Not Quite Like Today

Feb 10, 2019 | 0 comments

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?

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