Archive for the ‘Oysterville National Historic District’ Category

Fun With The Angora Hiking Club!

Sunday, February 4th, 2024

February 4, 2024

If you want to biggest surprises and the most amazing fun:  don’t do your homework!  This is the antithesis of every bit of advice I followed as a student or gave to youngsters in my 39 years as a classroom teacher.  But I can only say, that yesterday was one of the best I’ve had for a long time and it all came as one of those early morning senior moment surprises.  As in, Yikes!  “I think I’m scheduled to give a talk at the church today!  In an hour!”

I scurried.  I took time to look at the communications I’d had with a very nice-sounding man named Eric Wheeler who first emailed me two years ago.  He identified himself as an architectural historian and was inquiring if I’d speak to his hiking group when they came here on a walking tour of Oysterville.  “I  be happy to do that,” said I, but with one thing and another the trip was postponed until yesterday.  I put it on my calendar.  There were lots of uncertainties as there often are in such arrangements — as in what would the weather be like, how many would be in the group (anywhere from 10 to 20+) and would I give them an overview of Oysterville’s history — as much time as I needed.

I thought last week that I’d take a few minutes to decide which fun facts and stories I wanted to tell but, as is often the case with such lofty plans, the week got away from me.  And here it was  8:55 Sunday morning, me still in bathrobe… I rushed over to the church to see if I needed to turn on the heat.  No.  The day was perfect walking tour weather — blue sky, puffy clouds, slight breeze.  “They aren’t going to want to spend much time listening to me in the church,” was my relieved thought.  And I dashed home to get ready.  A text from Eric said to expect about 20 people.

R.H. Espy House, 1872

Somehow I thought they’d all be from Astoria, so when one of the first arrivals walked up to the church porch while I was waiting, I didn’t even recognize my friend Cathy.  Never mind that we had enjoyed coffee together at Colleen’s the previous Wednesday!  The cars kept coming and when we gathered inside the church, the pews were about three-quarters full.  I didn’t do a head count but I think there were at least 30 folks there and they were fun from the very get-go.  I rattled on, trying to stick to the essentials but… those stories just came bubbling forth!  As did questions from the group! I think I talked for closer to an hour rather than for the suggested 20 minutes and even so, the questions kept coming.  Several people even bought my books about Oysterville!  Wow! ( And when I explained that “O is for Oysterville” is NOT a children’s book, despite title and format, several of the buyers (guys!)  asked why it didn’t come with a set of color crayons!”  (It was THAT sort of group!!!  Just my sort!)

And all the while, I really didn’t know who these great people were, though I did hear the name ‘Angora Hiking Club’ mentioned.  Later, when I Googled them this is what I found:  The Angora Hiking Club was founded July 4, 1920 on the summit of Saddle Mountain. Its purpose is to bring outdoor enthusiasts together to explore the beautiful north Oregon coastal region, and encourage good stewardship for the land.   They’ve been around for a hundred years and I’ve been oblivious!  OMG!  And as I looked a little further, I found that they meet just about every week and visit fabulously interesting places — some real treks, some historically significant, some quirky or just for fun!  What a great group!  I’m so glad Eric contacted me and I hope they had half as much fun yesterday as I did!

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


When the shoe is on the other foot…

Thursday, August 25th, 2022

Freelance Writer Katherine Lacaze of Seaside

Today, Tucker and I were interviewed for Our Coast magazine by freelance writer Katherine Lacaze.  She had contacted me some days ago by email, indicating that she was interested in “looking into how Oysterville has evolved over the years and… how the status as a National Historic District impacts the lifestyle and culture in the town…”  She also asked if there might be someone else she might talk to while she was here.  And so… here we were.

I’m not always eager to give interviews.  I’ve found, over the years, that writers coming to Oysterville often have agendas of their own and what we say to them is not always reported accurately — at least from our point of view.  It makes me gun shy.

2022 Regatta – Photo by Vicki Carter

On the other hand, I’m well aware of the difficulties in translating an interview into a cohesive story — one that will hold up in print, remaining true to the intent of both the interviewee and the writer.  Been there, done that, and it isn’t always easy.  Both the speaker and the writer bring far more to the interview than words can easily convey and it’s the rare occasion when everyone is happy with the outcome.

All I can say about today’s experience is that, for me at least, it was one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve experienced in a long time.  Katherine made it easy.  She asked good questions — questions that made us think.  “What makes Oysterville, Oysterville?” she said as she was wrapping things up.  Yes!  What does?

