Archive for the ‘Pacific County’ Category

Anyone else feeling vaguely “unwanted”?

Friday, December 18th, 2020

R.H. Espy, born 1826 in Allegheny County, PA – died 1918, a 64-year resident of Pacific County, WA

Somehow, Wednesday’s front page headline in the Observer — “Out-of-state seniors drive up county age” — was a bit unsettling.  As I read the article, I realized that the finger-pointing by the U.S. Census Bureau was specifically directed to a group of us old ducks that I don’t quite fit into.  Almost but not quite.  And I’m not at all sure why I care.

The article’s statistics specifically target an influx of older residents who were born in states other than Washington and who moved here between 2015 and 2019.  Well, I moved here permanently (check!) and was born in Massachusetts (check!) but that was in 1978 and I was still twenty-plus years shy of being a senior.  Even so, the tone of the article made me feel a bit uncomfortable about being old and born out-of-state.  And then I felt annoyed.  And then totally pissed off.

I dragged out my copy of the 1860 Pacific County Census and took a quick look.  As expected, the only residents listed as born in Washington Territory were under seven years old!  Duh! At a time when our indigenous people were not allowed to be counted in the U.S. Census and when Euro-American settlers were just beginning to arrive, ALL  adults who were counted in Pacific County had been born elsewhere.  Double duh!

The one exception to the 7-or-under pattern  was 16-year-old George Johnson who my great-grandfather, the census-taker, counted despite George’s Indian heritage.  Knowing what I do of Great-Grandpa R. H. Espy, he snuck in as many Indians as he could.  I’ve been told that he mostly preferred their company to many of the early “born-elsewhere” settlers.

Julia Jefferson Espy born 1851 in Marion County, OR – died 1901, a 31-year resident of Pacific County, WA

Granted, most of those listed in the 1860 count were not “seniors.”  Actually, make that “none” were seniors in the present-day understanding (65-and-over) of the term.  Settling the wilderness was not an occupation for old folks.  The oldest people listed were John Crellin, Sr. from the Isle of Man who was 60 and George Wills from Kentucky who was 58.  Both were farmers and came here with younger family members.

The total number of residents in Pacific County in 1860, according to my GG and the U.S. Census Bureau, was 470 — all born out of Washington Territory with the exceptions noted above.  The total number today is 21,668, 46.9% of whom were born out of state.

I don’t find these latest statistics very compelling.  As in so what?  What I’d much rather like to know from our present-day, newly arrived, born-out-of-state residents is this:  What brought you here and what, if any, “connection” do you have to our area?  I’ll bet the answers would be fascinating.  Much more interesting than the latest census analysis of our changing demographics.  Just sayin’…



Dan Driscoll: Into The Fray!

Sunday, July 12th, 2020

Dan Driscoll

My neighbor Dan Driscoll called yesterday and, in twenty minutes, he touched on more hot-button county topics than you could shake the proverbial stick at.  Fireworks, law enforcement, shoreline management, the freedom of information act, historic preservation, transparency in public meetings — you name it and it came rolling into the conversation.

He called to thank me for asking him some questions he couldn’t answer about fireworks.  That was Monday — less than a week ago.  Since then he’s “done his homework,” as they say.  He’s talked to people on all sides of the subject; he’s looked into laws and regulations; he’s caught up with the Peninsula’s history on the issues involved; and, best of all, he’s working on a plan!  It won’t necessarily be “the” answer to this very complex problem, but a first step toward some sort of change.  Something do-able.  It was SO refreshing to hear about what might be possible instead of all the reasons we’re stuck with the status quo!

It’s A Sign!

