Posts Tagged ‘Espy Family’

REALLY? Am I now the oldest?

Monday, August 28th, 2023

Sydney with cousins Wallace and Charles, Ft. Canby, WA, 1939

It came as a bit of a shock to me the other day to realize that I am now the oldest living descendent of the H.A. Espy Family — maybe even of the R.H. Espy Family,  YIKES!  My grandfather, Harry Albert Espy was Robert Hamilton Espy’s second son.  Of all the R.H. children, Harry had the greatest number of children, but not the greatest number of grandchildren or great-grandchildren.

There were nine of us H. A. Espy first cousins. Three were older than I.  They (all men) died at ages younger than I am now and two others — one man, one woman — are also gone.  That leaves only four of us — all women with me the oldest by at least five years.

I don’t think we ever all spent time together.  That’s odd when you come to think of it — especially considering that there were eighteen first cousins in my mother’s generation and, despite the transportation difficulties of 100 years ago, they did have family gatherings right here in Oysterville.  And, fairly frequently, too.

Jefferson Espy, Six Weeks Old, 1953

But in our third (from R.H.) generation, there were other complications.  My mother’s sister Sue, mother of our two oldest boy cousins, died before any of the rest of us were born and her sons, Wallace and Charles, were raised in Minnesota by their father’s people.  As long as my grandparents lived, Wallace and Charles came to Oysterville every summer, and I knew them both throughout their lives.  But we never seemed to have a reunion with all nine of us together.

Then, there were divorces in the second generation, which meant that Willard’s oldest son was raised in Scotland by his mother and step-father,  I never did meet him.  And so it goes.

Joey, Mona, Freddy, Cassy, 1954

It’s scary being the oldest one, now.  I feel some sort of responsibility toward getting the rest of us together, but I don’t think I have “the where-with-all to do all the above things” as my mother would have said.  Not “where-with-all” as in money (though that always factors in!) — but more in stamina and arranging and getting agreement.  Probably a lot like herding cats.

I think I’ll leave the possibilities to the younger ones and rest on those old-age laurels.  “Wouldn’t it be loverly…”

Here we go meeting and greeting in May!

Saturday, May 27th, 2023

1964 H.A. Espy Family Reunion

I don’t know whether to celebrate our togetherness or to lament the burgeoning burden of bureaucracy here in our little village of Oysterville.  Time was when families got together on Memorial Day weekend to celebrate the end of winter, the beginning of sunshine and flowers, and just plain getting out of their long underwear for a while.

That was before my time, of course, but we still use our three-day holiday to get together.  Nowadays, the focus is meetings more than families — at least that has become the Saturday tradition on the Memorial Day weekend here in Oysterville. Those meetings began in 1977 or ’78 — soon after Oysterville was declared a National Historic District in 1976.  It was felt that the nuts and bolts of an organization to oversee the restoration of the church could best be worked out by the town at large.  And so the Memorial Day Saturday meetings of the Oysterville Restoration Foundation (ORF) were begun and have continued ever since — albeit by zoom during the Pandemic.

 When electricity came to Oysterville in 1936, our old hand pump became yard art.

When the Water Board was formed in the 1990s, it seemed natural that they, too, should report the year’s activities to their membership on Memorial Day Saturday.  Sometimes they went first (at 9:00 a.m.) and sometimes ORF went first.

And today, we added yet another meeting!  Tucker Wachsmuth held the first ever (that I know of) Annual Memorial Day Meeting of the Oysterville Cemetery Association.  A fitting date, I thought.  Like the other two meetings, it was well attended and the project described for the coming months was of great interest — locating boundaries and burials in the Pioneer Section of the Cemetery.

All-in-all, it was a full morning and another year of Oysterville business got underway!

Kerosene Lamp, Oysterville Church


Some things don’t change much, thankfully!

Thursday, May 25th, 2023

Memorial Day 1917

Oysterville is gearing up for Memorial Day Weekend — the biggest weekend of the year here in our little village.  Traditionally, it has been when families gather together to clean up the cemetery and decorate the graves of our forebears.  “Decoration Day” it was called from its earliest beginnings… until 1971.

