Archive for the ‘Oysterville’ Category

Just East of Downtown Oysterville

Thursday, November 17th, 2022

Cyndy’s View of Our House From The Bayside Footpath – 11-3-22

Some folks call it “The Foot Path;” some “The Doggy Walk.”  In my grandfather’s day it was “Front Street” — the most easterly in Oysterville.  That, of course, was before erosion  took most of it out to sea and we were left with just a bit of high ground beyond our east meadow.

It’s a lovely place to walk and take in the vistas that nudge close by — the bay to the east or, if the tide is low, the incredibly rich tideflats stretching as far as the eye can see.  And to the west, the fronts of the oldest houses along Territory Road — simple in their construction compared with the newer 20th and 21st century neighbors.  A reminder, indeed, of less complicated times.

The Morning Sky Looking Toward The Footpath from Territory Road – Cyndy Hayward 11-17-33

Early on into our sojourn here, Nyel would mow the path now and then in the summer.  Residents and tourists and out-of-towners all loved to walk there — clear from Clay Street opposite the church up to Willapa Sea Farms at the north end of town.  When Nyel could no longer manage, our neighbor Chris took on the chore.  Everyone thanks him — even the many who don’t know he does it.  Such an addition to the village!

And, recently, neighbor Cyndy has been heralding the sunrises as she walks her dog Mimi in the mornings!  What beautiful, incredible vastness envelopes us!  Maybe we should call it “The Sky Path” — at least some of the time.  How blessed we are!

There’s always a flip side!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

The invitation arrived this morning by email from Josephine LaCosta, a woman I’d never heard of (or so I thought) and, apparently an author.  I was a part of a string of folks being invited to a book launch party because I was “so generous as to agree to be interviewed by me two years ago for my forthcoming  book, Tangerine on the Sill.”

Really?  I was?  I have absolutely no memory of the author, the proposed book, or the interview.  Damn this aging process, anyway!  I looked back through my emails (few of which I trash) and there on February 21, 2021, I found this:

* The following brief vignette on Oysterville is interspersed with selections from an interview I conducted with Sydney Stevens, a third generation Oysterville resident. We had the interview after I wrote this section. Sydney’s words are in italics. 

(p) Quickly after toast, Laura and I gathered ourselves and drove to Oysterville. This town sits asleep, forgotten, yet still inhabited by “children of the pioneers” at the tip of the Long Beach Peninsula along the Willapa Bay.

My mother was born in 1911. There were more businesses here in her childhood than there have been in my lifetime. 

In the graveyard a headstone for two unnamed, drowned sailors reads, “And the Sea Gave Up the Dead.” 

But I often wonder what’s going to happen when there is a tsunami. I just wonder how much water will come into Oysterville from the bay. Will it really be 30 feet of water, or not? I just don’t know. My plan, if this does happen, is to go to the cemetery and hug a tree! It’s the highest place in Oysterville at 30 feet above sea level. 

Oysterville Baptist Church and Congregation

Adjacent to the graveyard is a grassy, undulating field. At its feet a house rests crookedly, half caved in, with its erect side lifted by the collapse like a sinking ship. The whole town seemed to be sinking into the marsh. 

During high tides, the path down along the water is under water. My mother said that along that path there was an old road and there were old businesses that were on pilings there. They didn’t care too much about permanence in those days. All of Oysterville eventually just withered away. Businesses moved down to Nahcotta when the train came. Houses were left vacant. I remember abandoned barns and old sheds falling in. This has happened in many of America’s rural communities which have been left behind. 

I watched small waves from the bay lapping up against the coastline, slowly swallowing its shape. The marsh itself was moving with the tide and the distinction between land and sea went slack. It did feel like the town was under a spell. 

(laughs) Yes, the peninsula is almost floating these days.

Time had moved through Oysterville only as far as a cry can travel underwater: muffled.  Something about the mist in the air, or the sag in the marsh had preserved it. All of the low slung fences were covered in usnea and they were leaning. Before climbing back into the car, I noticed how wet it had gotten and wondered if I had gotten that wet or if it had even rained. 

Photo by Susan Andrews

During very high tides, the water has come as far as 4th street and covered the road. This has only happened twice in my lifetime, and I’m 84. High tides are fleeting, as soon as they come in they go right back out.

Laura suggested we cruise down the main drag, past the chipping paint and the sea glass bottles in windows and the historic plaques, one last time. But I couldn’t bear it. We were yawning, Oysterville was beginning to slow us too.

When hunger snapped us from the jaws of historic torpor, we found ourselves pulling off the side of the road towards a ramshackle painted wood sign which read, “goat’s milk, goat’s cheese, and soaps” on three different planks.

Wow!  So there it was!  Do I remember the interview now?  No.  Are the words about Oysterville mine?  Yes — right down to my age at the time!  How I wish I could attend the launch party but it is scheduled for the same day as our next House Concert here!  I am so sorry to miss it but hope to learn where to get the book.   Stay tuned!  Meanwhile, I can only say that forgetfulness I am willing to accept as part of this aging process — but could we also be blessed with the ability to clone ourselves?  Just for book launches, maybe.

Some things don’t change…

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022

John Didion, Pacific County Sheriff 1998-2010

Last week’s paper, our esteemed Chinook Observer — the  October 5, 2022 issue — was hard for me from the first cursory glance.  “Serial rapist faces life ‘treatment’ on remote island – Sheriff Didion tried to warn county” was the week’s top story.

And just below it — “Grayland killer gets 21 years in prison – Emotional families make contrasting pleas.”

Certainly not the community news I was hoping to delve into in our faithful weekly periodical.  And, probably, not the news they would choose to deliver.  But the news is the news…  And, once again, I miss my friend John Didion.