And, of course, sharing that bright interview spotlight with Tucker made the time fly by.  (Two hours?  Really??)  We both got to telling stories, sharing memories, and recalling the parts of Oysterville that we miss as the twenty-first century gallops along.  It will be interesting to see how Katherine weaves it all into the Oysterville article she has in mind.  Stay tuned…

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.

Oysterville’s Oyster Shell Telegraph!

Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

Oysterville Sea Farms, 2015 — A Bob Duke Photo

The Oyster Shell Telegraph has been working overtime here in the village.  Rumors have been flying — all about Oysterville Sea Farms!  Perhaps you have heard some of them, yourselves:

Dan is selling the business.
Oysterville Sea Farms has been leased.
Dan and Linda are moving!

So on Saturday… I messaged the source — our shouldabeen County Commissioner, Dan Driscoll —  and asked him flat out.

Northern Oyster Company 1940s

“Yes to all the above,” he said.  “Things are still developing.  Since OSF is no longer my story—I am leaving the telling of this story to new management. Linda and I are in Portland right now. The new management is running OSF tomorrow.  If you want, I can message you and the new manager and you can ask her any questions you have about OSF.”

I didn’t take him up on his offer.  I figured it would be better to come to grips with the news first.  “The Cannery” as we old-timers have called the building and the business(es) that it has housed, has been the northernmost anchor to Oysterville since 1939.  I was three that year when Dan’s grandfather, Ted Holway, along with Roy Kemmer and Glen Heckes, bought Eddie Sherwood’s Opening House and began the Northern Oyster Company.  After the Company moved to Nahcotta, Dan and his dad, Les Driscoll, sold fresh oysters there during summer vacations.  And, eventually, Dan started Oysterville Sea Farms, refurbishing the old cannery site and bringing the weathered buildings back to life.

From Dan’s FB Page!

Dan took well deserved pride in the fact that his was the last business in Oysterville that reflected the town’s beginnings.  He carried on the tradition of hiring locals to work out on the beds and in his tiny retail outlet, blending the old traditions with the up-to-date demands of his customers.  Next to Oysterville’s iconic old church, Oysterville Sea Farms was, without a doubt, the most popular place in town.

Yesterday I had an “Oysterville Visit” out on the street with my neighbor, Sue, who happens to be Dan’s aunt. And today I talked with  few more of the neighbors.  The Oyster Shell Telegraph continues to clicklety clack on the subject of Oysterville Sea Farms.  (Is it really going to be called Willapa Wild?)  Stay tuned…





The Blurry Edges of Memory… and History

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Emmett Oliver

Many of us who live within the Oysterville Historic District were somewhat dumbstruck a few weeks ago when we read our erstwhile neighbor Nancy Lloyd’s Observer article, “Ah, Oysterville: Small Skirmishes in a Coastal Village.”  Perhaps you felt the effect of all of us gasping at the same time – it sorta sucked all of the Peninsula’s air northward.

Those of us who still live here don’t remember the “skirmish” quite the way Nancy described it.  In fact, we don’t really remember a skirmish at all.  It may be one of those in-the-eye-of-the-beholder things, but even so…  If the incident Nancy speaks of is the one I was directly involved in, her version and mine are the proverbial apples and oranges.

Johnson House to left (south) of Oysterville Baptist Church c. 1902

The way I (and several others) remember the story, it began some twenty-five years ago, back in the mid-nineties.  Emmett Oliver (1914-2016),  was a Quinault elder and an educator and a friend.  Most pertinent to this remembrance, he was a descendant of James and Cecile Haguet Johnson who lived in Oysterville from 1870 to 1896.  Emmett felt strongly that the place where they had lived should be recognized in some way and he approached the Oysterville Restoration Foundation (ORF) to see what could be done.

They were not responsive, mostly because they felt (perhaps understandably) that they couldn’t honor just one once-upon-a-time family.  Where would it all end?  Emmett was insistent.  “That was where Myrtle Johnson Woodcock was born,” he said.  “The last princess of Oysterville,” he said.  To no avail.

Somehow, perhaps because I was a fellow-educator, he came to see me where Nyel and I then lived on the bay just south of the Oysterville Historic District.  “Will you help me?” he asked.  I had long felt uncomfortable that Oysterville had not given so much as lip service to  the Indians who had lived here, albeit seasonally, for centuries before white settlers arrived.  At Emmett’s pleas, all my sense of fair play (and no doubt a large dollop of white man’s guilt) kicked in. “What can I do?” I asked.  “How can I help?”

