Posts Tagged ‘Espy Family’

Even in the best of regulated families…

Monday, August 30th, 2021

We felt badly when we wrote to Cuzzin Ralph and uninvited him to come to Oysterville (or “Oyster Patch” as he calls it) for a visit.  He was coming out from his home in Virginia to a family reunion of first cousins in Eastern Washington.  The plan was for him to stay with us for a day or two before heading up to SeaTac for his return flight.

But as our Pacific County Covid numbers increased, so did my nervousness, and I wrote to Ralph.  “No worries,” he said.  He would just stay in Garfield for an extra day.  He hadn’t been out our way since Covid began and it gave him extra time with his sister and their nearest and dearest.  They had all been vaccinated, their activities would all be outside, and they were looking forward to the reunion.

But… the best laid plans.  Though the air was smoky from nearby fires, they persevered.  Hostess Donna began to suffer from smoke-related allergies — or so she thought — and finally went to get tested.  The results came in the day Ralph reached home.  Positive.  Damn!  So far, though, Ralph tests negative as do the others who were at the reunion.

Other members of Donna’s family, though — not so lucky.  Her daughter, grandbaby, and daughter-in-law all have it and, yes, except for the baby all were vaccinated.  Donna wrote to me yesterday:  What I am learning? Covid takes time to “percolate”. A positive test only happens when you are three to four days fully into the virus. Rapid tests work well if you are really festered. Rapid tests are hard to find…
It effects people in different ways. I thought I had my annual harvest smoke filled sinus infection I always get this time of year. Emily had aches in muscles, headache and sore throat, no sinus or lung stuff. Today Frances is so run down with it, I went to her house and brought her car with her three kids to Garfield, planning to stay here two nights. She can’t get rest with them around. Ian can’t get more time off. Talk about conundrum for families!   So far, my only grandchild with Covid is the baby! She turned 1 today and we shared Zoom birthday wishes. She coughed and laughed through it but is obviously not at 100% and I can’t help!

My heart is heavy with concern.  There seems nothing to say about the situation that is helpful.  I can hear my mother’s voice:  “Even in the best of regulated families…”  Her catch-all phrase for when the unthinkable happened to thinking people.  To people she admired and loved and knew that “but for the grace of God go I.”


The Very Best Part of A Book Talk

Sunday, July 18th, 2021

Sydney talks about Madam X at the Senior Center

Yesterday I gave a Book Talk about Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula at the Senior Center in Klipsan.  It was the third event in as many weekends and I didn’t have high expectations for attendance or sales.  However, what I didn’t factor in was how much fun I would have talking with the people who were there!

I met several women who read my blog every single day!  They asked after the chickens, were pleased to meet Farmer Nyel (who was helping Vicki sell books for me) and one expressed a desire to meet Tucker.  “I want to find out if he is related to the Glass family.  They were best friends to my husband and me.”  I know that Tucker is related to the Glass family but I don’t know if it’s the right Glass family.  Even so, I found myself saying, “Why don’t you come by the house sometime and we’ll walk over and I’ll introduce you.”  I hope she does.  She and I were “of an age” as they say, and had it not been for people waiting in line for my autograph, we probably could have spent the rest of the afternoon becoming best friends!

A Small but Mighty Interesting Audience

Actually, there were several encounters like that and I did think to myself, “Well, after all… it’s the Senior Center and I’m bound to meet a few soulmates here.  I should come more often…”  But, it wasn’t just ‘Senior Serendipity’.  Along came a good looking “young” (50s?) man named Paul who said that we are “sort of related.”  And, indeed we are!  My first cousins were brought up by his mother’s inlaws (got that?) in Minnesota in the 1930s.  Paul was visiting the Peninsula and had just happened upon the book signing and… here he was!

