Archive for the ‘Oysterville’ Category

Bonding Across The Generations

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Maddie and Sydney, First Cousins twice removed

It was Maddie’s third visit to Oysterville but the first that was a prolonged (four days and nights) stay.  On each of her previous visits, she had been all eyes and ears –looking, looking, looking and asking myriad questions about Oysterville.  Between visits she has read my first ghost book and parts of Willard’s Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village.  

This time she came prepared to work on her “Oysterville Project” — an extensive multimedia look at Oysterville through the generations of our Espy family.  She had written up her proposed topic for school, it was accepted, and she asked if I would allow her to interview me — both in the “traditional” way and for the video camera.  I was thrilled.  Imagine being interviewed by the three-times-great-granddaughter of your own great-grandfather!

Maddie and Julia, June 10, 2021

She began our interviews by saying that she was especially interested in R.H. Espy, founder of Oysterville, and his much-younger wife Julia, as well as their eight children.  She had questions prepared — “Did R.H. and Julia absolutely ADORE their children?” and “Is it true that Julia taught them all at home for their early years?”  We talked about child-rearing in the 1800s — the differences between then and now — and about the senior Espy’s emphasis on education.  Maddie was interested in the hardships Julia faced here in isolated Oysterville and expressed sadness that this great-great-great-grandmother had died so young (49) before all her children were even grown and before most of her grandchildren had been born.

We talked and laughed and lamented.  Occasionally one of us would get up and grab a photo from mantle or wall to see exactly who we were discussing.  We spent several hours on two separate days on Maddie’s Oysterville Project.  I loved every minute!  Later, Alex took his kids up to the cemetery and sent me a picture of “Maddie and Julie.”  It made me a bit teary and so very pleased, all at the same time.  I so hope that Maddie’s interest will continue and that she, in her turn, will answer the questions of future Espy generations!

Off on the Great Clam Hunt!

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

The Intrepid Clammers

Chef Nyel sent us intrepid ones off to tideflats to get a few clams for the paella.  “A couple of dozen should be plenty,” said he, and off we went — Alex and three of his kids with me as guide.  It was seven ayem; Charlie slept in.

Hard At It!

The morning was fabulous — blue skies with patches of fluffy white, still and windless.  We had the bay to ourselves and it seemed we could see from one end to the other.   Besides one another, the only signs of life to be seen were a few teeny-tiny crabs scuttling southwards.  I couldn’t help think how lucky we all are that our family has retained these second-class tidelands.  We represented three of the five generations since our great/great-great/great-great-great grandfather R.H. Espy first arrived on these very tideflats in 1854.  My fondest hope is that there will be many more Espy desescendents who will enjoy “Grandpa’s Village” of Oysterville and all it has to offer…

Dinner Companions’ First Meeting

There seemed to be a plethora of clams — but quite small.  We filled the chef’s request plus a few more and were back at the house by eight o’clock to scrub them clean and put them in a bucket of fresh bay water.  They spent yesterday cleaning themselves until the chef is ready to begin tonight’s dinner!  YUM!  I can scarcely wait!

Flags Flying Again In Oysterville!

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

It’s one of those things that I’m not sure if anyone else notices — the flags in the Oysterville churchyard.  Whether they do or not, I’m sure we notice more than anyone because our house is directly across the street.  As I walk toward the kitchen, I look out our dining room windows right at the flags.  Or, when they aren’t in residence, I look at the empty flagpole.

I believe it was my dad’s idea to put up that flagpole.  Before Oysterville was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and before the Oysterville Restoration Foundation was formed, the now-churchyard was the site of my grandfather’s barn.  Once ORF was formed, the family tore down the barn gifting the property to ORF.  I think Chris Freshley designed the churchyard — so perhaps he, not Dad,  was the one who first suggested the flagpole.

In any event, it seemed natural that my dad — and then Nyel, in his turn — would take care of the flags.  It used to be that they were up year ’round and we would occasionally buy replacements from Jack’s Country Store.  Then the protocol became that as the first big storms start rolling in, the flags were taken down.  Dad, and then Nyel, used to keep them in our back forty for the next season — unles, of course, they were too battered and frayed — in which case they went to the VFW for proper disposal.  (There is a wonderful ceremony that they do annually  — perhaps June 14th on Flag Day.  I’m not sure.).   I think that nowadays ORF replenishes the flags as needed and, since Nyel’s wheelchair days began,  Tucker has taken over the flag duties.

