Posts Tagged ‘Espy Family’

Yesterday’s Mystery Solved… Mostly.

Tuesday, April 9th, 2024

Espy Coat of Arms… Perhaps

In case you haven’t been keeping up — yesterday I noticed that a “Joe Espy” from Idaho had signed the Guest Register at the Oysterville Church.  I hadn’t been home most of the day and wondered if he might have knocked at my door.

Yes, as a matter of fact he had, which he let me know about via Facebook this morning.  He explained that he was on a “spur of the moment trip,” was already on his way back to Idaho, and next time he’d give me more advanced warning.  He also said that he was Buck Espy’s son.  And part of the “Potlatch Espys.”

Aha!  Buck Espy, then a hale and hearty 83, had come visiting in June (I think) of 2016 with his grandson Jesse and Jesse’s wife Dina who (if I’m remembering correctly) was raised with her Basque parents who were shepherds in Idaho.  And did they all live part time in Idaho and part the in the Basque region of Spain? The Basque homeland, Euskal Herria, is a region between France and Spain, near the Pyrenees Mountains and the Bay of Biscay.    I think that’s what I remember and I also think that Dina is now a teacher. Or did I make that all up?

So I jumped to the conclusion that Joe must be Jesse’s father.  WRONG!  At this point Cuzzin Ralph weighed in and explained that Joe is Jesse’s uncle and went on to mention that he (Ralph) has “at least 250 descendants (not counting unrelated wives and hubbies) of Fat’s father Harry Walter Espy (brother of Lillie May Espy) in my database.”  Lordy! Lordy!  My mind boggles.

I had to quit there. Although Ralph does tell me who “Fats” is and a lot of other stuff… I had to leave the conversation.  I was suddenly on overload.  (Though I am curious about those “Potlatch Espys…)  But I’m a people person myself.  I don’t do data bases.  If all those Espys want to come visit Oysterville, I’m all for it.  Just don’t ask me to keep track of who and when…




Yesterday I spent with my grandmother…

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024

Helen & Harry Espy, 1947

No sooner had I turned on the bedside lamp and checked the time yesterday morning than the power went out!  Damn!  And I had overslept, too.  I’d be hard pressed to get through my long list of “todo’s” even without all the amenities… like a shower and a hot cup of coffee to get my day underway.  On the other hand… no internet, so I needn’t worry about half the things on my list.  Not yet.

I dressed by flashlight, had a long drink of water (always in stock in the pantry against such “emergencies”) and called the PUD just in case they had news.  Yep.  A car hit a power pole and the substations in Ocean Park and Oysterville were adversely affected,  The estimate was early afternoon before we were back in the 21st  century.  No details about the accident, but it couldn’t be good considering the damage it caused.

I built a fire in the library fireplace to stave off the cold and wished (for just a minute) that I could go back in time a couple of generations,  My grandmother would be firing up the wood cookstove in the kitchen and stirring the embers in the pot-bellied stove in the nursery — warming that room up for the youngest of her six children, for in my mind it was 1912 or so.

1912 – The Espy Children (Dale, Willard, Edwin, Mona, Suzita, Medora)

The three older girls, Medora (13), Sue (9),  and Mona (8) slept upstairs now that they were all school-age, but the three youngest, Edwin (4), Willard (2) and my mother Dale (1) shared a huge pull-down Murphy Bed in the Nursery — the most easterly room in the house,  Papa, who went to bed late, always banked the fired in the woodstove before joining Mama upstairs, so the little ones would be warm throughout the rest of the night.

When the coffee was ready, Mama carried it to the nursery where the tin coffeepot sat on the stove all day long and Papa refilled his cup periodically when he came in from the dairy barn or the meadow or the cream-separating building or wherever his many chores took him.  How I wished we still had that woodstove… but alas!  My folks had gentrified that room in the 1979s, getting rid of the old stove and having a fireplace built there instead.  Great for cozy ambiance, but not for a practical heating surface when our electricity fails us.

I had been planning to work on the computer all day, communicating with my new webmaster (who is in Alabama!) as we begin working on my new website.  But 1912 had rather limited amenities in that direction so I decided to do what I don’t get to do very often these days — just sit around and read.  Thank goodness for Kindles!  Despite it’s many windows, this house is not very well lit inside — at least not by natural light.  Maybe it’s those 11-foot ceilings that seem to trap in the gloom. even when the sun is shining fairly consistently — as it was on that particular day.  My Kindle was perfect and I escaped into a Jack Reacher book with ‘nary a guilty thought about my website.

H.A.Espy Children on Danny, 1924

Even so, I was glad I didn’t have to fire up the kerosene lamps and read by their smoky light — and even gladder that I wouldn’t have to wash the lamp chimneys in the morning.  I wondered what my grandmother would have thought of such a modern convenience — though with a family of six to wash and clean and cook and sew for, I really doubt that she had much time for reading.  Mom and Willard used to laugh at the memory of her taking a book out to the outhouse for a half hour or so now and then — the one place she wouldn’t be disturbed.  But, of course, there were no toddlers by then.

