That grassy swath by our house…

Oct 10, 2022 | 0 comments

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.



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