In the Spring, up they go again.  As the weather warms up and the storms abate, I become eager to see them flying again.  I depend on them to tell me what the day will be like — wind from the southwest — stormy; wind from the north — cold;  wind from the east — unseasonably hot or unseasonably cold.  No wind at all — my favorite.  I’m not fond of wind.  But I do love seeing those flags flying in Oysterville!

 

Spires, Inspirations and Aspirations

Saturday, May 1st, 2021

The 1892 Spire Handoff, April 30, 2021

The closest thing Oysterville has to a museum is “Tucker’s Arcade” which you probably know is a work in progress.  Probably always will be.  Tucker is a collector, after all, and an eclectic one at that.  There is never an end in sight to interesting possibilities.

Meanwhile… for years our Back Forty has been the repository for many Oysterville-related items — paintings by known and unknown artists (especially of the church), old photographs and letters and documents from or to or concerning old Oysterville residents and, almost anything church-related that needs storage for “a while.”

Perhaps the church connection dates back to the 1892 construction of the church by my great-grandfather — the same year that he purchased this house to be used as a parsonage.  Somehow, the house has been collecting odd bits and pieces ever since.  For years before the church had heat, the little pump organ spent every winter here in the house.  Votive candles left over from weddings and vases from vespers and extra reflectors from the (now) non-existent kerosene lanterns all wait against the day they will be needed.  And that is to say nothing of the many boxes of walking tours that await distribution once the church can be opened to the public again — an ongoing responsibility for whoever lives here, it seems.

Doubly in-spire-ing! September 2012

As Nyel and I begin our Big Cleanout Project, we think about these things.  Some items  will eventually go back to the church but some… we’re not sure.  So it is with the 1892 church spire.  When it was replaced in 1980 during the Church Restoration project, the old one came to our house and, in lieu of an Oysterville museum, here it has stayed.  Waiting.  In 1912, the current spire (made by Ossie Steiner and, actually, just a little bit bigger than the original) came down for re-painting.  Tucker and I had our pictures taken with the new and the old spires and Tucker said something like, “If you ever decide you need to get rid of this original spire…”

So it was that, last night, Nyel and I turned over that historic piece of Oysterville to Tucker.  He says he has the perfect place for it in his Arcade.  “But what we really need in Oysterville is a museum,” he said.  We couldn’t agree more.  Even though we love and adore the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum and have great respect for the all-encompassing history archived at the Pacific County Historical Society Museum, it would be nice if Oysterville had a little place of its own.  You know — an inside space to reflect the history of the Historic Oysterville and the National Historic District (which is a museum, of sorts, all on its own.)

It could kinda take the edge off…

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Sky: blue.  Clouds: not a one.  Wind: a zephyr.  Oysterville: quietly anticipating  whatever the tides might bring.

It’s Thursday morning about dawn-thirty and promises to be a gorgeous day — though yesterday the weather man predicted it would “deteriorate.” Along those lines, Cate says we are definitely  in for it.  “A big drought coming to this neck of the woods.”  I’m trying not to let that prophesy take the edge off the here-and-now.

But it is scary.  Droughts mean dry surroundings.  Tinder dry.  The Californians are moving up here to get away from their own drought-related horrors.  Where will we go when it’s our turn?  I don’t think Canada wants us.  And, besides, this is where I belong.  As in Mary Englebreit’s cheery card, “Bloom where you’re planted.”   Though I don’t think she had droughts or climate change in mind.

Besides… if blooming is in store for me, this is certainly where I want it to happen.  Right here in Oysterville.

Metes and Bounds and Willow Posts

Sunday, April 18th, 2021

Repair Work on Oysterville Road, 1880s

It seems to me that almost every time a property is re-surveyed here in Oysterville, the new dimensions are off a little from the last known survey.  The former surveyor is usually blamed for that and probably that surveyor blames the one before him.  I know less than nothing about surveying, but I blame change.  Yes — changing landscapes, changing landmarks, and changing technology.

I do believe it all began with metes and bounds.  In case you don’t know what those are, here is an explanation from the PDH Academy (look it up):  “Metes and bounds is a method of surveying land that is centuries old. It was the principle way to measure land before the Land Act of 1785, when parcels were often defined by formations such as rivers, trees, roads, or other landmarks.”  It seemed to stand everyone in good stead until more sophisticated measuring instruments (and then technology) came into play.

