Visiting Oysterville 1915

Jan 20, 2012 | 2 comments

Oysterville circa 1910

     For the book I’m currently working on, I’ve been trying to reconstruct Oysterville of 1915 – not the physical layout so much, but the people who lived here.  Who were the neighbors?  Where had they come from?  What did they do for a living?  How did they interact with one another?  Do they still have descendents in town or on the peninsula?  What did they look like and how did they sound — did they have accents or distinctive speech patterns?
     As resources, I have the 1910 and 1920 census, household by household, and I have a list of “Oysterville Inhabitants, 1918” made by my Uncle Willard from memory some fifty years after the fact.  I also have Marie Oesting’s Oysterville Cemetery Sketches, full of all sorts of information about people buried up on Davis Hill.  And I have all the back issues of the Sou’wester magazine.
     Even when I factor in all the old stories that linger in my own head and all the anecdotes that members of the family wrote down over the years, I find that I’ve set myself a difficult task.  It’s amazing how much I do know, but somehow the knowns just magnify the unknowns.  For instance, my mother used to talk about “the bachelors” who came to the community Christmas programs each year.  She said that there were always presents for the children and for “the bachelors” in town.
     On the 1910 census, there are several men without families listed as “head of household.”  Were they the bachelors?  And where did they live?  I have a vague idea that they lived at the old Stevens Hotel just north of our house..  By my mother’s childhood it was no longer in use as a hotel and, since it was demolished in the early twenties, I’ve always pictured it as derelict.  I think that Mr. Wirt, the across-the-lane neighbor to the south, owned the building in those days.
      Of course, if I follow that line of speculation, I get into where the rest of the residents lived, what happened to those buildings, and on and on.  I’d love to pursue all that, but it doesn’t get me on with my writing.  Still, I do like to visit with Oysterville’s past now and then…

2 Comments

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Garrison Keillor tells funny stories of the Norwegian bachelor farmers in his fictional Lake Woebegon and Viola Saari told me that her father “bached” in the house that is now ours in Ilwaco when he first came from Finland. I’ve wondered how many gentlemen lived in our house. Unfortunately, Viola is long gone now. I should have asked more questions. If the Oysterville bachelors remained so, it makes them harder to track! Still intriguing, however.

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  2. Kitt

    What a wonderful gift you are sharing with the community through your writing. Your endeavors to recreate what once was through your investigations of the historical facts are a true legacy. Oh, how I would love to hear voices of the past when they would learn that you were writing all about their lives in Oysterville.

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