Posts Tagged ‘Pacific County’

Despite Murphy’s First Law…

Wednesday, February 7th, 2024

Logging Truck – Spruce Division

Today’s History Forum was one of the best yet — not necessarily subject-wise (although that was fabulous) and not necessarily because of the visual aids (there were technical problems).  But this Forum, our sixth, definitely involved the most participation– conversations, questions and answers, “show and tell” items, and general give and take — of any of our Forums to date.  We are all finally getting the hang of what a Forum is!

According to the OED, A forum is a place, situation or group where ideas and views on a particular subject can be exchanged.  A History Forum is a community for historians and history enthusiasts.  And that was us today in the proverbial nutshell — about thirty-five of us, I think, although it never occurred to me to count.  Among those who spoke of their experience in the timber/logging industry was Steve Rogers of South Bend who described himself as “the son of a son of a logger’ and whose father had the last logging operation on Long Island here in Shoalwater Bay.

Roy Nott of Aberdeen  — whose career with Weyerhaeuser began at their Raymond Sawmill pulling lumber — which he described as “the most boring job he ever had.”  But he stuck with it,  He was a contract logging supervisor for Weyerhaeuser after college and his responsibilities included the Deep River and Naselle areas.  He managed the logging operations for Rayonier on the Northern Olympic Peninsula and went on to become the VP, Pulp and Forest Products for Rayonier with an office in Stamford, Connecticut. — but has since spanned the globe and some 50+ years.  He shared a paper he wrote, “The Logging Eras of Pacific County, Washington,” and I suspect that we will eventually see it as an issue of The Sou’wester, Pacific County Historical Society’s quarterly magazine.

Jean Nitzel of Surfside, after listening to some of the exchanges between members of that corporate lumber world, described her husband Bill’s work as “a real logger” — a choker setter who worked day-in and day-out in the Naselle area, “unless it snowed,” she said.  She remembered a period in the sixties when it snowed for an unprecedented time here in Pacific County “and he got a full two-week vacation!”  Debby Halliburton of Ocean Park talked about another aspect of the industry —  a box factory that literally kept Cathlamet from becoming a ghost town during the Depression.  It’s importance went far beyond the paychecks that people earned– “it created the basis for a real sense of community>”

And Bob Rose talked about the logging operation(s) on the Rose Ranch which has ‘s celebrated its centennial year.  “There were times,” he said, ” when the dairy business was more or less subsidized by our logging operation, even though it’s fairly small.” Dave Williams and Steve Rogers spoke a bit about the forestry conservation efforts of Columbia Land Trust and there was general discussion about the effect of climate change on the growth of “traditional” species and what that might mean for the future.

It was a rich discussion and the time flew by.  Quietly, back in the northwest corner Michael Lemeshko recorded the Forum and he says it should be up on YouTube by Saturday.  Murphy’s First Law, “Anything That Can Go Wrong Will Go Wrong” had struck just as the Forum began when Steve’s Power Point Program could not be run on Michael’s computer and we are all hopeful that the remaining techy magic was working properly. You can check it out by Googling Pacific County History Forum on YouTube!

Answering The Questions

Sunday, November 5th, 2023

Winter/Spring 2014 – Summer/Fall Sou’wester – a great resource, if I do say so myself.

Rummaging through the information that I’ve collected over the better part of a century is becoming more problematic all the time — especially those bits and pieces that (presumably) have been stored among my mental synapses.  “Total Instant Recall” is not my middle name!  But, often, answers attack me hours, days, or even weeks after the question has been posed.  Here are a couple of questions that were asked at the History Forum the other day… and my late-breaking answers.

What was the old name for Baby Island?  I think that question was directed to Charlie Funk, who immediately said “Round Island” and many of us nodded in recognition.  But I mean the island’s Chinook name came the clarification.  We all shook our heads, though I’m sure there were others besides myself who were trying to dredge that information forward.  Finally, this morning I looked online!  Duh!  Tenas Illahee  is the answer that came up,  Vaguely familiar but I’d like to check it out with Tony Johnson or another of the WaWa speakers among the Tribe.

