Archive for the ‘Oysterville Cemetery’ Category

Maybe it’s a sign… for Tucker?

Thursday, November 28th, 2019

New “Cemetary” Sign

When I saw the newly posted sign by the Oysterville Cemetery Road, I immediately thought of our neighbor, Tucker.  Not only is he the current president  of the Oysterville Cemetery Association, but he has an abiding interest in signs.  This one would a perfect addition to his sign collection!

Oysterville Cemetery

It is located just across the road from the large wooden “Oysterville Cemetery” sign which has been there for years.  The original one was done by Herman Eberhardt’s Boy Scout troop back in the 1950s or ’60s.  I think it’s been replaced at least once by the Oysterville Cemetery Association.  You’d think that the signage team might have noticed the discrepancy in spelling while they were installing the new marker.  But… apparently, not.

Once upon a time, Oysterville Road had another name…

I’m not sure if it’s State or County that bears the responsibility for the signs along the Oysterville Road.  Probably the County.  And, it probably falls to Tucker in his presidential capacity to call the Public Works Department (or whoever is in charge of signage) and asking them to correct their spelling error.  And, maybe — just maybe — since they will have to discard the incorrect sign, anyway — they will let him add it to his sign collection.

Come to think of it — I wonder if all the cemeteries in the County have been newly (and incorrectly) posted.  Further, I wonder if Tucker could successfully claim them all if nobody else wanted them.  After all, it’s not everyone who collects signs — especially those that have an interesting story.

Here’s hoping!

Our Cemetery on Davis Hill

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

“Oystervile Cemetery Sketches” by Marie Oesting

In yesterday’s Observer under “Dispatch Reports” is this small item:
“Aug. 13 — At 8:47 a.m. it was reported that an older woman had been missing since 7 p.m. the night before.  At 8:52 a.m. she was found at the Oysterville Cemetery.  She had allegedly fallen and broken her hip and had been outside all night.”

I spoke about that report to a few folks here in town but no-one had heard anything about the situation — not about an overnight guest in the cemetery, not about an alleged broken hip, and not about an older woman who had gone missing the night of August 12th.  In addition to concern for this unknown woman, my thoughts went to my Uncle Willard Espy and his relationship to our quiet old resting place on Davis Hill.

Willard Espy, Raconteur

In his book Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village, Willard wrote: When I visit Oysterville now, my first impulse is to stop by the cemetery on the ridge, where through a hole among the spruce trees I can watch the slow breathing of the bay, six hours in and six hours out.  I pause by the gravestones — of grandpa and grandma and Aunt Kate; of papa and mama; of Nahcati and nameless sailors whose bodies washed ashore long ago; and I feel very much at home.

“Skulduggery on Shoalwater Bay” by Willard R. Espy

That was written in 1976.  Some twenty years later he wrote Skulduggery on Shoalwater Bay (Whispered Up from the Graves of the Pioneers) — a book of poetry in which the speakers, long buried in our cemetery, tell of their lives during the early days of Pacific County.  A fabulous book with an unusual presentation of our local history.

Now, of course, Willard, himself, is among his beloved family members in the Espy plot.  I couldn’t help wondering if the unfortunate woman who spent the night up there had been favored with a conversation with Willard.  Or, for that matter, with any of the other denizens who rest on Davis Hill.

Another Oysterville Meeting

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Special School Board Meeting, 1912

It is a long-standing joke in Oysterville that many of our most productive “meetings” happen in the street.  Often, these gatherings occur while we are on our way to or from the Post Office.  A neighbor’s car slows and stops next to you as you stroll down Territory Road or, perhaps, two cars stop – one coming, one going – so that drivers can have a chat through open windows. Lots of big decisions are made that way –like when to convene for a picnic or whether a whiffle golf game will begin sooner rather than later.

If a vehicle is involved in the “meeting” chances are that traffic clots up a bit.  Locals know to “just go around,” perhaps pausing for a moment (if there’s room for three cars abreast) to join the conversation.  Visitors are amazingly patient, sometimes even joining into the discussion.  I often think that those encounters are one of the few remaining vestiges of true village life.

