Archive for the ‘Community History’ Category

Well, maybe not 1,000 words…

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

Princess of Garlic, 1983

This photograph from 1983 came in our mail yesterday with an accompanying note from Cristl Mack:  “I came across this fun memory while going through Trudel’s photos.  Thought you might enjoy it — we sure did!”

Wow!  Talk about “a trip back in time.”  There I was, “Princess of Garlic” (or something to that effect) helping set up the Garlic Festival in the parking lot of the Ark Restaurant.  It must have been Year #2 and, for the second time, I was playing my role opposite Lawrence Lessard, the “Garlic King” (maybe).  I also remember that none of us quite knew what we were doing or what to expect.

It was still a brand new by-the-seat-of-your-pants celebration that only Nanci and Jimella could have dreamed up.  I have no idea what I was doing at the moment Trudel’s camera caught me but it seems to have involved a gigantic roll of paper towels!

That night there would be a huge banquet in the Ark for all the participants — no doubt with music by Spud and Crabbo.  I’m sure none of us imagined that almost 40 years in the future the Ark would be gone but the Garlic Festival would carry on — for many years at Sheldon Field across from Ocean Park School.  There is an online announcement that  (fingers crossed) the 39th Annual is planned for September 18th-19th, 2021, and will be held at the Port of Peninsula in Nahcotta.  Fingers crossed, indeed!

and under the heading “Boys Will Be Boys”…

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Oysterville Cannon Fire, 2006

I’ve written a fair amount about the present-day cannon in Oysterville, purchased by The Honorary Oysterville Militia (THOM) in preparation for Oysterville’s sesquicentennial in 2004.  “General Nyel” made all of the arrangements in order to replace the cannon that was used here in pioneer times — a cannon which blew up under unfortunate circumstances.

I have just run across one of Frank Turner’s “From Auld Lang Syne” columns written back in the 1950s for the Ilwaco Tribune.  (Perhaps Mr. Turner’s great-grandson, Keith Cox, can weigh in with the exact date.)  The column fills in some of the information about that first cannon that had heretofore been missing:

Early ‘Oyster Boys’ Abe Wing and Jimmy Johnson

There was little in the way of entertainment for the young people and bachelor oystermen, aside from church and school, and the young men, waiting between tides for their work on the oyster beds were accustomed to displays of strength and skill for a certain amount of recreation.  There was a pile of pig iron, and one stunt was to lift it by the teeth.  Shooting with the white man’s gun, and with the Indian’s stout yew wood bows, was practiced in competition.  But top competition in weight lifting was practiced on a 400 pound cannon, or cannonade, that had been unloaded from shipboard on the high tide bank of the bay.  It took a he-man to lift the three-inch cannon as some claimed they did.  However, although the remains of the cannon are still said to be here and there in Oysterville, there is now no way to check on the prowess of the young pioneers.

The fact is, the thing blew up.  It happened, according to the best recollection of the late Mrs. J.A. Morehead, on Lincoln’s Birthday in 1878 — perhaps a year or so earlier.  The young men waiting on the tide, including Captain Peter Jordan and Johnnie Clark, loaded her up good, ramming home a big charge of powder, followed by a heavy round rock from the pile of discarded ballast on the beach.  They touched her off.  There was a mighty roar.  One chunk fell through the roof of the Chris Johnson home 500 feet away and others in sundry places about the village.  But the worst was one that slapped Peter Jordan on the side of the head.

Ballast Rock Doorstop at Our House

It was nip and tuck with Jordan in the days that followed, whether he would live or die.  Possibly the skill of  Mrs. Stevens, as a nurse, and the prayers of her daughter, Laura Belle, pulled him through.  On a July day in 1881 Captain Jordan married Laura Belle, but he carried the scars of the cannon all through life.

A modern-day postcript to Mr. Turner’s Story:  Some years back, Pete Heckes found a part of that cannon and mounted it on his pickup — or so he once told me.

Treasure Maps without the X or the Spot!

Friday, January 29th, 2021

Mapus Terra Sydney by Nancy Lloyd

When I was a kid I went through what I think of as my “Treasure Island” stage —  looking for old maps that might lead to buried treasure, or even drawing my own maps for the neighbor kids to find.  That shivery old skull-and-crossbones feeling still surfaces these days  when I run across a hand-drawn map even if  there’s no “X” to mark a spot.    Especially if it’s a map of this very area — Pacific County. or more especially, Oysterville, or even of a specific nearby acreage.