Someone also asked how it was that ‘far off’ Oysterville became the  County Seat after Pacific City failed?  I was able to say,  It didn’t immediately.  First it went to Chinookville but getting there proved difficult for the commissioners who had dispersed throughout the area after the demise of Pacific City.  It then went to … and here I blanked.  Someone’s schoolhouse in the area that would become Ilwaco.  THEN, in 1855 the commissioners voted to move to Oysterville.  

Another “duh!”  It was Holman’s schoolhouse on Baker’s Bay, built for the his and neighboring children of the area .  Although the Commissioners held their meetings there from March to May 1855, it was never officially made the County Seat.  Oysterville was voted in as the next (and third after Pacific City and Chinookville) Pacific County Seat in May 1855.”

“For information about Pacific County history, this is an easy way to get the basic facts,” she said modestly.

One further aspect that we didn’t get into was the matter of Pacific County’s changing boundaries during those early days.  Seven (count ’em, seven!) boundary changes shaped Pacific County to the form it now holds.  The first change was defined in the first regular session of the Washington Territorial Legislature in 1854; the last was approved November 13, 1879.

One other interesting tidbit that didn’t come up at last week’s forum — Bruceville, later known as Bruceport, served as the first “permanent” county seat on the shores of Shoalwater (now Willapa) Bay.  However at that time Bruceville and the rest of the upper bay were in Chehalis, not Pacific County — so many of the hijinks among those early Bruceville Commissioners described by James Swan in his book, The Northwest Coast were not actually a part of Pacific County’s history…

I think there might have been other questions-without-immediate-answers last week.  Sometimes the braincells  just take a while to activate…  If you come up with other topics without closure, do weigh in.  Inquiring minds are needing reboots!


I guess we still ARE the wild, wild west!

Tuesday, August 8th, 2023

According to the Washington State Legislature online site: RCW 36.28.025 dealing with Qualifications for the office of sheriff says:  A person who files a declaration of candidacy for the office of sheriff after September 1, 1979, shall have, within twelve months of assuming office, a certificate of completion of a basic law enforcement training program which complies with standards adopted by the criminal justice training commission pursuant to RCW 43.101.080 and * 43.101.160.

So, as I understand it, you or I, regardless of our training in law enforcement, could run for County Sheriff and hold that office for a year with NO (NADA, ZIP) knowledge of the law or of how to enforce it.  I’m not sure we all understood this when we elected our present sheriff last November.

And I doubt that any of us realized that if he was criticized or questioned by our local media, he would simply fold up his tent and say “no more interviews” claiming that he is being misinterpreted.  Bad enough that those of us on the Peninsula feel absolutely unnoticed by the sheriff’s department (as in when is the last time you saw a speeder or reckless driver pulled over on Sandridge Road?) but now our one and only “connection” with the Sheriff’s Department — our venerable Chinook Observer — has been stonewalled.

Wot the hell?  Teachers without training and credentials don’t get hired.  Attorneys without training and credentials don’t get to hang out their shingles.  Ditto doctors and nurses and  all manner of professionals.  Why are sheriffs the exception?

Kinda scary if you ask me.  Especially if the electorate (that’s us, folks) is basically uninformed or “assumes” the best of anyone wanting to run for that office.  Garcia claims he is not a “Constitutional Sheriff” in his interview with King 5.  (In case you don’t know — “The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association [CSPOA] is a political organization of local police officials in the United States who contend that federal and state government authorities are subordinate to the local authority of county sheriffs and police.}

Well, without the fourth estate in the picture, how do we really know WHAT Daniel Garcia is up to?  (In case you’ve forgotten  — While the Constitution established the executive, legislative and judicial branches, the phrase “Fourth Estate” reflects the unofficial but widely accepted role the news media play in providing citizens with information they can use to check government power.)

I don’t know about you, but the entire situation makes me nervous. I was glad to see that King 5 TV was paying attention and did a short interview with Editor Matt Winters yesterday as well as with Mr. Garcia.  Seeing it online, however, did not make me less nervous.


Ready! Set! Mark Your Calendars!