She always said that the years that the babies were little were the best years of all.  (That babies were Edwin, Willard, and my mom; Mona and Sue were “the girls” and Albert (who died at 4-1/2) and Medora — the two first born — were “the children.”  I loved to hear Gtanny’s stories —  how Edwin thought that God was shooting deer when it thundered and how Willard liked nothing better (from the time he was three) than to take the biggest book he could carry out to the road and lie down in the middle and read.  Horses and carts and walkers worked around him.  And yes… he was reading at three, finished 8th grade at 10 and high school at 14.  What a guy!

As for mom — she was a Tomboy through and through — and no wonder.  There were thirteen kids her age who lived in town but she was the only girl  She remembered spending many-a-time chasing after the boys  when they were trying to ditch her — but then she grew up a bit and the story changed…

It was really a lovely day, yesterday.  Back in 1912.  But how lucky we are that the power came on in time for a hot dinner, electric stove notwithstanding.  Lights!  Heat! The magic of 2024!  I only wish I could share a day of now-time with my hard-working, soft-spoken granny.  I’m sure I didn’t half appreciate her but I was lucky to have her in my life until I was in my second year of college.  I hope I told her how much she meant to me…


It’s one of those “I shoulda known” things!

Saturday, February 17th, 2024

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Papa and Aunt Dora c. 1896

If you are one of my faithful (or even not-so-faithful) blog readers or a follower of  my “Saints or Sinners?” stories in the Observer you are likely acquainted with my Great Aunt Dora.  I credit her with my interest in storytelling — especially stories about the sinners which were always Aunt Dora’s favorites.  She also is the one who referred to any woman she admired as “a fine double-breasted sort of woman” and, though I’m not just sure what she meant by that,  I’ve always considered her to be that sort of woman, herself.

As I mentioned in my blog a few days ago,  I was contacted by someone working on an exhibit about women in Lake Oswego’s history asking for photographs of Aunt Dora.  Yesterday I received a “thank you” for the ones I sent plus a great deal more information about Aunt Dora than I had ever heard from her or from other family members.  And what’s more, I might have been given a clue as to that pithy saying of hers.

First, what I already knew about her:  Born in 1872,  she was the oldest of  my great-grandparents’ seven children and was 4 years older than my grandfather, Harry.  She grew up in Oysterville, became a teacher, and in 1895 married King Wilson, an attorney from from the East Coast who had received his law degree from  the University of Oregon in 1893. They lived for some years in Portland before moving to Lake Oswego where King became mayor and served until the time of his death in 1918.  They had three children, all of whom I also knew well.  Aunt Dora never married again and I think lived in (or perhaps ran) a boarding house in Portland.  She lived until 1955, visiting family often.  I think it was my mother who told me that she had several rather serious “suitors” during her widowed years and when her daughters Julia and Mary found out about that (when they were in their 30s I think) they never called her “mother” again– only “Dora.”  (I don’t think her son Bob was so self-righteous.)

So… what I learned yesterday:  “Mrs. A. King Wilson, Oswego, Ore.” was listed as a member of the Oregon State Equal Suffrage Association in 1912   In 1916, she was elected to the Oswego school board, was reelected in 1917, and served as chair of the board.  The Oswego Times article (22 June 1917) announcing her reelection also noted that the district budget report was exemplary. Her name appears often in Oregon City newspapers.  Until 1929, Oswego did not have a regular newspaper (except for the Oswego Times 1916-1917) so local events were covered in the Oregon City papers.

Dora and King Wilson wwith Robert(“Bob”) and Mary, 1903

And, best of all, my correspondent said this:  “When I get back to the library next week, I will take a picture of Dora’s voter registration card from 1913.  It was the discovery of a set of these cards in the Lake Oswego Public Library’s collection that set me off on this project.  As you may know, Oregon women got the vote in 1912, so these cards are particularly exciting.  One of the cards, for a Mrs. S.H. Crookes, is signed by’Dora E. Wilson, chrman Election Board.’  I will send that image as well.”

So Aunt Dora was a suffragette!  Why am I not surprised.  Right at the time she was casting her first vote, her brother Harry (my beloved grandfather) was serving in the 13th session of the Washington State Legislature as the Senator from Pacific and Wahkiakum Counties.  And, over the years, more than one person has suggested that “a fine double-breasted sort of woman” might have alluded to a man’s double-breasted suit (popular in those days) and to the fact that such a woman had a mind of her own and was not one to be left at home, still widely thought ‘a woman’s place!’    How I wish I’d know all of that long ago.  But. as I think about it, I didn’t really need to.  Aunt Dora was a force to reckon with and even I, yet too young to vote, myself, when she died, knew she was special. What I didn’t know was how much she would influence my life!

On studying endocrinology when I grow up.

Saturday, January 6th, 2024

My cousin Alex Schreiber and I speak of many things when we get together.  We talk about our family — his grandfather Willard and my mother Dale were brother and sister, making Alex and me first cousins once removed and our children first cousins, twice removed.  Alex has four grown sons and one teenaged daughter.  They are all awesome as is my son Charlie and my bonus-daughter Marta.  We also talk Oysterville where we both share roots and we pool our knowledge about various branches of the family.  He knows the “East Coast Relatives” best; I, the “West Coast Relatives.”

