Archive for the ‘From the Past’ Category

In Oysterville, it’s a “Medora Storm!”

Thursday, November 2nd, 2023

Elizabeth Ayer, Marie Strock, Medora Espy – 1912

I woke up a few minutes past three this morning.  The wind was huffing and puffing; the house creaking and groaning.  I wondered if we’d lose power.  I thought about all the storms this old village has withstood and I thought of my Aunt Medora’s letter written when she was 14 to her friends, Elizabeth Ayer and Marie Strock, in Olympia.

Wednesday, September 3, 1913
We are having a regular winter storm.  Do you know what a storm is?  Not an Oysterville one.  You see, we get it from both the ocean and the bay.  The wind has already knocked the remainder of our cherry tree down, the cupboard of dishes in Sue’s playhouse toppled over and consequently she will have to abandon her house till next summer; a great piece of the trimmings of our house blew off; apples and pears litter the ground.  It is a real storm!  The bay is covered with white caps, the water has covered our lower meadow, and you could almost go down the lane leading from our house to the bay in a dinghy.  To cap it all, it has rained night and day since Monday evening in regular torrents.  It is not an unusual storm.  The natives merely remark, “Sort of wet today.”

A good number to stop on!

Monday, October 2nd, 2023

My Great Grandfather R.H. Espy 

I’ve been giving my great-grandfather, Robert Hamilton Espy,  a bit of thought these last few days, primarily because I’ll be talking about him at the History Forum on Wednesday.  I do wish I “knew” him better.  Unlike my grandfather (Harry, or “Papa” as his family all called him) and my great Aunt Dora, old R.H. Espy was not a talker.  He was one of the “silent Espys” and most of his children were much the same.  Thank goodness for Papa and Aunt Dora, or my information about “the olden days” in Oysterville would be meager, indeed.

My grandmother did have one or two stories about R.H, though.  One occurred when he was well into his eighties and was using two canes.  He always sat in the front pew at church, the better to hear the preacher, but he often left early — especially if the sermon was not to his liking.  Of course, when he stumped up the aisle with his two canes, everything came to a halt until he left and peace and quiet reigned once more.

On the occasion that my grandmother remembered, R.H. stopped by the back pew in his exiting process  where Mrs. Sargant sat nursing her baby, surrounded by several others of her large family.  “What number is this?” bellowed R.H. (for, of course, he spoke loudly as deaf folks often do.}

“E-e-eleven, sir,” responded Mrs. Sargant, no doubt mortified at being singled out by the village patriarch..

“Eleven, is it?” R.H. said.  “Good number to stop on!  Good number to stop on!”  And she did!  (The babe’s name was Alice, a life-long friend of my mother’s.)

A Most Hopeless, Most Interesting Task!

Monday, September 18th, 2023

Ruth Dixon

I’m trying to clean out, consolidate and, in general, make sense of my files.  However, I’ve  all but given up after just two days.  The problem is, I saved these “gems” because they are just that and I’m just not ruthless enough to pitch and toss.  Just now, for instance I ran across a note from historian and journalist Ruth Dixon (1906- 2001) to my Uncle Willard, probably written to him when he was collecting information for his book, Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village.

Copied from the diary of Patterson Fletcher Luark, a pioneer of the vicinity of Westport:

Wednesday, Feb. 11,1863:
Went to lighthouse with team.  Found 7 or 8 men here from Bruceport pretending (?) to hunt for the body of Captain Wells; he and a stranger from Oregon in crossing from Bruceport on the 15th instant were both lost off Tokes Point.

From James A Gibbs Pacific Graveyard: Willapa Bay Light Station shows two lights. The shorter tower, proving too low and threatened by erosion, a higher tower was bult at right.

Friday, April 3, 1863:
The bodies of Capt. Wells and Cline, lost on the 15th of February off Tokes Point were found yesterday and today.
(Mr. Luark refers to giving Mrs. Wells a ride to his house for a visit, or returning her home.  They seemed to be very good friends.)

This is just a few of the tidbits I have, but not knowing just what you lack, and what you have, this will give you some idea.

Our history is so lacy — full of holes, it is a great feeling to be able to smooth it out a bit.

Thank] you for writing.

And, yes, please do send me a copy of Isaac’s letter.  [Isaac Clark, ss ]  Quite a few members of the family (mostly Wilsons) are collecting data, and I enjoy helping, and sharing.

The information about the July 4, 1872 boat race will be so welcome.

Signed [Ruth Dixon]



The last time I saw Spud and Mary…

Monday, September 11th, 2023

Spud Siegel and Mary Flower

Yesterday’s House Concert with Mary Flower, Spud Siegel and Doc Stein was perfect in every single way.  Mary, described by Hipfish as a “Finger Picking Artist” and Spud, mandolin (and pocket trumpet!) player extraordinaire, were everything the audience expected and more.