Sydney with Wallace and Charles, Ft. Canby, WA, 1938

As it turned out,  when  Nyel and I returned home a half hour or so later,  we saw Paul taking pictures up the street.  I hailed him, invited him in, and we spent a pleasant half hour looking at family pictures and sharing information about my cousins Wallace and Charles Pearson whose mother Suzita was my mother’s older sister.  As Sue was dying of pneumonia on December 27, 1932, she asked her mother (my grandmother) to send the boys to Lake City, Minnesota to the Pearsons, her husband’s people.  At that time her father (my grandfather)  was in a sanitorium recovering from a horrendous automobile accident and my grandmother, always frail and losing her sight, could not have coped with two young boys.  Even by pooling our information, there is much that Paul and I don’t know.  Time to get Cuzzin Ralph looking on once again!

And… even so, I sold a fair number of books.  But the best part of all (as usual) was meeting and talking with everyone!  Even my Facebook friend, Terry Eager. came all the way from Chinook to meet me in person and say “hello.”  Wow!  What a fun afternoon!


And suddenly… summer begins!

Saturday, July 17th, 2021

Sydney in Oysterville, Summer 1940

In the “olden days” of my childhood, summer in Oysterville meant visitors.  Lots and lots of visitors.  The relatives came from Portland and Puyallup and California and they usually came for two weeks or more.  Often, they “overlapped” and we were hard-pressed to find sleeping spots for everyone even though there were five bedrooms and all but one had double beds.

As I remember, the “overflow” relatives stayed at The Red House three properties to the north.  I’m no longer sure how many beds and bedrooms there are in that old house, but I think it can comfortably accommodate seventeen or eighteen people — more if there are a lot of little kids.

Many friends from afar visited, too, but they seemed to arrive more according to a “schedule” and so we devoted ourselves specifically to that group or that family.  I think the attitude about the relatives was that the houses belonged as much to them as to us — most, whether of my grandfather’s generation or my mother’s, had grown up here, after all.  There was always room and, as I remember, they immediately helped out by taking on any extra host and hostess duties when non-relatives arrived.

H.a. Espy Family Reunion 1943

I’ve been thinking about those days as we plan for the arrival next week of our bonus daughter extraordinaire, Marta. to be followed in short order by Randal Bays and Family, Cuzzin Ralph from Virginia, Cousin Alex and friend Katie from New York, Kuzzin Kris from Sacramento (who is actually staying at the Red House but we hope we get our share of her!) and then the Rose City Mixed Quartet!!!  And at the very beginning of this grand parade will be Cousin Ruth and Cindy from Mercer Island who are staying somewhere spiffy with a whole raft of children, grandchildren, and I don’t know who all.  I think our house is on the schedule for a “tour and history lesson.”

I can’t wait for it all to begin!  It will be like summers of old but “on steroids” as we are all eager to make up for the Sheltering Year that we hope against hope is over for good and all!  Now… if the sun will come out and the soft breezes blow — just as I remember from those olden days! — it will be a perfect summer, indeed!


Bonding Across The Generations

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Maddie and Sydney, First Cousins twice removed

It was Maddie’s third visit to Oysterville but the first that was a prolonged (four days and nights) stay.  On each of her previous visits, she had been all eyes and ears –looking, looking, looking and asking myriad questions about Oysterville.  Between visits she has read my first ghost book and parts of Willard’s Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village.  

This time she came prepared to work on her “Oysterville Project” — an extensive multimedia look at Oysterville through the generations of our Espy family.  She had written up her proposed topic for school, it was accepted, and she asked if I would allow her to interview me — both in the “traditional” way and for the video camera.  I was thrilled.  Imagine being interviewed by the three-times-great-granddaughter of your own great-grandfather!

Maddie and Julia, June 10, 2021

She began our interviews by saying that she was especially interested in R.H. Espy, founder of Oysterville, and his much-younger wife Julia, as well as their eight children.  She had questions prepared — “Did R.H. and Julia absolutely ADORE their children?” and “Is it true that Julia taught them all at home for their early years?”  We talked about child-rearing in the 1800s — the differences between then and now — and about the senior Espy’s emphasis on education.  Maddie was interested in the hardships Julia faced here in isolated Oysterville and expressed sadness that this great-great-great-grandmother had died so young (49) before all her children were even grown and before most of her grandchildren had been born.

