Playing Musical Houses in Oysterville

Apr 11, 2024 | 0 comments

The Red Cottage c. 1976

According to the Oyster Shell Telegraph, or as they say in other communities, “the word on the street”  (in this case, Territory Road), is that the little once-upon-a-time Red Cottage of my Uncle Willard’s has sold.  The most recent owner, Kevin, has purchased the vacant house to the north of the cottage and its new owner is a real estate personage from Long Beach.  There are probably more details, but until even these meager “facts” are corroborated, I hesitate to say more.  At least not more about the current events.

However, I do have a good many stories concerning the little house, itself,’  It was built in 1863 (or possibly as early as 1857) by Joel Munson and two of his brothers-in-law who were known as “the Kimball Boys” — survivors of the Whitman Massacre of 1847. Hearing of the “oyster boom” on Shoalwater Bay, they came from their homestead on the Clatsop Plains, but of their group only one Kimball sister and her husband Augustus Wirt stayed.  (Their descendants lived just across the lane from our house when my mother was a girl.) In 1865, Joel Munson moved to Ilwaco and became one of the first lightkeepers at the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.  He was a well-known fiddler in the area and raised money for life-saving equipment by playing for dances in Astoria.

After the Munsons moved in 1865, the County rented their house to be used as the first Pacific County Courthouse. It served in that capacity until 1875 when the two-story courthouse was built just two blocks away on School Street.  I think it also served as a store for a time and then was an “extra” house owned by my family during the 1950s and ’60s for overflow guest and, for a time, for caregivers for my grandfather.  When Willard and Louise bought it in 1977 or ’78, they spent half their time here and the other half in New York City for the next twenty years.

As the oldest structure still standing in the Oysterville National Historic District, there was a time when the house proudly displayed a sign that told a bit about its history.  Somehow, in recent years, the sign has found itself on the upper west wall of the Nordquist House, ironically one of the newer homes in Oysterville.  Perhaps, if the the Oyster Shell Telegraph is correct and there is, indeed, a new steward of the little old cottage, the sign will find its way back to its rightful location.  Should that happen, I’m sure all the houses of Oysterville will send out a collective sigh of contentment.  Stay tuned… you may hear it on the Oyster Shell Telegraph!






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