Julia Jefferson Espy

Julia Jefferson Espy, pictured here on her wedding day, Aug. 7, 1870, just two months after completing a nine-month term as teacher at the Oysterville School. Her “high-collared, pinch-waisted cotton dress, with checked ruffled skirt, reached the floor and was probably of her own making.

School was held in Oysterville as early as 1860 and perhaps before. Pupils met in various locations and teachers were paid through subscription funds collected in the community. Oysterville pupils had a reputation for being unruly and most teachers did not stay for the entire three-month term. James Pell was the first teacher in the county to be paid through public taxes.

1862 — Bethenia Owens (later Dr. Bethenia Owens Adair, Oregon’s first female doctor) was the first teacher to complete a full term in the Oysterville School.

1863 — 1864 — James Pell was the first teacher in Pacific County to be paid through public taxes. James Pell’s students included John and Eva Clark, Ella, Arthur and Loris Crellin, and Ada, Frank and Alice Stevens.

? – 1868 — William Bryon Daniels — “Oysterville, in 1868, had a school of perhaps 30 pupils ranging in age from 6 to 18. The teacher was William Bryon Daniels, who was a very fine young man who afterward became a lawyer and returned no more to our midst. I do not believe there was ever a more orderly school than the one he conducted, for each pupil seemed determined to learn as much as possible in the few months’ time that the school was in session.”

From a memoir by Eliza Moss Whealdon

1868 –? — Jane Eliza Griswold — The county superintendent of schools for this period, through 1876, seems to have been Miles Standish Griswold, a graduate of Harvard who was offered a professorship, but declined, to go to sea, landed at San Francisco, and came to Oysterville as a cook on an oyster schooner. The students, hopefully out of his hearing, called him ‘Old Baldy’ for obvious reasons. He sent for his sister, Jane, who once taught a class of 74 children, but died of smallpox in Seattle on the way East for a vacation. He then went east and brought back a wife, Jennie, who was as kind and helpful as her husband was gruff. In fact, he was called the ‘Wrath of God’ while she was referred to as the ‘Love of God.’ — Velma Laakko, Winter 1978 Sou’wester

1868-1869 — Felicia Brown; Jennie Griswold

1869 -1870 — Julia Jefferson (Espy) Recruited by School Board members R.H. Espy and Lewis Alfred Loomis (or perhaps his brother, Edwin G. Loomis.) According to Willard Espy in Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village: “That Spring [1869] he and Lewis Loomis, a fellow board member, traveled by boat and buggy to the University of Salem… to seek a teacher for the Oysterville school. Grandpa and Loomis settled on Julia Ann Jefferson, the prettiest girl in the graduating class… If the unattached young ladies of Oysterville were upset when grandpa slipped through their fingers, they must have been even more exasperated when the new teacher fulfilled her one-term contract and then married Mr. Loomis…”

I can’t help but wonder if Willard was confused as to which Loomis brother was on the school board with R.H. Espy. Lewis Alfred did not marry until 1877; I cannot find any information as to Edwin’s marriage date. Both men were R.H. Espy’s Oysterville neighbors in those days and both wives are listed as having taught in Oysterville the year following Julia Jefferson.

1870 – 1871 — Elizabeth Britton (Loomis); Louisa Glover (Loomis)

1871 – 1872 — Miss Harriet Wing — sister of Elvira Wing Stevens/Mrs. Gilbert Stevens

1872 — Wilson W. Lilly

???? — Mrs. Harvey Woodgate

???? — Agnes Lowe

???? — Josie Richie

???? — Norris Wirt

With or without information about these first teachers, they all deserve to be remembered with appreciation and held in high regard. For the most part, they were teaching with few guidelines or directives, were paid a pittance, and were required to hold themselves to high standards of conduct, often with little support from their employers. It is no wonder that most lasted for only one school year.

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