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2023

The Oysterville School 

Whether you’ve moved here recently or  your roots go deep into the past of Pacific County — or even if you are a wannabe resident, we hope you will join our HISTORY FORUM — a monthly gathering of folks who want to share their knowledge, find out more, and generally enjoy the bits and pieces of information we can glean about Pacific County’s past.  Here is what you need to know about our first get-together:

WHEN:  WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6TH (and every 1st Wednesday of the months Sept-May)
TIME:  10 A.M. – NOON

The Louisa Morrison, Oyster Schooner

SPEAKERS:  Linda LeClaire, Charlotte, Killien, Charles Funk(all of whom trace their Pacific County ancestry back to pre-settlement times
DISCUSSION: Wide open —  how it was back then;  how others of us got here; how those experiences were different.  Artifacts, pictures, old correspondence all welcome. 
If possible, please let me know at if you plan to come (and how many in your “party”) so we can arrange the seating appropriately.  And please feel free to “spread the word” to others who are interested in our history.This is a free event; there will be a donation basket toward upkeep of the Oysterville Schoolhouse.
Hope to see you there!
(From:  Sydney Stevens, Michael Lemeshko, Jim Sayce, Dayle Olson, David Olson, Kathleen Davies, Tucker Wachsmuth)

Gearing Up To Look Back On Our History!

Friday, July 28th, 2023

Oysterville Schoolhouse

Somehow it seems just right that we are beginning a new venture in Oysterville, Pacific County’s oldest extant settlement.  And… the “we” being a group of folks from Pacific County and beyond who are interested in the history of our county and intrigued with the possibilities of learning and sharing more about the way it was.  Which, of course, inevitably leads to how it is now — but we plan for that to take a while.

Oysterville Stagecoach

We are calling our endeavor “The History Forum” and, so far, we envision it this way:  on the first Wednesday of each month (September through May) anyone interested in Pacific County’s past may gather at the Oysterville Schoolhouse from 10:00 a.m. until noon.  They will comprise “The History Forum” — not always the same people, perhaps, but always people interested in Pacific County history.

There will be a topic each month which will be introduced/explored by a panel of two or three “experts” — folks who know enough to get us started by speaking for ten of fifteen minutes.  And then for the remainder of our two hours, the rest of us will ask our questions, suggest answers to one another if we have them, and generally put in our two bits worth about what we know or would like to find out.

H.A. Espy’s 1890 Diary

Among us there will undoubtedly be those who can suggest places to go for more definitive information or to research specifics.  There may be those  who have artifacts related to the topic-of-the-day to tell us about, perhaps even a treasured bit of correspondence or a diary entry appropriate to the day’s topic.

Abe Wing and James Johnson, early oystermen

Speaking of which — Our theme for our First Year will be the Pioneer Years (roughly 1840-1870) and our September topic will be “How We Got Here.”  (It may well be a continuing topic if interest and information is compelling!) To get us started, our first panelists will be three of our Pacific County neighbors whose roots here go back to pre-settlement times.

We are still in the early planning stages.  I urge you to mark your calendars for Wednesday, September 6th, 10:00 – 12 N. To make sure you get any notifications as we proceed, please send me your email address.  Anyone with an interest in Pacific County’s rich heritage is more than welcome to be a part of our History Forum!

I’m loving the Saints or Sinners feedback!

Friday, July 21st, 2023

Isaac Alonzo Clark’s story was in the May 24, 2023 Observer.

For all of you who have contacted me via email or text or through my blog… Thank you so much for your enthusiasm and interest in my current “Saints or Sinners?” series in the Observer. I’m having such fun researching and writing about these “characters” of Pacific County and I’m delighted that readers are enjoying them.

One comment, however, prompted me to go back and do a bit of counting up.  The writer expressed concern that I was dealing with more men than women.  That’s certainly true to date, but will tend to even out at time goes on.  Thus far, I’ve written 30 stories but, if my count is correct, only 18 of those have been published so far. (And there may well be more!) Those first 18 have featured 11 men, 4 women and several stories involving both a man and a woman.

Cecelia Jane Haguet Johnson Howard’s story was in the June 7, 2023 Observer.

Though I’ve not confined myself to a chronological order, I have leaned rather heavily on early “characters” of Pacific County, and a great preponderance of those — at least those who were written about — were men.  I guess the pioneer women were busy tending to the home fires and not as apt to have snippets of gossip or speculation written about them.  Certainly, they are harder to research!  But in the next weeks, more women will surface as “saints or sinners.”

