Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle


January 19, 2023

My friends, I know the rain can get to us, but please remember to take your Vitamin D because it helps the body with what the sun normally gives us the rest of the year. Margie Godfrey from the old Naselle Clinic taught me that years ago and I’ve discovered it really helps. Remember that by mid-February, it’s usually possible to get out into the yard/garden so it’s just a month away. Wet is one thing, but warmth brings hope, at least to me. And rain beats several feet of snow every time. I’d rather wear a rain jacket than layers and boots to go out and shovel snow.

I’m assuming you’ve all seen posters, ads, and announcements, about the Skamokawa Swamp Opera folks in concert on January 22 at 3 p.m., at the Naselle Community Center. Please come join us and hear, I hope, the Sheriff’s Report in song. It’s a treat.

Photo of the Week: Grays River in the rain at the Covered Bridge. With the river’s current up and running well, it’s easier to see how the river has split with water on the north side creating a growing gravel bar in the middle of the river. As time goes on, the river goes where it wants and it’s up to us to work with it to help erosion and damage. Water has such power - it shows here and at Gudmundsen’s property, too. Let’s pay attention and talk about what might be done to help places like this to save landowners’ property.

I’ve had several calls and folks mentioning to me how much they enjoyed the Marie Fauver stories. This week I talked with the Mayor of Cathlamet, David Olson, who is very vested in heritage/historic properties. Wahkiakum County has quite a few. In the west end, we have the Covered Bridge and the Deep River Church, and old barns preserved, but there is one more I wish we could restore before it’s completely gone, the Walker House in the old town of Grays River. In Robert Pyle’s revised book (2021), “Sky Time in Grays River,” he writes about Jean Calhoun, past postmaster of the Grays River Post Office and mentions the old post office in the town of Grays River, the Walker House. Bob’s revised version of his earlier (2007) book is delightful and full of our own history here in Grays River such as the following: “After Jean finally retired, she wanted her house for herself. About the same time, Mike Swanson at the Rosburg Store, our other pocket-handkerchief post office down the road, hoped to reclaim the space the P.O. displaced. The postal powers in Portland had already announced that one or the other would go. Of course, the Rosburgers wanted it in Rosburg, and the Grays Riparians in Grays River. For a time, it looked as if we would get our way and at the same time reclaim the oldest building in town, the Walker House – a shingled cabin built by our first settler, Samuel Walker, in the 1860’s; the postal service was interested in adapting the house for the two-village facility. That would have been especially suitable because Julia Walker was the town’s first postmaster. The Walkers sorted mail in their bedroom and passed it out to patrons in the parlor. But the owner of the Walker house was unable to agree on the terms of a lease with the postal authorities, so the deal fell through. Jean passed away before getting her front room back. At her estate sale the minor artifacts of a long life in the valley were laid out for all to rummage through and buy for pennies. I would have loved to get the brass mailboxes, both to remember Jean’s daily labors sorting letters into them and to sort my unanswered correspondence, but they quickly went for a tidy price. I selected old accordion file folders, Jean’s venerable black and blue umbrella, and Jean’s son gave me a fine photograph of Jean and Pooser, her cat backdropped by the split box, the community bulletin board, and the tacked on letters that read Post Office Grays River WA 98621.

The new Grays River-Rosburg Post Office was built up a steep drive off the highway in Rosburg, three miles oceanward from here and no longer the short, safe bicycle ride away that the old P.O. was. But 98621 no longer shows in the national Zip Code Directory, and someday some manager may rub it out altogether. Then this historic place, whose post office dates to 1872, just 80 years after Captain Gray first entered the Columbia River in the “Columbia Rediviva,” would join Deep River, Altoona and Brookfield on the Columbia as a postal ghost town.”

The Walker House has a deep history with fine stories, such as the arrival of Sam and Julia Walker on their first trip across the Columbia to Grays Bay, where they first wanted to settle in a small trapper’s shed near Crooked Creek. After they had been there only a few days, some Indians stopped to let them know the area floods so they should go further upstream. That advice brought them further up the Grays to the turn in the river where they eventually built the Walker House still standing on the north side of the highway across from the turn off the highway onto Loop Road. The old house is still there with wild grass growing all around, but it stands as a testament to the commitment and resilience of the early settlers of our area. Both Bob and I have tried to talk the owner into selling it or giving it to the community, but alas, it is still a hard sell and we’ve not been successful.

Coming Events:

January 22: Concert with Skamokawa Swamp Opera at 3 at Naselle Community Center sponsored by the Finnish American Folk Festival (FAFF) at 3p.m. $10 donation requested.

January 29: FAFF’s annual budget meeting as well as an election of officers at 2:00 p.m. for Naselle Community Center and at 3 for FAFF. Both meetings will be held at the NCC.

February 1: First Senior Lunch Club luncheon at Rosburg Hall. Second one on Feb. 15.

February 2: Caregiver Support Group at Naselle Library with Ocean Beach Hospital staff 1-2 p.m.

Wednesdays in Grays River: AA meeting at noon at Grays River Grange

CAP Senior Lunches: CAP/Thursday Senior Lunches are now located inside Rosburg Hall at noon.


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