Take the old leather map made for me in 1980 by Nancy Lloyd.  It is framed and hanging in our kitchen — quite faded these days despite a refurbishing done by Nancy, herself, some years back.  It’s  title “MAPUS-TERRA-SYDNEY” is still clear, however, as are the picture of “Sydney’s House,” “Mr. Bear’s Turf,” “Bowser’s Prowl” plus Ossie’s “Magic Gate”, and the marsh with its resident blue heron.  I love it!  It is a treasure map of a different kind — the map, itself, is the treasure!

Pacific County Map by Arnold Shotwell

Then, there is the map drawn by Arnold Shotwell for one of the Sou’wester issues.  He gave the original to Editor Larry Weathers who had it framed and hung it in his office.  When Larry died, suddenly and unexpectedly, his family gifted me with the map.  I treasure it for all sorts of reasons — none of which has to do with X-Marks-the-Spot.  And I never cease to pause and wonder when I look at the familiar slogan Mr. Shotwell used as its title:  “Pacific County Washington: Nature’s Best Effort.”  What exactly does that mean?  Wasn’t the best effort quite good enough or…?

From Maureen Mulvey’s 1964 Shipwreck Map

And then, of course, there is the Shipwreck Map by Maureen Mulvey and the old composite map of Oysterville by Charles Fitzpatrick.  Also, the huge North Beach Peninsula map by Joe Knowles that now lives at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.  My favorite all-time map story goes with that one.  Never mind that Knowles was famous and that his paintings and etchings had become quite collectible.  And never mind that the map was displayed prominently in the Washington State Exhibit at the Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress Exposition.  Mr. Knowles never got paid for his twelve-by-three-foot oil “North Beach Peninsula” map.  Though the city fathers of Long Beach had commissioned him to paint it, they refused to pony up, claiming it was incorrectly named; Mr. Knowles stood his ground because the official name of the Peninsula (then as now) was North, not Long, Beach.

They certainly don’t need to be associated with treasure, these hand-drawn maps.  I love the details that each mapmaker included — how they saw the area and what things they thought it important to note or to sketch or even to omit.  They each tell wonderful stories and are treasure troves all by themselves!



Sometimes traveling backward works best…

Monday, January 4th, 2021

1925 Model T Touring Car – perhaps similar to the H.A. Espy family auto

My mother and her brothers used to tell stories of their trips back and forth to Redlands in Southern California where the family lived for six years (1926-1932) so that the three of them could attend the University there.  Their car was a Model T.   I was always fascinated by their report that, sometimes, over steep grades in the Siskiyous, they had to travel in reverse, “because the car didn’t have enough power to make it when going forward” they all said.

Somehow I thought that was a peculiarity of their particular car, but yesterday, I was re-reading Shirley Rowlands Wright’s book, When A Little Meant A Lot –Growing  up on the Long Beach Peninsula during the Great Depression and the World War 2 Era.  She told of a similar problem that her family had with their Model B Ford:

First Street Ilwaco Looking North, July 4, 1910 — Bob Bredfield Collection

The Ilwaco hill near the hospital used to be a much higher grade than it is now, and getting out of town with the family in the car was a real challenge to say the least.  Uncle Mason would sit beside Daddy and we’d start down by the Rogers Mill and yell to Daddy, “Give it all you got Daddy, so we’ll make the hill!”  We’d go through town as fast as a loaded Model B would go, horn honking in case we weren’t seen, and as we headed up the hill, of course the car would slow.  Sometimes it would just barely get us over the top.  If this didn’t look like it was going to happen, Daddy would yell, “Hop out Mason and put your shoulder to it!”  It was moving so slow by then he did just that. 

If he could push hard enough, he mastered getting it over the top.  If he yelled, “Can’t hold her George!” he jumped aside and, as brakes at that time were the last things to be mechanically in A-1 condition, we went through town backwards all the way to the mill, honking like mad.  During the time it took Uncle Mason to walk through town to the car, we had rejuvenated our eagerness and were ready to have a go at that hill again.  Sometimes it took three attempts before we got out of town.  We were so happy when they lowered the grade of that hill.

From Virginia Williams Jones story, “Gins Tonic” — 2007 Sou’wester (drawing by VWJ)

Somehow, Shirley’s story prompted me to do a little internet research.  This is what I found:  “During most of the T’s production run (1908-1927), its 10 US gal (38 l; 8 imp gal) fuel tank was mounted to the frame beneath the front seat. Because Ford relied on gravity to feed fuel to the carburetor rather than a fuel pump, a Model T could not climb a steep hill when the fuel level was low.”

