Archive for the ‘The Honorary Oysterville Militia’ Category

Hip! Hip! Hooray! Winter Hiatus Is Over!

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

THOM Cannon – May 2021

General Nyel gave the order yesterday that the cannon belonging to The Honorary Oysterville Militia (THOM) should be returned to its place of honor at the west end of The Willard R. Espy Memorial Croquet Court just north of our house.  Private Eugene Busenius did the honors, returning the replica 1842 Howitzer from its winter resting place to its customary cement pad along with the bronze plaque listing the names of the Militia’s founding members.

Created in 2004 at the time of Oysterville’s Bicentennial, the group’s purpose was to acquire a cannon to replace the one originally used for ceremonial purposes in Oysterville during the 19th century.  That one met an inglorious end when some over-zealous revelers inadvertently blew it up.  Although I told the story not many months ago, it’s well worth re-telling — for the happy ending if nothing else!

Early ‘Oyster Boys’ Abe Wing and Jimmy Johnson

From one of Frank Turner’s “From Auld Lang Syne” columns written back in the 1950s for the Ilwaco Tribune.  (Perhaps Mr. Turner’s great-grandson, Keith Cox, can weigh in with the exact date.)  The column fills in some of the information about that first cannon that had heretofore been missing:

There was little in the way of entertainment for the young people and bachelor oystermen, aside from church and school, and the young men, waiting between tides for their work on the oyster beds were accustomed to displays of strength and skill for a certain amount of recreation.  There was a pile of pig iron, and one stunt was to lift it by the teeth.  Shooting with the white man’s gun, and with the Indian’s stout yew wood bows, was practiced in competition.  But top competition in weight lifting was practiced on a 400 pound cannon, or cannonade, that had been unloaded from shipboard on the high tide bank of the bay.  It took a he-man to lift the three-inch cannon as some claimed they did.  However, although the remains of the cannon are still said to be here and there in Oysterville, there is now no way to check on the prowess of the young pioneers.

THOM Plaque – May 2021

The fact is, the thing blew up.  It happened, according to the best recollection of the late Mrs. J.A. Morehead, on Lincoln’s Birthday in 1878 — perhaps a year or so earlier.  The young men waiting on the tide, including Captain Peter Jordan and Johnnie Clark, loaded her up good, ramming home a big charge of powder, followed by a heavy round rock from the pile of discarded ballast on the beach.  They touched her off.  There was a mighty roar.  One chunk fell through the roof of the Chris Johnson home 500 feet away and others in sundry places about the village.  But the worst was one that slapped Peter Jordan on the side of the head.

It was nip and tuck with Jordan in the days that followed, whether he would live or die.  Possibly the skill of  Mrs. Stevens, as a nurse, and the prayers of her daughter, Laura Belle, pulled him through.  On a July day in 1881 Captain Jordan married Laura Belle, but he carried the scars of the cannon all through life.

All Quiet With A Promise of Boom

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

Cannon on Display Again

Memorial Day was strangely quiet in Oysterville despite most of homeowners being in residence for the three-day weekend.  For the first time since 2010 there was no music at the church, no brunch at the schoolhouse hosted by Hal and Diane, and no big boom from the cannon.  I’m not even sure if the VFW had their traditional ceremony at the Oysterville Cemetery.

On the other hand, when I took flowers up to the Espy plot on Sunday, the Cemetery had never looked lovlier. The grass was freshly mowed, there were dozens of bouquets and flowering plants near grave markers old and new, and there were bright flags commemorating those who had  died in the service of our country.

For a few minutes I had the old burying ground completely to myself and I couldn’t help thinking of Willard’s book Skulduggery on Shoalwater Bay with its descriptive annotation: (Whispered Up from the Graves of the Pioneers.)   With so many friends and loved ones surrounding me in that place of peace and tranquility — there was nothing lonely or even sad about it.

Cannon on the Move

About mid-morning, in answer to General Nyel’s call for assistance, Lt. Tucker Wachsnuth arrived with his son Charley (a willing volunteer.)  They cheerfully transferred the Oysterville Honorary Militia’s cannon from its winter quarters (our garage) to its seasonal resting place in the garden north of the house.

