On this day in Oysterville, 1854

Apr 12, 2011 | 2 comments

Entrance To Oysterville

      One hundred fifty-seven years ago today it was cold and gray out on the bay. By mid-morning, Robert Hamilton Espy and Isaac Alonzo Clark had already paddled their borrowed canoe from the portage at the head of the bay past the north end of the Long Island. Then a thick, pea soup fog blew in from the northwest and they quickly became disoriented.
     Were they still traveling west toward their rendezvous with Espy’s Indian friend? Or were they erring east toward the Willapa River? Or perhaps heading north toward the treacherous ocean bar? Both began to pray, and it was then that they heard a rhythmic thumping off in the murky distance.
     Following the sound, they reached the shallow water near shore and found Old Klickeas pounding a hollow log with a spruce knot. He had spotted the canoe before the fog rolled in and had been signaling to them ever since. The date was Wednesday, April 12, 1854.
     The next day Klickeas took the two young men out at low tide to show them the oysters he had described to Espy the previous autumn. As promised, clumps and clusters of tiny native oysters covered the tideflats in every direction, as far as the eye could see. Millions of them!
     That same day Espy and Clark began cutting alders for a ten by twelve foot log cabin that the Indians helped them put up, close by the salt marsh where Klickeas had drummed them ashore. Yet unnamed and unpopulated, Oysterville has begun!

     Over the years, Chief Nahcati, after whom Nahcotta was named, has been given credit for showing Espy and Clark where the oysters on the west side of the bay were best. My Uncle Willard popularized that notion in his book Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa’s Village.
     However, a decade or so after the book’s 1977 publication, one of my Grandfather’s diaries surfaced. In it he had taken down notes from an oral history interview with his father done in 1914. It is Klickeas’s name that R. H. Espy mentioned again and again. No mention of Nahcati.


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    I can see the pea soup fog rolling in as I’ve experienced it myself! Does anything of the log cabin survive, Sydney? Thank you for sharing the rich history of the Peninsula.

  2. Jan

    “…cold and gray out on the bay.” Tough to imagine it…. 😉


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