Archive for the ‘Community History’ Category

No they didn’t, Mr. Webb! L.B. didn’t “win”!

Saturday, April 30th, 2022

Gathering at the Pacific House, 1870.

This morning I stopped by the Heritage Museum and enjoyed a walk around their April 9- July 9 exhibit “The Grand Hotels of the North Beach Peninsula.”  I felt like I was visiting old friends — so many familiar photographs of the old hotels of Long Beach and, I’m happy to report, of the Pacific House in Oysterville and the Taylor Hotel in Ocean Park, as well.  The information, too, was well-known — from Lucile McDonald’s Coast Country as well as from many Sou’wester magazine articles and from the extensive files of CPHM.

Bringing it all to life were mannequins in period costumes — so evocative of more genteel and civil times! — and the fabulous carriage, an 1890s “Roof Seat Break” — on loan from the Northwest Carriage Museum in Raymond. If you’ve ever dreamed of going back in time for a weekend get-away, this may be the closest you’ll ever come to it!

Crew of the Alice at the Taylor Hotel, 1909

I have to say, though, that when I read Patrick Webb’s article about the exhibit in the Observer a few weeks ago, I was just a wee bit put off by his statement: “North Beach” was the name that entrepreneurs used in brochures and on maps. But eventually — a story for another day — “Long Beach” won.) Well, maybe more than “a wee bit put off.”   I was sure that the staff at CPHM made no such claim (and I was right!) but I was disgusted with that lack of knowledge about our Peninsula by one of our finest local feature writers.  I can’t imagine how he missed this very basic information about a place he claims to love.

I do hope my readers know better.  But, just in case you might need a bit of review, here is an excerpt from one of my 2013 blogs, “The Long and the North of It:”
If there’s one thing I’ve always hung my Historical Hat on, it’s the official versus the popular name of this Peninsula.  In almost everything I write, I find a way to point out that according to the United States Board on Geographic Names (under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior), our little finger of land is still legally and officially the North Beach Peninsula.  It is only due to a vigorous public relations campaign mounted by the city of Long Beach in the early twentieth century that we are now shown on local and regional maps as “Long” rather than “North.”

Portland Hotel, Long Beach c.1900

In the  Introduction to Legendary Locals, for instance I point out in the Introduction: The tiny finger of land in the southwestern-most corner of Washington State is popularly known as the Long Beach Peninsula.  Officially, however, it is still the ‘North Beach Peninsula,’ so-named because it stretches northward from the mouth of the Columbia as opposed to the Oregon beaches to the south.   By whatever name, it is an area that gives rise to rugged individualists, independent thinkers, creative dreamers, and innovative problem-solvers.

So, if you happen to see Mr. Webb (or anyone else who may be confused about the official (and legal) name of this sandspit we cherish, please recommend this post!  You’ll be furthering the cause of History, to say nothing of Accuracy in Reporting!

Attention Local History Buffs!

Saturday, April 16th, 2022

Ilwaco Shoreline, 1903

If you are interested in local history, especially the history of early Ilwaco, Community Historian Michael Lemeshko and the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum are offering you a fabulous opportunity!  Walking tours of historic Ilwaco beginning in May!  (Lest this information be misleading, I do believe it is the same tour, offered on various dates for your convenience.)  Here is what the CPHM website says:

The tours will be held on the 3rd Saturday of the month from May through September rain or shine. They begin at 2 pm (meet in the Museum’s parking lot) and will last approximately 1 1/2 hours. Each tour is limited to 15 people. You must reserve your spot by calling the Museum at 360-642-3446. The tours are $5 per person, with proceeds supporting the Museum. All participants will be required to wear a safety vest which will be provided.

Mike Lemeshko, September 2016, on the publication of his first book!

The walking tours, led by Michael, will focus on early events and locations  important to the founding of Ilwaco through 1899. As they walk through the areas where Ilwaco had it’s (sometimes) boisterous beginnings, participants will learn about Hayden’s Cove Saloon, the Ilwaco Wharf Company’s Pier, and Finn Hall .  Much of the information is as yet “unpublished” and is the result of Michael’s diligent research for his next book which is about B.A. Seaborg, founder of the Aberdeen Packing Company and Ilwaco’s most successful (and,  perhaps, most controversial) early entrepreneur.

