Posts Tagged ‘Oysterville’

“First Wednesday” is coming right up!

Monday, December 4th, 2023

Oysterville Schoolhouse

The first Wednesday of each month is when our newly launched Pacific County History Forum meets at the Oysterville Schoolhouse.  And, as I was writing the title for this blog, I realized that it’s also the day that my monthly column is published in the Chinook Observer!  So, all-in-all, first Wednesdays are always  Red Letter Days for me!  I’d very much like each one to be memorable for you as well — especially if you are interested in the history of our very special corner of the world!

This week — on Wednesday, December 6th from 10 to 12 at the Oysterville School — will be our fourth-ever History Forum.  The focus will be on oysters and clams — oysters because they were the first industry of the area, continuously growing (ahem!) and morphing for more than 170 years!  Razor clams because they have been important to the growth of the area for just about as many years — maybe even more — but not as an “industry” in quite the same sense as their mollusk relatives in the bay.

To lead our discussion Wednesday will be two veterans of the oyster and clam business, Dobby Wiegardt and Tucker Wachsmuth.  Both are descendants of some of the first oystermen on our bay and they have a wealth of tradition and stories to share. In addition, we are hopeful that there will be some other long-time oystermen and clamdiggers among those attending who will join in the conversation.

Map of Historic Oysterville

Memories from our own “olden days” are fast disappearing and this is an opportunity to keep the stories alive.  I do hope you come to listen and to contribute if you can.  I am mostly hopeful that this is the subject that will put us over the edge — from speakers and audience to a true forum with many of us sharing what seems pertinent or interesting or just plain quirky.

And as far as my column goes — all I can say is I hope you are able to  “willingly suspend your disbelief” just long enough to consider possibilities that may be present right here in Beautiful Downtown Oysterville!  Or perhaps in other special places that have meaning for you.  Or maybe you already have!


“Past Perfect” — and indeed it was!

Saturday, December 2nd, 2023

Alice Holm’s Year-End Remembrance Card given to each student.

During the last half of his long life, my uncle Willard Espy worked periodically on a book about his own growing-up years in Oysterville.  The tentative title was “Past Perfect” and each time he was out here on vacation from his home in New York, he would work on it a bit more — often collecting reminiscences from family members or neighbors who could fill in the forgotten cracks for him.

Today, I came across the notes from his first teacher, Alice Holm.  Miss Holm taught the primary grades during the years that Oysterville had so many school-aged children that there were actually two schools in the village.  The four youngest of the seven Espy children went to their first three years of school there and Miss Holm, who was about ten years younger than my grandmother, became a lifelong family friend.  This is her memory of Oysterville written long after those teaching years here:

Yes, I remember Oysterville.  I remember it began where you turned the corner of the Nelsons’ white picket fence where the “lay-locks” (says Charley) bent over the gate, and with the other flowers, bubbled and bloomed in profusion.  I remember the bay that spread out on the right in its Sunday evening quiet splendor.  Then, looking up the one wide tree-bordered street, I remember that elusive something that suggested the passage of time — centuries — and the never-failing twinge of melancholy that swept over me in spite of rich contentment.
I remember the old church in its soft hues and mellow tones, the high-backed pews, the worn-out hymnals, the organ, none too cooperative, and the groups that gathered there.  There were visiting ministers and speakers as well as the saddle-back divine who came on horseback to save our souls.

Yes.  Past Perfect!


Writer’s what — block? cramp? angst?

Monday, October 23rd, 2023

Samhain – Traditionally a festival of fire and feasts

Since my column in the Chinook Observer is published on the first Wednesday of each month, and since the first Wednesday of November is actually November 1st. and since that day is Samhain,  a Gaelic festival  marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the “darker half” of the year…

I thought I had the perfect topic for my November 2023 column.  Added to all the above is my lifetime understanding that Oysterville is one of the “thin places” of this world. And, in case you don’t know what that is exactly:  Thin places are places of energy — a place where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin. A thin place is where one can walk in two worlds – the worlds are fused together, knitted loosely where the differences can be discerned or tightly where the two worlds become one.

If you are a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series (the books, more than the television shows) you will know something about Samhain and how Gabaldon involves that festival with time travel and the standing stones of Scotland.  I’d love to ask her if the concept of thin places (which has not  been specifically mentioned in her first eight books) has entered her thinking at all.

9th Book in Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon

As I noodled all this around, I thought that I had the elements of an interesting column — the perfect one to be published on November 1st!  But when I tried to make some sort of order from my thoughts, I found that I couldn’t quite write them out cohesively.  Maybe it would help if we knew for sure (or even suspected) that there were time travelers among us. Or, perhaps if we had standing stones here in Oysterville (and not fake ones like the ones in Maryhill.)  Nor do I think old pilings along the bay shore are the substitute I’m looking for.