So, the story of “more power going backward” was spot on!  And although the Model B came later (1932), I couldn’t find anything about its fuel tank.  I imagine it was the same problem.


What “normal” will be next for us?

Friday, April 24th, 2020

A New Normal?

There’s been a lot of talk by the “experts” about how the “new normal” will look and how we will segue into it after the worst of the current pandemic wave is over.  Although we who are sheltered here at the beach all seem to be doing the “one day at a time” thing, I’m sure the future is much on everyone’s mind.  It surely is on mine and Nyel’s.

But conclusions are hard to come by.  Instead, we spend a lot of time talking about what has happened in past generations — hoping, I guess, to find some answers we can apply to ourselves.   We always start with some of the hard facts about current times: our population is made up largely of retirees; most of our economy is based on tourism; 49% of residences here are second homes — many for the sole purpose of providing income as vacation rentals; “traditional” industries — logging, fishing, shellfish — are gone or are struggling.

Early ‘Oyster Boys’ Abe Wing and Jimmy Johnson

As I look backwards, I count my great-grandfather as part of the Peninsula’s first generation.  He came in 1854, helped develop the oyster industry and, one way or another members of his family stayed on.  But hundreds, maybe thousands, of his contemporaries came, either made their “fortunes” or not, and moved on.  This wasn’t where they settled for good.  Only a few stayed.

In his turn, my grandfather stayed in the village where he had grown up, became a dairy farmer and a mover and shaker in the community. He watched the oysters “decline” and the county seat move to South Bend.  He saw the tourist communities of Seaview, Long Beach, and Ocean Park begin and thrive.  And he watched the young people move elsewhere to find jobs. Of his seven children, none “stayed” but three came back when they retired.

Heckes House with Annex (r.) circa 1930

During my mother’s growing up years here she watched as abandoned houses “fell in and gave way to the elements.”  She worked summers at the Heckes Boarding House, developing life-long friendships with the “summer people” who vacationed here.  Some of her  childhood friends stayed on but she and her brothers and sisters went elsewhere.  There was no work for them here.

Mom saw to it that, when the time came, I spent my summers here as well.  I remember the influx of residents who came after the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.  Some stayed, found their niche here and their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren are now stalwarts of the greater community.  But many others left to find jobs and to build their lives elsewhere.

In my lifetime, I’ve watched as transportation improvements have made the Peninsula easily accessible to the point that the tourism industry calls the beach “a year-round destination.”  I’ve seen downtown Long Beach businesses outpace Ilwaco’s (the only “real town”  on the Peninsula in my childhood) and I am watching as Ocean Park become a commercial center in its own right.

Will our focus continue to be on festivals and tourism?

So… what will be next?  Will tourism come back full force or will future waves of pandemics cause some fundamental changes here?  What will our new normal be?  Will there soon be more second homes here or will they be abandoned and fall in as beach homes have done from the beginning?  Will we continue to be focussed on tourism or will we keep the beaches closed to driving and concentrate letting our natural environment heal and renew itself?  And what part will our County governmentplay in all of this?  Will their policies and regulations keep pace with the needs of now and the future?  Will they find ways to honor our past?

I hope I’m around to see the next chapter.  The possibilities seem limitless.


Hey, all you ‘old’ Community Historians!

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

Pacific County Community Historians – “One Wednesday Morning”

Quite a few of our Pacific County Community Historians over the past seven or eight years have stewed and stammered about a “project” to do.  I have one for anyone interested:  Correcting some of the mis-information that shows up on Wikipedia (constantly!) about our fair county.

Take for instance the name of Bruceport, a once-upon-a-time settlement on the east side of Shoalwater Bay.  Says Wikipedia:  The community was named after Robert the Bruce, King of the Scots.

Historic Marker – “Bruceville – Bruceport”

NOT!  It was named for the Robert Bruce, the 82-foot, two-masted schooner of one hundred and twenty-nine tons that burned to water level shortly after anchoring in Shoalwater Bay in 1851.  The stranded crew settled on the nearby shore and started Bruceport… and, of course, the rest is history, as they say.  But not necessarily well-researched by whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry.

There are so many more examples.  Oysterville, for instance was NOT settled by John Douglas who was NOT married to Katie Kettle Gale, a Coast Salish woman.