The tours should be a real treat — especially given Michael’s uncanny ability “to find where the bodies are buried” — both literally and figuratively.  It was while he was writing his first book — The Cantankerous Farmer vs. The Ilwaco Railway & Navigation Company and the rest of his neighbors on the Long Beach Peninsula – about Judge John Briscoe (a contemporary of Seaborg’s) that he formed “The Friends of the Briscoe Burying Ground” to take care of a small grave in a field north of Long Beach.  Since then… discoveries have been made!

And no telling what he’s uncovered in his research in Ilwaco.  Sign up for one of his tours and find out!  Perhaps I will see you there…



Coming Soon! May 2nd, to be exact!

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

This is “almost-but-not-quite” the final version of the cover. (What do you think has changed?)

According to the Arcadia Publishing website, my newest book with them makes its debut on May 2nd, two weeks from this coming Monday.  WOOT! WOOT!  Look for it beginning that day on the shelves at your local book stores!

The book is called The Ghostly Tales of the Long Beach Peninsula and is part of Arcadia’s new “Spooky America” series for middle-school readers.   These particular tales were adapted from stories in my 2014 book in Arcadia’s Haunted America series — a bit less explanatory background and history, perhaps, and just a tad bit scarier than the originals.  “That’s what middle-schoolers want,” the editor told me.

I had no doubt that such was the case, but just to be sure, I checked with Gabi and Dani Wachsmuth, two of Tucker and Carol’s grandchildren.  “Yes!  Spookier!  Creepier!” they concurred.  Being the stickler that I am for telling stories the way I heard them and without gratuitous embellishment, made the writing a bit of a challenge.  I’m sure my young consultants will let me know how I did!

There once was a Pacific House in Oysterville (shown here in 1870) but, as far as is known, there was never an “Oysterville House.”

Meanwhile, I see on the Arcadia Publishing website that this is what they are saying about the book:  Ghost stories from the Long Beach Peninsula have never been so creepy, fun, and full of mystery! The haunted history of Pacific County comes to life—even when the main players are dead. Visit the Oysterville House to catch a glimpse of the wandering spirits who still call it home. Or step foot into Sprague’s Hole, but be careful or you’ll end up trapped for eternity, too. Dive into this spooky chapter book for suspenseful tales of bumps in the night, paranormal investigations, and the unexplained; just be sure to keep the light on.

I wrote the editor and asked if they might tone down that “come-on” a bit.  Just what is the “Oysterville House” that readers are being invited to visit??  (I surely hope it’s not mine or anyone else’s here in our little village.)  And suggesting that they “step foot” into Sprague’s Hole (which fortunately doesn’t exist anymore) seems a bit beyond responsible.  The editor’s response was that the blurb has actually been “out there” for quite a while and, besides, readers are being “invited” into the story — not into the actual places in the book.  Yes, I get that.  But will the readers??  SIGH!

A Lingerie Party for the Quinquagenarian!

Friday, February 25th, 2022

The year was 1986 and I was at the half-century mark.  So, of course, another party was in order!  It’s been a few memory-dimming years since then, so thank good ness I have pictures!  They were annotated (!) and pasted ever-so-carefully in a little hand-made booklet by quintessential party host Gordon Schoewe (who was undoubtedly given all sorts of encouragement by the always-quiet-and-sedate Roy Gustafson!)

Page One had this announcement:  KEEPING UP WITH YOU IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE and on the following pages were pictures of me (mostly) and of my nearest and dearest including Nyel, my mom and dad (OMG!  Did dad look a little dazed? And is mom hiding her eyes?), Patty and Noel, Kaye and Charlie, and several folks cowering out of camera range whose presence is known only by the odd hand or foot.

Bill and Dale — Parents of Boom-Boom!

My choice of Entertainment for the Evening seems to have been modeling each new gift of lingerie “and so forth” without benefit of removing anything I had previously acquired and certainly not anything I had worn to the party in the first place!  At one point I believe I was wearing three or four bras — if that which went on my head before the hat was, indeed, the underwire model I remember.  And “two-toned” panties — black lace in front and purple satin behind?  Where did these “friends” get this stuff — and did I mention that all of it was being re-cycled!  Not a new item among them.

Until, that is, we got to the purple satin spandex trousers.  They really truly were a size too small, but I don’t think that stopped me from wearing them to the next few parties.  Thankfully, there were no pictures taken of me in them.  Although… I’m really far from completing this downsizing project!  No telling what the next box will bring!

Unbelievable that a year or so later he married me anyway!





