Archive for the ‘Espy Family’ Category

Some things don’t change much, thankfully!

Thursday, May 25th, 2023

Memorial Day 1917

Oysterville is gearing up for Memorial Day Weekend — the biggest weekend of the year here in our little village.  Traditionally, it has been when families gather together to clean up the cemetery and decorate the graves of our forebears.  “Decoration Day” it was called from its earliest beginnings… until 1971.

Though the grave cleaning and decorating tradition goes back to our earliest settlements, it was during the years following the end of the Civil War in 1865, that so many American communities were tending to the remains and graves of an unprecedented number of war dead.

2014 Memorial Day, Oysterville Cemetery

Soon, the idea for an official, nation-wide holiday occurred on May 30, 1868 when Ohio Rep. James A Garfield, a former general and future U.S. president, addressed a crowd of 5,000 gathered at Arlington National Cemetery.  After his speech the 5,000 visitors made their way into the cemetery to visit the tens of thousands of graves in the newly formed cemetery.

Gradually over the following years, local municipalities and states adopted resolutions  to make Decoration Day an official holiday in their areas.  As time went on, “Memorial Day” began to supplant “Decoration Day” as the name of the holiday, and it soon became a day to honor all fallen American troops, not just those from the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1968 that “Memorial Day” became an official national holiday.

Here in Oysterville we’ve celebrated our loved ones at the cemetery for 150 years or more.  These days,  the weekend is replete with meetings (The Water Company, The Oysterville Restoration Foundation, The Cemetery Association) on Saturday.  Cemetery decorating occurs on Sunday.  The VFW gathering to honor the war dead occurs early on Monday followed by (since 2004) the firing of their cannon by The Honorary Oysterville Militia.

And all weekend long, it is a time for visiting and renewing old friendships, sharing meals and stories and remembering why it is we are so connected to this village  and to one another.


Cuzzin Ralph Confronts the Crouches.

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023

Cuzzin Ralph and Sydney Working on WRE Archive, 2008

So many folks have asked me how I thought the ghosts of the unrighteous Reverend Crouch and his once-upon-a-time bride Sarah would react when Cuzzin Ralph came to spend a day or two.  It’s not that Ralph hasn’t been here before — many times in fact.  The Crouches (either or both) have had plenty of opportunities to make themselves known to him.  But so far…

Cheryl, Ralph, Sydney, Nyel, Virg — Christmas 2021, Oysterville

Not a moan or a groan or a typewritten note.  Not even the lid of an incense burner tossed across the room.  And if you have read my two books, “Ghost Stories of the Long Beach Peninsula” (2014) and “Haunted Histories of the Long Beach Peninsula” (2021), you will know exactly of what I speak.  I believe that ghost buster Madam X, who also made her appearance in “Haunted Histories…” would have had the perfect explanation.  In fact I think that my mother did, too.

Mrs. Crouch, as my mother often said, hung around this Oysterville parsonage because she was happy when she was living here in 1893.  My ghostbusting friend, Madam X, often said the same thing about the souls she confronted.  Some just didn’t want to leave — they liked where they were.  And if they were bothering those still on this side of the veil, it was usually because they didn’t realize it.

Cuzzin Ralph At My Gate, 2023

Mrs. Crouch has never really been more than a playful nuisance to anyone living in this house.  We’ve all been curious about exactly what happened to her and to her womanizing husband.  But, we’ve just been after the historical facts — especially Ralph who has used his internet research skills to great advantage.  Since the Reverend never tried to cover up his behavior — or to change his ways –I can only conclude that he was well-satisfied with himself and has no grudge to bear against Cuzzin Ralph for telling his story the way it was.

But… we will see.  The cousins are only halfway through their stay here.  So far, the Crouches have maintained their silence and have “behaved” as far as we know.  But… you never can tell for sure with ghosts.


A day late and… you know the rest.

Monday, January 2nd, 2023

Cheryl and Virg, 2016

I promised myself that when the New Year began (as in yesterday), I would write one short story a day toward the eventuality of a new book I have in mind.  Well, here we are at Day Two of 2023 and Story Number One is still safely locked in my head.

I’m not beating myself up over it — not even vowing to get it plus Story Number Two done today.  That’s because my promise-to-self was not a New Year’s Resolution — just a way of setting a goal.  In fact, my actual resolutions — to develop more compassion and empathy — are being given a test with this very story-a-day promise.  “Cut yourself some slack, Sydney,” I say to myself.  “You had other fish to fry yesterday.”

