Archive for the ‘Oysterville’ Category

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…

Journey to Oysterville: Spring 1898

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

The IR&N

My grandmother, Helen Richardson Espy, was a “city girl,” used to the amenities of a cultured household.  She first came to Oysterville on her honeymoon trip in the Spring of 1898.  She and my grandfather had been married at her home in East Oakland, California, the preceding November, and though the groom’s father and older brother Ed were in attendance, she had yet to meet her mother-in-law or any of the other R.H. Espy chldren.  Years later, she  would write her recollections of her introduction to them and to Oysterville:

When I came here forty years ago, Mother Espy was using whale ribs as chicken perches.  The highway along the Bay front was referred to as “the road to Nahcotta.”  It was a three hours’ ride from Astoria to Ilwaco by Baker’s Bay.  From there we travelled on a narrow gauge train which ran by the tides.  The boat which it met could only come in at certain heights of tide.  I doubt if the train travelled 25 m.p.h.  When we got on it that first day the gawky old conductor asked Papa if his wife had seen the Potrimpos.  He said, “No.”    “All right, we’ll stop the train  and she can go down and see it.”

Potrimpos wrecked on North Beach Peninsula, December 1896

I had always been taught to never attract attention to mysef.  It was embarassing.  To see the boat, the Potrimpos, we had to walk over soft sand — what is now called “The Prairie.”  It must have taken us at least 15 minutes…

When we returned to the train, nobody seemed too annoyed.  I was almost afraid to come back in.  It was 45-minute ride to Nahcotta.  There was a single carriage there for us.  The rest came down by stage.  On the road to Oysterville, the sand was soft and deep just as it is on the Ocean Beach.  The wind covered up the tracks.  If anyone had asked me the distance to Oysterville, I would have said 20 miles.  [It’s actually 4 miles. SS]  We were nearly home when the horse shied.  He ran into an alder tree.  It bent down, passed under the carriage and popped out at the back like a cannon shot.  Papa was a wonderful horseman and the sand was soft or we would have had a real runaway.

Territory Road circa 1900 – Stony Point Pictures

I didn’t know what to expect of Oysterville.  Ed had said… he kept talking about “the ranch” … when I asked him if he lived in the country: “Oh no, our house is right in the center of town.”  I saw people pumping water out in their front yards and taking it into the house in buckets.  But the Espys were more civilised.  Their pump was on the back porch.  We arrived on a fairly decent day.  But a day or two later there was a big storm with a tremendously high tide.  We were surrounded by water.  Tina Wachhsmuth came down the street in a rowboat.  I was on the front verandah.  Waves came up to the front fence.  The ocean was roaring just as if it were trying to break loose.  I never wanted to see the place again.  I was just barely nineteen years old.  I have often wished I were older and more experienced and tolerant…

H.A. Espy Family, 1904

Four years later, Papa’s mother died and, of the family members, he was the most logical one to go home to Oysterville to look after his father.  “It will just be for a short time,” Mama assured her two little youngsters.  But, as it turned out, she lived here until her death in 1954, a dairy farmer’s wife, raising seven children, burying two of them, assisting Papa in his brief foray into politics, joining the women of the village in the Sewing Circle and earning the devotion and respect of all who knew her.  In the end, she came to “an accommodation” with Oysterville.  She once told me that she felt like Lord Byron’s “Prisoner of Chillon” who, when all was said and done, had grown to love the place of his imprisonment.

Characterizing Oysterville… Again!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

During these Spring months of sheltering, I’ve been thinking, or rather-rethinking, how I characterize Oysterville.  Not a village — it’s not even close to self-sustaining, even in a limited go-to-the-corner store sense, and we have far too few residents to meet traditional requirements (500-to 2500) as suggested by National Geographic.

A hamlet, then.  Defined as  “a small settlement, with a small population which is usually under 100, in a rural area … typically unincorporated…”  I’ve long advocated the hamlet designation.  But it’s the “rural” part that confounds me a bit.  Not that we are urban or suburban… but it’s our lifestyle these days that doesn’t really fit my mental grasp of “rural.”

My ruminating has been prompted by a book recently suggested to me by my friend Alan Griener who lives in Switzerland — the rural life by Verlyn Klinkenborg.  I think I’m in love — with the book and the author (who is but four years older than my son.)  His writing reminds me of Thoreau and E.B. White and Aldo Leopold, perhaps all rolled into one. .

The book takes the reader, month by month, through the daily life on the author’s small farm in upstate New York where he raises horses and cows and bees and grows hay and fruit trees and vegetables.  You accompany him on his summer trips  through the midwest with its farms and ranches on a completely different scale.  You’ll  attend a small town Fourth of July parade (much like ours in Ocean Park) and maybe you’ll relate to sipping root beer and listening to the radio in an air-conditioned pickup on a hot summer night — certainly not here, but somewhere, long ago.

H.A.Espy Children on Danny, 1924

Or, if you’re like me, you’ll begin to re-think whether we live a “rural” life or if that was a few generations back.  When my mother was a girl and her father was a dairy farmer with some 50 head of cattle and 10 to 15 horses (work horses, a horse for each family member, the horses for Mama’s phaeton, etc.), Oysterville was indeed, rural.  Every family had horses and cows and gardens and, of course, chickens and maybe pigs and goats.  Not like now when many of us have none of the above.  Or maybe only one.  Like chickens.

So, is Oysterville still rural?  Is it “the new rural?”  Or is there another designation entirely?  I hesitate to think what it might be.


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Thin Places (and I’m not talking body parts)

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Oysterville Church in the Sun

I’ve had two discussions within the last ten days that involve “thin places.” Come to think of it, one discussion only — when I met with Cyrus Habib, our Lt. Governor.  Yesterday’s mention of thin places was by me at my “Ghost Lecture” and, although a few heads nodded in recognition, most people hadn’t heard the term before.

Neither had I until a few years ago when one of the ministers at Vespers spoke of thin places in relation to Oysterville.  He spoke about that certain something that always strikes him about this little village — a feeling in the air or a quality of the light or the silence at dusk.  He and his wife have spent a great deal of time in Ireland  and he said that the feeling or the quality of Oysterville is reminiscent of those spots, some very ancient, that the Celtic people identify as places where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin.

Solstice Sunrise at Stonehebge

Stonehenge Sunset

I did a little research and found about a gazillion places regarding thin places.  Most involve  tours that you can take — many in Ireland or Scotland, but some in the United States, as well.  There were sites called “Thin Places, Where We Are Jolted Out of Our Old Ways of Seeing” and “Thin Places, Holy spaces: Where do you encounter God?” and even a site called “There are no thin places.”  The most succinct definition of a “thin place” came from a tour site, not from a dictionary source or even from Wikipedia (as is usually the case):

Thin places are places of energy. A place where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin. A thin place is where one can walk in two worlds – the worlds are fused together, knitted loosely where the differences can be discerned or tightly where the two worlds become one.  (from The Thin Places Mystical Tours site)

A Bench Beside the Road – Ireland

So far, Oysterville is not listed on any of these sites.  Thank goodness!  On the other hand… I am scheduled to give an Oysterville History Tour to a group from California next week.  I am hired to do one or two such tours a year.  Maybe if the tour companies got onto Oysterville as a Thin Place, I’d have a full-time job.  YIKES!  Come to think of it, perish the thought!

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