Monterey cypress trees

The stately Monterey cypress trees along Territory Road have dominated Oysterville’s streetscape for more than a hundred years. Several stories persist concerning how and when they arrived on the Peninsula.

Abraham Lincoln had a way with words, for sure. I think my favorite was his comment about fooling people. You know… You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

There’s a world of wisdom in those 28 words and I find myself applying the concept to all manner of unrelated ideas. Like, say, connecting the dots. You can connect all the dots some of the time and some of the dots … Well, you get the idea. I thought about that the other day when I was discussing Oysterville’s Monterey cypress trees with Tom Downer at Jack’s Country Store.

It’s not the first time he and I have talked about those cypress trees. Our conversations always go back to mother and son Beulah and Ed Wickberg. They often talked about the line of trees in front of the house now called “the bottle house” — the John Crellin house — in Oysterville.

“They were brought back as seedlings from Africa by my folks,” Beulah would say. “Yes, by my grandparents, Eva and Sid Slingerland,” Ed would say.

“They are Cedars of Lebanon,” Beulah would continue. “Yes,” Ed would proudly agree. “Grandpa and Grandma went as missionaries to Africa. They had the gift of tongues you know.”

“Not so!” say Oystervillians

But, many people in Oysterville shook their heads in disagreement. Especially my neighbor Charlotte Jacobs. “No, they are definitely Monterey cypress trees. My great-great-uncle Tom Andrews went down to California and got them around the turn of the last century. He owned that house at the time.”

My mother remembered that Tom and his brother, Sam, ran the Andrews Store when she was a girl. She remembered that the Monterey cypress trees had “always” been there. She thought they had come up from California on one of the oyster schooners. And, just recently, Tom Downer told me he had learned that the movers and shakers of Oysterville — “R.H. Espy and the Crellins, perhaps — got together and sent for those trees.” So maybe Mom was right. Maybe they did come up on an oyster schooner.

I’ve come to think of each bit of information, no matter how disparate, as a dot connecting the path of those of those cypress trees from California to Washington. From Monterey to Oysterville and even to Nahcotta. It was the Nahcotta dot that I thought of a few weeks ago in a way that related to current concerns about spruce aphids and the stress they are putting on our local Sitka spruce. Who knew there might be a connection to our Monterey cypress trees?

Flashback to a few (maybe 10) years back when the stand of Monterey cypress trees on Sandridge Road south of Bay Avenue, by old Dobby Wiegardt’s house, were cut down — perhaps by the PUD; or maybe by the county; I forget. It suddenly sank in that Nahcotta also has its share of those grand old trees. So, I did a little research and found an article in South Bend’s Willapa Harbor Pilot dated March 30, 1927. The first few paragraphs caught my attention and for more reasons than one!

Infestation of spruce aphids

J.A. Morehead of Nahcotta is doing quite a little work on the improvement of the camp ground on the bay [Morehead Park], mainly by transplanting of trees. The spruce aphids are very serious again this year and from all indications will eventually kill out the spruce trees, which are native to the camp ground as well as other places on the Peninsula.

Mr. Morehead is looking around for trees which can be planted at this time to take the place of spruce. One of the trees in which he is deeply interested is the Monterey cypress, which seem to be entirely immune to the aphids’ attack as well as the bruising of cattle.

There are several trees of this variety (cypress) on the Peninsula, which were planted several years ago and that have made splendid growth under conditions especially in Nahcotta and Oysterville. These trees have produced an excellent growth and are very suitable for windbreak and are really a beautiful tree as they become older.

A follow-up article on May 4, 1927, says that 100 Monterey cypress were shipped from the California Nursery Company. It describes the trees as thrifty looking of about 10 to 12 inches tall and look as though they would transplant well.

Connecting the dots

A row of the Monterey cypresses planted by John Morehead still stand north of the entrance to Camp Morehead in Nahcotta. Since reading the Willapa Harbor Pilot article, I can’t help but connect some of the dots each time I pass by on my way to and from Oysterville. Spruce aphids connected to dying spruce trees connected to the Monterey cypress trees in Nahcotta.

Were those the same dots that were connected in front of Tom Andrews’ house in Oysterville a few years previously? Did the citizens of Oysterville plant those gorgeous cypress trees to take the place of dying spruces? Did it happen more than once? The infestation of spruce aphids seems cyclical after all.

And, would it behoove some enterprising arborists to connect with a Monterey nursery and have a few hundred seedlings sent up here now? Now that the spruce aphids are in full swing again? The little trees would arrive in nothing flat. They wouldn’t even have to risk becoming seasick on an oyster schooner!

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