But we seldom “talk shop” — especially not about Alex’s field which is way out of my network!  Granted, we are both educators, but there is a world of difference between the Primary Grades in the public schools of Washington State and the college students (both undergraduates and graduates) at a small Liberal Arts College in upstate New York.

According to Alex’s webpage he is an Associate Professor of Education in the Biology Department at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.  He received his PhD at the University of Rhode Island at Kingston and Narragansett, RI and has received numerous awards and fellowships over the years.

All of which is very impressive (and intimidating to me, the non-scientist-of-the-world) but I love his online statement: Nothing fascinates me more than the mystery of vertebrate metamorphosis. How does a tadpole turn into a frog? What genes mediate the abrupt transformation of a larval fish or amphibian into its juvenile form? How did metamorphosis evolve? I have studied the biology of vertebrate metamorphosis in fishes and frogs for over 22 years. Metamorphosis is a period during which virtually every organ in the body changes abruptly and dramatically. Metamorphosis in frogs is characterized by three broad categories of development: 1) apoptosis, during which larval-specific structures (e.g. tail, gills) are programmed to die; 2) cell proliferation and differentiation of adult-specific organs (e.g. growth of the limbs); 3) the remodeling of all other organs from larval to adult forms (e.g. the intestine of the herbivorous tadpole remodels to accommodate a carnivorous adult lifestyle). Remarkably, all of these developmental programs are mediated entirely by one molecule: thyroid hormone. As such, amphibian metamorphosis is a naturally-inducible system that is conducive for studying numerous questions relating to the development of virtually any tissue or organ system.

All of which still didn’t mean a great deal to me until he visited just after Christmas and presented me with one of the first-hot-off-the-press copies of his gorgeous new book, “General and Comparative Endocrinology: An Integrative Approach.”  It weighs 2.7 pounds, he told me — in the same tones as a proud father might speak of the birth-weight of a child.  As I understand it, it’s one of the few (maybe the only) text book that introduces the broad and interdisciplinary scope of endocrinology.  It’s choc-a-block full of charts, diagrams, historical notes, photographs and provocative topic headings — “A Salamander’s Choice: To Metamorphose or Not?”  Who knew?  Plus, Alex did the Cover Art, himself (and the art for some of the introductory chapter pages, as well.)  If his humor comes through as well in his words, I’m “in!”

So, in the Publish-or-Perish world in which Alex lives, this should be the book that boosts him into full professorship.  And that might make the difference in his becoming an Oysterville homeowner someday.  Fingers crossed!  Wouldn’t Willard be pleased?

It was a perfect Friday Night Gathering!

Saturday, October 28th, 2023

Friday Night 10-27-23 – Photo by Tucker

I haven’t blogged about “Friday Night” here at the house for quite a while — probably for more than a year.  But when Tucker’s picture arrived this morning, it so captured the warmth and feeling of last evening’s gathering that I felt the need to put words to my thoughts.

Nyel and I conceived the idea for “Friday Nights” shortly after we moved into “the family” house in the late 1990s.  This big old “farmhouse” as Willard’s wife always called it, has been in the H.A. Espy family since 1902.  That was the year my grandparents moved in with their first two children, the third (Suzita) already on the way.  By the time my mother was born in 1911, there were six children, with little Albert already buroed and Medora destined to follow a few years hence.

Friday Night Conversation 2012

Nevertheless, with five active children, my gregarious grandfather and gracious grandmother in residence, it was the gathering place for village children of all ages as well as for neighbors, visitors from afar and for the many relatives who came and stayed sometimes for weeks on end.  Once I asked my mother which of the four upstairs bedrooms was hers and which sister did she share it with.  What a convoluted answer I got!  It all depended upon who and how many might be visiting, whether it was summer and they could set up cots on the back porch and which of the oldest sisters might be home from boarding school and might have brought a “chum” with her!

Then, in 1972 when my folks retired to Oysterville, this place became Entertainment Central for various bridge and canasta players, for cocktail hours with my mother’s infamous  hors d’oeuvres, and dinner parties with local teens acting as “servers” and kitchen help.  (At least one of those young people went on to become a chef in a southern Oregon city.)  And, of course, the house also became known for their wonderful Christmas parties.

A Friday Night in 2012

So, when Nyel and I moved in, we soon realized that the  house needed people.  Just two of us rattling around were not enough to keep it feeling like home.  We decided to ask our friends to come on Friday nights from 5:00 to 7:00 when they could — they would bring an appetizer we’d supply the beverages.  And once you’d been invited, the invitation was forever if you so chose.

Only the times Nyel was hospitalized on a Friday and, of course during Covid, did Friday Nights cease.  And, although we’ve had one or two Fridays over the years that just two or three people arrived, usually we have a dozen or more.  Last night there were thirteen of us and it was perfect — for part of the time we all talked “together” and, later (as shown in the picture) we gravitated into twos and threes, pursuing diverse subjects.

It’s one of the best traditions ever!  I’m so glad we began it.  May it long continue!

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.”