Espy Plot, Memorial Day at the Oysterville Cemetery

Yesterday, as we were getting ready to go up to the cemetery with our flowers, a huge RV with Montana license plates pulled over in front of the house and the passenger rolled down her window and spoke to Nyel.  I was soon summoned and the driver introduced himself to me:  “Hi.  I’m Isaac Clark’s great-great-grandson,” he said.  Wow!  “And I’m Robert Espy’s great-granddaughter,” I responded.  Imagine!  All these years later, Espy and Clark’s descendants meeting in the town the two friends had founded back in 1854!

We chatted.  A few cars waited patiently to get by.  Ben didn’t know that Isaac Clark had married a second time and that he had half-cousins right here on the Peninsula!  A few more cars joined the queue.  Hurriedly, I got their email address.  “We’ll be in touch,” we said.  And the traffic moved on, everyone waving and smiling as if they knew that the generations had converged right before their very eyes.  It was just “that” kind of day in Oysterville – sunny, breezy, friendly feeling.  The best kind of day for a street meeting.

I.A. Clark’s Tombstone, Oysterville Cemetery

As Nyel and I distributed our flowers around the Espy tombstones, I took a moment to tell old R.H. about our encounter and mentioned it, also, to Isaac as we passed by.  I hope they were pleased that two more of their descendants have made contact!  We certainly are.

Great Aunt Verona

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Mossy Marker

As I scrubbed the moss from her gravestone, I idly wondered if everyone had a ‘Great Aunt Verona’ – a forebear shrouded in mystery, beloved yet not much talked about.  She was the eighth and youngest of R.H. and Julia Espy’s children, and although my mother and her brothers and sisters remembered her, no one spoke about her much.

She was born in 1889 here in Oysterville, as far as I know an unremarkable birth.  She was named Ida Laura Verona and, although her mother referred to her in letters to the older children as “Laura,” the rest of the family always called her Verona.  Only the name ‘Verona Espy’ appears on the tombstone that was placed over her grave in 1923 – perhaps because her mother was no longer living and couldn’t have her say. I don’t really know.

Aunt Verona – c. 1900

The references to her in that early correspondence indicate that she was a spirited little girl, perhaps slow to talk or to pronounce words correctly.  One of the family stories concerns three-year-old Verona and her older sisters meeting their mother at the train in Nahcotta.   Julia had been in Portland for a few weeks and Verona apparently was quite upset that she came home in a new “set.”  A year or so later, Julia wrote to the older children, “Ida says to tell you that she can now say “dess” instead of “set.”

When Julia died (at 49 of a cerebral hemorrhage) in 1901, Verona moved to Portland with her twenty-three-year-old sister Susie.  From that time on she lived with one of her sisters or with other relatives and grew progressively worse from a disease which was subsequently described as “similar to multiple sclerosis.”  In later years, she lived with a companion/nurse and, as far as I can tell from contemporary correspondence, was doted on by family and friends.  I want to make some Butter Scotch for Verona, as she is so fond of homemade candy and does not get any, my grandmother wrote in 1908.  And another time, Remember to send Verona a card.

At The Oysterville Cemetery

There was more moss on Verona’s stone than on any of the others.  The logical reason is that her grave is the most northerly in the Espy lot and is often shaded by the stand of spruce trees nearby.  But, as I peeled back the soft, encroaching layers to reveal the lettering on the old grave marker, I couldn’t help but think that it was wrapping Verona’s memory in a protective layer – much as the family safeguarded and nurtured her when she was living.  I had mixed feelings about leaving the gravestone bright and shiny…

How can we help?

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

Espy Lot

My thoughts are a bit of a jumble this morning.  Our early coffee conversation concerned our plan to go up to the cemetery this morning to clean up the Espy Lot – general tidying, picking up any recent blow-down, and cleaning off the accumulated moss and dirt on the gravestones there.  We talked about the tools we need and I checked our list against several online sites concerning care and preservation of old tombstones.  We began to gather our cleaning implements – spray bottles of clear water, natural-bristle brushes, non-metal scrapers and spatulas.