We talked and laughed and lamented.  Occasionally one of us would get up and grab a photo from mantle or wall to see exactly who we were discussing.  We spent several hours on two separate days on Maddie’s Oysterville Project.  I loved every minute!  Later, Alex took his kids up to the cemetery and sent me a picture of “Maddie and Julie.”  It made me a bit teary and so very pleased, all at the same time.  I so hope that Maddie’s interest will continue and that she, in her turn, will answer the questions of future Espy generations!

Off on the Great Clam Hunt!

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

The Intrepid Clammers

Chef Nyel sent us intrepid ones off to tideflats to get a few clams for the paella.  “A couple of dozen should be plenty,” said he, and off we went — Alex and three of his kids with me as guide.  It was seven ayem; Charlie slept in.

Hard At It!

The morning was fabulous — blue skies with patches of fluffy white, still and windless.  We had the bay to ourselves and it seemed we could see from one end to the other.   Besides one another, the only signs of life to be seen were a few teeny-tiny crabs scuttling southwards.  I couldn’t help think how lucky we all are that our family has retained these second-class tidelands.  We represented three of the five generations since our great/great-great/great-great-great grandfather R.H. Espy first arrived on these very tideflats in 1854.  My fondest hope is that there will be many more Espy desescendents who will enjoy “Grandpa’s Village” of Oysterville and all it has to offer…

Dinner Companions’ First Meeting

There seemed to be a plethora of clams — but quite small.  We filled the chef’s request plus a few more and were back at the house by eight o’clock to scrub them clean and put them in a bucket of fresh bay water.  They spent yesterday cleaning themselves until the chef is ready to begin tonight’s dinner!  YUM!  I can scarcely wait!

Lively, Non-stop, Ecclectic!

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

There are two areas in this house that I have considered the most important ever since I was a very little girl.  First is the library where we gather in front of the fireplace, especially in the late afternoons, to visit and catch up with our days — past and present.  And second is the dining room where we do the same thing except with the addition of food.

And in the spirit of “some things don’t change,” that’s where we are spending much of our time this week with my Schreiber Family cousins — Willard’s grandson, Alex and three of his five children.  Maddie is almost-fourteen-and-going-on-post doctoral-abilities that leave Nyel and me tongue-tied.  Jack is 20, is in the army and involved in cyber operations.  Sam is 25, is a software engineer working at Tessla.  Alex is an Associate Professor of Biology at St. Lawrence University. in Canton, New York.  Here, as well, is my son Charlie, retired cartoon script-writer and actor.

Discussions are lively, non-stop, and cover every imaginable subject.  Sometimes everyone is involved in one gigantic exchange.  Or there might be two or three separate conversations taking place — sometimes on the same or, more often, on unrelated subjects.  No topics seem to be off-limits and all of us seem to have something to say about whatever is under discussion.   Which reminds me that I’ve always been told that the Espys come in two varieties — the loquacious and the taciturn.  I’m here to tell you, there’s not a quiet one among this group.  Except Nyel.  Who, after all, is technically not an Espy…


Anyone else feeling vaguely “unwanted”?

Friday, December 18th, 2020

R.H. Espy, born 1826 in Allegheny County, PA – died 1918, a 64-year resident of Pacific County, WA

Somehow, Wednesday’s front page headline in the Observer — “Out-of-state seniors drive up county age” — was a bit unsettling.  As I read the article, I realized that the finger-pointing by the U.S. Census Bureau was specifically directed to a group of us old ducks that I don’t quite fit into.  Almost but not quite.  And I’m not at all sure why I care.

The article’s statistics specifically target an influx of older residents who were born in states other than Washington and who moved here between 2015 and 2019.  Well, I moved here permanently (check!) and was born in Massachusetts (check!) but that was in 1978 and I was still twenty-plus years shy of being a senior.  Even so, the tone of the article made me feel a bit uncomfortable about being old and born out-of-state.  And then I felt annoyed.  And then totally pissed off.

I dragged out my copy of the 1860 Pacific County Census and took a quick look.  As expected, the only residents listed as born in Washington Territory were under seven years old!  Duh! At a time when our indigenous people were not allowed to be counted in the U.S. Census and when Euro-American settlers were just beginning to arrive, ALL  adults who were counted in Pacific County had been born elsewhere.  Double duh!