The Fort North of Oysterville

Monday, January 31st, 2022

I. A. Clark

The story of Fort Oysterville is one of my favorites!  I think my Uncle Willard told it best so I will give his version here.  From Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village:

By the 1850s, reports of Indian uprisings sent spasms of apprehension through Washington Territory.  Forts rose in the forests almost as fast as high-rise apartments shoot up today in Manhattan.  Even Oysterville, perhaps more to be in fashion than through true worry, organized a militia.  Grandpa was elected commander, with the rank of Major.

John Crellin, Jr. circa 1870

Finding that the available ordnance was limited to a dozen dubious jager rifles and a few shotguns, grandpa dispatched an urgent plea back east for modern weapons.  He also ordered his men to construct a fort north of the village.  It did not occur to anyone to set up a picket stockade around the fort, and for the next few weeks, the Siwashes spent much of their time at the edge of the clearing, exchanging ribald comments among themselves while the white men sweated; though for hard cash the reds did occasionally lend a hand with the filling of one log to another.

By the time the walls were in place, it was generally agreed that the Siwashes had never represented a danger.  Besides, an exceptionally good run of oyster tides was due, and not to utilize them would have been criminal negligence  So the militiamen never got around to putting a roof on the fort.  Instead, they returned to their oystering.

John Briscoe

A few months later, the weapons grandpa had ordered — rifles as good as most fired later in the Civil War — reached Oysterville.  The settlers, having  enough guns already for their hunting needs, sold the government issue to the Indians.

And that is how grandpa became a Major!

(Pictured here are some of those early fort-builders who stayed on in Oysterville, contributing to the development of early Pacific County, Washington Territory, and ultimately, to the organization of Washington State.)

I probably didn’t read carefully enough…

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

Ocean Park Elementary School

…but I don’t think I saw the words “kids” or “learning” or even “students” or “education” when I read that front page article in today’s Observer, Citizen group endorses $90M+ school bond.  The entire report seemed to be about public dollars and interest rates and efficiency and what-will-happen-to-the-dear-old-Ocean-Park-School-building.  Oh, yes.  And the clincher words: “tsunami” and “safety.”  But only in terms of parental concern.

Ocean Park School, 1936

So I guess the Facility Advisory Committee bought into the idea that the tsunami would definitely arrive here during school hours.  And that having their kids in a centralized location would cause parents less angst when it arrived.  Hmmm.

I think back to the years  that I taught in Hayward, California within a few miles of the Hayward Earthquake Fault, an offshoot of the better-known San Andreas Fault.  We had earthquake drills once a month, as I recall, but in the sixteen years I taught there, I do not remember a single earthquake making an appointment and arriving during school hours.  There were earthquakes, of course — just when least expected and totally unplanned for.  Sorta what a “disaster” is all about.

And… just how short are our memories, anyway?  Ocean Park School was closed from September 1972 until September 1981 and the District’s youngest children, K-3, all went to Hilltop School in Ilwaco.  It wasn’t for the tsunami back then, but it was for cost savings.

By 1976, however, O.P. parents realized that their Kindergarten kids were going and coming on the school bus for more minutes a day than their half-day Kindergarten class was in session.  For the next several years,  Margaret Staudenraus taught two Kindergarten classes a day at Ocean Park School — the only “T&K (teacher-and-kids) Act” in the entire school building which, by then, had become a Community Center.  FINALLY!  Someone had thought about the kids.  Or at least some of them.

I wonder what it will take this time?  And don’t get me started on all the research that says small, neighborhood schools are the best learning environment for students, especially for young students.  When it comes to elementary education, folks, bigger is not better and $$$$ savings do not equal excellent learning environments. Truly.



Walking In A Wachsmuth Wonderland

Saturday, December 4th, 2021

About The Artist

No sooner had I posted my (very late) blog yesterday, than I received a couple of photographs from Collections Manager Betsy Millard and a short note regarding the exhibition of Tucker’s Christmas Cards at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.  So, in an unprecedented piggy-back on a previous day’s blog, I want to share the photos and the name of the exhibit — “Walking in A Wachsmuth Wonderland.”

Profusion From The Artist’s Studio

As you enter the Museum, you are immediately surrounded by Christmas — Tucker’s half-century of holiday cards as depicted in his yearly greetings to friends and family.  In the glass display cases immediately to the left and right of the front doors, are a few cards with explanatory displays describing his process, and steps required for some of the finished products.  In addition, are examples of the table-setting-name-tags/ornaments which sometimes accompany the cards.