In case you haven’t heard, Dan is running for Pacific County Commissioner.  As far as I know, it’s his first involvement in politics.  But his knowledge of how this county works (and doesn’t work) is far-reaching.  If you’ve been a resident here for very long, you are aware of Dan’s legal battles with Pacific County and its well-entrenched “old-boy” mentality.  It took Dan two or three years, but he eventually won his suit.  It set back his business and his efforts to restore the historic cannery in which his Oysterville Sea Farms is headquartered.  And it probably put him tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

On the plus side, though, is that Dan has had a good look around the underbelly (if counties have bellies) and knows where the bodies are buried.  (Yuck!  Terrible metaphors but, in my mind, totally appropriate.)  And, in addition to attending to the arduous work of re-building his business, he wants to be part of making some changes — changes that should, ultimately, make a big difference to all of us.

“Oysterville Sea Farms” Painting by Pat Fagerland

This is a hell of a time to break into politics — zoom meetings and telephone conversations and social media contacts don’t take the place of public get-togethers and face-to-face, in-person discussions.  But if anyone can make that work, I think Dan can.

I hope that people with questions and concerns and pertinent information about county concerns will reach out to him.  Whether or not you are in his District and can vote for him in November, with only three commissioners in the county, the actions of each one affect us all.  If you aren’t able to vote for Dan, tell someone who can.  But, don’t take my word for it.  Talk to him, yourself.  He’s very approachable!  And, besides that, he’s a nice guy and worth knowing.

Not Quite Like Today

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Steamers Shamrock and Reliable

Well, it wasn’t the 10th of February like today.  It was the 5th.  And the snow hadn’t completely disappeared from Oysterville like today.  It was slushy.  But it was a Sunday like today. Most of the Oysterville residents were in church – not like today.  According to John Morehead who served as County Commissioner from 1893 to 1897, this is what happened on that long-ago Sunday morning:

On a slushy Sunday in February of 1893, two steamers were seen coming up the channel from the lower bay. When they were opposite Oysterville, one was seen to turn off over the flats in front of that town and the other proceeded on to Sealand where upwards of fifty men clambered onto the deck.

Sealand-Nahcotta 1890s

We had been watching them, and Jim Morrison said, “They are after the court house, and now for some fun.” He grabbed up his shotgun, marched out on the deck with a military stride, and took up a beat from one side of the wharf to the other.

When the oncoming horde saw that the wharf was guarded by an armed man, they stopped and held a consultation among themselves. Finally, three or four of the bravest ones were detailed to go forward and hold a parley with the supposed representative of the enemy. The only terms on which Jim would allow them to pass was that they take a round of drinks in his saloon before proceeding on to Oysterville.

They took a couple of teams, one of which was mine. I was censured by the Oystervillians for allowing my team to engage in such unholy work, but as I was engaged in teaming between the two towns, I considered that my business, as it was agreeable with the driver to do the work and union prices were not followed that day. The driver of the other team was none other than my old friend, Judge Kayler, now of Long Beach.

Arriving at the court house in Oysterville, the two parties went into a huddle to talk over their method of procedure. Finally, an egotistical tailor and taxidermist named John Hudson, who afterward was an exhibit at Chicago World’s Fair from Pacific County, stepped forward and after rolling up his sleeves, so as to show his well-developed biceps, assumed an attitude and kicked in the door of the court house. The mob swarmed in and seemed to be more intent on satisfying their curiosity than in carrying away the contents of the offices.

Phil D. Barney, Oysterville Courthouse c. 1890

The county auditor, Phil D. Barney, had not taken much interest in the proceedings until he sauntered into his office and discovered that they had broken into a private drawer in his desk and were scattering his private papers about the room. Immediately there was something doing in the Auditor’s office of Pacific County. Barney grabbed up a chair leg and the execution he did with it on the heads of those South Benders would have put Samson of old to shame as he spread carnage among the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.

After quiet was partially restored, an official from South Bend posted himself at one of the doors and proposed to admit only those hand-picked individuals that suited his fancy. Yours truly was refused admission by him, but such a forcible argument was presented that he gladly deserted his post.

