Seaview founder Jonathan Stout remembered with new headstone

By Joan Mann

For the Observer

Every town on the Long Beach Peninsula has an interesting story of how it began, and who was responsible. The pioneer founder of Seaview was Jonathan L. Stout.

When my family and I came to the Peninsula in 1976, we bought the historic home of Oliver Stout, one of Jonathan’s sons. One day there came a knock on the door. Helen Stout Deardorff, on a weekend visit to Seaview with her family, asked if she could go through once more the home she had shared with her parents Oliver and Matilda Baker Stout, and her brother Wesley. We became friends, and wrote back and forth for several years. The details of her childhood and the story of Seaview interested me. Notes and anecdotes about her grandfather filled many folders over the years.

When I enrolled in the Columbia Pacific Heritage Community Historian Program at the museum, I saw the possibility of a project. So far as I could discover, the exact location of Jonathan Stout’s grave had never been located, and there was no record of his death. I went deeper into old newspapers to find the elusive obituary, and began by reviewing some of what is known about his life.

A native of Ohio, Stout, a widower, arrived in Unity (later Ilwaco) in 1859. At first he worked at farming, ran a saloon and became a Justice of the Peace, in that order. Before roads linked Peninsula communities, in 1870 Stout became a driver for the regular stagecoach that ran from the wharfs at Ilwaco to the “Weather Beach,” up the west side of the Peninsula to the road that was built to connect the beach and Oysterville in the 1860s, according to a history by Mike Johnston in the Chinook Observer. In 1877, after Edwin Loomis acquired control of the stage line, Stout started his own — the Lightning Express.

In 1860 at the age of 40, he married Anne Elizabeth Gearhart, 19, the daughter of a pioneer family homesteading on Clatsop Plains, Oregon. Four of their children survived into adulthood, Inez, Philip, Oliver and Chester. Another son, Grant, died at age 11.

Every summer brought hordes of Portland residents down-river to camp on Peninsula beaches. This gave Jonathan Stout another possibly profitable idea. In 1880 he registered and patented 153.5 acres north of Ilwaco, and offered lots of 50 x 100 feet for $100. He advertised that a cabin of several rooms could be built for $200 to $300. Many of these cottages he built with his sons still exist today.

In the center of his new community, in 1886, Stout opened his Sea View House, a luxury hotel with a dancing pavilion, supply store and stables. When the new Ilwaco Railway & Navigation train began its run on the Peninsula with a station at the hotel, there were already more than 70 cottages in the town he called “Stout’s Sea View.”

Stout seemed to be thriving. But privately, his 27-year marriage was beginning to unravel and ended in a bitter divorce. A large monetary payment and a portion of his land became part of the settlement.

In 1892 a tragic fire completely destroyed the hotel. After repayment of a mortgage and satisfying all his debts, Stout was ruined financially. He never rebuilt Sea View House.

According to an Astoria newspaper obituary, Stout died following surgery at a hospital in that town in 1896. He would have been 72. His body was returned back across the river for burial, but no record exists as to where. The Stout family plot in Ilwaco Cemetery contains gravestones for Philip and Oliver and their wives. At one end of the plot, there is an ancient rotting wooden marker. If this is the gravesite of Jonathan Stout, I decided he needed recognition.

As part of my Community Historian Project, I commissioned a proper headstone. Now a memorial is in place where the wooden marker stood in the Stout family plot. The story of Jonathan L. Stout, founder of Seaview, is now complete, 121 years after his death.

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