Laurine and Heinrich Wiegardt

Laurine and Heinrich Wiegardt are pictured here in Bruceport with the first five of their six children. (From left to right in the back are Fred, Heinrich and John; in front, left to right are Julia, Laurine, Gussie and Anna. Not pictured here is Gustave (“Dobby”) who was born in 1897, shortly before the family moved to the Peninsula.

Danish immigrant Heinrich Wiegardt had run away to sea when he was a boy of 13 or 14, sailed the world and, in the early 1870s, arrived in Oysterville to work for the Morgan Oyster Company. He saved his money, moved across the bay to Bruceport, and started oystering for himself. It was the beginning of a Wiegardt relationship with oysters that has lasted six and perhaps seven (it’s too early to tell) generations.

Hearing of a young Danish woman at Cape Disappointment, nursemaid to the children of Light Keeper Anderson and his wife, Heinrich went courting. That entailed rowing (or paddling) to the head of the bay, portaging across Tartlet Slough to Ilwaco, and hiking along Baker Bay and up to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. (Round trip 60 miles. 46 miles rowing. 14 miles hiking local wagon roads. 14-16 hours total seems very reasonable –if he caught the tides just right!)

Heinrich liked what he saw – according to one story he said on his first arrival “That’s the girl for me.” He made a second trek, perhaps to more formally declare his intentions. But by the third visit, the long trip may have been getting a bit much, Heinrich proposed then and there and returned to Bruceport with his intended. They were married in 1884.

They lived along the shore in a building that had once been a hotel and it was there that “Grandpa Heinrich,” as his many descendants refer to him, began the family duck-hunting tradition. When the ducks flew over Shoalwater Bay right in front of his house, he would open the kitchen window and shoot enough for dinner.

Years later, their son John Lorentz Wiegardt (1889-1958) remembered: “In 1897, we were the last white family living in Bruceport. When Dad grounded our sailboat at high tide in front of our home during Thanksgiving week of 1897 and loaded our household possessions aboard the boat, we sailed away for a new home near Ocean Park. Bruceport was a ghost town.”

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