The full-sized replica 1841 Mountain Howitzer is now ready for duties as assigned — “but probably not until Oysterville is no longer sheltering,” says the General.  “Meanwhile, keep your earplugs at the ready!”





Sorry. The cannon is indisposed.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018


By rights, THOM (The Honorary Oysterville Militia) should gather day after tomorrow to fire their cannon in commemoration of Oysterville’s founding.  It was April 12, 1854, according to accounts by both Isaac Clark and Robert Espy, that they paddled their canoe shoreward to the sound of Old Klickeas’s drumbeat.  That foggy day, as far as we know, marked the beginning of a permanent settlement here.  Worth noting with a cannon salute, eh?

But, unfortunately, THOM’s cannon is confined to quarters for a time.  After fourteen seasons – and not even the winter ones – out of doors in our northwest weather, her underpinnings are needing replacement.  New carriage wheels!  Nyel is ordering them today from an outfit in Pennsylvania and until they get here, the cannon will remain indisposed.  Which means she will stay tucked away in our garage until the new wheels arrive.

“Obviously, a canon of living in Oysterville is to have a gorgeous garden.” Diedre Duewel

We have been custodians of the cannon– a full-sized replica of an 1841 mountain howitzer made by Cannon Ltd. of Coolville, Ohio – for some years now.  We purchased it just in time to be used for Oysterville’s 2004 Sesquicentennial celebration. And, of course, as with most things in Oysterville, there is a story to go with it.

Oysterville has a long history of celebrations marked by cannon fire. According to my esteemed late Uncle Willard Espy’s account in Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa’s Village, in the 1870s R.H. Espy would don special black broadcloth pants, a maroon and black brocaded vest, a light linen duster, a stiff shirt with boiled bosom, a stiff collar, a bow tie, and a beaver hat and would discharge the cannon to begin festivities such as the annual regatta.

There are accounts that Oysterville’s original cannon was blown to bits by a rowdy group of midnight revelers, so for several generations we had to make do with only the stories about it. Hardly satisfactory thought Nyel. We happened to be in Gettysburg a few years before Oysterville was to observe the sesquicentennial year of its founding, and all those cannons on display prompted Nyel to make inquiries. He learned that for a mere ten or twelve thousand dollars Oysterville could once again have a cannon.

Cannon Squad, 2007

We pondered… and on the long road trip back home we conceived the idea of forming The Honorary Oysterville Militia. We would sell commissions to our friends and relatives and buy the cannon with the proceeds. General Nyel was the first to invest. The plan was successful beyond our wildest expectations and in early 2003 the cannon was ordered. It arrived in the spring of 2004, just in time for Oysterville’s 150th celebration. We’ve been celebrating loudly ever since!

THOM’s Call to Duty

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

General Nyel

In addition to his sobriquet as ‘Farmer Nyel,’ my husband is also recognized by many of our friends and family as ‘General Nyel’ or, more familiarly as, simply, ‘The General.’ This notable title harkens back to 2004 when, in preparation for Oysterville’s sesquicentennial, we invited friends and family to join the Honorary Oysterville Militia (THOM) and gave them the opportunity to purchase commissions. We thought it fitting that Nyel reserve the position of General for himself (and thus far there has been no challenge to that decision).

THOM Cannon

Our idea for the creation of THOM was to replace the once-upon-a-time cannon that had heralded the opening of important ceremonies in early Oysterville – events such as the Oysterville Yacht Club’s Regatta, the Fourth of July Parade, and various other celebrations, both solemn and jubilant. The fund-raising drive was successful and an 1841 Mountain Howitzer resides proudly on its own cement pad in our north garden. (During the rainy months, it is safely under cover nearby.) For the story of what happened to that first cannon, I commend you to my blog:

Cannon Squad, 2007

Like its historic predecessor, the cannon is used only on special occasions, the first of which for 2017 is fast approaching – Memorial Day, May 29th. As we speak, the General is preparing to call local militiamen to muster Monday morning at ten o’clock-ish, to fire the cannon at the close of the church service across the street.
In traditional manner, THOM Chaplain Pat McKibbin will speak a few words in honor of militia members who have died ‘in the line of duty,’ their names will be read, and the cannon will be fired in salute. The public is invited to attend this short ceremony. Bring your earplugs!