With my second cup of coffee, I checked out emails and FaceBook messages as I thought about my morning blog… But the day came to a screeching halt when I read our friend Erin Glenn’s entry written “14 hours ago.”  I reprint it here in its entirety:

Liberty and Justice for All ….

The propaganda on the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement website is appalling and their efforts to silence people from speaking out against these crimes against humanity is unbelievable. It is a disgrace to be an American right now and to live in this country, with such a horrible, horrible person governing our beautiful Nation. Another friend taken from our community today…

The person’s house was staked out, he was stalked and followed and then arrested. This is what ICE does when they do not have a warrant, when there is no official reason to arrest an immigrant. This person is in no way shape or form a threat to national security and is the father of four American children.

Internet Image

Suddenly, cleaning up our monuments to the dead seems like a rather useless endeavor.  The problems at our little cemetery pale in comparison to the terrifying troubles threatening friends and neighbors in our community.  How can we help?  Is there information to be found on the internet? What tools can we gather?  And where do we go?

My thoughts are a-jumble and all I can think to do is to contact Erin and other folks who might know better than I how to proceed.  What did my grandparents do back in 1942 when their friends and business associates, Ira and Jeff Murakami, who owned Eagle Rock Cannery, were interned (“relocated”) under FDR’s Executive Order 9066?  Clear back in 1935, my grandmother had written to her son Willard who was in New York:           

Jeff and Ira Murakam c. 1930s

As to the Japanese problem, most stand with the whites tho justice points clearly in the opposite direction…       We of course are in an uncomfortable situation.  No sentiment has broken directly upon us as yet but doubtless there is a lot of rumbling about our having leased to Eagle Rock…  The paper stated that Pa was going to try the case soon coming to court, but this thank goodness is not true.  He was asked by the Japanese to take their case (they have their own lawyers) but he excused himself on the ground of being “prejudiced.”

I hate it that history repeats itself.  I hate I that I feel helpless.  I hate it that this is happening

Which alias this time?

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

We are trying to do our ‘due diligence’ concerning our end days – the things my mother often referred to as her “dying plans.”  Hers usually involved tidying up her bureau drawers if she was going on a trip.  Ours veer more toward Advanced Directives and other scary documents.  And also, our gravestones.

We have friends, alive and well and younger than we are, who have already placed their tombstone in the cemetery, complete except for death dates.  I think it’s a great idea – saves a lot of angst for the next generation and, if being memorialized at the cemetery is important to you – it is to me; Nyel not so much – then you are assured that it is a done deal.

Larry Weathers Drawing

However, I’ve been dragging my feet because I’m not sure how to account for my various names.  I want to include Medora as my middle name because of the family connection.  Ditto my maiden name, Little.  Then there’s Howell that will make the connection with my son, Charles Howell.  Also, I need to include LaRue, the name by which I was known for almost 20 years and under which I wrote my first published books.  Plus, if my step-daughter Marta LaRue decides to make the Oysterville Cemetery her final resting place, that connection will be clear.  So far, a neat and tidy solution to all that name placement hasn’t manifested itself.

While I’ve been wrestling with my many former names, I’ve also been running into name/password problems related to my new computer.  I feel like I have a dozen aliases and suddenly don’t know which to use where.  I’ve been getting “Locked Out” a lot.  Many people tell me that they use the same password for everything so they can remember it and personal privacy be damned.  They are of the opinion that there isn’t such a thing anymore, anyway.  I tend to agree.

Certainly, after I’m dead and gone, the question of my privacy will be moot.  Maybe I should include all those computer aliases on my grave marker, too.  After all, someone somewhere identifies me as a series of alphanumeric characters (at least one capital letter, don’t forget)…  What do all those spies do?  Do their aliases die with them?  Seems a shame.

The Changing of the Guard

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Entrance, Oysterville Cemetery

While the world’s attention is drawn toward ‘the other Washington’ and the handover of our nation’s perch of power, Oysterville has been undergoing its own changing of the guard. Not that many folks necessarily care.  Or even notice.  For the first time in more than thirty years, we have new officers, new interest, and new energy to direct toward our peaceful little graveyard on Davis Hill.