And, by all means, if you have suggestions for me — especially if you can give me some reliable sources for factual information about them — do share!  I can be reached at and am always interested in a good story about the characters of Pacific County!


Country Roads? Or County Dumpsites?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

Somewhere Else

Driving the length of Sandridge Road has finally become an exercise in the Use of Extreme Caution and its companion The Feeling of Foreboding.  God forbid that you need to pull over to get out of the way of a speeding vehicle heading straight for you as it passes four other over-the-speed-limit nitwits.

The wayside is cluttered with all manner of artifacts — from “take me” refrigerators and soggy “free” oversized sofas to the county’s own tsunami signs and mile markers — to say nothing of telephone poles and broken down ditch barriers and reflectors on tall white sticks.  It reminds me of the streets of San Francisco years ago when the garbage men were on strike.

Good Idea! Take note Pacific County

At least there was a little humor to that situation.  It was around Christmastime (in the late sixties, maybe) and people were desperate to get rid of their garbage.  It became popular to wrap up your kitchen refuse in fancy Christmas paper and leave it on the front seat of your parked, unlocked car.  Many-a-thief scored boxes filled with potato peelings and egg shells and moldering meat scraps to say nothing of empty tin cans and glass bottles.

But, let me be clear:   along our County byways, the mess has nothing to do with our hard-working Sanitation crews.  Those of us who have garbage pick-up service can count on those workers to empty our dumpsters on schedule, rain or shine.  And, I might add, most of the garbage dumpsters appear and disappear quickly — they don’t sit on the roadside adding to the clutter.

And never mind the rusting cars and boats and collapsed abandoned buildings that clutter up our fields and woods and “vacant” lots.  Sometimes it seems that we live in the middle of a gigantic dumpsite.  I do believe there are ordinances that deal with such matters.  Why are they not enforced?  I’m sure the answer would be something to do with money.

Beautiful! And Litter Free!

So perhaps the County needs to refocus its priorities.  Like maybe  we need to consider taking care of what we have before courting more building, more population, more need for county workers to help “expand” our economy.  It’s election season, folks, and we’ll be choosing a brand new County Commissioner.  Let’s find one whose first priority is keeping our County clean and green and fit to live in.  What a treat that would be!

Visiting… and Broadening My Horizons!

Thursday, February 9th, 2023

Entering Chinook

Yesterday I went visiting — clear to Chinook!  In some ways it seems ridiculous to think of a community with so many similarities to Oysterville  (and only 22.8 miles distant) as being “far away.”  Especially when I drive through it several times a month on average and, in doing so, go right past the houses of a number of folks I know.

But yesterday I had made a date and I actually stopped and had a lovely visit with my friends the Kragers.  I was gathering information for a new book I’m noodling around — this one not a book of ghost stories, but one about real people —  especially the “characters” in our communities from the years of earliest settlement up to and including present times.  Amazingly however, although my notebook was bulging with names and ideas and anecdotes, it was another aspect of our visit that I thought about on my drove homeward.

        The Donaldson House, Chinook

Jon’s great grandfather, W.B, Donaldson, arrived in Chinook in 1860 and soon went into the fish trap business.  I can’t help but wonder if he became acquainted with my own great-grandfather, R.H. Espy, who had arrived in Oysterville just six years earlier and was already a mogul in the burgeoning oyster business.

Even though the distance from Chinook to Oysterville may have been greater in those days — or did the Bear River portage make the towns closer? — there seemed to be a lot of interaction between the two settlements.  That the court house was located in Oysterville, the county seat, explained the business connections. The courtships and marriages among members of the two villages are probably best explained as “human nature.”

Downtown Chinook 1930s

I’m looking forward to more visiting, more note-taking, more speculating about our past and how it informs the present and future.  And along the way… gathering more information about the “characters” of Pacific County!



I noticed in the paper this week…

Sunday, February 5th, 2023

Steamers Shamrock and Reliable — Passenger Ferries on Willapa Bay in the early 20th century

I have to admit that I very nearly skipped that front page article headlined “Partners envision county’s housing future.”  And then as I glanced at it, phrases like “local livability” and “hybrid launch event” added to my distaste and… even now I can’t believe I read the whole thing!

