My mother was born in 1911, and she has dim memories of the plank road down the main thoroughfare in Oysterville that kept horses, wagons, buggies, and pedestrians from becoming mired in the mud. Sometime during her childhood, the planks were replaced by gravel that was barged over from Long Island. I am hazy about whether or not that gravel road still existed in my childhood.
Neither of us, of course, remember the stage coach that ran along the very first road to Oysterville - the hard sands of the "weather beach" as they called it in the early days. DeWitt Stoner, who came to Oysterville as an 11-year-old in 1884, remembered that stage well, and he told about it during his waning years in the late 1940s. I believe that the "sandhill" he describes was what we would now call the "primary dune." In those days, before the jetties, it was formidable in size.
"John Moorehead's father was driving the stage when I come. The stage departed according to the tide. It tried to leave at 6:30 or seven in the morning, but sometimes it had to leave as early as four. It arrived back here about four or half past.
"There could be about twelve ride in the stage. The driver sat out on a high seat in front. Then it could hold about eight or ten sacks of oysters tied on behind.
"When they got to Ilwaco, the stage connected with a steamer going to Astoria. There was a two- or three-horse freight wagon to haul oysters and whatever else was needed. The mail stage was also the passenger stage.
"There was no plank road out to the sandhill. They needed an extra four horses to help them pull up that hill. If the freight team was going out, he'd start first and unhook his horses and hitch them up to the stage. Then when the stage was over the hill, it would unhook its four horses and help the freight wagon over. It took eight horses to get over that hill.
" '89 was about the last run. When Nahcotta was started, the railroad come in. After that from Nahcotta to here the mail was carried by horse and wagon."
By then, Oysterville and Nahcotta were connected by a difficult, deeply rutted sand road. My uncle, Willard Espy, recalled the gravelling of that road as "an outstanding event" of his boyhood: Barges brought the gravel from Long Island, in the bay above Nahcotta.
Volunteers (I think this was done without pay, but I may be wrong) shoveled it into wagons on the tide flats. The wagon beds consisted of loose, longitudinal planks; when the wagons arrived at the spot on the road where the gravel was to be deposited, the workmen simply pulled the planks out at the rear of the wagon.
Although the road to Oysterville has been paved for many years now, visitors often say that traveling to it - from almost anywhere - can still be quite an adventure. Those of us who live here trust that it will remain so.
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.