Though the grave cleaning and decorating tradition goes back to our earliest settlements, it was during the years following the end of the Civil War in 1865, that so many American communities were tending to the remains and graves of an unprecedented number of war dead.

2014 Memorial Day, Oysterville Cemetery

Soon, the idea for an official, nation-wide holiday occurred on May 30, 1868 when Ohio Rep. James A Garfield, a former general and future U.S. president, addressed a crowd of 5,000 gathered at Arlington National Cemetery.  After his speech the 5,000 visitors made their way into the cemetery to visit the tens of thousands of graves in the newly formed cemetery.

Gradually over the following years, local municipalities and states adopted resolutions  to make Decoration Day an official holiday in their areas.  As time went on, “Memorial Day” began to supplant “Decoration Day” as the name of the holiday, and it soon became a day to honor all fallen American troops, not just those from the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1968 that “Memorial Day” became an official national holiday.

Here in Oysterville we’ve celebrated our loved ones at the cemetery for 150 years or more.  These days,  the weekend is replete with meetings (The Water Company, The Oysterville Restoration Foundation, The Cemetery Association) on Saturday.  Cemetery decorating occurs on Sunday.  The VFW gathering to honor the war dead occurs early on Monday followed by (since 2004) the firing of their cannon by The Honorary Oysterville Militia.

And all weekend long, it is a time for visiting and renewing old friendships, sharing meals and stories and remembering why it is we are so connected to this village  and to one another.


“I’s not a leetle boy. I’s a leetle geel!”

Thursday, January 19th, 2023

Someone in my past — my mother? my grandmother? — used to give a deep sigh about whatever was annoying her and say, “This will be the bane of my existence!”  I do believe it was often my wretched curly hair which one or the other of them was trying to subdue into “proper” Shirley Temple style corkscrew curls.  One or two portraits of me at age five or six demonstrate their success, but mostly my hair has continued to be “the bane” right up to present days.

Not that I’m longing for corkscrew curls, mind you!  In fact, I sometimes wonder if my life (and my mother’s)might have been greatly simplified if she hadn’t been so intent on those curls.

Helen-Dale, Edwin, Willard c. 1914

Perhaps it all hearkened back to her own childhood when her curls were cut short and, at least before she started school, she wore rompers similar to her brothers’ and they all hung out together — Edwin three years older and Willard eleven months older than she.  In fact, the family all remembered that Dale (my mom) was the only girl among thirteen boys in town of a similar age.  She said that she was often the “tag-along” that the rest of them were trying to lose as they raced through the woods or along the bayshore on their many adventures.

Dale at 16, 1927

When adults mistook her for another one of the boys,  three-year-old Dale’s indignant response was:  “I’s not a leetle boy.  I’s a leetle geel!”  Apparently, the census-taker in 1920 didn’t ask.  Instead of listing her as “Helen-Dale, a girl” she went into the public record as “Allen-Dale, a boy.”  I wonder if she ever knew about that listing.  I don’t think I ran across that bit of misinformation until after she had died.  But, I must say, I was indignant on her behalf!

By the time she was sweet sixteen, though, her hair behaved as her mother had always hoped.  Sorry, mom. that I didn’t follow in your footstepsl  It would have saved us all a lot of angst!



Memory Lane and Territory Road Converge!

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

The final edition of Parade in print in the Oregonian was last weekend.

I couldn’t quite imagine why my friends Harry and Linda were emailing me a copy of this week’s Parade Magazine from the Oregonian.  But, a few lines into the editorial and I KNEW!  Our Oysterville Red House Cousins were in the news!  Again!

It seems that when  the first Parade supplement ran in the Oregonian on Father’s Day 1957, it featured a three-page story on a Portland family, the Williamses. The headline said:  “Meet a 1957 novelty: the Williamses of Oregon.  They’re an old-fashioned family where… Father is the BOSS.”

