Archive for the ‘Community History’ Category

The Hardest Part…

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

Bethenia Owens-Adair — Teacher or Doctor?

I really am having so much fun researching these “Saints or Sinners” stories!  And, every once in a while, a reader tells me how much they are enjoying them and that makes it even better.  And then just today, when I called Pete Heckes with a question about the name of the slough near the Moby Dick — it’s “Paul’s Slough” — he straightened me out on few errors in my story about Peter Jordan — you know, the guy who was so badly hurt when he and a buddy overloaded the cannon they had in Oysterville in the olden days.  Blew it to smithereens. And very nearly themselves along with it.

Well, we got to talking, and when all was said and done, I never used the Paul’s Slough information as I intended and I turned in my story without it.  Oh well.  If I ever find a publisher for these gems, I hope I remember to fine tune a few things!

But finding the details of the stories isn’t the hardest part.  It’s finding the illustrations — preferably photographs of the characters I’m writing about.  When you get back to stories before 1900, it gets harder.  Today, I was looking for a picture of a man who died in 1877.  “Fat chance!” thought I!  After all, he’d come west in the 1830s and just how many photographers do you think might have been doing studio portraits around here over the next 40 years?

John Edmunds or John Pickernell?

However — wonder of wonders! — I found one!  Or at least it purports to be the very man I was looking for — on the Find a Grave site which, besides photographs, contains a storehouse of wonderful information.  Is it all true?  I think as true as any information that comes to us over the years.  The people I’ve met who gather information for Find a Grave seem diligent to a fault.

And while I’m at it, if you are a “Saints or Sinners” reader and have additional information for me, don’t be shy.  If I use the information and find that publisher, I promise I’ll give you full credit!

Have you marked your calendar? Sept. 6th!!

Thursday, August 24th, 2023

Oysterville Schoolhouse

We* are gearing up for the first session of the History Forum here in Oysterville and hope those of you interested in SW Washington history will be among our participants!  We begin at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6th at the Oysterville Schoolhouse – but if you can get there a tad early so you can “register,” we can be sure to keep you posted month-by-month in the future.  Better yet, if you are planning to come, write and I’ll “pre-register” you!.

Charlotte and Her Button Blanket, 2019

There will be an article in the Chinook Observer next week giving some particulars about our speakers and telling you a little about our initial plans for these monthly get-togethers.  When I was talking to our Editor, he mentioned that the History Forum is reminiscent in some ways of Diane Buttrell’s “Oysterville Talks.”  Certainly as to place and frequency (and I hope as to popularity!), that is true.

However, the big difference is that the intent of the Forum is that it be as  participatory as possible.  After a short presentation by each of our panelists (two to three speakers each week who will set the stage for the day’s topic) it will be up to the rest of us to discuss, question, speculate, suggest and, in general examine the topic and the avenues it takes us.

“Town of the Old People” by Charles Funk

I’m excited about the possibilities!   I so hope that some of you readers who have responded to my blogs over the years with history questions or comments of your own will come if you are able.  Also, we fully expect to record each session and post it on YouTube so those who don’t have the opportunity to be here in person can “weigh in.”  See you soon!

*At this point “We” includes Michael Lemeshko, Tucker Wachsmuth, Kathleen Davies, Dayle and David Olson, Jim Sayce and myself.  The History Forum is “a work in progress” so DO join us and invite your friends who might be interested!

A Day of Looking Back and Planning Ahead

Thursday, June 29th, 2023

June 29, 2023

My early morning visit to the cemetery was practical rather than sentimental, but there was plenty of time for the gamut of feelings.  Miki, one of yesterday’s participants in our small ceremony for Nyel, wrote that she arrived home with only one earring — drop style of amber glass.  So, I went up for a look around.

Unfortunately, the carpet of pine needles and pinecones were also amber-ish in color and there was no sun to reflect off the glass, so after a few words with Nyel, I headed home stopping at the Post Office on the way.  In answer to Tammy’s “Wow! You’re early today!” I told her of my quest.  “Did you know you are only wearing only one earring this morning, too?” she asked.

Mine was pearl, not amber, and was a gift from Nyel years ago.  For a long time now, they are the only ones I’ve worn.  I couldn’t help wondering “what the heck’s going on?  Is Nyel collecting earrings now?”

