Oysterville or Espyville? Six of one and… ?

Sep 30, 2021 | 2 comments

Oysterville Sign

According to family lore as recorded in Willard Espy’s Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village, once Espy and Clark realized that they had fathered a village, Mr. Clark said, “We’ll call it Espyville.”  “We’ll do nothing of the sort,” snorted grandpa, perhaps recalling that a couple of villages called Espy and Espyville back in Pennsylvania never had amounted to much; “we’ll call it Oysterville.”

Somewhere else I read that it was Elvira Stevens – first village midwife and proprietor (along with her husband Gilbert) of the Stevens Hotel and, incidentally, not related in any way to my husband Nyel — who suggested the name Oysterville at an early town meeting.  Somehow, though, even without Espy’s name being  used, Espys from all over the United States seem to find this tiny west coast village.  Usually they are on the search for information about their Espy ancestors  or are curious to learn if this branch of the family is up to snuff.

Reproduction Map – Espyville, PA 1865

What happens, of course, is that they fall in love with Oysterville and its history — not especially with the R.H. descendants.  But most come back periodically and our relationships become more than just the family tree variety.  Debi Snyder (who is my fourth cousin twice removed according to Cuzzin Rallph) writes that she is coming back to Oysterville for a visit next month.  She apparently visited here in 2017 for the first time.  I had forgotten that and I hope seeing her will joggle my aging mind…  Also, if I remember, I want to ask if she has ever visited Espyville in Pennsylvania.  Just curious.

According Wikipedia, Espyville is an unincorporated community in North Shenango Township, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, United States — several sentences shorter than the initial Wikipedia entry about Oysterville.  On another site concerning the history of Crawford County, I found that Espyville, in the westernpart, was laid out about 1833 by John Espy who (perhaps) was the son of George Espy who had built a saw and grist mill about one fourth mile west of what is now Espyville. He also operated a distillery.

Postcard of Oysterville Post Office Outside and Inside

According to Crawford County, Pennsylvania History and Biography written in 1885: The village [of Espyville] has not attained any great size and now contains a store, two blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, one paint shop, a jelly factory and cider mill, Collins Bros. saw and planing mill, a school, church, about twenty families, and the only post office in the township.

I wish Nyel and I had thought to visit Espyville when we were in the neighborhood some years ago.  It sounds to me like there were (and perhaps still are) a lot of similarities between Espyville and Oysterville, no matter how hopeful R.H. Espy was that this settlement would do better by another name.  Probably one of those six-of-one-and-half-a-dozen-of-the-other situations.  Or maybe a town by any other name…



  1. Deborah Wells

    Interesting story-would be nice to visit both places to compare! DEBBIE

  2. Cuzzin Ralph

    Cuzzin Sydney, I’d just like to add that George Espy of Espyville was the bro of James Pollard “The Storm King” Espy—they were the respective eldest and youngest kids of Josiah Espy and Elizabeth Patterson. These bros are the 1st cousins of our ancestor Thomas Espy (married Anna Hamilton). One similarity of Espyville and Oysterville is that each is adjacent to a large body of water. In the case of Espyville it is the Pymatuning Reservoir—formed by a dam on the Shenango River built in 1934 for flood control.


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