The Oysterville Cemetery Association met last April to elect new Board members and plan for a transition of responsibilities to take place in 2017.  We met again last week to coordinate our maps, review the plot ownerships, and talk about future needs.  Meetings will continue for a bit – there are signature cards at the bank to deal with.  And at the post office.  And there is information to convey to local mortuaries, to the State of Washington, and to others concerned with the operation and maintenance of the cemetery.

Part of Old Linen Cemetery Map c. 1870s

Outgoing president Ron Biggs has walked new president Tucker Wachsmuth through both the old and new sections of the cemetery showing him the boundary markers for plots and lots.  He explained what needs to be done when Mortician Ron Hylton calls to ask that a gravesite be staked out for an upcoming burial.  I, as outgoing Secretary/Treasurer, have been meeting with Kitt Fleming, my replacement, to go over legalities of lot sales, bank balances and investments, correspondence, and other paperwork necessities.

We’re talking about the physical clean-up that needs to be done each year – after the storms of winter are over but before the annual Memorial Day tribute.  In recent memory – as in the last three or four decades – Corky and Ronnie Biggs (but especially Corky) have spent many a late winter day gathering and raking up the blow-down of winter and disposing of pickup truck-loads at their burn pile.  “How about a community work party in March or April?” suggested Kitt.

Yes!  Great idea!  For as fractured as the living community of Oysterville seems these days, there are still more of us with loved ones in the cemetery than not, and an even greater number who have purchased lots in preparation for their own eventualities.  It seems odd to think that we might agree more on the conditions surrounding our eternity than we do about our day-to-day living situations.  It’s a thought worth pondering…

Where have all the flowers gone?

Saturday, May 28th, 2016
Memorial Day 2009 - Oysterville Cemetery

Memorial Day 2012 – Oysterville Cemetery

There’s something ironic about not having flowers in the garden ready-for-the-picking on this particular weekend of the year.  Today (the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend) is traditionally the day we take flowers to the cemetery.  For the first time in the thirty-eight years I’ve been decorating our family’s graves, we have no flowers in the garden.  None.

Not that they’ve “gone to young girls, every one.”  Not like in Pete Seeger’s lyrics.  They have simply finished their blooming several weeks earlier than usual.  And now we are hard pressed to find anything at all beyond greenery.  And, believe me, our cemetery has plenty of that already.  In fact, it’s the splash of color midst all the evergreens on “Decoration Day” that makes the statement of remembrance special.

I took a walk around the garden yesterday, stewing about the dilemma.  Should we actually go and buy flowers?  It seemed wrong somehow.  Like commercializing the day.  Bad enough that we’ve managed to take spirit out of every other holiday we celebrate.  Somehow, this one day of remembrance should be honored with a little effort and ingenuity – not by throwing money at it.

"That Bush"

“That Bush”

And then my eyes fixed themselves on “that bush.”  We don’t know what it is.  It grows just at the southeast corner of the house.  It’s been there all my life.  I’ve always thought that my grandmother planted it in the 1920s but it could have been planted by Tom Crellin and his wife back in the 1870s.  Or maybe even by a Baptist preacher back when this was the parsonage.  The defining thing about it right this minute is that it’s yellow.  Bright lemony yellow!  The only spot of non-green in our garden.

I’ve been thinking for some time that we really need to trim “that bush.”  What could be better than to arrange the trimmings in our Memorial Day containers and take that bit of sunshine up to the Espy family plot?  So… that’s the plan for this afternoon.  “Gone to graveyards, everyone”…

See you at the church on Saturday?

Monday, April 4th, 2016

2009 10 19_0154 WANTED:  Interested community volunteers to join the Oysterville Cemetery Association and, perhaps, to serve on the Cemetery Board.  It’s not the sexiest job in the world.  On the other hand, it isn’t very demanding either.  A concerted search has revealed minutes from our last meeting — dated 1986!   Our ‘clients’ don’t complain and, as long as the work gets done, everyone seems at peace.