But, no.  Mine was on the dresser where I had apparently overlooked it this morning and the amber one was found tucked in a crevice of its owner’s couch.  The day was off to a fine start!

The rest of the day was spent “walking the house” with CPHM curator Betsy Millard to get an idea of what, if anything, might be of interest to the museum after I’m gone.  Her gentle reminders that the artifacts would have to further the “Espys in Oysterville” story helped keep us focused.

After lunch, Betsy kindly showed  Charlie and Marta (and me, as well) the various parts of the museum including storage and archival facilities etc.   We were fortunate that Executive Director Madeline Matson was available so C and M could meet her. The entire visit was wonderfully informative for future planning.  Both “kids” were suitably impressed as I was sure they would be.

We were all so engaged that only one photo resulted.  I don’t know if it has significance or not.  It’s hard to tell with bears.

Marta, Bear, and Charlie

Have you read today’s “Observer” yet?

Wednesday, May 10th, 2023

Extra! Read all about it!

In answer to my own question, I have to say, “Only partly.” And those portions that I did read sent me through the gamut of emotions — disgust and distrust, anger and sadness, shame and anxiety.  Plus a good dollop or two of fear as I considered the implications  of  our young and totally inexperienced sheriff’s beliefs as outlined in the letter to the editor from Dave Sweblom of Raymond.  Scarey.

A bright spot was Ken Woodrich’s letter urging Ocean Park to incorporate.  I so hope that his words resonate with the leaders of what could be the largest municipality on the Peninsula.  Don’t you find it ludicrous, in this day and age, that we are still limited to three county commissioners just as we were in 1851 when Pacific County was formed and our population was 152, with 61 eligible voters?  Now,   our population is well over 23,000 and we still have three County Commissioners who (duh!) have far more responsibilities;  it will not be until our County population reaches 300,000 that we will be eligible for another commissioner.

The only answer for better oversight seems to be for a big chunk of the  population to remove themselves from the Commissioners’ jurisdiction by forming a municipality.  It would not only give autonomy to the new city (of Ocean Park) but, presumably, it would free up the rest of the County Commissioners a bit, giving them a chance to pay better attention to the needs of their constituents.

And then… the dreadful news of the Hospital Bond which failed by less than one-tenth of one percentage point.  I don’t know if the 60% passage requirement (the super majority) was mandated for that Bond, but I’m pretty sure it was not required for passage of “Ban the Boom.”  My understanding is that the super majority was an arbitrary requirement.  In the olden days, we simply called that “stacking the deck.”

Uncle Cecil’s Wheelbarrow by Earl Thollander

Well… I must get back to my reading.  If you get to Section B, do read my “Saints or Sinners” story and tell me if you think I should be less like “the talkative Espys” and more like Uncle  Cecil and Uncle Will.  Especially with regard to current times.


Will I see you in Surfside on Wednesday?

Saturday, April 15th, 2023

Announcement in the Surfside Weekender

I think this might be a first!  I’ve been asked to speak to a group of neighbors about the history of Oysterville!  I’ll be talking at the Surfside Business Office on Wednesday, April 19th at 2:00.  So says an announcement in the Surfside Weekender that goes out to all the Surfside members.  I wonder if anyone will be there…

I’ve written many newspaper and magazine articles about Oysterville, have written two books and many stories about Oysterville , and have even taught week-long Elderhostel classes about Oysterville.  But I don’t think I’ve ever given a “talk” about its history.  You’d think it’d be a no-brainer, but I’m not so sure.

Tommy and Irene Nelson’s Cannery, Oysterville

For one thing — no parameters.  “How long a talk are you thinking about?” I asked.  “Whatever you’re comfortable with,” was the kind response.  Hmmm.    “And how many people might be there?” I wondered,  “No idea.  Could be four.  Could be forty.”  Hmmm.

Well… no problem.  I love the story of how Oysterville was founded — after all it involved my great-grandfather.  And I love telling about the early days when law and order might have been a bigger problem than it is now.  And how the South Bend Raiders stole the county seat!  And what it was like when I was a kid — before there was a place called Surfside or a State Park at the end of Stackpole Road.

Jimmy Kemmer, Judy Heckes and ‘Aunt Rye’ at the Oysterville Approach, c. 1940

I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday afternoon!  Bring your questions and I’ll try to answer them — or find out and get back to you!  But I have the feeling that most of you know as much as I do about Oysterville — after all, we’re not even a spit nor a holler away!