The article, written by two Parade writers began, “In a two-story stucco house here, with a wife and three lively children, lives a man who might be called a rare bird in modern America:  a genuine, old-fashioned father.”  As an example of his “rule the roost” ways, the article went on to say: he preferred long hair on women so wife Barbara and daughters Lex and BeeGee wore their hair long.

The Red House

And, then as now, Oysterville was an important part of the family story:  The annual trip to the beach house in Oysterville, Washington was an occasional sore point, the article said.  But either the entire family went, or no one did — the implication being that if Bronk didn’t want to come, no one else ventured forth.  I honestly don’t remember any years that they weren’t here for a while, anyway.

The original article is mounted on the wall of that 1871 coast home, still in the family, David Williams said  His father and mother both had ties to the Long Beach peninsula.  Great-grandfather R.H. Espy was one of the founders of Oysterville.

David, Lex, BG — circa 1948

Barbara Espy Williams was my mother’s first cousin and I must say that our family’s impression of Barbara and Bronk’s household was not quite in line with the point the writers of that 1957 article were trying to make.  I was happy to see that the current editor gave my cousin David the final word on that subject:

David gave a wry chuckle. “The article from our perspective, was sort of a misrepresentation of who ran the show,” he said.  “Our contention was our mother ran the show.”

Report from Oz – Day Six

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

In The Center of Things!

Here in the Emerald City– sunny today with a shower now and then in the afternoon.  Everything seemed to move slowly — I was a bit late to Nyel’s hospital quarters and missed the Doctor Team’s visit.  Apparently, though, I didn’t miss much — no big changes in his oral meds or IV drips or other protocols.  Weight loss: miniscule.  Tremors, continuing.  Stomach distress, a bit better.  Lotsa questions.  Few answers.  And so the HUAW (Hurry Up And Wait) experience continues.

Cousins – Sydney and Si 2022

No one has yet broached the “go home” subject.  I’m sure they first want to have some “results” to show for all these days in Oz.  Tomorrow it will be a week that we’ve been here and, already, we are losing track of time.  Nyel was sure that he missed Jeopardy yesterday because it was the weekend.  I missed, too, because Cate called from Arizona — had heard at lunch (with Cindy and Tom Downer and other Peninsula Rainbirds) that Nyel is in the hospital!  Wow!

I checked in with the Oysterville Postmistress this morning — cleared Carol and Tucker for mail/package pickup.  Then got to worrying about running out of my own meds while up here — to say nothing of paying some bills and needing clean clothes.  And possibly sox!  Put out a distress signal to friend Michael Lemeshko who has offered to drive me to O’ville and back on Saturday — details not yet finalized.  What a guy!  It will be a wonderful chance to catch up on his progress on his latest book — this one about Seaborg and the beginnings of Ilwaco.   And to talk about the Community Historians and how we can contribute to next steps.  Michael already has a plan afoot…

The Oldest and The Youngest Espy – My Mom and Si – Labor Day 2007 

And this evening — dinner with Cousin Abigail Hook and family — “The Red House Cousins” in Oysterville.  I think we’ve seen one another (distanced and masked) only once since the Pandemic struck and it’s been longer than that since I’ve had even a glimpse of the kids.  I’m pretty sure they are both taller  than I am now and, let’s see.  Are they both teenagers by now?

Do I feel just a tad guilty about going out “on the town?”  You bet I do.  I console myself that there will be stories to relate to Nyel tomorrow and, if I remember to take them, pictures to share!


My Mother — The Fourth Espy Girl

Monday, February 21st, 2022

Medora, 1915

Of the four daughters of Helen and Harry Espy of Oysterville, my mother was the youngest.  Oldest was Medora (1899-1916), then Suzita (1903-1932), then Muriel who we all knew as Mona (1904-1970).  Only Mona was still living when I was born and it goes without saying that I knew her best. Although…  after spending a number of years with Medora’s letters and diaries and then writing Dear Medora, Child of Oysterville’s Forgotten Years (WSU Press, 2007) perhaps it was teenaged Medora I knew the best.

