Marriage of ‘Mrs. Nippers’ and Other News

Feb 22, 2016 | 3 comments

Annual Regatta, c. 1870s

Annual Oysterville Regatta, c. 1870s

This morning I ran across two interesting letters (actually copies sent to my mother by the late Ruth Dixon). The first, from Isaac Smith of North River, was written to Mary Richardson Wells Bristow of “Eugene City, Oregon.” Written July 2, 1872, it is choc-a-bloc full of interesting ‘news’ including this bit about the upcoming boat race on Shoalwater Bay:

…there is not much of anything going on except there is going to be a boat race on the Fourth. I have got the “Lib” fitted up and intend going up to get “cleaned out.” I will write again and give you full particulars after the race…
Oh!! “Mother Nippers has got married to an old fellow at Oysterville by the name of Franklin.

Wells, Richardson, Woodward Tombstone, Oysterville Cemetery0003

Wells/Richardson/Woodward Tombstone, Oysterville Cemetery — according to Marie Oesting in her “Oysterville Cemetery Sketches” this is “the most puzzling” marker in the cemetery.

An added comment (perhaps by Mrs. Dixon) at the bottom of the letter perhaps is in explanation of Isaac’s boat’s namesake: “Lib (Elizabeth Miranda Richardson) who was first married to a man named Pope, was a sister of Mary Jane Richardson, who was married first to William Benjamin Wells, who was a famous steamboat man on the Willamette and Columbia rivers. He founded the town of Port William at Toke’s Point, at the lighthouse, and had a general store there. He carried the mail from Oysterville, and Miles Standish Griswold was the postmaster at Port William. Captain Wells was drowned soon thereafter, and has a large tombstone in the Oysterville cemetery.”

Mary Bristow forwarded Isaac’s letter on to her mother with this additional information:

Mrs. Nippers that Isaac spoke of is Mrs. Doctor Johnson…
I believe I wrote you the particulars about the boat racing. There is a boat club at Oysterville. Isaac belongs to it. There is no betting, but everyone pays a certain amount and prizes are bought with the money. Those that win get the prize.

In the Pioneer Section of the Oysterville Cemetery, Espys are in Lot #1, Wells is in Lot #61

In the Pioneer Section of the Oysterville Cemetery, Espys are in Lot #1, Wells is in Lot #61

The letters are full of other tidbits about local happenings. Mrs. Dixon’s comment: “It seems the living Espys did not know the Wells, but the deceased are close neighbors in the Oysterville Cemetery…” Actually, not very close by my reckoning. Espys are in one corner and Wells in another.

As usual… these bits and pieces conjure up more questions than answers. Why do you suppose they called her “Mrs. Nippers” for instance? And, since Dr. Johnson’s tombstone in the Oysterville Cemetery says he died in 1877, how did his wife, “Mrs. Nippers,” happen to re-marry five years previously? Maybe Bud Goulter, a descendent of Dr. Johnson, might know.  You could spend a lifetime trying to connect the dots…


  1. Nancy Holden

    When you refer to Mrs. Dixon would it be the wife of Rev Dixon
    minister of Methodist Church Ocean Park in the forties ?

    • sydney

      No. Ruth Dixon was a journalist and the long-time editor of the Sou’wester, the Pacific County Historical Society’s quarterly magazine — no relationship to Pastor Harold Dixon or Ocean Park as far as I know.

      • Nancy Holden

        Ruth Dixon was the daughter of Harold Dixon. Sorry thought you were referring to a Dixon other than Ruth Ellen. Knew them from going to church in Ocean Park. She had a younger sister named Mable Jean.


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