And about Ocean Park, Wikipedia wrongly informs us that One of the oldest buildings in Pacific County is the Taylor Hotel building, built in 1887, currently in use as Adelaide’s cafe and bookstore named after Adelaide Taylor the wife of the original hotel owner.  (There are at least three errors in that sentence — can you spot them?)

Adelaide’s at the
Taylor Hotel, by Jean Stamper

I’d be happy to assist anyone interested in taking on this project.  I’d like to do it myself, but am currently maxed out time-wise with too many irons in my own fire.

If you’d like to delve into this, please contact me and we’ll “talk.”  Maybe several people could work as a group…   I think it would be a righteous use of sheltering time.  And Community Historian wannabes could certainly weigh in, too!

P.S.  This idea is not officially sanctioned, as in I did not run it by Betsy or Donella at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, so if you decide to  jump in and want CH credit, you might make your idea an actual proposal.  Or… you could just do it because it’s the right thing to do!

Robert, Julia, Lewis, and Louise – 1869-1871

Friday, April 10th, 2020

Photo Courtesy of the Pacific County Historical Society

Yesterday, this marvelous photograph of the Teachers’ Institute, September 1-6, 1902 was posted on the Pacific County Historical Society’s facebook page.  It was labeled “Oysterville” and Keith Cox tagged me, asking if I could identify the setting more specifically.  I couldn’t.  Neither could Tucker.  But I do have a related story…

Some of the names were written on the back of the photo, though they are not matched up to the individuals pictured.  One name called out to me:  Mrs. L. A. Loomis.  I doubt very much if she was teaching in 1902.  More likely the Institute included a luncheon for all Pacific County teachers and former teachers.  (Those pictured here probably number many more than all the teachers in the county at that time.)

Julia Jefferson Espy on her wedding day, 1870

My story about Mrs. Loomis begins in the late spring of 1869.  My great-grandfather, Robert Espy, and his friend Lewis Loomis were both on the Oysterville School Board and they were going to need a teacher for the following school year.  (Felicia Brown who had held the position for the 1868-1869 year had taken a position elsewhere.)

So, in the Spring of 1869, Loomis and Espy journeyed to the Normal School at the University of Salem (now Willamette University) to interview young graduates who might be interested in the job.  They chose Miss Julia Jefferson.  She was 18 years old, was graduating with honors, and was the prettiest young lady in her class.

In Oysterville, she managed the school, grades one through eight (sometimes numbering 50 students), with a firm hand and boarded at the Stevens Hotel.  Two of the Stevens girls who were near her age were not at all pleased with the attention Julia received throughout the year from Robert Espy.  He was, after all, one of the most eligible bachelors in town and they felt that, as long-time neighbors, they should have proprietary rights.

Oysterville School 1875-1907

When Robert proposed to Julia, she agreed to a late summer wedding and the Oysterville School was again without a teacher.  Again, Robert and Lewis journeyed to Salem to interview prospective teachers and again they chose the prettiest and brightest member of the graduating class:  Miss Louise Glover.  The following summer Louise married Lewis, becoming Mrs. L.A. Loomis.

End of story.  Except that the teacher who was hired next was an Oysterville woman, Harriet Wing…

The Next Best Thing

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

Looking South on Territory Road, Oysterville c. 1930 – Stony Point Pictures

Stony Point Pictures (aka Keith Cox) has been posting old photos on Frank Lehn’s “Long Beach Peninsula Friends of Facebook.”  I love them!  They are worth the “price of the ticket” for sure!  Many I’ve seen before but with some it’s a first time thing.

Today I came across one of Territory Road (once called “4th Street”) that was taken of “our end” of the road looking from north to south.  It was new to me.  Almost.  I have one taken at a similar time period, but from south to north.  No cows in this one, though.  Just chickens.

Looking South on Territory Road, Oysterville, c. 1920 – Espy Family Archive

Some other all too familiar and sad images of Oysterville  that have recently been posted are of the Oysterville Church when the steeple was boarded up, and one of the little Captain Stream House — perhaps also the same time period.  Although, on second thought, the photo of the church is in color which probably puts it closer to 1980 when its restoration began.  (From 1930 to 1980, it looked much the same.) The big spruce tree in the right foreground (our garden) puts it much closer to 1980.

Oystreville Church Prior to 1980 Restoration – Stony Point Pictures

All of them make me think that seeing these photos is the next best thing to being able to travel back in time.  All of them also make me think of the improvements that have been made since we became a National Historic District and the Oysterville Restoration Foundation was formed.

