A friend the other day mentioned Sydney Stevens’ Chinook Observer article about the Last Indian Princess of Oysterville, and it got me to thinking.
One day some years back, when I lived just south of the Oysterville church in what was called the “Tommy Nelson/W.D. Taylor” house, I heard unusual construction noise close at hand. Always curious, I went through the street-side gate to find a man fastening a sign on my fence. I say “my fence” because while I didn’t own the property, I felt very proprietary about the fence, since I had repaired all 200 feet of it, each and every picket. Hard work; my fence.
I walked toward the church to find a gentleman I did not know attaching a “Daughters of the Pioneers Historic Property” sign to the north end of the picket fence. I asked a question; he told me that Polly Friedlander had said it would be OK. He kept working. “Oh, Polly, …” I thought.
Now, Polly lived at the other end of the village and was the president of the Willard R. Espy Literary Foundation, and hadn’t said a word about this project. I came to understand that the man at work on “my” fence had made a monetary donation to the Foundation and wanted one small favor in return, to commemorate his grandmother’s [?] great grandmother’s [?] one-time residence in the village. The lady had lived in a house now gone, right next door, south of the Church. She might have been spoken of as the last Indian born in the village.
I walked away befuddled. Later, whenever I glimpsed that sign as I was mowing the greensward, my hackles would rise a little.
Polly, with the famous last name, had come to Oysterville quietly some time ago, lying silently in the weeds, renting a house, then building a house, and then running for Queen. By the time she won the title, at least in her own understanding, we locals were toast. “Now I know how the Indians felt,” said one native-born, life-long resident.
A previous owner of the Nelson/Taylor property had been Rose Espy Glynn, a tiny, cheerful 75-year-old lady with white hair and a grand sense of humor, a love of solitude, and a tendency to annually drive her spotless white Cadillac with the red leather seats back to Illinois to visit her sister.
Rose’s property closely abutted the south boundary of the Church’s; the Oysterville Restoration Foundation, which owned and was restoring the church, prevailed upon her to donate the north 10 feet of her 210-foot property to them. It gave the church breathing room. It didn’t hurt Rose.
Her large lot had once been three lots, and it was almost more than anyone could keep up with. Once you fought your way through the blackberries and the holly, you found orange blossoms, old red and pink striped roses, quince which had probably come from Mrs. Nelson Sr.’s property down at the corner, bushels of columbine, and here and there an old tin toy car. Rose never missed the 10 feet. It was an adventure, rather a long one, to mow that lawn, pushing back into the boonies just a bit when you felt like it.
One day, while mowing by the sign which had come about by annoying means, I had a brainstorm. I could, and did, simply move the sign northward about five feet, from “my” fence to the Church’s fence. The property was still commemorated as the man wished, I was relieved, my fence was relieved.
I don’t know if anyone ever noticed.
Regional historian Nancy Lloyd was a longtime resident of Oysterville and now lives in Megler, where she usually writes about shipwrecks.