Editor’s Note: In this series, local historian Sydney Stevens examines the many connections among Pacific County residents — connections with one another and with the past; connections that bind us in special and unexpected ways.
“I can still walk into that house and go through all its rooms. I can go clear up the stairs to the third story attic and see my great-grandfather’s Civil War uniform,” says Nancy Markham Holmes. “My memories of the Old Markham House are absolutely clear, even though it’s been gone since the early ‘60s.”
“The house was built by Dan Markham to replace the house he had built at First and Spruce Streets back in 1894. It was where the Doupé Building is now,” Nancy says. “The deed to the property is dated Aug. 25, 1886 and shows that my great-grandparents, Daniel Markham and Ellen H. Markham, paid $400 to Rachel Holman for property with this description:
Beginning at the South-east corner of the intersection of Spruce and First streets and running thence south along the east-side line of said First street one hundred (100) feet thence east parallel to said Spruce street one hundred feet thence north parallel to first street one hundred feet thence West along the South-side line of said Spruce street one hundred feet to the place of beginning.
“Of course, that was long before my time but I’ve been told that the house they built on that property in the early 1890s was quite grand. It had several fireplaces and, according to the family story, one of them caused a fire and the house burned down the night before the family was to move in.”
“The second house — the one our family always called ‘The Old Markham House’ — was built soon afterwards on the same property [and later moved]. It wasn’t quite so grand and was built without any fireplaces at all! I don’t know how they heated it originally, but by the 1950s, the house was kept warm by an oil stove in the living room.”
Couldn’t Be Saved
“The house was knocked off its foundation in the Columbus Day Storm in 1962,” Nancy says. “I was just 15, but I still remember how badly I felt that it couldn’t be saved. Jon Kaino tore it down for salvage and that was the end of it. I don’t know what happened to any of that lumber — maybe it’s still in a house or two in Ilwaco.”
A photograph of the dismantling appeared in a 1963 issue of the Pacific Tribune. According to the caption, the Markham Home was built in 1894 and moved on skids to the present location two years later when Seaborg erected Doupé’s. The building B.A. Seaborg built was actually his Aberdeen Packing Company, store which served the area for about two decades. It was purchased in 1919 by Joe and Harry Doupé and has been known as “The Doupé Building” since that time.
“Even though it wasn’t the first house my great-grandparents had built, it was still called ‘The Old Markham House.’ I think that was to distinguish it from ours, also a Markham House, and also on Spruce Street just four lots to the west,” Nancy says. “We aren’t sure when the second Markham house was built or even who first owned it.”
According to one story, it was built for Amanda Markham Wheeler, Great-Grandfather Dan’s older sister. There is another story, though, that the house was built by Solomon, one of Dan Markham’s sons. “But what I’ve always been told is a third story,” muses Nancy. “It’s sort of a combination of story one and story two — that Solomon Markham (our grandfather’s brother) purchased the house from his Aunt Amanda in 1904. One way or another, though, we are sure that the house has always been owned by the Markham family.”
“It’s the house at 125 Spruce where I grew up with my sister Mary and our brother Dan’l. Our grandparents Daniel and Nan Graham Markham purchased it in 1911 and, after several other family owners, it was finally deeded to Ernest and Mary Ann Markham, my parents, in 1951,” Nancy recalls.
“When my brother Dan’l and his wife Kathy bought the house, they added a preschool on the west side of the house and my mother had an apartment built in the back. The third addition to the house was for Dan’l’s parsonage upstairs. By that time, members of every one of the Ilwaco Markham generations had lived in that house — five generations to that point counting Dan’l’s daughters.
“My brother Dan’l is the tenth Daniel Markham (five of them in our direct line!) since our ancestor Daniel, the original Markham emigrant to the United States, arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He came from Plumstead Manor, near Norwich, England, in 1665. There have been three Daniel Markhams right here in Ilwaco and, unless you are careful to specify which generation, it can cause mix-ups — especially to those of us interested in genealogy.”
The Pioneer Markhams
The very first Markhams in Ilwaco were Nancy’s great-grandparents Daniel (“Dan”) and Ellen Huffman Markham. They left Kansas in the spring of 1878 and arrived in the area of Ilwaco still known as Pacific City — now part of Cape Disappointment State Park — the fall of 1879. With them were the first six of their nine children: Amos (11), Ella (9), Solomon (7), Daniel (5), Oliver (3) and Hiram (six weeks).
They traveled across the country in a covered wagon pulled by mules — either two or four. No one is certain any longer. Two other memories concerning the trip are still recounted with affection by descendants: Amos, the oldest boy, did the work of a man on the journey while five-year-old Daniel pestered his father for a spy glass so that he might look back and see Kansas as they traveled west.