So… I put my idea on hold for a while and filed it under “MRN — More Research Needed.”  I came up with a suitable substitute (I think).  You can let me  know what you think after next Wednesday’s paper comes out!

Where the deer and the antelope play…

Saturday, October 7th, 2023

At Surfside, August 10, 2023 – by Tucker Wachsmuth (Could this be Limping Deer’s dad?)

Except there aren’t any antelope(s)* here in Oysterville and the current resident deer has a painful-looking limp so “play” may not be an option for her.  She (or he?) is small, maybe a yearling though it’s difficult to determine.  She walks slowly around the village, sticking to the verges when she can and usually not too far from the schoolhouse.  Perhaps her home territory is in the woods behind the school.

Yesterday I watched her limp east along School Street and turn north, continuing at the same slow, steady pace past Lina and Dave’s. It seemed to me that she was walking more easily than a few days past, and I wondered if walking is helpful to her. She seems very thin to me and her forelegs and ankles look as fragile as matchsticks. I don’t wonder that something has strained or cracked.  The other day I thought the trouble might be with her left hind leg, but today I couldn’t tell if she was even favoring one over another.  She was just walking oh- so-slowly!

The Little Deer’s Mom? — Eating pears in our yard a few years ago.

I had the fanciful thought that she hoped Lina and Dave would be home and would see her slow progress past their place. They are both great with animals and the idea flashed by that maybe the little deer knows that.  I’m not even sure if she has met them but, if she has, my fanciful thought might have some basis in reality.  After all, how many times have you encountered a situation where a wounded bird or animal  just seems to “know” that a human can help?

In any case, my heart goes out to her (or him) as it does to any animal that appears to be hurting.  They always seem so stoic and so brave.  Or maybe that’s just my human urge to have them see a professional and get help!  I do hope I haven’t simply imagined that this lovely little neighbor is doing better.  I hope to see her soon in my garden, eating the pears that the wind has scattered over the lawn especially for her!

*The dictionary tells me that ‘antelope’ is plural with or without an ‘s’ at the end so… your choice.

Will I see you in Surfside on Wednesday?

Saturday, April 15th, 2023

Announcement in the Surfside Weekender

I think this might be a first!  I’ve been asked to speak to a group of neighbors about the history of Oysterville!  I’ll be talking at the Surfside Business Office on Wednesday, April 19th at 2:00.  So says an announcement in the Surfside Weekender that goes out to all the Surfside members.  I wonder if anyone will be there…

I’ve written many newspaper and magazine articles about Oysterville, have written two books and many stories about Oysterville , and have even taught week-long Elderhostel classes about Oysterville.  But I don’t think I’ve ever given a “talk” about its history.  You’d think it’d be a no-brainer, but I’m not so sure.

Tommy and Irene Nelson’s Cannery, Oysterville

For one thing — no parameters.  “How long a talk are you thinking about?” I asked.  “Whatever you’re comfortable with,” was the kind response.  Hmmm.    “And how many people might be there?” I wondered,  “No idea.  Could be four.  Could be forty.”  Hmmm.

Well… no problem.  I love the story of how Oysterville was founded — after all it involved my great-grandfather.  And I love telling about the early days when law and order might have been a bigger problem than it is now.  And how the South Bend Raiders stole the county seat!  And what it was like when I was a kid — before there was a place called Surfside or a State Park at the end of Stackpole Road.

Jimmy Kemmer, Judy Heckes and ‘Aunt Rye’ at the Oysterville Approach, c. 1940

I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday afternoon!  Bring your questions and I’ll try to answer them — or find out and get back to you!  But I have the feeling that most of you know as much as I do about Oysterville — after all, we’re not even a spit nor a holler away!




That grassy swath by our house…

Monday, October 10th, 2022

Clay Street – sign barely visible this autumn day

All my life and, as far as I know, all my mother’s life, that grassy swath south of our house has been called “the lane.”  Never mind that it’s on current maps as “Clay Street.”  And never mind that my own grandfather Harry Espy and his cronies Dewitt Stoner , Horace Wirt, and young Charles Nelson designated it “Clay Street” on that composite map of Historic Oysterville that they put together for Charles Fitzpatrick in 1946.