Cuzzin Ralph, 2019

That’s the thought I woke up to this morning, anyway, and I do think compassion and empathy can be directed toward oneself as well as toward others.  Don’t you?   Besides… my Jeffords cousins are arriving this afternoon for a few days of visiting.  That’s my Cuzzin Ralph (who has done all the Rev. and Mrs. Crouch research for me), plus his sister Cheryl and her husband Virg who used to live here at the beach.  I’m so excited!  I haven’t seen Ralph since the sheltering began and Cheryl and Virg only oh- so- briefly at Nyel’s Bon Voyage Party.

So that’s why I had other things to do yesterday — making ready for the relatives!  But, honestly, they are the easiest guests EVER!  They bring food for the main meals AND do the cooking and, even in the days when Nyel was fit and well, they’d come and help with various projects around this old house.  (I have a little list of things for them if they will be so kind… mostly involving Ralph, who is tall, getting the top ornaments off the Christmas tree.)

Nope.  Not a bit hard to cut myself some slack this time!



We are as usual…

Saturday, November 26th, 2022

Julia Jefferson Espy c. 1895

If my great-grandmother Julia’s letters are typical of those of others of the 1800s, it seems to me that  a good deal of time was spent discussing the various health issues of family members.  This was especially true in her weekly letters to her three eldest children, Edwin, Dora, and Harry (my grandfather) when they were away at school.

In those days, the 1880s and ’90s,  the Oysterville School went through the 8th grade but there was no practicaL way for students to continue with their secondary education here on the Peninsula.  For the R.H. Espy children, the solution was to send them to Grace Seminary in Centralia where they boarded during the school year, returning home for vacations much as students in boarding schools of today do.

It was Julia’s  habit to write to her absent children each Sunday afternoon, presumably the only time during the week that she really had to herself.  From reading those letters of long ago, I think it was a time (perhaps the only time) Julia had for reflecting on the everyday things that consumed her life as mother of seven, wife and helpmate to one of the most prominent men in the County, and the friend and acquaintance known as “Mother Espy” to every other woman, young or old, of the  village.

Harry and Dora Espy circa 1894

Besides village and family news, Julia’s letters are peppered with health advice for her children.”  On March 4, 1894, she wrote to my grandfather (then 17 years old): I am sorry you have such a cold and advise you to put a wet pack on your throat at night, not forgetting to rub it well with cold water when you take it off in the morning.  I think it would take 3 doses of Belladonna (not too large) about 6 hours apart for the sore throat.    If the croup indications continue, take Aconite and Hepar Sulphur alternately.  I will send you some Spongia, put 1 powder in 4 spoonsful of water and take 1 spoonful at a dose half an hour apart in the morning if you are threatened with croup.  Then in six hours take the Belladonna as directed above, if the throat is sore only and no croup, leave out the Spongia.   Be careful to keep the mouth closed and breathe through the nose when out of doors.  I hope you will soon be better.

Julia Jefferson Espy’s Funeral Cortege, 1901

Interestingly, Julia seldom used the word “Mother” in any of its forms to sign the weekly letters to her children.  Occasionally, she did use “Mama” but even that was followed  using her full name, “J. A. Espy.”  And, if she had not included specific health news about any of the family members, her final line before closing was, “We are as usual.”


Oysterville Tradition Alive & Well!

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2022

A Thirsty After-Vespers Crowd at the Oysterville Lemonade Stand

As the adults spilled out of the Oysterville Church a few Vesper Sundays ago, they were greeted by the youngest generations of village entrepreneurs — my Red House Cousins of  the Alpha Generation and Generation Z (the “Zoomers”) — otherwise known as Oysterville’s Sixth  Espy Generation.  They had set up their lemonade stand right across from the exiting hoards, just as their parents had done years ago.  And probably their grandparents before that.

They were doing a booming business — especially with the Blackberry Lemonade.  “We picked the blackberries ourselves!” we were told.  I was mortified that I didn’t have any money with me.  “That’s okay.  You can have some anyway,” they chorused.