They took away some of the records and furniture with them, on their departure, and in due time the contents of the court house were removed over to South Bend by the usual method of transportation. The county officials at this time were Phil D. Barney, County Auditor; Sumner F. Lockwood, former Mayor of Ilwaco, County Treasurer; Thomas Roney, Sheriff; Anthony Bowen, Clerk of the Court; Marion D. Egbert, Prosecuting Attorney; Charles Foster of South Bend, W.D. Whealdon of Ilwaco, and J.A. Morehead constituting the board of County Commissioners.

County Courthouse in Oysterville 1875-1893

To show that there was no demand at that time for nerve tonic in the booming city on the banks of the Willapa, bills were presented to the Commissioners for services rendered to the county while looting its property. It is unnecessary to say that those bills were disallowed by the board without a debate, by a two to one vote.

Periodically, I read Morehead’s account to remind myself of how far we’ve come in County politics.  Or have we?

Shrapnel, Nepotism and Other Weird Stuff

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

Sheriff Scott Johnson

Sometimes I really wish I could get inside another person’s head to get an idea of how in the world they think.   But mostly, I don’t.  Certainly not in the case of our recently defeated Pacific County Sheriff, Scott Johnson.  I am totally content to let his actions speak for themselves and to keep a seemly distance from him and from the fallout that will surely occur from his most recent behavior. At least, I hope there is fallout.

And, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, stop reading this and go directly to  You will see a “developing news story” from the Chinook Observer with this headline:  “Outgoing sheriff appoints his dad to be undersheriff.”  The article goes on to say that Johnson’s 80-year-old-father is a retired county road-crew worker and, at this point, his qualifications for the job are unclear.

Screen Shot 2018-11-09 at 8:15 a.m.

Also unclear is whether or not our county has an anti-nepotism policy.  (Were I a betting woman, I’d bet not.)  According to the article, Washington state law says little about nepotism, but many cities and counties “allow staffers to supervise, or be supervised, by a close relative.”  So, perhaps, Sheriff Johnson hasn’t fallen completely down that rabbit hole.  Perhaps.

My own take on decision-making by Sheriff Johnson is (and has always been) extremely tentative.  After all, my understanding is that he still has shrapnel in his head from that 2010 shooting he was involved in back when he was a State Trooper. (See the story in the February 13, 2010 issue of the Observer:    I’ve always wondered what might happen if one of those fragments got loose.

Just sayin’…

Democracy Alive and Well at the Beach!

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

It was standing room only last night at in the high school cafeteria where Pacific County residents gathered to hear candidates tell about themselves, their views, and their reasons for running for office in the upcoming mid-term election.  The speakers were candid, civil, and, for the most part, well-prepared.  It was an impressive display of democracy in action.

In my opinion, the shining star was Pam Nogueira Maneman who is running for Pacific County Prosecutor.  If anyone went to that meeting last night with thoughts like “but she lacks the experience…” I’m quite sure that they left thinking differently.  She sat between two candidates with whom she has worked in the past and talked forthrightly about the problems in the Prosecutor’s Office – problems that she blamed directly on the policies and (lack of) procedures that have their origin right there in the workplace of her opponents.  The problems she described adversely affect how the law is administered in our county and how we, as taxpayers and residents, are impacted on a daily basis.  And lest you think otherwise, she expressed clear solutions to those problems – solutions that work in other counties across the nation and that work in neighboring counties where she has worked.

I listened intently during the presentations by sheriff candidates, especially to the questions about ICE.  Robin Souvenir got two thumbs up from me for pointing out that being an undocumented immigrant is NOT a criminal offense in our country.  Sean Eastham, on the other hand talked about being available in case there happened to be a shooting…  He lost me there.  I am not aware that there has been gun violence related to ICE arrests here in Pacific County.  I did not like the inference.

Some time ago, I made the decision not to vote for a single incumbent on a national level.  No matter how hard certain of our elected officials have “tried” to accomplish things in the other Washington, they have remained ineffective.  Impotent and ineffective for years.  Time to clean the closet and get new minds and hearts to work on our behalf, I say.  Last night, I found myself thinking similarly when it came to our county elections.  And, not just the incumbent office-holders, themselves, but anyone who has worked under them.  Last night’s forum simply underscored my resolve as far as the Sheriff’s and Prosecutor’s offices are concerned.

