Seattle: an Oysterville suburb?

Jul 19, 2014 | 2 comments

1891 Map of Washington

1891 Map of Washington

In the Ninth Edition of the Revised Encyclopedia Britannica published in 1891, there is a full-color, foldout map of Washington State. It must have been a hot-off-the-press edition since the Territory of Washington had achieved statehood only two years before.

It has always amused me that on that map, Oysterville is noted in larger letters than Seattle. My Uncle Willard’s comment in his Oysterville book says it best:

…The name O Y S T E R V I L L E plowed across the ocean on that map like a frigate under full sail. By contrast, SEATTLE was printed in such trifling type as to be illegible without a magnifying glass. The editors of that Encyclopedia considered Oysterville a name to reckon with, and they were right…

That map and Willard’s remarks about it came to mind last Thursday when, much to my astonishment, one of our neighbors testified at a public hearing that she had been “born and raised” in Oysterville.  That her grandparents lived here, as did mine, I knew – but born and raised?  Of the dozen or so Oysterville residents in the County Meeting Room, I think only Susan Holway could legitimately make that claim.  And it wasn’t Susan who was speaking.

Afterwards, out in the hallway I asked the speaker about her statement. “Yes, I was!” she told me.  I even went to the one-room school.”

Willard and Sydney - 1938 in Oysterville

Willard and Sydney – 1938 in Oysterville

Upon further questioning (yes, I admit that I was so amazed that I was perhaps a tad confrontational) she said that she had been a “visitor” at the Oysterville School, not actually enrolled. “And were you really born in Oysterville?” I asked all too loudly.

“Well,” she said, “…Seattle.”

And there you have it. The confirmation that Willard would have loved. Even in the mid-1930s, Seattle was considered just a suburb of Oysterville!  He probably wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised.


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    What afrontery! Well, perhaps het mama went to Seattle to have her, but most women went to Astoria towards their laying-in and stayed in a hotel unit time for the hospital rather than run the risk of the ferry not being available. At least that’s what Edna Gray, the mother of a friend, did. Clearly Oysterville has enough cache to make people lie.

    • sydney

      No. She was ‘born and raised’ in Seattle and, apparently, visited her grandparents in Oysterville in the summers. I don’t remember ever meeting her until the 1980s though I knew all her cousins and a lot of the other “summer kids” in Oysterville. I don’t know if anyone else remembers her or not. I think it probably suited her purpose to claim close long-term association with the village. Can’t fault her for that desire! It’s a great place to be from!


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