Red House Cousins’ Lemonade Sign from 2013

I demurred.  They had a lineup of thirsty buyers and I thought it would be yet another family story if Cousin Sydney got a freebie that could have been sold at the going rate — $1.00 a glass.  Besides, I really enjoyed watching their casual salesmanship (it was all about the blackberries!) and their even more casual handling of the cash flow.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the next generations — Beta and Gamma — will be using Bitcoin or some sort of cryptocurrency as yet unnamed.  Or perhaps they’ll just take plastic.  But it probably goes without saying that the blackberries will still be picked by hand and the cousins will still be full of giggles at their accomplishments!  And the lemonade will still be Oysterville’s finest!

Taking history too seriously? Guilty!

Friday, June 3rd, 2022

A Composite Map of Historic Oysterville

There are several things I tend to take too seriously — history, my family (and its history), and myself (when it comes to history and my family.)  As Dorcas-the-Postmistress said in “Larkrise to Candleford” — it’s my one weakness.  Of course, like Dorcas, I have been know to claim different things to be “my one weakness.”

I gave that weakness considerable thought when reading my friend David Campiche’s article in Wednesday’s paper.  It was the lead story in the second section of the Observer and was titled “QUEEN OF HEARTS – The Oysterville Spring Garden Tour.”  It began full of soft-sounding sentences and descriptive adjectives creating a lush gardeny mood — the kind of writing David does best.

But then came the sentence: “Isn’t Oysterville a delight, always a delight, always Grandpapa Espy’s road that leads to where?” Huh?  I read it again.  My grandfather was Harry Espy.  His seven children all called him “Papa” as did his grandchildren.  No one to my knowledge called him Grandpapa.  Or maybe David meant R.H. Espy, co-founder of Oysterville and my great-grandfather.  But no.  He was a stern, matter-of-fact man, already 44 years old when the first of his eight children were born.  They called him “Father” and my mother’s generation called him “Grandfather.”

No.  There was no Grandpapa Espy in our family.  (Although it must be said, that my uncle Willard did use the term “Grandpa” in his book title, “Oysterville: The Roads to Grandpa’s Village.”  Hard to say if the title was his idea or Clarkson Potter’s or even the marketing folks.  Publishers do put their feet down now and then.)

Perhaps David is thinking of another Espy — though he makes a clear connection to Oysterville.  Or perhaps it’s wishful thinking on his part — wanting an Oysterville “Grandpapa” of his own.  Go figure.

Nyel with Territory Road Sign

And what is this “Grandpapa’s road” of which he speaks?  Or “Fifth Street” for that matter?  We’ve never had a “Fifth Street.”  Fourth Street, yes.  It was once the name of present-day Territory Road — so named when we became a National Historic District.  Proceeding east, toward the bay were Main Street (which still exists), First Street (now reverted to meadowland) and Front Street which my mother said was built mostly on pilings and was devoted to marine-related businesses such as sail-makers and boat-builders.  That street has, indeed, been taken by the tides — but only one as far as I have seen documented; not four as David would have us believe.

All-in-all it was a charming article — flowery like the garden tour David described.  But, in my mind, a bit of a mis-representation of both my family and the village that I have known for all my life.

My Mother — The Fourth Espy Girl

Monday, February 21st, 2022

Medora, 1915

Of the four daughters of Helen and Harry Espy of Oysterville, my mother was the youngest.  Oldest was Medora (1899-1916), then Suzita (1903-1932), then Muriel who we all knew as Mona (1904-1970).  Only Mona was still living when I was born and it goes without saying that I knew her best. Although…  after spending a number of years with Medora’s letters and diaries and then writing Dear Medora, Child of Oysterville’s Forgotten Years (WSU Press, 2007) perhaps it was teenaged Medora I knew the best.

Each of the four had distinctive characteristics.  Medora was steadfast, practical, responsible — called by her mother:  “Mama’s  strong right-hand.”  My grandmother wrote this poem in her scrapbook after Medora’s death:


Dear helping hands that led,
Down life’s thorn strewn way.
Dear loving hands that fed,
The wants of every day.

Now in my greater need
And loneliness for thee
Dear gentle hands O, heed
The anguish of my plea.

Lean a bit across the strand
And lead me where you are
A beckon of your guiding hand
Will prove the gates ajar.