The one exception to the 7-or-under pattern  was 16-year-old George Johnson who my great-grandfather, the census-taker, counted despite George’s Indian heritage.  Knowing what I do of Great-Grandpa R. H. Espy, he snuck in as many Indians as he could.  I’ve been told that he mostly preferred their company to many of the early “born-elsewhere” settlers.

Julia Jefferson Espy born 1851 in Marion County, OR – died 1901, a 31-year resident of Pacific County, WA

Granted, most of those listed in the 1860 count were not “seniors.”  Actually, make that “none” were seniors in the present-day understanding (65-and-over) of the term.  Settling the wilderness was not an occupation for old folks.  The oldest people listed were John Crellin, Sr. from the Isle of Man who was 60 and George Wills from Kentucky who was 58.  Both were farmers and came here with younger family members.

The total number of residents in Pacific County in 1860, according to my GG and the U.S. Census Bureau, was 470 — all born out of Washington Territory with the exceptions noted above.  The total number today is 21,668, 46.9% of whom were born out of state.

I don’t find these latest statistics very compelling.  As in so what?  What I’d much rather like to know from our present-day, newly arrived, born-out-of-state residents is this:  What brought you here and what, if any, “connection” do you have to our area?  I’ll bet the answers would be fascinating.  Much more interesting than the latest census analysis of our changing demographics.  Just sayin’…



Stand up and be counted? Hmmm.

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

Knock! Knock! Who’s there?

The U.S. Census Taker came to our door four or five months ago — “just to ask a few preliminary questions” she said.  “You can do the rest of it online.”  And so we did.  Months ago.

Monday there was a card in our mailbox addressed to someone that I assume was me.  “Cidney L. Stevens” it said.  The rest of the address was correct.  All my life (and that’s a fair amount of time, now) I’ve been Sydney M.  Granted, I’ve had several surnames — the part they got right.  But I’ve never spelled my first name differently and I’ve never used a middle initial other than M.  The card was a “reminder” to complete the 2020 census.  What a waste of time, paper, ink, etc.  Even in an automated world, good help is hard to find.

I also think it’s noteworthy that the 1920 census got my mother’s information wrong.  Her birth name was Helen-Dale Espy but, she went by “Dale” so there would not be confusion with her mother who was also a “Helen.”  At the time of the 1920 census, she would have been eight years old.

1920 Census

According to the census that year, Helen and Harry’s youngest child was “Allandale ” and was a son.  I didn’t come across that information until after my mother could no longer tell me what she knew about it, so I can only conjecture.

I know that she was a Tomboy, that she wore rompers or coveralls when she was playing with Willard (11 months her senior) and Edwin (3 years older than she) or the 13 other boys of Oysterville who were the only children near her age.  No little  girls.  I also know that she sometimes wore a cap to cover her curls — for bellying under the barn for eggs or climbing and running and hiding in the woods with all its stickery threats to a little girl’s hair.

Willard and Dale, 1914

Too, when she was very young — three or four — her hair was quite short — a curly cap.  When strangers came to the house to see my grandfather on business matters and came across Helen-Dale with her brothers, they often remarked, “What a fine group of boys you have, Mr. Espy.”  An enduring family story was my mother’s indignant reply:  “I’s not a little boy!  I’s a little gill!”

So… how much faith should we have in the census information when it comes out?  Two big errors in the same family within a hundred years probably isn’t a big deal.  But by how many times should we multiply it and with how many grains of salt should we accept the results?



Patchwork Of Another Sort

Sunday, April 19th, 2020

Mom’s Patchwork Quilt

My grandmother wasn’t a quilter and neither were her daughters.  But my mother did make at least one patchwork quilt and, as old and tired as it is, I do love it dearly.  She made it in 1932.  She was at home here in Oysterville waiting until my dad was earning enough money at Roger Babson’s Statistical Organization so they could afford to get married.  It took two years.