Maybe it was the image of UW students working side-by-side with our County Codgers that kept me reading.  Or perhaps it was the LCY (Liveable City Year) track record that impressed me.  But what really really gave me hope was their statement that “in looking at the permitting for building in Pacific County, the  group found it to be a long and arduous process compared to that of other communities in the State …”  Why am I not surprised?  And raise your hand if you aren’t either!

I do look forward to seeing some (but perhaps not all) of their plans for the County coming to fruition.  The one I’m a bit hesitant about (and probably won’t be around for) is their interest in the Willapa Bay Ferry feasibility study.  Should the County ever go forward with such a plan, a pedestrian and bike ferry would travel from the Port of  Peninsula in Nahcotta to the Tokeland Marina and possibly to Bay Center or South Bend, as well.  This would be the final leg in a “round-the-county tourism trail.”

Victoria Clipper – Passenger Service between Victoria B.C. and Seattle

I can only envision the parking lots at the various docking points — acres and acres of asphalt where you could leave your car for the duration.  I mean, how long would it take to go from Nahcotta to Tokeland and don’t you need a good high tide to get from portal to portal on our bay?  So…several small ferries or one very large one to make things “feasible?” Then the visitors would explore and visit and wait until the next high tide to return for their cars?  And would the approach look a lot like those ferry terminals around Puget Sound — one huge asphalt covered parking area so bye-bye little old Nahcotta?

A News Clipping of Note

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Part of Early News Clipping

There are several things that drive us collectors of bits-and-pieces-of-history to distraction — old photographs with no identifying names or dates and yellowing news clippings without any indicators of when or whence.  I think the following excerpt from just such a clipping was from the The Tribune of Ilwaco — probably in the late 1940s judging by snippets of ads on the reverse side.

Under the headline Espy Describes Early Settlement is an article about my grandfather’s talk at a dinner meeting of the Ilwaco-Long Beach Kiwanis club.  The part of particular interest to me describes the first road survey on the Peninsula.

An interesting document read by Espy was one made under date of October 1859, a petition addressed to the commissioners of Pacific county, Washington Territory, requesting the building of a road due west out of Oysterville to connect with the “weather beach” route to Pacific City at Baker’s Bay.

Isaac Alonzo Clark

The petition was signed by 25 pioneers of Oysterville including E. Ward Pell, R.H. Espy, Chas. Anderson, H. Wing, A.C. Wirt, Geo. Dawson, H.K. Stevens, Frank Warren, G.W. Warren, G.S. Foster, I. M. Chichester, J.A. Cole, Irving Stevens, Il Wheeler, Ezra Stout, George Wills, F. Hopkinson, W.H. Gray, E.G. Loomis, I.A. Clark, W. Sutton, Jr., and Thomas J. Foster, Jr.
The penmanship of the petition was very well done, and easy to read, in spite of an ornate style.  The language used was on the flowery side, and in true chamber of commerce optimism indicate a huge influx of business and visitors over the proposed road.
The following May of 1860 the records of the county commissioners, who are not named, signed by H.K. Stevens, clerk of the board, reveal that E.G. Loomis, George Willis and Dennis Colby were appointed “viewers” for the road project.
 Their detailed report was accepted by the board of commissioners and placed on file July 2, 1860.  (For a description of that survey, read my April 18, 2021 blog, “Metes and Bounds and Willow Posts”
A photostatic copy of this original record was recently made by Verna Jacobson, county auditor, who reported to Mr. Espy:  “As nearly as I can ascertain, it is the oldest document in the office as to commissioners’ proceedings.”

Harry and Dora Espy circa 1896

The concluding paragraphs of the article amused me greatly.  My grandfather was known as a man of many, many words and, according to the reporter:
H.A. Espy was accompanied to the meeting of the Kiwanis club by his sister, Mrs. Dora Wilson of Portland, who, according to Harry “pulled my coat tail three times” when she felt it time for him to conclude his address.
However, the Kiwanians appeared to enjoy both the amusing anecdotes and the historical documents of the oldtimer of Oysterville, giving him a hearty round of applause.