Oysterville Methodist Church (1872-1921) – First Church in Pacific County

Here is what the 1880 survey for the Oysterville Road said:
Begin in Oysterville at a Rock marked R.O.B. and continued by naming Corner of Caruthers [sic] Hotel… – Corner of Briscoe’s fense [sic] … Corner of M.E. Church…  Door of Saloon…  Culbert 2500 top of hill or Sandridge by F.C, Davis House… a Sanded Bridg [sic]… a Willow Post marked R1N…

 The ‘Caruthers Hotel’ was Richard Carruthers Pacific House built in 1873 and located on the northeast corner of what is now Oysterville Road and Main Street.  The M. E. Church refers to the Methodist Episcopal Church built in 1872 and also located just across Main Street to the east.  F.C, Davis lived to the west at the base of the hill now known as Davis or Cemetery Hill.  That Willow Post is anybody’s guess!

I’m not sure if this was the first official survey of the road but I do know that the road, itself, was there from the very earliest days of Oysterville.  Perhaps it had followed an Indian trail.  And even though I don’t know whether there was a survey, I do know that there was a petition:

Jim Kemmer, Aunt Rye, Judy Heckes circa 1943 – at the west end of Oysterville Road

Petition, October 1857
We the undersigned would respectfully represent to your honorable body by petition that we are without a direct road from Oysterville, Pacific County, W.T. westwardly to the Pacific Ocean on weather beach and knowing that it is essential for it would be a general benefit to the travelling wayfarer or emigrant who is looking for a home and by locating this road, it being only one and half miles from Oysterville directly westward to the Sea Shore and from thence southerly toward Bakers Bay on the Mouth of the Columbia River for eighteen or twenty miles an excellent hard Sea beach Shore but aside from that it would connect a few miles South with the Territorial Road from Pacific City, Columbia River to Narcata landing in Shoal Water Bay, and would afford an easy ingress and egress, both to citizens and travelers and then would have both to choose whether to take Mail Stage or his own private conveyance in the more rugged way in an open sailboat up to the portage, through or over that dismal road (especially for families at any season of the year is unfit) to get at Baker’s Bay on the Columbia River…

I think of these matters occasionally when I travel along the Oysterville Road to get the mail.  And sometimes I wonder just where that Willow Post was…

 

 

 

 

Place of the Yellow-Hammers

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

Flicker Nest — Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

My grandfather named this house “Tsako-Te-Hahsh-Eetle” which, he said, meant two things:  “place of the red-topped grass” and “place of the yellow-hammers.”  The name is Papa’s rendition of the Chinook jargon that he and his boyhood Indian friends spoke in the 1870s and 1880s.  It is not the name of this house in particular, but the name that this entire area at the Peninsula’s north end was called.

Flicker Nest Lit From Within by Flashlight – Photo by Steve McCormick

Last night we were able to see “up close and personal” what the real home of a yellow-hammer (which we call the red-shafted-flicker) looks like.  Tucker brought a part of the dead tree that Chris took down the other day– the part that had the beginnings of a flicker’s nest.  “He didn’t know it was there,” Tucker said.  But, as it turned out, Tucker had seen and heard that flicker hard at work several days previously.  My feeling of sadness almost overwhelmed my interest in a “teachable” (or maybe a “learnable”) moment.  Almost.

All of us Friday Nighters were amazed at the precision of the hole — perfectly round and absolutely smooth inside — an ideal nursery for raising a flock of 7 to 9 babies.  According to the experts, both Mom and Dad Flicker work on nest conconstruction and, during the 11-12 day incubation period, Dad takes the night shift, Mom the day.

Red Shafted Flicker

As for the tap-tap-tapping we often hear at this time of year — it’s the mating call and delineation of territory that’s happening– unless it’s nest-building.  Contrary to popular belief, Red Shafted Flickers feed mostly on the ground — they love ants! —  unlike some woodpeckers who actually listen for grubs and larvae inside of trees and then peck away to get at them.

However, there is confusion about the “yellow” part of their jargon name — I wish Papa was around to ask.  I’ve always assumed it referred to their beaks but, a close look reveals gray/black, not yellow.  Go figure.  Or maybe all beaks were called “yellow” in jargon…

Patch-Patch-Patch Some More

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

Repaired and Awaiting a Summer Replacement

Yesterday, the back door of the chicken coop came off in my hand.  Not the whole door — just the trim piece on which the handle is situated.  Even so, it was startling.  It definitely wasn’t one of those I-don’t-know-my-own-strength things.  It was a question of old age (the door’s, not mine), years of weathering, rust, and rot.  It left an inviting gap for chicken-hunting critters to get into the coop.  I was proud of the the girls, though; they didn’t seem at all worried.

Luckily, it was early morning so chances of marauding visitors were slim.   I lugged the trim piece up to the kitchen to show Farmer Nyel and he thought he could probably fix it.  I didn’t ask how.  “Just lean it up against the workbench in the garage,” he said.  I tried not to think about him in his wheelchair using power tools like drills and saws while standing on the cement flooring balanced on one leg.  YIKES!