Back in the early ’60s (1860s, that is) F.C. Davis donated an acre of his land to be used as Oysterville’s burying ground. For the next hundred years, the residents of Oysterville looked after the graves of their loved ones, saw to it that the unknown sailors who washed up on our beaches were given a decent burial and a place to rest for eternity, and trusted to the local mortician to keep track of things.  Except for cleaning up the gravesites (a springtime community effort) there was never ‘much doin’ in the Cemetery.

Stevens GraveThen, in the mid-’60s (the 1960s, this time) when Cecil Espy retired from his banking career in Portland and moved back here to the house in which he was born, he took it upon himself to “clean up the Cemetery grounds.”  With a small hand scythe he cut the waist-high grass that had grown around and over the gravestones and carefully brought the cemetery up to his high standard of appearance.  He gathered up the bits and pieces of deeds and sales records and the old linen map and, as he aged, began to think of the Cemetery as his own.

In the late seventies, when Uncle Cecil could no longer do the physical labor, the neighbors began to talk about the future of the little graveyard on Davis Hill.  They formed a Cemetery Association — the initial membership list looks like a roll call of those now buried on the site they so lovingly tended.  Some of us are still at it, but we are getting long in the tooth, ourselves.  It’s time for us to look for newer, younger volunteers to take over.

2009 10 19_0049With that in mind, we are holding a meeting of the Oysterville Cemetery Association this Saturday, April 9th at the Oysterville Church.   Residents of the community are urged to attend.  There are no “pre-requisites” for joining us — only a love of our quiet little ‘final resting place’ and an interest in continuing the work that was started more than 150 years ago.

Please join us at 10:00 Saturday morning (April 9th) at the Oysterville Church to help us in this important “regrouping” effort.  Oh… and in case you need a little more enticement, coffee and cookies will be served!









Division of Labor

Friday, March 25th, 2016
Oysterville Cemetery - Looking North from Stevens' Plot

Oysterville Cemetery – Looking North from Stevens’ Plot

We drove up to the cemetery yesterday to see how it was looking now that the huge spruce tree has been removed.  There is still a lot of blowdown, but the north end of the pioneer section looks fabulous – better than it has in many months.  Dead tree limbs and twigs that litter the cemetery after winter storms have been gathered up into six or seven neat piles – about a pickup load each – and await a trip to the dump. (Volunteers, take note!  Feel free to help out by taking a pile!)

Contrary to popular belief, there have been no invisible just-come-out-at-night cemetery elves at work here.  The cleanup can be attributed almost entirely to Corky and Ron Biggs.  They have put in hours and hours of work raking, hauling, and tidying.  They’ve been doing it for years but it has taken the magical transformation following our tree disaster to make their work really obvious.  They are definitely the unsung heroes of the Oysterville Cemetery.

Stevens' Marker, Knocked Off Its Base

Stevens’ Marker, Knocked Off Its Base

For almost three decades, Ron has served as President of the Oysterville Cemetery Association.  As such, he signs deeds and other important documents, but mostly he handles the physical aspects of cemetery stewardship.  When it comes time for a burial, it’s Ron who stakes out the plot so that Penttila’s will know the correct location.  When the road around the perimeter gets rutted, it’s Ron who arranges to get the gravel and, usually, it’s Ron who’s up there with his shovel doing the necessary road work.

Once, when we had a vacancy on the Cemetery Board, I suggested that Ron’s wife, Corky, might fill the position.  “Why would you do that?” she asked.  “As long as you have Ron, you get me, anyway!”  And, that is the absolute understatement of all time.  Often, it’s Corky who goes up to the cemetery after a storm to check it out.  She’s usually the one who spots a problem and sees to it that it gets fixed.  And, if there were medals for Cleaner-Upper Extraordinaire, Corky would have a trophy case full of them.

Fence Remnants Hidden in Salal

Fence Remnants Found Hidden in Salal

What’s even more impressive to me is that Corky never ever says a word about what she’s done.  Ron brags on her a little, sometimes, as a good husband should!  But, I doubt that the general public has a clue about her efforts over the years.  If you see her, you might tell her “thank you.”  But, knowing Corky, she’d be more pleased if you just pitched in and helped.  There’s more blowdown to gather at the south end of the cemetery.  And, if you have a truck and a little time, there are all those piles that need to be taken away.