Doc, came as a complete surprise.  He apparently often plays with them and, as Spud said, “Mary wanted him to join us.”  It didn’t take long for the audience to understand why.  The three not only speak the same language musically.  The byplay among them kept us all laughing and wanting more! more! more!

Spud, Mary, and Doc September 10, 2023

Spud and Mary have done a House Concert here before which, I am chagrinned to say I do not remember at all, though at least two audience members assured me that they were here for it.  And since they came from Yakima and from Vancouver this time, specifically to see them again, I could only conclude that I am, indeed, losing it.

Today I spent a bit of time going back in our guest books to see if I could track down that concert. Yes!!   Spud and Mary were here on April 26, 2009 but I’m not at all sure Nyel and I were.  My usual House Concert heading naming artists and date  is not there — only signatures indicating a full house with a note from Brigid saying:  We are headed for New Orleans this Thursday.  This was the PERFECT warm up – Thanks to Mary F.

I can only think that I was in the hospital with Nyel on that occasion and that someone else hosted in our place.  Or… more likely, my mind has finally gone into overload mode.  I did count and found that there have been 106 House Concerts here since the first one Nyel and I hosted on January 28, 2001 with Irish Fiddler Randal Bays.


And, I did count and found that Spud has done six concerts here (counting that one with Mary that I’ve spaced) — most of them with David “Crabbo” Crabtree who used to play with him at the Ark and, before that, at the Shelburne when Nanci and Jimella had the restaurant there in 1981.  We remember one another from way back then…

How lucky I am to have so many fine musicians in my life.  And for so long, too!  I am rich beyond measure that I can count so many as friends.

“Sing me a song…”

Saturday, September 2nd, 2023

Marais and Miranda

I was so pleased that my friend Mary followed my blog suggestion yesterday and looked up Josef Marais’ song, “Pity the Poor Patat.”  She made no comment about it, but I was happy to know that someone “out there” had connected, perhaps for a first time, with Joseph Pesssach (1905-1978), a folk-singer from South Africa whose stage name was Joseph Marais.  For many years he sang with a partner and they were known as “Marais and Miranda” — and if you don’t remember them, you may be old enough to recall the Doris Day/Frankie Laine rendition of their song “A-round the Corner (beneath the berry tree}.”

I first learned of Marais and his music from my college roommate Sandra Peters (who, some years later, was to become my sister-in-law, making our children first cousins.)  Sandy came from a musical family, but more importantly to me, a rather quirky one.  Not only did she and her sister share an attic room with a pet bat (!), her dad played the musical saw and Sandy knew more off-the-grid folksongs than I’d ever heard of.

Sydney and Nyel – Wedding Picture 1987

However, it wasn’t until I met Nyel that all those songs (and more) came bubbling forth — perhaps because he said he didn’t sing (and, indeed, I never heard him do so — not even when standing beside me at church during the hymn-singing) — but he always asked me to sing!!  Me!  The one who can’t carry a tune in a bucket but remembers all the words — especially the kookie ones.

Mostly, his requests for “musical entertainment” came when we were on car trips.  Since I have always been pretty much night-blind, he would drive after dark and it was my “job” to keep him awake.  He didn’t seem to mind my tenuous tune-carrying and he enjoyed the lyrics — which often led to discussions about where I’d learned them, from whom, and about the years before we had met.  (It’s hard for me to believe that even as late-in-life as we did meet, by the time Nyel died, we had spent nearly half of our lifetimes together!)

Sydney and Nyel — Oysterville Sesquicentennial, 2004

It both amuses and pleases me that music was such a huge part of our lives, though both of us professed to a severe “lack” in that area of accomplishment.   But… I did follow my mother’s advice to “Make a joyful noise” and, somehow, ended up with the perfect appreciative partner!  And… back to yesterday’s potato patch discovery:  you can never tell what will trigger a song and a whole host of fabulous memories.  They don’t say “music makes the world go ’round” for nothing.


Ready! Set! Mark Your Calendars!

