Oysterville's 150th Birthday: No meat problem in Oysterville

Oysterville's 150th Birthday: No meat problem in Oysterville

Dewitt Stoner came to Oysterville in 1884. He was 11 years old and, as far as I know, he lived in or near Oysterville until his death in 1955. In my childhood he lived on the southeast corner of Territory Road and Beach Road, and although the house has had several other owners over the last 50 years, it is still referred to as "The Stoner House."

I came here with my brother and his family. We lived in a house, a three room house, right where the baptist church stands now. The alder grove came right down to the house. Quite a number of times my brother called his wife to get breakfast. Then he'd kill a deer in the alders, dress it and have it hanging outside the house by the time breakfast was ready. In them days we didn't have any meat problem. We just took a gun out and got it...

In them days, if fellows wanted to hunt, there was no game laws and nobody killed anything but just what they wanted to eat. There was a lady, Mrs. Will Taylor at Ocean Park, got 350 snipe in one shot. If you could see a flock of snipe weaving up and down the bay they'd look like a big silver snake. About all there is to them is the breast. People just broke the skin on the breast bone and pinched it out. Just one good big mouthful to them. On the rest of them, the leg or wing, there wouldn't be a bit of meat as big as a pin.

The big brown snipe - they always come in June - the others would be gone. You could go out on the sandspits and get two or three messes of brown snipe - you could have killed two or three sacksfull. We never wasted anything in them days. Now they want to kill all they can whether they can use it or not. In the early days here there were all kinds of ducks and geese all winter. On a stormy day you could take your gun and get as many as you could use. But they only killed what they really needed in them days, just like the Indians.

My uncle, Willard Espy, interviewed Mr. Stoner in 1947. It was fall, and Willard and the rest of the family were here to help celebrate my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary. I remember that Willard spent all his free time interviewing "the old timers." Years later, he used snatches of the information he had gathered in his book "Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa's Village." And, before he died in 1999, he gave the precious oral histories to me with the admonition to "do something with them."

My own memory of Mr. Stoner is of a quiet, gentle old man who I saw sometimes at the post office but, most often, bent over working in his calla lilly garden. Or, at least I think I remember that. It might be one of those vivid "memories" that are only the product of hearing the stories ... and seeing the photographs over and over again.

The entire field between Mr. Stoner's house and the bay blossomed in the spring with calla lilies or "Lily of the Nile" as he called them. Someone, probably Charles Fitzpatrick, took a photograph of them and made the picture into postcards. Mr. Stoner became famous hereabouts for that calla lily garden.

Editor's Note: Sydney Stevens is the great-granddaughter of R.H. Espy who, with his partner I.A. Clark, founded Oysterville in 1854. Members of the Espy family have lived continuously in Oysterville since that time and, through the years, have amassed an interesting collection of anecdotes and memories. We offer them here as a salute to Oysterville's Sesquicentennial year.

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