I set the papers aside and directed my attention to some file folders I was reorganizing.  “Newspapers” said the label and the very first article dated October 14, 1892 (130 years old this very month) was from the front page of the South Bend Journal.  Here is what it said:

The would-be Wife Murderer of Ilwaco, Sentenced to Three Years Imprisonment
Astoria, Or, Oct. 12 — W.W. Ward was today sentenced to three years and four months in the penitentiary.  The court stated in passing sentence, that it was his intention to give Ward the full limit of the law, but his children had come to him in tears pleading for leniency for their father, and that they would be more miserable than their father were he to be given the full sentence of the law. Hence the light sentence.

Now known as “The Murakami House,” this building at 270th and Sandridge in Nahcotta was the original Pacific Journal building in Oysterville and was moved to its present location (then Sealand) in 1892. Photo Credit – Stephanie Frieze

Ward ran a saloon at Sealand for some time but with the removal of the Pacific Journal to Ilwaco, he had to close up on account of lack of patronage.  He afterwards engaged in business in Ilwaco.  The crime for which he was sentenced was that of shooting his wife.  He had some trouble with his wife and they had separated.  Both were in attendance on celebration of Gray’s discovery of the Columbia river, held in Astoria last May, and on the morning of May 12, as Mrs.  Ward was leaving the dining room of the Hotel  Northern her husband fired four times at her wounding her severely but not fatally.  He was promptly arrested and as he was being taken away he expressed the wish that he could “finish her.”

So… there you have it.  Some things don’t change, as I stated at the get-go.  On the other hand… quite a few things have changed, apparently, whether for better or worse is hard to tell.  All of which makes me wish we could read “the rest of the story!”

Every Little Once In A While

Tuesday, September 6th, 2022

I don’t like to argue with tourists.  Mostly, I don’t have to. When visitors to Oysterville happen to ask me questions and I happen to be able to answer, I’m usually met with respectful interest and often with a righteous exchange of information.  Learning something new is the part I enjoy most.

But sometimes the questions and answers don’t go so well.  Like today.  An older man — though probably a good deal younger than I — stopped in front of the house as I was waiting by the gate for  a friend.  “Whatever happened to that Manx sign on this house?” he asked.

John Crellin House, 1857

“I beg your pardon?” was the best I could do.

” You know — the Manx sign.  It’s three legs running in a circle.  It used to be on this house.”

“No, I told him.  There’s never been a Manx sign on this house — not in my lifetime, anyway.”

“Well,” he said, “It was on some house around here.  This place was settled by Manxmen you know.”

“No,” I said.  “Two of the old houses were built by the Crellin brothers from the Isle of Mann — this one and the one up the street that has all the bottles in the windows.  But that was more than a decade after the town was founded and they were the only two Manxmen to settle here as far as I know.”

Tom Crellin House, 1869

“Well,” he said, “I’ve  been coming here for a number of years and I remember that sign clearly…”

At that point, my friend arrived and I tuned out of the conversation.  The visitor went over to the churchyard to sit on one of the benches.  Maybe he’s waiting for the sign to appear…

This is certainly one of those times that I wish Uncle Cecil was still around.  His memory went back to the 1880s.  On the other hand, I’m not sure that this was a visitor that had ever been mistaken about anything.  There are people like that, I’m told.  Go figure…

Oysterville Is Reeling

Friday, June 24th, 2022

The Honorary Oysterville Militia, Memorial Day 2022 – Ron Biggs, Center, In Beige Vest,

Today we learned that our long-time friend and neighbor, Ron Biggs, died yesterday — apparently in good health, while working in his garden.  His is the seventh death since 2022 began.  Too many for such a tiny village to endure.

It’s true that three of the seven didn’t live here.  But their roots were here or their parents’ roots, or their spouse’s roots.  They were connected to one another and to us as only those in a small community can fully understand.  In some cases, we grew up together.  Or our children did.  We served on committees and boards together.  We laughed and argued, reminisced and laughed some more, and, in some cases, had less and less to do with one another as the years went by.

A December Sunrise

But we walked the same footpaths, picked berries from the same bushes, revelled in the same sunrises over Willapa Bay.  We love where we live and have chosen to be here until the end — for better or for worse.  Those of us left behind will not forget a single one of you — not Ryan or Linda, not Bud or Ava or Dick, and never Nyel or Ronnie.  You were and are what makes Oysterville where we want to be until we join you.  But still we ache for the missing of you all…

Oysterville’s Deer People

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021


Posing for Tucker

The deer people have been keeping a fairly low profile — at least on our edge of town.  I imagine the bucks are busy growing their new antlers — maybe even getting the itch to get the velvet off by now.  And the mama deer have just about had it with nursing.  By now, even the June-borns should be foraging on their own.  It’s not quite time to stay out of sight of the hunters — but soon.

A week or so ago, I saw our little Bucky deer over on the west side of Sandridge just across from School Street.  He was fairly well camouflaged and watching the traffic closely, not interested in crossing just then, but perhaps storing up traffic information.  The car in front of me spotted him and slowed to a stop.  Those behind us had no idea what the trouble was but they were respectful and, after we went on, I saw in my rear view mirror that they stopped in their turn to have a look.  It’s one thing most of us never tire of.

By Tucker Wachsmuth

Tucker got some wonderful photos of an older buck.  I didn’t ask where he was but I imagine it was out Leadbetter way.  What a beauty.  I hope he can stay hidden from the trophy hunters this fall.   Not every deer is as patient and diligent as Oysterville’s Bucky.  We are looking forward to his annual fall pear foraging adventures — anytime now.  Fingers crossed.


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.)