Suzita Espy, c. 1920

I always think of Suzita (or “Sue” as most of us called her) as a flapper (which she was) who married a rum runner (which she did).  My grandmother wrote this of her: “Suzita dashed into the world one bright July morning before I could even get my shoes off.  There is not a definite incident that seems to mark the memory of her – just her glowing personality and gorgeous eyes that won the hearts of all men from the time she was two years old.  She could achieve her own ends and dismiss obstacles like a magician.  Brighter than average, she bluffed her way through school – was asked by a teacher in the third grade once what a dumb waiter was.  ‘Mama is a waiter,’ she said, ‘she waits on everyone, but she isn’t dumb.’  Suzita – staunch, loyal, loving, reckless Sue, my beautiful red rose.”  Sue had several bouts of pneumonia during her life, finally dying of it four years before I was born and leaving two young sons, Wallace and Charles Pearson.

Mona circa 1946

Mona was tiny — maybe five feet tall — a practical nurse, an Eisenhower Republican, and taught me how to smoke and how to drink my coffee black.  (“You’ll always enjoy it that way, whether or not cream and sugar are available.”)  Of Mona, my grandmother wrote:

Little Mona, born the night Albert was taken ill – a two and a half pound wisp – had 75 convulsions in five days when five weeks old.  Up she came, frail, unstable, completely dominated by Suzita’s force and vividness.  Twice during her fourth year she had pneumonia, and had to learn to walk all over again.  It was about this period that she used to sleep with her hands over her ears “to keep the dreams out.”’  Always a pathetic hungry little creature unable to assimilate her surroundings.  At four she used to sit by the hour perched on the fence accosting every passer-by with “Hellow what you goin’ to do tomollow? ”

Dale c. 1928

I once overheard a conversation between my grandparents. the gist of which was that Mom had all the best qualities of each of her sisters.  Many years later, Mom told me that her folks had shared that thought with her, too.  Typically, she blew it off but I could tell that their expressing it meant the world to her.

About Aunt Dora and the Christmas Roast

Monday, December 27th, 2021

Dora Espy Wilson at 80, c. 1951

Leave it to my friend Maggie to remind me about my Great Aunt Dora’s story of the Christmas roast.  I mentioned it in my blog about holiday dinners “In The Best of Regulated Families” the other day and promised to tell about it later. Then, of course, I promptly forgot about it.  (My Forgetter is the best of all my faculties, bar none, these days!)

Well… Aunt Dora was my grandfather’s older sister.  When I was a child, the two of them were known as “the talkative Espys,” unlike their three surviving siblings (Will, Susie, and Cecil) who were “the silent Espys.”  Aunt Dora lived in Portland and when she came visiting, she and Papa would sit in our library and tell story after story about their early days in Old Oysterville.  Papa was said to talk about the saints, Aunt Dora, the sinners.  You don’t have to guess which stories I liked (and remember!) best.

I believe the events in “the roast story” occurred during my mother’s childhood, perhaps before she was born, but during that generation.  The various Espy siblings and their children had gathered here at the Red House (the “family seat”) for Christmas dinner.  The women were busy in the kitchen with last minute touches and beginning to carry the laden serving dishes to the dining room table.  Someone took the roast out of the oven, “done to a turn” said Aunt Dora, and finding no counter space available at the moment, set down the roasting pan, roast and all, on the kitchen floor.

Aunt Dora with Hilda and the Espy Girls, Mona, Joey, Freddy, Cassy – 1947

“One of the little boys — I don’t remember which — but a youngster about two or three years old, dashed into the kitchen just then,” said Aunt Dora.  “For some unknown reason, he pulled down his Christmas britches and tinkled right on that gorgeous roast!  We women all looked at one another in horror and then did the only sensible thing.  We pulled up the culprit’s rompers, sent him on his way, and transferred that gorgeous roast to the serving platter!”

At that point in the story, Aunt Dora would interrupt herself with her contagious chuckle and (every time we heard it) we asked, “And what did you do with the roast?”

“Ate it for dinner, of course,” she laughed.  “It was, after all, the main dish and a ‘culinary masterpiece’.  Everyone said so!  In fact, for years (at least until the story came out) everyone remarked on that being the best piece of beef they’d ever eaten!”  And we all laughed along with her, all the while looking at our uncles and cousins and wondering which of them that little boy had been…

And Cuzzin Ralph Got His Limit!