Now you see it… Or hear it… And finally…

Tuesday, April 4th, 2023

Willard Espy, Raconteur Extraordinaire

So after all my F’n’B (Fuss and Bother) about the Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club Sign at the Taylor Hotel building in Ocean Park… it has totally disappeared.  Gone!  I did a drive-by today to check it out and … not a trace.  But their website is still up and running, so stay tuned…

I wondered why no one else was commenting but I guess between no sign and my writing about it on April Fool’s Day, there must have been a bit of confusion and consternation.  I imagine it will all come clear eventually.

In happier news, at least for me, I am beginning to get weigh-ins regarding my “Saints or Sinner” stories in the paper.  Two people — both from Oregon! —  have been in touch with me.  One, a former Ocean Park resident with a great story (and an artifact!) about someone now buried in the Ocean Park Cemetery. and the other a “musician/bard” who is interested in talking about a collaboration — my stories put to his music, perhaps?

It’s early days yet as to follow-ups on either idea, but I love it that people are taking notice and getting in touch with me.  And in a positive way!  Whether or not their ideas will fit into my scheme of things seems immaterial at this point.  What pleases me is that there are other folks out there who see the point of conveying our history through story-telling of one kind or another!

Which brings to mind Mary Garvey and Andrew Emlen and all the other local musicians who are keeping our history alive through song.  In fact, folk music might be one of the best ways of all to document our everyday events and to insure that some of the important ones, anyway, will live on.

Larry Murante, Documenter in Song

Along those lines… I wonder how many people “out there” know about the Reverend Josiah Crouch and his family who lived in this very house more than a hundred years ago — and all through Larry Murante’s song, “Mrs. Crouch.”  (Google Larry Murante and Mrs. Crouch if you haven’t heard it…)




Kuzzin Kris and Cuzzin Ralph Weigh In

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

The Red House in Oysterville where Kris spent many a happy summer!

Why was I not surprised?  Interestingly (but not at all surprisingly), the only folks to weigh in on Saturday’s Daybook entry concerning the Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club were Kuzzin Kris and Cuzzin Ralph. Perhaps they, both being connected to the history of Oysterville through kinship and historical caring, are the only ones who really “got” my concerns.

Kris, bless her heart, expressed outrage: The Very Idea! Sheesh. I am so disappointed in the establishment that hacked together this slur on the original Oysterville Yacht Club! And she went on to suggest that the local paper publish something about this heresy and then said: other old time peninsulites will agree fully and completely.  As I have often told her, she leads a rich fantasy life!!!

R.H. Espy, Co-founder of Oysterville and brother to Cuzzin Ralph’s ancestor,  William “Kentuck” Espy

Ralph, on the other hand was rather matter-of-fact and forthright as usual:   I just have to put in my two cents even though I’m a complete goddamn outsider to the local politics. This seems to be part of almost “gentrification” of the Long Beach Peninsula area. First there was the exclusive garden club, with outrageous prices for the tours that precluded many of the long established local people.  Now this group of young whippersnapper outsiders trying to horn in on the traditions without giving proper credit to the past.   I think it is just a gimmick to push their restaurant/bakery trade but the sailing part will fall flat on its ass!

I truly do love my relatives!  And I do believe that blood is thicker than water.  And it is also patently clear (to me at least) that the history of the area matters most to those with deep roots here.

Sad.  But true.

Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club? APRIL FOOL!!

Saturday, April 1st, 2023

A bit of April Fool’s history?

Perhaps you have seen the sign on the west side of the Taylor Hotel that identifies it as the Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club.  Or perhaps you have visited the Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club website which says, among other things:  Established 1877. Rejuvenated 2023.  We are a yacht club that is open to the public!

Wow!  And right in the heart of Ocean Park, too.  Not really within sight of Shoalwater Bay, though.  And, says the logo, it was “established in 1877” at the Taylor Hotel which wasn’t built until 1886.  And it was in Ocean Park which didn’t exist even as a Methodist Campground until 1883.  I am so confused.

To convolute matters even further — there really was a Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club established “in the early ’70s… (1870s that is) with headquarters at Oysterville.”   And the annual regattas that have been held in Oysterville for the past twenty years were established by Oysterville residents with deep roots here to honor those early Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club regattas.  I doubt if it has ever occurred to any of them to consider a Headquarters in Ocean Park.