In the years that followed their arrival in Ilwaco, three more children were born: Dora (1881), Joseph (1883), and Rebecca (1885). “Everyone called my great-grandfather ‘Uncle Dan.’ I’m not sure why. Maybe it was to distinguish him from the other Dan Markhams in town. His son Daniel was my grandfather,” Nancy says. “Grandpa was fond of telling how his father took him to the celebration in Olympia when Washington Territory became a state. Young Daniel was then 15 or 16 years old and it was one of his fondest memories.”
Dan Markham (the elder) had been born in Summit county, Ohio, in 1839. He moved to Illinois in 1850 and took up farming until the war broke out. At the end of the war, he moved to Kansas and lived there until the spring of 1878, when he packed his belongings and moved to Ilwaco in Washington Territory. He fished the Columbia for a living, owned and operated The Kansas Hotel, served on the Ilwaco City Council in 1900, and was much respected as one of the oldest living residents of the town.
Civil War Veteran
It is a point of continuing pride for Dan Markham’s descendants that, in 1886, he became one of the 13 charter members of the GAR Canby Post No. 27 of Ilwaco. The GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) was a fraternal organization formed in the post war 1860s out of the ranks of the Union Army. Founded in 1866 in Springfield, Illinois, and growing to include hundreds of posts (local community units) across the nation, it was dissolved in 1956 at the death of its last member.
The GAR played an important role in civic and patriotic observances in every community of the nation in the late 1800s and the early part of the 20th century. It was called upon to furnish flags and to lead the parades for every special occasion. Memorial Day was the Grand Army’s own holiday and usually community plans did not proceed without the leadership and approval of the local GAR post. Next to Memorial Day, the old soldiers were most dedicated to observances of Lincoln’s birthday.
The Ilwaco Advance of Sept. 17, 1891, tells of the opening of the new Ilwaco school building. As part of the program, the article says: The large and beautiful flag presented by the once GAR post of Ilwaco, was then unrolled and amid loud cheers and demonstrations, Mr. Dan Markham came forward to make the presentation speech.
In a reminiscence about early Ilwaco, L.D. Williams wrote in the Jan. 16, 1920 issue of The Ilwaco Tribune: I well remember when uncle Dan Markham came, and soon after engaged in the fishing business, both here and at North river, and was very successful in both bays. He built the largest and finest dwelling house so far erected in Ilwaco, and it was mysteriously burned to the ground the night before the family expected to move in.
The Next Generations
Although both her great-grandparents and most of their children had died long before she came along, Nancy does remember one great-aunt and two of her great-uncles. “Aunt Dodie (Dora), who was always called ‘Dodie,’ lived in Portland but she came to the beach often. Two of her brothers, Uncle Joe and Uncle Hi, were bachelors and were still living in the Old Markham House.”
According to Nancy, “I can remember them sitting at that little table in the middle of their great big kitchen drinking coffee out of their saucers like many of the old-timers did then. The brothers were both characters, especially Uncle Hi. Uncle Joe was the quiet one, but Uncle Hi was full of tricks. He’d amuse himself by sitting on the back porch with his old slingshot shooting at the birds to keep them out of the garden.”
Aunt Dodie had been married twice — first to Bert Soule, who died within a few years, and then to Frank Embree, who was a conductor on the Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Co., which operated the narrow-gauge railroad that ran from Megler to Nahcotta. Nancy remembers that Aunt Dodie had a wonderful sense of humor and always told great stories.
Four Families from Kansas
There were four families from Kansas who all arrived in Ilwaco at about the same time — the Grahams in 1876, the Markhams in 1879, the Embrees in 1880, and also the Grables in 1880.
“Through various marriages in the next few decades, they all became inter-related,” says Nancy. “At one time, Ilwaco was full of Markham in-laws and cousins. So many people from all of those four families went to the Methodist Church, it was known as the ‘Kansas Church.’ Unfortunately, like the Old Markham House and the Kansas Hotel, that church is no longer standing.”
Even though the men of these four families — the Markhams, Grahams, Grables and Embrees — had come from inland Kansas, they all became fishermen and contributed greatly to the development that industry in Ilwaco on the Lower Columbia, and beyond. All four families played a big part in the development of Ilwaco. They were active in civic affairs, influential in fraternal organizations, and dedicated in their various church affiliations.
“There was once a time in Ilwaco that half the population were related to us in one way or another,” laughs Nancy. “Now… not so much. Besides me, my son Rick (Richard) is here on the Peninsula. He is owner of Abbracci Coffee Bar in Long Beach.”
According to Nancy, the only other close relative on the Peninsula these days is her cousin, Luanne Hanes, owner of the Olde Towne Coffee Café in Ilwaco. “Who could have imagined that Markham cousins of the fifth generation would both own coffee shops within a few miles of one another!” she laughs.
“Luanne’s daughter and grandchildren also live here,” smiles Nancy. “They take us into the sixth and seventh generations of Dan and Ellen Markham’s descendants! Markhams, still here at the beach, within a short distance of that wonderful (once-upon-a-time) Old Markham House! When you think of it… that’s pretty amazing!”