Inside View From The Back Door

As it turned out, I was so busy trying to jam an hour or more of information into a half-hour time slot for today’s video presentation, that I didn’t have much worry-about-Nyel-time.  By late afternoon, he had the door rebuilt and hung in place.  I was still timing myself and trying to decide which of the “crucial” information about Oysterville to leave out. In the old “misery loves company” mode, I called Dobby to see how he was coming along.  We commiserated with one another but the only advice he had was, “Wear your long underwear!”

At least I can trundle off to today’s live-stream video taping secure in the knowledge that Farmer Nyel and the chickens are safe — Nyel inside and warm and the chickens with a repaired door to keep out those pesky raccoons and possums.  Yay!  There will be plenty of time to worry about a total coop re-build before summer arrives!

Late Breaking News…

Saturday, February 6th, 2021

Gathering at the Pacific House, 1870 — not recorded in the news.

Pacific County’s first newspaper was established in Oysterville in 1883 — nineteen newsworthy years after Oysterville was founded by R.H. Espy and I.A. Clark.  A lot happened during those nineteen years —  the development of a thriving oyster trade with San Francisco, the establishment of the County Seat here in 1855, and the building of the first school in 1860, just for starters.  But without a newspaper, the recorded life and times of Oysterville from 1854 to 1883 is spotty at best.  What we know of those important years are from oral histories, from surviving letters, or by reading between the lines of legal documents — not from the headlines and articles and advertisements of the town newspaper.

Although I’ve never been able to find out his reasons, it was Lewis Alfred Loomis who brought editor Alf Bowen to Oysterville.  Maybe it was a matter of happenstance or perhaps Loomis felt that a newspaper could help him as he developed his transportation empire.  In any event, Bowen’s Pacific Journal  was short-lived.  He moved his news operation to Nahcotta in 1889,  about the time the first train pulled in there, and finally relocated to Ilwaco, eventually merging with the North Beach Tribune.  Unfortunately, existing copies from the Journal’s Oysterville years are few and far between.

Building the first Pacific County Courthouse in 1875 didn’t make the news, either.

However, two years after his arrival in Oysterville, Bowen published a promotional pamphlet entitled “A Description of Pacific County, Washington Territory, and Its Resources.”  The booklet was intended as a promotional piece for visitors or other “outsiders” who might be interested in settling here.  In the booklet were descriptions of our healthy climate, of industries and “school privileges,” of churches and taxation and typical wages.  (Loggers, from $50 to $80 a month; mill hands, $25 to $50; oystering and fishing, $40 to $50; ranching, $25 to $30 and always including board.)

Thinking about how much we don’t know about the early years of settlement here causes me to reflect upon how blessed we are to still have a functioning weekly paper here on the Peninsula — especially in this day and age when so many newspapers, large as well as small, can no longer stay afloat.  For me, anyway, there is great comfort in being able to read local news and actually hold it in my hands, so to speak.  I wonder if 140 years hence, hard copies of the Chinook Observer will be as scarce as those first issues of the Pacific Journal are today.  I wonder where else our descendants will be able to find out about our life and times in this little off-the-grid byway.  Hard to imagine…

Waiting for that other shoe to drop…

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

I’m pleased to “report” that the Driscoll Sign Thief of Oysterville is now known to the candidate and to the Sheriff’s Department.  Although Dan has given me his “blessing” to reveal the culprit’s name, I am choosing to wait until the Sheriff acts on Dan’s report.    As of yesterday evening, Dan has not received any word of “official” action.

Apparently, the latest sign removals were caught on camera — “loud and clear” you might say.  Dan called the Sheriff’s Department and a Deputy travelled to Oysterville Sea Farms to interview him and, presumably, to see the “evidence.”  One would assume that the next step would be to interview the person shown in the photograph.

Dan at Work

Dan also is hopeful of having the signs returned to him.  “I’ve had more than $1,000 worth of signs stolen in Oysterville,” he told me.  “I’d really like them to be returned.”

So far, however, Dan has not been apprised of “the rest of the story.”  The Sheriff’s Department has not indicated that the “other party” has been contacted nor has there been any word as to the whereabouts of the stolen signs.  Curious. isn’t it?

Based on Dan’s track record of tenacity and follow-through, I have confidence that the matter will eventually be resolved and that the rest of the story will be clarified.  Which is another great reason to vote for Dan for Commissioner.  If there is one thing Dan does NOT do, it is to ignore wrong-doing on the part of those in a position of public trust — in this case, some sort of official follow-through with regard to his complaint.  Stay tuned…