For that two years, mom worked on her trouseau — mostly re-working discarded clothing of her older sisters so that she could have a wardrobe appropriate to far-off Boston.  She also hemmed napkins and embroidered tea towels  and put lace edging on pillow cases.  (I think the lace was re-cycled from things of my great-grandmother Julia’s.)

Two Greens – Not a Shadow

While she was at it, she made the quilt.  Once, long ago, she told me what each different piece had come from — a dress of my grandmother’s, an old pair of rompers of Willard’s or Edwin’s, perhaps some left-over fabric from the kitchen curtains.  I wish I had written it all down.

The only patchwork item (if you can really call it an “item”) that has been created in this household during my lifetime is our lawn!  And what a patchwork it is!  Different colors, different textures, different densities, different rates of growth!  And, different-sized patches!  Maybe this is more a crazy quilt pattern that a patchwork design.

There is no rhyme but plenty of reasons to it, and I do know something about each patch.  In the beginning when the folks first moved in, the main part was put in by my dad.  The part we call “the croquet court” was done by Willard.  Part is in place of a large flower bed and was done by Nyel.  Part (a big patch) was done by Beach Time Landscaping when we had to have our septic system re-done.  It obliterated most of Willard’s patch.  And then there are the scattered patches that I’ve worked on — the little round areas that repair the mole damage.

Green, Greenish, Greener

All-in-all… it’s a mess!  Ten thousand square feet of this and that.  But… it beats most alternatives and until we have a lot more than the promised stimulus money (which we haven’t seen yet) we aren’t intending to replace it.  We’ll just continue to patch, patch, patch.

A Visit from the Red House Cousins

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

Ab, Gin, Sydney, Dan, Si – November 9, 2019

We were just sitting down to lunch when there was a knock at the door and  in burst a bundled-up smiling, very tall and very familiar young person.  It took me a minute to realize that it was my cousin Gin.  Eleven years old, now taller than I am, and wearing shoes two and a half sizes larger than mine!  Recognition took me a few seconds!  What a treat!

“May I go look for eggs?” she asked.  It’s been her “job” since she was old enough to reach into the nest boxes.  She triumphantly brought back two lovely brown eggs.  “They’re cold,” she said, the implication being that I hadn’t checked recently.  I assured her I had looked in the early morning.  (Why did I feel defensive?  I think it’s just that she’s been totally competent about EVERYthing from the day she entered this world.  I think I could  turn over all household duties to her and the transition would be seamless.) She also reported that the new hen and rooster are “ginormous!” — a conclusion with which we agree  wholeheartedly.

Nyel with Ab and Dan – Nov. 9, 2019

She stayed long enough to tell us that she had auditioned for “Aladdin” which will be presented by Seattle’s Broadway Bound Children’s Theater in January.  She was cast as Abu, “the irrascible little monkey who is full of personality, and easily fascinated by sparkling riches.”  I don’t know about the sparkling riches aspect, but the rest of the description offered online fits Gin to a ‘T’.

Later in the afternoon, Gin brought the whole family calling — Mom Ab with Dad Dan and brother Si.  We learned about Ultimate Frisbee from seventh-grader Si who told us that it’s all about running and he LOVES it.  And his team is way better than the eighth grade team.  Yay, Si!

We learned that all of them, plus Ab’s sister Anna and Rob and their children, plus Ab and Anna’s dad, Jim (Grandpa Hook), plus Rob’s dad (Grandpa Spooner), plus Dan’s mom and dad (Grandma and Grandpa Ronco) will be back in a couple of weeks to celebrate Thanksgiving.  On the Friday!  I’m so glad!  It makes my heart sing to know that the Red House is still at the center of Espy celebrations now and then.

“The Red House” by Sedem Akposoe – 2010

Plus… they told us that friends would arrive later in the day for their first “Beach Experience” which translates, they explained, to “Oysterville Experience.”  They lamented the weather (a little) and that there wasn’t a clam tide (a little) — but knowing the Red House Cousins, they will find plenty to do with their guests — even if it’s getting into the Dress Up Trunk or exploring the nooks and crannies of the old house or building a fort in the rain.

Thanks to all of you Roncos for warming our cockles once again!!!  We love you all!