Shameless, Fret-Free Thievery

Mar 6, 2015 | 4 comments

 

Ruth Dixon

Ruth Dixon

I often feel a bit uncomfortable when I hear myself referred to as “a historian.” It’s true that I search endlessly for information about ‘the way it was’ here on the bay in the years of early settlement and, sometimes, I even uncover a hitherto unknown fact. But, with my academic training in journalism rather than history, I feel that I come by the title of ‘historian’ more-or-less through the back door.

So, it was with a good deal of pleasure that I read this statement by the late Ruth Dixon, founder and long-time editor of the highly respected Sou’wester, quarterly publication of the Pacific County Historical Society: It must be confessed that the information given here has been shamelessly “lifted” from every available source known – books, newspapers, family histories and letters. We make no apology because we believe the story should be told.

This was Ruth’s concluding remark in an article (which actually might have been a talk) titled “The Forgotten Pioneers of North Shoalwater Bay.” She had ‘lifted’ the material with the help of Virginia Olsen, which explains the “we” in her statement.

The First Sou'wester

The First Sou’wester

I couldn’t have expressed my own feelings any better and have every intention of blatantly quoting Ruth in the future. She did more than any other Pacific County resident to document and chronicle the stories of our past. I’m sorry I didn’t know her. I came along after she had passed the baton as Pacific County Historian on to Larry Weathers who carried on her work for several decades. Larry talked a lot about Ruth, crediting her with knowing more about ‘where the bodies were buried’ (literally!) than any other person in the County.

Unfortunately, there is some mystery regarding what happened to the bulk of Ruth’s personal files. I remember that Larry was concerned about their safety and eventual preservation during Ruth’s final years and made several attempts to talk with her about her lifetime treasure trove.

Just this last week Community Historian Mike Lemeshko ran across some of those files at the Raymond Library – in all-but-forgotten containers in the back room. His initial impression is that they’ve been there for years but whether or not they constitute “all” of what Ruth left behind was unclear. He and I are planning a ‘field trip’ to take a more extensive look and to see if we can determine whether this is just a portion of her collection or if it includes the latter material that Larry worried about back in the 1990s.

I wonder if I will feel a bit like Alice of Looking Glass fame – seeing a familiar, though somewhat distorted, reflection of my own archives. And I wonder what I will learn by the experience. I SO like what Ruth wrote about how she gathered her material. I wonder how I’ll feel about the way she left it for posterity.

4 Comments

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    How exciting, Sydney! And you definitely ARE a historian! You may not be flying into a remote Amazon lake ala Indiana Jones, but Raymond would be considered remote to much of the world. I can’t wait to hear what treasures you find!

    Reply
  2. Nancy Holden

    I remember Ruth Dixon who was called Ruth Ellen and her little sister Mabel Jean when I went to church in Ocean Park in the forty’s. Sorry I did not meet with her later in life. I had no idea that she was editor of the Sou’ Wester.

    Reply
    • sydney

      I’m pretty sure we’re talKing about two different Ruth Dixons, Nancy. The subject of my blog is Mrs. Harold C. Dixon (nee Emma Ruth Nupp) who was born in Doty, WA in 1906. I, too, remember the Ruth Ellen whose father was the Methodist minister in Ocean Park. He occasionally held Sunday School classes in Oysterville and, if memory serves, Ruth Ellen was his right hand helper.

      Reply
  3. Ken Karch

    Well known for her co-founding of the Sou’wester, and her several articles in it, including Echoes From the Past, Invitation to a Hanging, and Booze in Pacific County; Ruth’s contributions were celebrated in the Spring, 1983 issue of the quarterly.

    Reply

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