For the other positions – PUD Commissioner and County Commissioner, there are no incumbents running.  While the candidates’ presentations last night shed a bit of light on their preparedness, I feel I must do a little more homework before I am prepared to vote.  Meanwhile, a huge shout-out to the AAUW for making last night possible.  Thanks to them, I know I am well on my way to becoming an informed voter this time around.

On The Verge

Friday, June 8th, 2018

Have you noticed?  The County seems to be sponsoring a new sort of parking lot.  It’s long and narrow and, so far, appears to be exclusively for old and presumably non-functioning RVs.  We used to call the area “Sandridge Road” or, more specifically, the “County-Right-of-Way-on-Sandridge,” or just “the verge along the back road.”  It’s the constricted, usually grassy, space between the asphalt and the ditches – a sort of no-man’s land that is an inconvenient place to pull over in an emergency.

It’s long been an area where litter collects – trash that is apparently thrown out of passing cars.  When we lived on the bay a quarter of a mile or so from the Oysterville ‘Y’, we used to ‘walk the verge’ every Saturday morning, filling a black garbage bag with all manner of disgusting stuff –  bags of uneaten and rotting meals from fast food chains, used diapers, used condoms – you name it.  We wore vinyl gloves, you betcha!  I imagine that homeowners are still picking up trash along the road.

But it’s hard to stuff an old RV into a litter bag.  I don’t know what the County policy is on abandoned vehicles.  I do know that there isn’t a County Impound Lot.  (Nyel read it in the paper.)  And I also know that the County professes to be out of money.  (Maybe that will change next year.  We just got our property reassessment for the 2018 tax year.  A significant and scary increase!)  I haven’t called anyone to see if there’s a plan for those abandoned RVs.  Somehow, I just don’t want to face the usual bureaucratic blah blah blah…

I was thinking that maybe those RVs are still somewhat habitable.  I was also wondering if there are homeless families who might be able to use them as shelters from the elements.  And… yeah, yeah, yeah… I know there are other problems like heat, water, sewage.  But, if those eyesores are going to continue to take up County real estate, it seems as though they could be of use to someone… Just sayin’.

Letter from the Blacksmith’s Son

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

The following paragraphs are excerpts from a letter written on March 26, 1972 by Clarence Dolan to Katy Kimura who was then the Mayor of South Bend:

I was born at Willapa in 1885.  I well remember when the waterfront was lined up with saw mills and shingle mills and other industries.  Long before Raymond was ever dreamed of, I used to help the Morris boys out and harvest tideland grass where the city of Raymond is today.  Before going to Alaska in 1906, I was offered lots on the main street of Raymond at 25 dollars.  After 3 years in Alaska I returned and found these same lots selling at $750.oo.  I then returned to Alaska and spent 2 more years up there, and on my return, was informed that a bank had paid $4,400 for a lot on which they built their bank.

My parents landed at Oysterville in 1877, where my dad set up a blacksmith shop.  Later on the family moved up on Cedar River on a claim where one of my sisters and a brother were born.  The family then moved to Willapa, formerly called Woodards Landing.  It was here that my twin brother and I were born.  Then in a little over one year, my sister was born, and this completed a total of 12 children born to my parents.  The family originally migrated from Iowa, and on their way to the coast, they stopped in Denver where my dad set up a blacksmith shop where he used to shoe WILD BILL’S black mare for him.  The family then headed for San Francisco, and then by boat came to SHOALWWATER BAY in 1877.