Those “Old Oysterville Boys” had been here since the 1870s (except Charlie Nelson who wasn’t born until 1883) and, presumably, some of them well remembered what their own parents had to say about Oysterville’s beginnings in 1854.  I’d give a passel to know just what they they grew up calling the three “Lanes” between the beginning of Territory Road and the Oysterville Road — the lanes they so carefully named “Clay Street,” “Merchant Street,” and “Division Street.”

The names of both Merchant and Division Streets make sense considering that along or near the former were located Patterson’s Boat Shop, The Stevens Hotel, Osborn Goulter’s Butcher Shop, and the John Crellin Store — probably as dense a gathering of “merchants” as anywhere in town.  Division Street marked the southern boundary of I.A. Clark’s original Oysterville Donation Land Claim filed in 1865 and the northern boundary of the Stevens Addition filed by Gilbert Stevens in 1875.  

High Tide on Clay Street, February 12, 2017

And, Clay Street?  As far as I know, there was never anyone named “Clay” living in Oysterville, nor was there ever a mineral deposit of clay or clay-like soil in this area.  But… I would love to know more if the facts turn up.  In my memory, that grassy sward from the road to the bay between our place and Holways’ was simply and forever, before and after, “The Lane.”

So, now we may be at the part where we look at usage.  First, it’s important to note that all three lanes/streets are designated Pacific County right-of-ways.  I have always understood this to be for the benefit of the Willapa Bay oystermen.  Should they need access to the Bay. the roads exist for that purpose.  When I was a child, I do remember Ted Holway or Glen Heckes or Bob Kemmer using one or another of the roads to haul things (a skiff?  a load of oysters?) up to “the road” (which, now of course, is called Territory Road as it was back in Pioneer Times.)

Holways’ Horse, Prince, In The Lane – 1947

These days, the lanes are mainly used  for parking, of cars, that is — by the owners who live adjacent to them and, in the case of Clay Street, by visitors to the village who have few other parking options.  No one objects as long as, if needed, a car or pickup can get through to the bay.

However, I do rather object to a fairly recent usage — holding weddings in the lane (ahem, on Clay Street.)  The latest one, a group from Everett I believe, came a few weeks ago, blocked the width of the lane with long white benches six or seven rows deep, effectively barricading access from all directions.  The pastor, set up a microphone and amps and proceeded with a very long and intrusive (at least into my house) service followed by hymn singing etc.  As far as I know, all of this was done without permission and served as a rather direct slap in the face to the Oysterville Restoration Foundation who rent out the Historic Oysterville Church very reasonably to help defray the maintenance costs of the 1892 structure. I’m not just sure that other villages or towns welcome weddings or other ceremonies on their properties without any “aye,” “yes,” or “no” from SOMEone, and I doubt very much whether the greensward south of our house, be it called “Lane” or “Street,” was intended for that purpose.


Oysterville’s #1 Place To Meet and Greet

Monday, September 5th, 2022

Headed South on Territory Road, circa 1900 — when it was a Plank Road.

The main thoroughfare through Oysterville when I was a child was Fourth Street.  It was graveled and we just called it “the road.”  It wasn’t exactly the center of activity but it was the main way to get wherever we wanted to be.  On land, that is.  The men of the village were probably more oriented toward the bay, at least in terms of their work days.

I don’t remember ever being told not to play in the road.  Cars and trucks weren’t really a problem.  Not only were they few and far between, you had plenty of warning that they were on their way.  Gravel is crunchy, for one thing, and progress was often snail-paced as people slowed to take a look at how Bob Kemmer was coming on painting his boat or whether Harry had finished up the fence on the south side of his meadow.

We didn’t get many strangers in town — especially not during the week or during the winter months.  And when we did get visitors, they were usually expected — even when they were not our visitors.  In a little place the size of this, we were excited no matter whose friends or relatives were coming to town.  It was always an occasion!

Looking South on Territory Road, Oysterville, c. 1920 — when it was sand or mud, depending on the season.

In my mother’s time — during the 1910s and 1920s, the road was even more tranquil.  One of our family stories that my Uncle Willard wrote about,  even though it was about himself, went like this: …by my third birthday I was reading easily, and by four my preferred reading was any book big enough to give me trouble carrying it.  I read wherever I happened to find myself – in the yard, in the privy, in the barn.  I am told that I had a curious habit of reading myself to sleep in the front road, often quite naked.  I cannot remember this at all. 

These days, we are more cautious, of course — both about what we are wearing and where we read.  When grandchildren are visiting, their grandparents put out those “Caution” Children at Play” signs and, where it’s possible, most pedestrians walk along the county right-of-way — “the verge” as we call it.  If several residents meet along the road whether on foot or in vehicles, they are likely to stop and exchange the latest village news.  We’ve long called those discussions “Oysterville Meetings” — often the source of the news disseminated by the Oyster Shell Telegraph. These days, too, the official name of the road is Territory Road — hearkening back to what it was back in the beginning, or so it says on the Historic Oysterville Map.  I don’t know how it got to be Fourth Street, but I’m glad it’s back to Territory Road now.