Each of the four had distinctive characteristics.  Medora was steadfast, practical, responsible — called by her mother:  “Mama’s  strong right-hand.”  My grandmother wrote this poem in her scrapbook after Medora’s death:


Dear helping hands that led,
Down life’s thorn strewn way.
Dear loving hands that fed,
The wants of every day.

Now in my greater need
And loneliness for thee
Dear gentle hands O, heed
The anguish of my plea.

Lean a bit across the strand
And lead me where you are
A beckon of your guiding hand
Will prove the gates ajar.

Suzita Espy, c. 1920

I always think of Suzita (or “Sue” as most of us called her) as a flapper (which she was) who married a rum runner (which she did).  My grandmother wrote this of her: “Suzita dashed into the world one bright July morning before I could even get my shoes off.  There is not a definite incident that seems to mark the memory of her – just her glowing personality and gorgeous eyes that won the hearts of all men from the time she was two years old.  She could achieve her own ends and dismiss obstacles like a magician.  Brighter than average, she bluffed her way through school – was asked by a teacher in the third grade once what a dumb waiter was.  ‘Mama is a waiter,’ she said, ‘she waits on everyone, but she isn’t dumb.’  Suzita – staunch, loyal, loving, reckless Sue, my beautiful red rose.”  Sue had several bouts of pneumonia during her life, finally dying of it four years before I was born and leaving two young sons, Wallace and Charles Pearson.

Mona circa 1946

Mona was tiny — maybe five feet tall — a practical nurse, an Eisenhower Republican, and taught me how to smoke and how to drink my coffee black.  (“You’ll always enjoy it that way, whether or not cream and sugar are available.”)  Of Mona, my grandmother wrote:

Little Mona, born the night Albert was taken ill – a two and a half pound wisp – had 75 convulsions in five days when five weeks old.  Up she came, frail, unstable, completely dominated by Suzita’s force and vividness.  Twice during her fourth year she had pneumonia, and had to learn to walk all over again.  It was about this period that she used to sleep with her hands over her ears “to keep the dreams out.”’  Always a pathetic hungry little creature unable to assimilate her surroundings.  At four she used to sit by the hour perched on the fence accosting every passer-by with “Hellow what you goin’ to do tomollow? ”

Dale c. 1928

I once overheard a conversation between my grandparents. the gist of which was that Mom had all the best qualities of each of her sisters.  Many years later, Mom told me that her folks had shared that thought with her, too.  Typically, she blew it off but I could tell that their expressing it meant the world to her.

About Aunt Dora and the Christmas Roast

Monday, December 27th, 2021

Dora Espy Wilson at 80, c. 1951

Leave it to my friend Maggie to remind me about my Great Aunt Dora’s story of the Christmas roast.  I mentioned it in my blog about holiday dinners “In The Best of Regulated Families” the other day and promised to tell about it later. Then, of course, I promptly forgot about it.  (My Forgetter is the best of all my faculties, bar none, these days!)

Well… Aunt Dora was my grandfather’s older sister.  When I was a child, the two of them were known as “the talkative Espys,” unlike their three surviving siblings (Will, Susie, and Cecil) who were “the silent Espys.”  Aunt Dora lived in Portland and when she came visiting, she and Papa would sit in our library and tell story after story about their early days in Old Oysterville.  Papa was said to talk about the saints, Aunt Dora, the sinners.  You don’t have to guess which stories I liked (and remember!) best.

I believe the events in “the roast story” occurred during my mother’s childhood, perhaps before she was born, but during that generation.  The various Espy siblings and their children had gathered here at the Red House (the “family seat”) for Christmas dinner.  The women were busy in the kitchen with last minute touches and beginning to carry the laden serving dishes to the dining room table.  Someone took the roast out of the oven, “done to a turn” said Aunt Dora, and finding no counter space available at the moment, set down the roasting pan, roast and all, on the kitchen floor.

Aunt Dora with Hilda and the Espy Girls, Mona, Joey, Freddy, Cassy – 1947

“One of the little boys — I don’t remember which — but a youngster about two or three years old, dashed into the kitchen just then,” said Aunt Dora.  “For some unknown reason, he pulled down his Christmas britches and tinkled right on that gorgeous roast!  We women all looked at one another in horror and then did the only sensible thing.  We pulled up the culprit’s rompers, sent him on his way, and transferred that gorgeous roast to the serving platter!”