I was about 6 years old when I seen my first railroad.  All supplies came to Willapa by boat.  I knew what PIONEER life was like and the hardships those early settlers endured.  I knew what poverty was like and I do not mean maybe.  I was limited to as little as 3 months of school in one year because the district was so far in debt.  I could easily write a book on the PIONEER days of Pacific County.  It used to be a full day trip by horse team to South Bend and back to Willapa.  I remember such men as Tom Rooney as SHERIFF and Zack Brown who was also SHERIFF of Pacific County, attorneys H.W.B. Hewen, John Welch and Dr. Schenk who married my niece, formerly Pearl Shay, and it just may be that the bank building you live in is where Dr. Schenk had his offices 30 years ago.

Thanks to Steve Rogers for sending me this and to Ken Kimura for posting it on his FB page (which is where Steve found it.)  Great stuff!  I never tire of reading and sharing the memories of the “old-timers.”  More of Clarence Dolan’s reminiscences may be found in various issues of  the Pacific County Historical Society’s magazine, the Sou’wester.

Convergence at the Science Conference

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

No one asked me last night: “What was your take-away from the 2018 Annual Science Conference?”  If they had, I’d probably have answered with one word: “Convergence.”

For one thing, it had been an all-day event – multiple speakers talking about eleven different topics from the ‘History of Hatchery Reform’ to ‘Integrating Logging and Salmon Restoration – An update on Ellsworth Creek’ – and I couldn’t really believe how much I already knew about every single topic!  Enough, by far, to keep my mind engaged and my eyes glued to the various power point programs that accompanied each presentation.

Too, I knew many of the attendees and was pleased to meet many more – scientists, oystermen, politicians, writers, historians, fishermen – during the breaks and mealtimes.  (Great food, by the way!  All catered seamlessly by Bob and Judy Andrew of the Cottage Bakery.)  Plus, it was all taking place in familiar territory – the Meeting Room at the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation’s headquarters on Pioneer Road.  It was only a few weeks ago that I was writing about the creation of that very space as I finished my upcoming book, “Washington’s Cranberry Coast.”

Up first was a report on Washington’s Coastal Resilience Project, a three-year effort to rapidly increase the state’s capacity to prepare for natural events that threaten the coast — specifically,  rising sea level and, as a forerunner, an announcement about what to do if an earthquake should happen right then and there.  “Do not head for your car,” we were told, and we were given directions for walking to the nearest high ground – twenty minutes to the Lone Fir Cemetery.

Already, I felt on ‘familiar’ ground, so to speak.  It’s about a twenty-minute walk to the Oysterville Cemetery from our house.  That, also, is the highest ground near here and, as I have often said, if the big one comes, my plan is to go there, hug a tree, and if worse came to worse, I’d be exactly where I intend to end up anyway…

And, so it went.  From topic to topic I felt a personal connection.  Only a few days ago I had finished reading Robin Cody’s Another Way The River Has.  The last chapter deals with the success of reclamation efforts on the Umatilla River – reclamation of both the river and of the Chinook runs that had been long absent.  The chapter dealt with dams and hatcheries and the Umatilla tribe and federal agencies and more.  It was definitely a precursor to the second topic on the agenda – History of Hatchery Reform.

And then there was the topic about burrowing shrimp – those ghostly critters right outside my front door, on my very property, that, so far anyway, have more rights than oysters or oyster growers or any of the rest of us.  And the update on spartina… now thankfully gone from our property – and the vigilance needed to keep it that way.

And on and on.  Convergence!  I am struck once again how no one part of our lives is isolated from any other part.  If you’d ask, I’d tell you that my interest in and knowledge about this area is its history.  But this conference was a visceral reminder that nothing at all is in isolation – not even the books I read or the burial place of my ancestors or the sucking mud just a few hundred feet from my front door!

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Big News in 2010

Once upon a time, about two years ago maybe, I would have said “Only in Pacific County!”  I’m referring to my reaction to yesterday’s banner headline story, “Attorney: Wrong man in prison” – right there on the front page of the Chinook Observer.

