Of Cemeteries, Prisons, and Friends

Apr 12, 2013 | 1 comment

Oysterville Cemetry SketchesOne of the most useful references I have relative to the history of Oysterville is a book called Oysterville Cemetery Sketches.  It was written in 1988 by Marie Oesting and is, essentially, a collection of memories by (then) old-timers about the people buried up on Davis Hill.  The illustrations are by Larry Weathers –simple line drawings of the gravestones in the pioneer section of the graveyard.

Marie gathered the stories, arranged the book’s format, and self-published it.  In nothing flat, or so it seemed, it sold out and became a collector’s item.  When she moved from away from the Peninsula a few years later, she turned over the manuscript to the Oysterville Cemetery Association.  We have managed to get it back into print once (an expensive proposition, as it turned out) and, again, it sold out almost immediately. Perhaps, someday, through the munificence of a cemetery benefactor, we can publish it again.

Rowena Oesting as Elizabeth FryLast evening we had occasion to see Marie once more.  She lives in southern California now and is known by the name ‘Roena.’  We saw her at Clatsop Community College where she was doing a one-woman performance:  “Prison Reform Work Then (and now?) A Visit With Elizabeth Fry: 1780-1845.”

Roena is a Friend, or as I am more likely to think of her, a Quaker.  According to the little brochure she handed out last night:  I am a member of the LaJolla Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).  My meeting has recognized this program as a leading for me and has issued a Travel Minute in support.”  In carrying out her leading or mission, Roena travels, performing and talking about prison reform work.

It was a lovely performance and educational, as well.  Before she began, Roena asked various audience members if they would participate by reading a short script.  My part was to be a representative of the British Ladies’ Association and to read a list of the supplies they provided to women prisoners bound for Australia.

Rowena Oesting in PerformanceThe journey was long, difficult and boring and, until the British Ladies Association became involved, upon arrival in the women had nothing — no money, no contacts, no prospects.  The British Ladies Association taught the women to quilt so that they would have an occupation during the voyage and a product to sell or barter once they arrived.

Roena is staying here in Oysterville with our neighbor and her good friend, Sue Holway.  We hope that we will have a chance to visit with her before she is off to her next performance.  I want an opportunity to tell her how, once again, she has enriched my life by bringing stories of the past to the fore.

1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    What a fun gig Roena has and obviously and interesting personal story that leaves me with a lot of questions. It sounds as if it was a fun evening and maybe you’ll get another fun one with her. P.S., I want the book!


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