At that point in the story, Aunt Dora would interrupt herself with her contagious chuckle and (every time we heard it) we asked, “And what did you do with the roast?”

“Ate it for dinner, of course,” she laughed.  “It was, after all, the main dish and a ‘culinary masterpiece’.  Everyone said so!  In fact, for years (at least until the story came out) everyone remarked on that being the best piece of beef they’d ever eaten!”  And we all laughed along with her, all the while looking at our uncles and cousins and wondering which of them that little boy had been…

And Cuzzin Ralph Got His Limit!

Tuesday, December 21st, 2021

Cheryl, Ralph, Syde, Nyel, Virg

Third cousins two times removed, Cheryl Kocher and her brother Ralph Jeffords, arrived yesterday with Cheryl’s husband, Virg.  It was SO great to see them!  It had been four-and-a-half years since we’d seen Ralph (who lives in Virginia) and a bit less than a year since we’d seen Virg and Cheryl who divide their time between Lacey and Manson here in Washington.  But even so…   This time we were unmasked, not very distanced, and not only had lunch together but spent the afternoon visiting and catching up.

It was one of those Virg-and-Cheryl-haven’t-changed-a-bit (probably in the 20 years we’ve known them) but OH THAT RALPH!  When he walked in the door Nyel immediately asked if he had come directly from the set of “Duck Dynasty.”  I said not a word.  I was too busy wondering which of our Mountain Men ancestors Ralph might be a throwback to.  (Probably a badly worded sentence — but you know what I mean.)

Nyel and Virg — Soup’s On!

I don’t even know if we have Mountain Men in our background, but if we do, Cuzzin-Ralph-the-family-genealogist is the one who would know.  Unfortunately, I never got around to broaching the subject.  We were too busy catching up with one another, eating Chef Nyel’s fabulous lunch — African Peanut Soup, fresh-out-of-the-oven sourdough rye bread, and green salad with pears — and just plain old basking in familiar company.

Later we sat swapping reminiscences in front of the library fire and Cheryl presented Nyel and me with Christmas socks and documented our visit with a few photos.  They left in time to hit the beach so Ralph could go clamming.  Later, another photo from Cheryl showing Cuzzin Ralph and his successful clam hunt results.  Yay!  Nyel says the photo should get a place of honor in the Family Gallery in our stairwell.  Great idea!

Cuzzin Ralph and Clams


Just Say No

Friday, December 17th, 2021

Santa Ralph in Lacey, 2021

I remember that it was in the 1980s that Nancy Reagan kicked off her “Just Say No” campaign as part of the U.S. “War On Drugs.”  Those three words quickly became a catch phrase for just about everything whether it was illegal substances, an unsolicited (or unwanted) invitation, or a tempting dessert that promised a gazillion extra calories.

Unfortunately, those three words still rattle up to the surface when least expected and when I certainly don’t want to acknowledge them.  Take an email I received from my cousin Cheryl today.  Her brother Ralph — Cuzzin Ralph of the Amazing-Research-on-Reverend-and-Mrs.-Crouch fame — has just arrived here for Christmas.  Not “here” here — but not far, either.  Cheryl and husband Virg live in Lacey and they are proposing to come visiting with Ralph on the 20th and 21st.  YIKES!

Cheryl and Virg, 2016

Talk about conflicted!  We haven’t seen C&V since Valentine’s Day 2020 and it’s been even longer since we’ve seen Ralph who lives far, far away in Virginia.  But, quite honestly, we have way too many things happening between now and Christmas to squeeze in one single additional thing.  “Just Say No!” said my head.  “Maybe just one day but not overnight,” said my heart.  And so, we are “negotiating” by email.

I’m not sure how it will turn out.  Sometimes, you just have to leave things in the lap of the gods…  I hope they are feeling benevolent this Holiday Season.