Tucker’s Christmas Cards On Display at CPHM

Along the hallway leading to the museum’s auditorium, the display cases are  filled with cards — a lovely display creating the “walkway” of the Wachsmuth Wonderland.  Seen as a totality, there is no mistaking that they are by a single artist.  Tucker’s distinctive style — somewhat formal but almost always depicting a bit of whimsy or nostalgia — is clearly apparent.  It’s a lovely walk to take as winter rains and winds splash and bluster outside.   No matter what, it will put you in the mood for the Christmas Season in all its many aspects!

A News Clipping of Note

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Part of Early News Clipping

There are several things that drive us collectors of bits-and-pieces-of-history to distraction — old photographs with no identifying names or dates and yellowing news clippings without any indicators of when or whence.  I think the following excerpt from just such a clipping was from the The Tribune of Ilwaco — probably in the late 1940s judging by snippets of ads on the reverse side.

Under the headline Espy Describes Early Settlement is an article about my grandfather’s talk at a dinner meeting of the Ilwaco-Long Beach Kiwanis club.  The part of particular interest to me describes the first road survey on the Peninsula.

An interesting document read by Espy was one made under date of October 1859, a petition addressed to the commissioners of Pacific county, Washington Territory, requesting the building of a road due west out of Oysterville to connect with the “weather beach” route to Pacific City at Baker’s Bay.

Isaac Alonzo Clark

The petition was signed by 25 pioneers of Oysterville including E. Ward Pell, R.H. Espy, Chas. Anderson, H. Wing, A.C. Wirt, Geo. Dawson, H.K. Stevens, Frank Warren, G.W. Warren, G.S. Foster, I. M. Chichester, J.A. Cole, Irving Stevens, Il Wheeler, Ezra Stout, George Wills, F. Hopkinson, W.H. Gray, E.G. Loomis, I.A. Clark, W. Sutton, Jr., and Thomas J. Foster, Jr.
The penmanship of the petition was very well done, and easy to read, in spite of an ornate style.  The language used was on the flowery side, and in true chamber of commerce optimism indicate a huge influx of business and visitors over the proposed road.
The following May of 1860 the records of the county commissioners, who are not named, signed by H.K. Stevens, clerk of the board, reveal that E.G. Loomis, George Willis and Dennis Colby were appointed “viewers” for the road project.
 Their detailed report was accepted by the board of commissioners and placed on file July 2, 1860.  (For a description of that survey, read my April 18, 2021 blog, “Metes and Bounds and Willow Posts”
A photostatic copy of this original record was recently made by Verna Jacobson, county auditor, who reported to Mr. Espy:  “As nearly as I can ascertain, it is the oldest document in the office as to commissioners’ proceedings.”

Harry and Dora Espy circa 1896

The concluding paragraphs of the article amused me greatly.  My grandfather was known as a man of many, many words and, according to the reporter:
H.A. Espy was accompanied to the meeting of the Kiwanis club by his sister, Mrs. Dora Wilson of Portland, who, according to Harry “pulled my coat tail three times” when she felt it time for him to conclude his address.
However, the Kiwanians appeared to enjoys both the amusing anecdotes and the historical documents of the oldtimer of Oysterville, giving him a hearty round of applause.


And speaking of old newspapers…

Tuesday, November 16th, 2021

Northender Masthead May 21, 1976

If you’ve been around here long enough to remember the 1970s, a newspaper called The Northender may ring a bell.  I don’t know how many issues there were in all, but I’ve recently run across Vol. 1, No.1 published May 21, 1976.  It was a simple sheet of 30″ x 22½” newsprint, folded to make four standard newspaper-size. pages,  printed in a standard font (perhaps Century Schoolbook) and well-illustrated with photographs.

The map on the paper’s masthead showed, as might be expected, the north end of the Peninsula — from Oysterville and Surfside south to Klipsan.  Advertisements for north end businesses such as Ole’s Nook, the Ocean Park Tourist Camp, Don McKay Realty, and the Shake Shack are nestled among the news stories on pages 3 and 4.  The news content is divided between historic information and current events.

I was interested to see a front page headline, STREET NAME PETITION PRESENTED TO COUNTY COMMISSIONERS.  The article began:  A delegation composed mostly of Ocean Park Village Club members met with County Commissioners and Public Works Representatives in South Bend Monday, to present a petition of protest concerning the revised naming of Peninsula roads and streets.

