Oysterville: A Boomtown Once More?

Jun 5, 2014 | 0 comments

Oysterville c,1930

Oysterville c.1930

According to Wikipedia, a boomtown is a community that experiences sudden and rapid population and economic growth. The growth is normally attributed to the nearby discovery of a precious resource such as gold, silver or oil…

Or in Oysterville’s case, oysters! According to R.H. Espy’s account, there was not a habitation in sight when he and I.A. Clark arrived on the saltmarsh in front of what is now Oysterville. That was on April 12, 1854. Within a year, however, the major portion of Pacific County’s population was centered in Oysterville and the burgeoning community was named the County Seat. A boomtown indeed!

Captain Stream House As Seen From Territory Road

Captain Stream House As Seen From Territory Road

South Bend, across the bay and up the Willapa River, was a boomtown of a different variety. According to various accounts of its beginnings, it was a sleepy farming area when a group of real estate promoters “boomed it” in the l890s. Their idea was that South Bend (so called for its location on the river) could become “The Baltimore of the Pacific.” By 1893, they had wrested the County Seat from Oysterville and the rest is history, as they say.

It pains me to point out that one of the main movers and shakers in the booming of South Bend was Captain A. T. Stream, late of the United States Lifesaving Service and part-time resident of Oysterville. It further pains me that his was one of my favorite houses in Oysterville. I don’t know if he was one of the South Bend Raiders who came on that cold, slushy morning in February 1893 and stole the records from the courthouse – the infamous ‘Kidnapping’ of our County Seat. But I do think of him as a bit of a traitor for his part in pushing the development of South Bend to our detriment.

Bradley's Garage

Bradley’s Garage

Right now, Oysterville is involved in a different sort of boom – a building boom! And the Captain Stream house is one of the major construction sites. I am told by the builders that the house will look much like it did before the bugs destroyed it but, even from the front, it looks bigger to me. I know that the old footprint is being followed. It’s the height that seems wrong… and it probably is, given current building codes for foundations. I’m hoping when all is said and done we won’t notice those extra inches.

At Carol and Tucker's

At Carol and Tucker’s

At our end of town, another big-looking building is going up. It’s Bradley’s three-car garage. I’m thinking that it will be the largest residential garage ever built in Oysterville. But, of course, that sounds a bit deceptive. For the first half of our history there were no garages. Only barns. I’m not sure when the first ‘dedicated’ garage was built – maybe in 1939 when the Wachsmuth Cabins were built. Or maybe in the late forties when the Holway house was built. Other households gradually converted barns and other outbuildings for use by motorcars. We are still using an extension to what was once the woodshed.

I understand, too, that both the Wachsmuth house and the Hayward house are about ready for occupancy! Whoo Hoo! Exciting times in our little village by the bay!

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