Now, though, we may be over the top.  It seems to me that upkeep and restoration have been conflated, in some cases, with a good dollop of fantasy.  I’m glad to have these old photos to help us remember where we’ve come from.  Thanks, Keith!

Connecting the dots — at last!

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

John Peter Paul, 1827 – 1909

Yesterday, I finally had a face-to-face encounter with a man I’ve greatly admired for many years.  Never mind that he lived and died way before my time.  He’s the horticulturist who, in 1869, was the first to cultivate wild cranberries here on the Peninsula.  He’s the master carpenter who built the Oysterville Courthouse and the two-story Oysterville School in 1875.  He’s the farmer who bought John Crellin’s DLC plus an adjoining 320 acres and engaged in stock-raising.  And, he’s the man who platted, laid out town lots, founded, and named Nahcotta.

He was John Peter Paul.  During the last forty years, I’ve read about him, written about him, and admired his industriousness and his ability to successfully turn his hand to whatever interested him or was needed by the community.  But, until yesterday, I had no idea what this man looked like.

Then, as I was thumbing through Volume II of History of Washington, The Evergreen State, From Early Dawn to Daylight with Portraits and Biographies (great title!) edited by Julian Hawthorn (Nathaniel’s son) and published in New York by the American Historical Publishing Co., 1893 — whew!! — I happened to run into John P. Paul.   He was a handsome fellow, indeed!

Oysterville School 1875-1907

He was born in Ohio on August 10, 1828 (which made him two years younger than R.H. Espy, my great-grandfather.)  He attended public schools until he was sixteen and then went to Cincinnati where he learned the carpenter’s trade.  He subsequently worked in Lexington,Kentucky and in Nashville, Tennesee before deciding, in 1853 to investigate the comparatively unknown region beyond the Rockies.

After mining in Nevada City and Placerville (then called Hang Town), California, he followed that trade in a number of locations between California and British Columbia until 1867.  That year he arrived in Knappton (then called Cementville) on the Columbia River.  There he stayed for two years before moving to the North Beach Peninsula where he lived in the Nahcotta area and, later, in Oysterville.  In 1882 he married Mary L. Andrews of California.

Hawthorne concludes his biography of John Peter Paul with these remarks:  The life of our subject has been one of great activity and frequent changes.  Blessed with a rugged constitution,he is still hearty and vigorous, and is enjoying all the comforts  of a happy home with his good wife, surrounded by many friends, and possessing the respect and esteem of all who know him.

Pacific County Courthouse, Oysterville (1875-1893)

On the chance that he was buried locally, I looked him up in the Ocean Park Cemetery Find-a-Grave site and, wouldn’t you know!  There was his picture, taken directly from Hawthorne’s book!  Apparently, I could have met John Peter face-to-face long ago.  His gravestone has him born in 1827, a year earlier than Hawthorne’s biography reports, but hardly important in the great scheme of things.  He died in 1909.

All-in-all, I am left wondering who else I can “meet” by taking the time and expending a little due-diligence!


A Sign of Heightened Awareness

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

From Days Gone By

For as long as I can remember, there has been an old “Quarantine” sign hanging above the kitchen door in the Red House.  That’s what we’ve called my great-grandfather R.H. Espy’s house ever since my uncle Willard painted it barn red in the mid-1940s.  The house has remained in the family since it was built in 1872 and many of its contents have remained as well.

No one knows when that Quarantine Sign was used or even if it was recycled for more than one go-round.  It could have been used as early as 1903 when a scarlet fever epidemic swept the area.  Or, it could have been used during the 1918 flu epidemic — the “Spanish inflenza” as it was called, believed to have been brought to the United States by WWI soldiers returning home.

“The Red House” by Sedem Akposoee

With all the family correspondence and Oysterville School documents that I’ve perused over the years, I have never seen reference to either of those epidemics.   I have no knowledge concerning any of our family members being affected by either scarlet fever or influenza.  The closest I can come is my mother’s memory of neighbors vaccinating one another against smallpox with an early vaccine, perhaps derived from cowpox.

I don’t know if that Quarantine sign is still in the Red House.  My fondest desire is that we will have no use for it during this current Coronavirus pandemic.  Meanwhile, we continue to wash our hands, sing the Happy Birthday song, and limit our forays out and about.  No hugging, no hand-shaking — but many admonitions to “Stay Well!”