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2023

The Oysterville School 

Whether you’ve moved here recently or  your roots go deep into the past of Pacific County — or even if you are a wannabe resident, we hope you will join our HISTORY FORUM — a monthly gathering of folks who want to share their knowledge, find out more, and generally enjoy the bits and pieces of information we can glean about Pacific County’s past.  Here is what you need to know about our first get-together:

WHEN:  WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6TH (and every 1st Wednesday of the months Sept-May)
TIME:  10 A.M. – NOON

The Louisa Morrison, Oyster Schooner

SPEAKERS:  Linda LeClaire, Charlotte, Killien, Charles Funk(all of whom trace their Pacific County ancestry back to pre-settlement times
DISCUSSION: Wide open —  how it was back then;  how others of us got here; how those experiences were different.  Artifacts, pictures, old correspondence all welcome. 
If possible, please let me know at if you plan to come (and how many in your “party”) so we can arrange the seating appropriately.  And please feel free to “spread the word” to others who are interested in our history.This is a free event; there will be a donation basket toward upkeep of the Oysterville Schoolhouse.
Hope to see you there!
(From:  Sydney Stevens, Michael Lemeshko, Jim Sayce, Dayle Olson, David Olson, Kathleen Davies, Tucker Wachsmuth)

Let There Be Light!!

Tuesday, June 20th, 2023

My Grandmother’s Lamp

Oh how I wished my mother and my grandmother could have been with me this afternoon when I opened the door and saw the old light that Del had finished fixing today!  Never do I remember it looking so lovely.  I doubt that it ever did, even when it was newly electrified.  LEDs make all the difference — or so I am surmising.

I was off doing errands when Tucker and Del came over to finish up the job Del had begun last night.  I’m so sorry I missed the by-play between them — they talk a language that I almost understand and that always makes me laugh.  But, between the two of them, they seem to be able to fix almost anything — though Tucker concedes that Del is a better electrician.  I know for a fact that they both enjoy the challenge of figuring out why something won’t work properly and then finding (or inventing) a way to correct the situation!

Seeing the lamp all alight like this makes me wonder what  it looked like when it was lit by “gas” — or was it actually kerosene?  It must have been a softer light, perhaps showing off the hand-painted globe more gently.  But it couldn’t have been as spectacular as it is now!  Thanks, Del!  And Tucker, too!

I’m probably certifiable…

Monday, June 5th, 2023

Our House and Contents in Six Albums? Really?

Some years ago — maybe five or six — I went from room to room in our house photographing EVERYthing — furniture, paintings, knick-knacks, even the contents of some of the drawers and cupboards.  Then I printed out the photos, labeled them with identifications and explanations and placed them into scrapbooks — six of them.

My “labels” included the history of the house and how it had changed in the years since it was built in 1869.  My explanations also included the provenance of the furniture (much of which had been in the house for three generations) as well as what I knew of the paintings and photographs on the walls, the ‘collectibles’ and the tchotchkes and the things of no value to anyone except family members.

Every pink sticky note represents a correction. There are a gazillion of them.

When Charlie and Marta came the next summer, I shared the albums with them — probably proudly which was a bit of a downer as we found about a gazillion mistakes.  It undoubtedly comes as no surprise to anyone but me that I am just now getting around to “correcting” them.  Maybe I’ll have made inroads into the task by the time Marta and Charlie arrive this year — about three weeks from now.

“Why?” I ask myself,  “Who will really care?”  There will be no fourth generation in the house.  There will be no fifth generation grandchildren in my line.  But… somehow, the need to document (for posterity?) seems urgent.  So… wot the hell?  I’m on it!

Here we go meeting and greeting in May!

Saturday, May 27th, 2023

1964 H.A. Espy Family Reunion

I don’t know whether to celebrate our togetherness or to lament the burgeoning burden of bureaucracy here in our little village of Oysterville.  Time was when families got together on Memorial Day weekend to celebrate the end of winter, the beginning of sunshine and flowers, and just plain getting out of their long underwear for a while.

That was before my time, of course, but we still use our three-day holiday to get together.  Nowadays, the focus is meetings more than families — at least that has become the Saturday tradition on the Memorial Day weekend here in Oysterville. Those meetings began in 1977 or ’78 — soon after Oysterville was declared a National Historic District in 1976.  It was felt that the nuts and bolts of an organization to oversee the restoration of the church could best be worked out by the town at large.  And so the Memorial Day Saturday meetings of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation (ORF) were begun and have continued ever since — albeit by zoom during the Pandemic.

 When electricity came to Oysterville in 1936, our old hand pump became yard art.

When the Water Board was formed in the 1990s, it seemed natural that they, too, should report the year’s activities to their membership on Memorial Day Saturday.  Sometimes they went first (at 9:00 a.m.) and sometimes ORF went first.

And today, we added yet another meeting!  Tucker Wachsmuth held the first ever (that I know of) Annual Memorial Day Meeting of the Oysterville Cemetery Association.  A fitting date, I thought.  Like the other two meetings, it was well attended and the project described for the coming months was of great interest — locating boundaries and burials in the Pioneer Section of the Cemetery.

All-in-all, it was a full morning and another year of Oysterville business got underway!

Kerosene Lamp, Oysterville Church


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.