Tuesday, December 21st, 2021

Cheryl, Ralph, Syde, Nyel, Virg

Third cousins two times removed, Cheryl Kocher and her brother Ralph Jeffords, arrived yesterday with Cheryl’s husband, Virg.  It was SO great to see them!  It had been four-and-a-half years since we’d seen Ralph (who lives in Virginia) and a bit less than a year since we’d seen Virg and Cheryl who divide their time between Lacey and Manson here in Washington.  But even so…   This time we were unmasked, not very distanced, and not only had lunch together but spent the afternoon visiting and catching up.

It was one of those Virg-and-Cheryl-haven’t-changed-a-bit (probably in the 20 years we’ve known them) but OH THAT RALPH!  When he walked in the door Nyel immediately asked if he had come directly from the set of “Duck Dynasty.”  I said not a word.  I was too busy wondering which of our Mountain Men ancestors Ralph might be a throwback to.  (Probably a badly worded sentence — but you know what I mean.)

Nyel and Virg — Soup’s On!

I don’t even know if we have Mountain Men in our background, but if we do, Cuzzin-Ralph-the-family-genealogist is the one who would know.  Unfortunately, I never got around to broaching the subject.  We were too busy catching up with one another, eating Chef Nyel’s fabulous lunch — African Peanut Soup, fresh-out-of-the-oven sourdough rye bread, and green salad with pears — and just plain old basking in familiar company.

Later we sat swapping reminiscences in front of the library fire and Cheryl presented Nyel and me with Christmas socks and documented our visit with a few photos.  They left in time to hit the beach so Ralph could go clamming.  Later, another photo from Cheryl showing Cuzzin Ralph and his successful clam hunt results.  Yay!  Nyel says the photo should get a place of honor in the Family Gallery in our stairwell.  Great idea!

Cuzzin Ralph and Clams


But I just had it a minute ago…

Wednesday, December 1st, 2021

Senator H.A. Espy at his desk, 1911

It really is nuts-making.  Now that I am actually gathering together some final bits and pieces of things to take up to Ed Nolan at the Washington State Research Center, I cannot find Papa’s diary — the one written when he was sixteen in 1892/93.  The one telling about the Reverend Josiah Crouch’s stay in Oysterville!

Papa (aka Harry Albert Espy, my maternal grandfather) was an inveterate note-maker and diary-keeper.  I still have several of his diaries in my possession and have, at long last, decided that they need to join the other family papers in Tacoma.  The most important of the diaries, at least by my reckoning, is the one which includes his father’s 1913 statement about his trip across the Plains, his first months in  Pacific County, and his journey in 1854 with Isaac Clark to the shores of what is now Oysterville.

I also have my grandmother’s book of poems “Compiled and Arranged” in 1895 and 1896 and presented in a leather bound book to Harry, probably on the occasion of their engagement.  All in her gorgeous spidery handwriting and all credited to the poets she loved.  She told me long ago, before I was old enough to appreciate it, that she and Papa would sit under a favorite oak tree overlooking the Golden Gate (not the bridge — it wouldn’t be built for another 40 years) and read poetry to one another.  Do you think young couples do anything half so romantic today?

H. A. Espy Children, 1913

While I was madly searching for the missing diary, I ran across a news column, perhaps from the South Bend Journal, perhaps from 1912 or 1913.  It is titled Not For Sale and begins like this:

At the beginning of the school year of 1912’1913, a bright young family from Pacific county was moved into a quiet residence on a side street in Olympia, leaving the comforts of their own home, because the head of that home was called to spend sixty days of the coming winter in the State senate.
It was the family of our senator Espy.  He had rented or leased out his dairy farm to attend the duties of his office.
It would be no trifling matter for a young couple, graduates of the University of California, to have their children’s schooling broken into by a move into the capitol later, or for the family to be separated for a large part of the winter.
Also it takes great economy for any family to pay the prices the Olympians charge during “the Session” and comes out even on the salary allowed by the state.
So it is no wonder that Espy said, when we were last together, that he was uncertain whether he would run again or not…

It was interesting to read what the editor’s take on Papa’s situation was and even more interesting to speculate whether the family version of our history or the public version (at least this particular public version –there were many) was accurate.  There’s no telling what else I’ll run into while I continue the search for that diary.

I just know it’s here somewhere…  Mrs. Crouch, do you know anything about this?