Walking on Territory Road in 2012 when, as now, it was asphalt.

I thought about all these road experiences yesterday after Vespers as I visited with people leaving the church.  We were, of course, in the road — though enough to the side that we didn’t present a hazard.  I didn’t get home (a two minute walk) until after five o’clock — so many people to talk with after Cate and Starla’s Vesper performance.  A perfect ending to a perfect afternoon!

When the shoe is on the other foot…

Thursday, August 25th, 2022

Freelance Writer Katherine Lacaze of Seaside

Today, Tucker and I were interviewed for Our Coast magazine by freelance writer Katherine Lacaze.  She had contacted me some days ago by email, indicating that she was interested in “looking into how Oysterville has evolved over the years and… how the status as a National Historic District impacts the lifestyle and culture in the town…”  She also asked if there might be someone else she might talk to while she was here.  And so… here we were.

I’m not always eager to give interviews.  I’ve found, over the years, that writers coming to Oysterville often have agendas of their own and what we say to them is not always reported accurately — at least from our point of view.  It makes me gun shy.

2022 Regatta – Photo by Vicki Carter

On the other hand, I’m well aware of the difficulties in translating an interview into a cohesive story — one that will hold up in print, remaining true to the intent of both the interviewee and the writer.  Been there, done that, and it isn’t always easy.  Both the speaker and the writer bring far more to the interview than words can easily convey and it’s the rare occasion when everyone is happy with the outcome.

All I can say about today’s experience is that, for me at least, it was one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve experienced in a long time.  Katherine made it easy.  She asked good questions — questions that made us think.  “What makes Oysterville, Oysterville?” she said as she was wrapping things up.  Yes!  What does?

And, of course, sharing that bright interview spotlight with Tucker made the time fly by.  (Two hours?  Really??)  We both got to telling stories, sharing memories, and recalling the parts of Oysterville that we miss as the twenty-first century gallops along.  It will be interesting to see how Katherine weaves it all into the Oysterville article she has in mind.  Stay tuned…

Flags Flying in Oysterville!

Wednesday, August 24th, 2022

Flags Flying in Oysterville

Check it out!  A couple of doors north and across the street from our place is the wonderful house that Lina and Dave Cordray own.  It’s the “modern” house many people ask about — the one built by Jim and Leigh Wilson-Codega back in the nineties.  The one with the wrap-around deck that looks so inviting.

Today the house is all decked out (ahem) with bigger-than-life-sized flags — at least ten of them  — some recognizable, but many not.  At least not to me.  And they are probably not “bigger-than-life-sized” either.  It’s just that you seldom see full -sized flags at eye level — not in Oysterville that is!

Carol (who is Lina’s mom) told me that many of the flags represent the colleges and universities where Cordray family members have earned degrees.  How fun!  And, of course, I immediately wondered if my own alma mater had a flag. I looked it up and there it was,  vaguely familiar.  I doubt that I’ve seen it (except as a sweatshirt) since I graduated sixty-five years ago.  And I certainly never thought of anything so clever as putting it on display anywhere.  What a great idea, Lina and Dave.  Thanks for all the fluttering color right in Greater Downtown Oysterville!

Oysterville Is Reeling

Friday, June 24th, 2022

The Honorary Oysterville Militia, Memorial Day 2022 – Ron Biggs, Center, In Beige Vest,

Today we learned that our long-time friend and neighbor, Ron Biggs, died yesterday — apparently in good health, while working in his garden.  His is the seventh death since 2022 began.  Too many for such a tiny village to endure.

It’s true that three of the seven didn’t live here.  But their roots were here or their parents’ roots, or their spouse’s roots.  They were connected to one another and to us as only those in a small community can fully understand.  In some cases, we grew up together.  Or our children did.  We served on committees and boards together.  We laughed and argued, reminisced and laughed some more, and, in some cases, had less and less to do with one another as the years went by.

A December Sunrise

But we walked the same footpaths, picked berries from the same bushes, revelled in the same sunrises over Willapa Bay.  We love where we live and have chosen to be here until the end — for better or for worse.  Those of us left behind will not forget a single one of you — not Ryan or Linda, not Bud or Ava or Dick, and never Nyel or Ronnie.  You were and are what makes Oysterville where we want to be until we join you.  But still we ache for the missing of you all…