A Wahkiakum classic, refreshed
Book review - Skamokawa: Sad Years, Glad Years by Irene Martin. (Reprinted)
October 26, 2023
Looking at a map of Washington, the southwest corner is easy to overlook. For history buffs, it is an intriguing study because of the Indians, the immigrants, and the land itself. Irene Martin knows our history in an intimate way. She has researched, interviewed, traveled and recorded more than most of us will ever understand. Her 1997 book, “Beach of Heaven,” deserves to be on every bookshelf in every house in Wahkiakum County. It is a textbook all our students should be required to read. It is about more than our area or even our region; it gives the reader a full history of our country. In that book, Martin gives us an overview that covers every aspect of the growth that happened here as immigrants moved in from Scandinavia, China, and other European countries.
Her newly reprinted 1985 book, “Skamokawa, Sad Years, Glad Years,” was recently made available to the public to purchase. This newly printed version includes updated information that renders it even more valuable, with more information on early Indian tribes, their leaders and the areas where they lived. In her introduction to the first edition, Irene states, “I have described the Skamokawa story to approximately the 1930’s, as these early years are fast being forgotten, and accounts of many events are now only attainable through scanty written records. At the very end is a bibliography of materials I have found most useful, to encourage any who are interested in further research in local history. May I also encourage local citizens to treasure their heritage of photographs, diaries, books and written records, as well as the stories they have heard and handed down. It has been my great pleasure to have spent twelve years sifting through what has come to me from the past, revising, correcting and polishing. I hope I have used this gift of time well.”
She has indeed used her years here well. Martin focuses on details as few others do. She has given us not only history but heritage, and she has done it with full attention to accuracy.
This reprint of her original book on Skamokawa’s history fills out our treasures of written reference that include her “Beach of Heaven” history of our county, Nelson’s “Cathlamet on the Columbia,” Carlton Appelo’s histories of the west end, from Grays River through Deep River, Ruth Busse Allingham’s three books of recorded family stories of the west end, and David Hansen’s to-date unpublished history of Cathlamet. For a small county, we are richly blessed with fine historians who not only write well, but share with us the bounty of their dedication, integrity, and reporting. Irene is not only a fine writer, she is a spiritual woman who knows and understands how humanity hungers for identity, family, faith and hope for the future. Her Skamokawa book has short chapters, stories and perspective. Readers will understand how important Skamokawa’s history is, where we came from and how we got here, much more than we did before it was offered again.
Skamokawa: Sad Years, Glad Years is available for $15 at Redmen Hall in Skamokawa, Tsuga Gallery in Cathlamet, and the Appelo Archives Center in Naselle.