Although Jack Downer, spokesman for the group, reported that “the meeting went smoothly, and Commissioners Claire Korevaar, and Bill Crossman were receptive towards working together…”  we all know how that exchange finally turned out.  I don’t know if it was this meeting or a subsequent one that my mother attended.  When the group was told that numbering the Peninsula streets was being done to accommodate the Fire Department, she was furious.  “I recently moved back here from San Francisco,” she said, “and, as you might know, it is a far greater metropolis than our Peninsula.  They have retained all of their historic street names and their firemen don’t seem to have a problem locating addresses.  Are you saying that our firemen are not as smart as firemen in San Francisco?”  She never got over the “stupidity” — not of the firemen, but of the movers and shakers of the County who would not listen to their residents — “the very property owners and taxpayers who pay their salaries,” she said.  More than once.

Old Nelson Home, Oysterville 1875 – by Pat Akehurst

Several of the photographs tugged at my heartstrings.  Jeff Murikami’s house in Nahcotta which, said the caption once housed the first north end newspaper.  The Pacific Journal was the first newspaper published in Pacific County.  It was established in Osterville in 1887…  And on page 2 is a picture of 93-year-old Charlie Nelson whose parents’ Oysterville home was being featured in a Friends of the Library calendar, set to go on sale July 4, 1976 at the time of the Bi-Centennial Celebration in Oysterville.

Great stuff!  Oh, and did I mention that the cost of these four pages of information and entertainment was ten cents — “one thin dime,” as they used to say?   I wonder how many issues Mr. Messing managed to put out.  And I wonder if anyone has the complete set — perhaps the library?  I’m keeping my eye out, you betcha,  as I dig deeper into these boxes and files of the past.  Stay tuned…

Willapa Harbor Pilot, May 1, 1908

Sunday, November 14th, 2021

J.C. Johnson (1839-1908) – Willapa Harbor Pilot photo

There’s nothing that slows me down more in my sorting and organizing of those boxes of  “stuff” in the back forty than running across an old newspaper.  If it’s a local paper such as the South Bend Willapa Harbor Pilot, I might as well pack it in for the rest of the day.  I feel compelled to read it, front to back, and am invariably rewarded with information about something or someone I’m “acquainted” with. Often, too, I find yet another answer to a question that has been niggling at me for a while.

Yesterday, right on the front page, was not only his obituary, but a picture of J.C. Johnson of Oysterville under the headline Pioneer Dies in Portland.  Mr. Johnson was the adopted father of George C. Johnson, a contemporary of my grandfather’s and a well-known citizen of this area.  It was just last summer that Charlotte Killien, owner of the George Johnson House Bed and Breakfast in Ocean Park, asked me if I knew anything about George’s family.  Some distant family members were coming to the area and they were looking for information.

And here it was!  Or at least some of it! As I read the lengthy article — it was a full column on the front page and another almost entire column on the back — I made a mental note to make a copy for Charlotte, but was almost immediately immersed in a part of the report that concerned J.C. Johnson’s boats.  Yes!  Not HIS heritage, but the provenance of his boats!  It has long fascinated me that boat owners often know the history of their boats including who the various owners have been, who built them, and, sometimes where the building materials came from. More than once I’ve been impressed that a boat owner knows more about his boat’s heritage than about his own.

The Julia when the Wiegardts owned her – Photo Courtesy of Dobby Wiegardt

This is what the WHP article had to say about Mr. J.C. Johnson’s boats: Mr. Johnson began in the oyster business [in 1870 – SS] by purchasing an oyster sailing bateau, named Sixty Six, from L.H. Rhoades,  He afterward sold her and bought the sloop Julia from John Crellin.  After selling the Julia to Harry Wiegardt, who now owns it, he bought the War Eagle from Amos Smith of North river.  During the fourteen years he owned the War Eagle he made trips up and down the river and bay, buying hides and pelts.  In all his business transactions he never had a lawsuit nor was sued for debt.

I was also amused by that last sentence — not something we would necessarily comment on in an obituary these days.  In his extensive research for his books about movers and shakers of this area during the nineteenth century, historian Michael Lemeshko has remarked to me numerous times about how litigious those pioneers were.  “Everyone seemed to be suing everybody about everything,” Michael has told me more than once.  So, I guess Johnson’s “clean slate” (lawsuit-wise) was, indeed, something of note for the WHP to remark upon!

There is probably fodder for many blogs to come in this old newspaper.  At the very least it seems to be a treasure-trove of information about the issues of the day — Saloons or No Saloons — and the activities of residents throughout the county — (Ilwaco) Mayor Dan Markham lost a valuable cow last week…  Reading its closely printed eight pages is a wonderful way to travel back in time on a rainy Sunday.  Or, actually, on any day at all.