Johnson Homesite Sign and Marker

As it turned out, Emmett had had a marble marker made at his own expense.  He met me by the Oysterville Church one afternoon and while I fetched water from the hose bib on my folks’ property (where Nyel and I now live), Emmett dug a hole and mixed the cement to set the marker just outside the churchyard fence, about in line with where he determined his ancestors’ house once stood.

No one noticed for a long time.  When they finally did, the ORF Board felt that perhaps an explanatory sign might be in order.  To make the marble marker look less like a gravestone.  They had a sign made in the manner of the signs that the Shoalwater Chapter of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington had provided for other historic properties a decade or two previously.  And they placed it on the fence just behind Emmett’s marble marker.

There is, of course, more to the story.  Tune in tomorrow… as they used to say in the old radio serials.  Quick!  Before our history gets changed once again!

Sad Commentary… Or Maybe Not

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

A brief, neighborly visit with Tucker last evening revealed that we had each spent part of the day perusing the new Our Coast magazine and both of us for the same reason.  We were looking for Oysterville.

We agreed… found it!  A dot on the map on page 107.  As far as we could tell, that was it.  “Times they are a-changing,” said Tucker.  “Past tense,” said I.  “Times have changed.”

This is year seven of Our Coast, described in this week’s Chinook Observer editorial as “this newspaper’s annual gift to the region’s travelers and residents.”  And what a gift it is!  Gorgeous pictures, interesting articles, colorful (almost glitzy!) in its presentation of our little corner of the world.  Minus Oysterville.  Mostly.

There was a time when Oysterville got its own. special attention – National Historic District, Oldest Town on the Peninsula, Site of Pacific County’s First Courthouse, yada yada yada.  Apparently, all that is no more.  Tucker and I sadly agreed that that is probably for the best.  Oysterville has lost its distinction, lately – blended in to all those communities up and down the coast that are full of second homes for the affluent, mobile set.  We, we decided, are an anachronism… and that is, perhaps, as it should be.

I remember years ago, in 1947, when my grandfather had me fetch him the old Revised Encyclopedia Britannica published in 1891.  Never mind that it was considerably out of date.  What he wanted to show me was the map of Washington on which Oysterville was in far bigger print than Seattle.

My Uncle Willard’s comment in his Oysterville book says it best: …The name O Y S T E R V I L L E plowed across the ocean on that map like a frigate under full sail.  By contrast, SEATTLE was printed in such trifling type as to be illegible without a magnifying glass.              The editors of that Encyclopedia considered Oysterville a name to reckon with, and they were right… 

But now… not so much.  There are other, more interesting and important things to reckon with, apparently.  Tucker and I agreed that the best part of this year’s issue was seeing our friends and acquaintances pop out at us – Noel Thomas, Jean Nitzel, Israel Nebeker, Bill and Sue Svendsen, Shawn Wong – and those are just the photos.  Never mind the familiar places that are, happily, a part of our daily lives.

Come to think of it, if it were my turn to choose what to include in Our Coast, Oysterville would not have made the cut, either.  It’s hard to say what, exactly, we have to offer the bright-and-shiny new visitors who come our way.  We know the ones that can see beyond the slick pages of this new publication will find their way here.  And they will come back.  No matter the changes, Oysterville endures… if only in our hearts.

Next Door, North

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Heckes House with Annex (r.) circa 1930

When I was a little girl and continuing into my mid-adulthood, the house next door to the north of ours was the Heckes House, called that because the Heckes family lived there.  Now it’s called the John Crellin House because he was the one who built it – not personally but, as the owner of the property, he had it built back in 1867.  It’s only since Oysterville became a National Historic District (1976) that the homes have been known by the names of their original owners.

The old map of Oysterville shows that, in the early days, the Stevens Hotel was once just north of our house — between our place and the Heckes House.  My mother remembered it as very run down and the place where “the old bachelors lived.”  In the late 1920s, when the building was beyond saving, the Heckes family used some of the old lumber to build an “annex” to the Heckes Inn.  The annex morphed into a garage and, finally, in its turn, had to be torn down a few years back.

Papa in his Victory Garden, c. 1947

For most of my mother’s childhood and for all my growing-up years, my grandparents owned all of the property between Clay and Division Streets and on out into the bay.  After the Stevens Hotel was dismantled, much of the area north of our house became Papa’s vegetable garden.  It was large enough that he used a horse and plow to get it ready for planting each spring.

Beyond the garden … nothing, really.  Grass (meadow, not lawn) that my grandfather kept under control with a scythe.  By the 1970s, it was just another empty space in this little tumble-down village.  And then, we were placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the gentrification began.

