyel thought my photograph was a bit on the dark and spooky side. Lets hope new life comes through its door.


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