If you’ve lived in our county for very long, you remember when Martin Jones was convicted of shooting Washington State Trooper Scott Johnson back in 2010 – a crime for which Jones is now serving a 50-year sentence.  No doubt, you also remember that Trooper Johnson was shot in the head by a .22-caliber bullet which broke apart and remains lodged in his head.  Subsequently, he left the Washington State Patrol due to disability but recovered sufficiently (Say what?) within a few months to run for Pacific County Sheriff against incumbent John Didion.  In our great wisdom (and what some called the “pity vote”) we elected him not once, but twice.

Yosemite Sam

As if all of that isn’t melodramatic enough, yesterday’s news story says that “sworn declarations from local drug dealer Peter Boer” have been filed, alleging that, back in 2010, his brother, Nick, “took credit” for the shooting and sent Peter to dispose of gun parts.  And the report goes on to say, “Peter Boer also alleged a motive, though no evidence has emerged to support it:  Johnson had been shaking down his brother Nick Boer for money in lieu of arrest.”  (Say what?)

And here I thought it was pretty crazy, back in 1985, when Mayor Fred Rutherford fired all the policemen (or maybe it was ‘almost’ all) in Long Beach.  I can’t remember the details except that we got a call at Ocean Park School where I was then teaching that “Everything is under control.  Fred is marching down the center of Pacific Avenue wearing his six shooters and the town is pretty quiet.”  Just like Yosemite Sam!  Perhaps you remember that?  It doesn’t seem nearly so strange in the light of more recent law-and-order events in the county.

MRAP – Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicle

Lest we be concerned… perhaps it might help us to remember that we’ve come a long way in the last thirty odd years.  Specifically, remember the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle that Sheriff Johnson managed to get for the county.  No need to patrol the streets with six shooters these days, no sirree!  (You just can’t make this stuff up!)

…you be the judge!

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
Chinook Observer Editorial 8/3/2016

Chinook Observer Editorial 8/3/2016

As far as I can tell, this week’s Chinook Observer contains more mentions of Oysterville than have ever occurred in any single past issue.  Beginning with an article about Oysterville Sea Farms (“Judge delivers clear win to Driscoll in land-use case”) and an editorial (“Preservation still possible in Oysterville”) followed by a number of letters to the editor and even a guest column, our little village is certainly in the spotlight.

In one way or another, they all have to do with legal process.  And, as we all know, once you get involved in that can of worms, reason and logic seem to fly out the window right along with facts and other pertinent information.  As Shakespeare wrote back in 1597 in King Henry VI, Part II:  “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”  (And, wouldn’t you know – lawyers have been arguing over what he meant by that ever since!)

Maybe the controversy in Oysterville boils down to semantics.  The headline “O’ville design guidelines wouldn’t withstand legal test” summarizes what a Gig Harbor attorney wrote in her guest column on the subject.  I don’t know much about the law, but I do understand something about the English language.  It seems to me that “guidelines” and “laws” are totally different.

Oysterville Design Guidelines

Oysterville Design Guidelines

According to my old copy of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary  a guideline is “an indication or outline of policy or conduct”; a law is “a binding custom or practice of a community: a rule of conduct or action prescribed or firmly recognized as binding or enforced by a commanding authority.”

Furthermore, synonyms for law are listed as “rule, regulation, precept, statute, ordinance, and canon.” Guidelines ain’t in it!   In other words, guidelines are used to guide – which, to the best of my knowledge, is how the Oysterville Design Review Board utilized the Oysterville Design Review Guidelines for almost forty years.  I think Robert Freed’s letter (page A7) of explanation is the most cogent of all the opinions expressed.  In particular, I suggest you read his next-to-last paragraph which begins: “Design review guidelines are intentionally prepared with ‘gray areas’…

But to quote yet another of those common knowledge things, “You can’t fight city hall”… or in our case, the various boards, agencies, and departments of Pacific County.  In that regard, I wish the Observer would have an investigative reporter take on yet one more of those expressions that have become so prominent in twenty-first century parlance:  “Follow the money.”