Hampson House, 1987

In the mid-eighties, my folks sold the north half of our property to John and Joan Hampson.  Their house was completed in 1987, the year Nyel and I were married.  It has been a matter of “discussion” ever since.  People seem to either love it or hate it.  There isn’t much middle ground.  Few people think it “fits in” with the general architecture and feeling of Oysterville.  My mom always tried to defend it on the basis of the north and south ‘wings’ — one a workshop, the other a garage – attached to the main house by covered walkways.  “Those were typical of early Oysterville homes; look at Uncle Cecil’s house,” she would say.

Proposed Changes to Hampson House

The house has recently been sold again and we have been notified that there will be a hearing on January 29th concerning the new owners’ proposed changes to the exterior and their application for a building permit.  All things being equal, Nyel and I will attend in the hopes that we will get a clearer idea of the planned changes.  From the elevation drawings posted online, I’m having a hard time seeing whether the new façade will be a better “fit” with Oysterville   But then I never was very good at the ‘spatial perception and imagination’ parts of aptitude tests.  I hope that there are some architects familiar with Oysterville structures who will attend the hearing and weigh in.  Until then, I’m trying to keep an open mind.

A Salute to the First Forty!

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

At The ‘Y’

In January 1977, an organizational meeting for the Oysterville Restoration Foundation was held at the Stoner House, then owned by Jim and Meg Donaldson.  Every property owner in the newly created Oysterville National Historic District “in residence at the time” was in attendance.  That, in itself, must have been a historic occurrence!  I doubt if all of us residents have ever been present and accounted for at any single meeting (or other event) since that stellar occasion!

The purpose of that meeting was to establish an organization that “could raise money, accept donations, and guide restoration of the National Historic District.”  There must have been great enthusiasm, for not only did they elect members to the Board of Trustees, but they also elected a full slate of officers, only one of whom (my dad, Wm W. Little!) was also a trustee.   Though most of those first volunteers have now gone on to their Greater Reward, I salute them here in the name of history and posterity.  They did a great thing!

Historic Oysterville Church

Chris Freshley
Helen Heckes
Pat Lantz
Dale Espy Little
William W. Little

President – Jim Donaldson
Vice President Ruby Andrews Danowitz
Second Vice President – Dee Dutchuck
Third Vice President – Bob Kemmer
Secretary-Treasurer – Wm. W. Little
Assistant Secretary-Treasurer – Meg Donaldson
Auditor – Ted Holway

I must say, these days we are hard pressed to find five volunteers to serve as trustees and, for the same reason, we long ago settled into the pattern of having trustees do double duty as officers of the Foundation. I understand that other organizations have similar difficulties.  But in 1977— five trustees and seven officers!  My oh my!  And second and even third vices?  Lordy me!

ORF Logo by Tucker Wachsmuth

Today marked the 40th Annual Membership of the Foundation.  It was a red-letter day for me – off the Board after three consecutive three-year terms, to say nothing of the number of other terms served since the early eighties.  They say. “never say never” but I’m pretty sure I’ll not be on the Board again.  However, I intend to be enthusiastically clapping and cheering from the sidelines from now on.

September 8th – An Oysterville Day!

Thursday, August 25th, 2016
Bud Goulter

Bud Goulter

Two weeks from today – on September 8th – two potentially historic events are scheduled to happen.  Both concern Oysterville.  One will occur right here in town, and the other will take place around the bay and up the Willapa River at South Bend. And, as is so often the case, we want to attend both.  For once it looks like we actually can!

Scheduled for ten o’clock that morning is the first of the 2016 Fall Schoolhouse Lecture Series.  Bud Goulter is scheduled to talk.  The theme for this series is “Local Lore” which gives him a wide frame of reference.  As far as I know, Bud is the oldest of Oysterville’s ‘old-timers.’  His memory is sharp and his stories are fascinating.  It’s bound to be a morning to remember and we have every intention of being there – sitting front-and-center, as they say.



Secondly, according to an official looking sign posted in front of the W.D. Taylor house, the first of the Oysterville Design Review hearings under the newly revised Section 20 of Ordinance #162 will be held at one o’clock that afternoon in South Bend.  We are eager to see how the Review process will work with a Hearing Examiner replacing the Oysterville Design Review Board.  We will make every effort to attend.

All in all, it should be a memorable Thursday for Oysterville – a day for looking backward through the eyes of our most venerable neighbor and a day for catching a forward glimpse at a new planning era for the National Historic District.  A visit to the past and the future all in one day!  Outstanding!