Oyster boats called plungers were used in the first regattas in the early 1870s.

Did “headquarters” in Oysterville in the early 1870s mean that they had a building?  So far, there is no evidence to substantiate that idea.  And, Ocean Park is not mentioned at all in the Regattas’ historic record.  Oh!  Wait!  There was no Ocean Park in the early 1870s.

Interesting that it was all brought to my attention today.  Does that mean someone will soon say “April Fool!” and it will go away?  Or is it more like convoluting history — one of those “George Washington Slept Here” sorts of promotional deals?  (When I was a kid, every hotel on the Eastern Seaboard seemed to sport one of those signs.  I wonder if it really did help the bottom line of those establishments.)

Well, to those of us trying to shed a little light on our actual (and truly amazing) history, this convoluted version of a small piece of it seems really weird — at least to me.

Wow! Really? Karl Marlantes??

Sunday, March 26th, 2023

Karl Marlantes,

If you read Deep River, you know who Karl Marlantes is.  If you didn’t,  stop reading this and get back to it AFTER you’ve read (preferably) Deep River (2019) which is about our area or, perhaps, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War (2010) which is the recipient of many awards and was on the NYT Best Seller List for 17 weeks.

Today I had the very great pleasure of meeting the author and of actually sharing the Speaker’s Podium with him at the Pacific County Historical Society’s Annual Meeting.  What an honor and pleasure!

Actually… “sharing” probably gives the wrong impression.  The publicity said “Featuring” Karl Marlantes and Sydney Stevens.  And there wasn’t actually a podium.   Just a stool — which was too high for me to hoist my tush onto!   And we didn’t “share” either.  I went first (standing) —  sorta like a warm-up band; Karl went second, sitting comfortably (or so it seemed) and felt like the main attraction, at least to me.

I loved Deep River and felt (unabashedly) like a groupie when I went up and introduced myself to him before the luncheon.  And then, during his talk about his writing process when he referenced several of the points I had made in my own talk earlier… I, of course, fell in love!

Seriously, the whole afternoon was a pleasure!  It was an SRO crowd but, amazingly, I knew a goodly number of the folks there.  I felt that my stories were well received and that they dovetailed well with Mr. Marlantes remarks — never mind that we had never met or conferred.

Next Year….Oysterville Schoolhouse?

“And next year,” says PCHS Prez Steve Rogers, “the  Annual Meeting” will be in Oysterville!”  Stay tuned.

Do people make the place… or vice-versa?

Sunday, February 12th, 2023

Moby Dick Hotel

As I’ve been reading and sharing information about Little Creatures Everywhere by Mary Brindle, I am struck by some of the quirky history of the Moby Dick Hotel.  Yes.  Quirky since its very beginnings.  And I can’t help but wonder how certain places and the people who populate them influence one another.

The Moby Dick was built in 1929 by Theo and Margaret Russell.  From the onset it has provided the little town of Nahcotta with some interesting experiences.  During World War II, it served as headquarters for the men and horses of the Coast Guard Beach Patrol.  In 1948, a night at the Moby Dick was awarded by the popular radio show, Queen for a Day.  And Margaret, herself, gained notoriety for taming three raccoons — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — and giving them an upstairs bedroom.

Spartina on Willapa Bay – A Chinook Observer Photo

Environmental controversy marked the years of the Moby Dick’s ownership by Fritzi and Ed Cohen.  For years Fritzi negotiated (read: fought) with the Noxious Weed Control Board regarding the invasive spartina grass on the hotel property as well as on a parcel she owned personally.

Finally, after numbers of court cases and hearings, Fritzi was told that spartina on the land must be completely eradicated by the winter of 2012.  If the spartina was not eradicated to the board’s satisfaction by that time they would use whatever means necessary to do so.  At which point the Moby Dick Hotel’s manager Keith Stavrum threatened to sell the property to the Aryan Nations white supremacist group.

WWII Beach Patrol

I’m sure that there are many hotels approaching the century mark that have had interesting histories — but a Queen-for-a-Day guest?  A bedroom reserved for three raccoons with Biblical names?  A horseback riding beach patrol headquarters?   An illegal sanctuary for an invasive noxious weed?  A possible sale to a white supremacist group?

I ask you — was it the owners or the property?  Or is that like asking the old chicken and egg question?