Up the Beach — Year’s end calls for celebrating beachers win in the War of 1812


They say looking back at the old year provides direction for the New Year. One thing we can look forward to in 2013 is speaking American and not English or Canadian. The year’s end marks the anniversary of the War of 1812.

So what, you ask, does that have to do with us beachers? Plenty. The War of 1812 generally focused on the East Coast. But, dag-gone, the North Beaches were involved from the get-go in events that provided a fulcrum for the stand against England.

Sure, we know about the kerfuffle over the Straits of Juan de Fuca between the Brits and the U.S. in a war whose only casualty was a pig. But that, in the long run, didn’t amount to a hill of pork and beans.

The beachers had a much longer finger in the Brits vs. Americans pie called the Northwest. Yep, the Stars and Stripes came out of the war, but so did U.S. ownership of land occupied by a few whites from both countries.

The fight for control was a precursor to the Watergate scandal guideline of “follow the money.” And, in 1812, the money was in the fur trade. Both countries declared sovereignty over the source of furs bound for the wealthy Orient.

Establishing a fur trade beachhead, Capt. Robert Gray entered the Columbia River May 11, 1792. He anchored close to an Indian village near Point Elice, where he traded for nine days. No need to bring up his days in the Grays Harbor estuary, as Gray’s priority entering of the Columbia was later used by the United States in support of its territorial claims to what Americans called the Oregon Country. “ Fifty-Four-Forty or Fight” became the byword of the legal dispute that finally was settled by the Ghent Treaty.

Alexander Ross set up the Pacific Fur Company for John Jacob Astor. September 8, 1810, the Astor expedition sent the ship, Tonquin, from New York to the Columbia River. Aboard the ship, oddly enough, were 30 Brit crewmembers.

March 22, 1811, the ship entered the Columbia River, continued upriver and its crew established Fort Astoria.

When they left for the north Pacific in June, a Quinault/Chinook/Brit called “Lamazu,” who was also known as George Ramsey, was aboard. He was one of many coastal Indians hired as pilots for Pacific waters due to their boatmanship and knowledge of the ocean.

The captain insulted a local Chief in Clayoquot Sound who retaliated by massacring the crew. The story was carried back to Oregon Country by the lone survivor — “Lamazu.” Guess he was just as full of grits and guts as today’s beachers.

March 19, 1825, the Hudson’s Bay Company consolidated British interests to open Fort Vancouver, which is now the city of Vancouver, Wash. The Hudson’s Bay Company held sway over the Coastal Indians’ fur market for a good 20 years.

As the war on the East Coast grew, the Brits decided to add Astoria to their holdings, but instead of fighting for it, bought it through their North West Fur Company.

In a story of snafus — in which beachers delight — the Royal Navy’s 36-gun sloop-of-war Racoon, was loaded for bear to fight those danged Americans. The ship’s company were chagrined, however, when they found out that the fort already belonged to England.

So, ceremoniously, they re-named it Fort George. A ceremony that, by-the-way, didn’t hold water when it came to the peace conference of 1814 that declared the fort was in occupied American territory, resulting in it being handed right back to the U.S.

Veterans’ names became common along the beaches and inland as settlement of Chehalis county occurred. Which makes an even longer story of the part the sand-pounders and beachers own in the War of 1812.

Dock shock

At least the river fishers don’t have to worry about a Japanese dock cluttering up their fishing hole like the one stuck up the coast. The decree that the location has been declared closed to the public has given the sand-pounders their own heart palpitations.

Every good sand-pounder knows stuff on the beach just might be useful. If not useful in the physical sense, beachcombed stuff is worth at least a whole pot of coffee to discuss past, present and future stuff deposited on our beaches from the ocean.

So, chalk one up for the flat-landers. They get to see the barge and the beachers don’t.

Commercial fishers like Larry Thevik and Doug Fricke, who have worried about tsunami debris and potential damage to their equipment, now have a good example of why they have appealed to the powers–that-be regarding the plight of fishers.

Concerning crab

Winter storms during this crabbing season are bad enough. Add debris to that, and it increases the pucker factor.

In other crab news, folks along the beach may be able to get even more Nelson Crab products since they have expanded. Kristi Nelson announced that Nelson Crab, Inc. has entered into an operating agreement with Custom Seafood Services of Seattle. The company is owned by a coastal native, Chris Heckman.

By the time this winter’s crab season opened, Heckman said he had increased the Nelson plant’s Dungeness crab processing capacity nearly four times, as well as installing a live operation.

Custom Seafood will also take over the unloading dock for Nelson Crab, offering faster dock services to commercial crabbers.

Sharp shines

The year 2012 is ending with more accolades for Quinault Indian Nation President and president of Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Fawn Sharp. She was presented the 2012 Distinguished Alumni Merit Award from the Gonzaga University Alumni Association.

For many folks along the beach, her work in these organizations is a plus for their future. In addition, she is a trustee of Grays Harbor College, vice president of the Northwest division of the National Congress of American Indians, chairwoman of the Interior Department’s Indian Trust Commission and the Indian Health Service Contract Support Costs workgroup.

This all calls for real suspender snapping, indeed.

Mineral musings

Many of those same folks are keeping an eye on the recent decision by the Federal Bureau of Land Management’s decision to clear the way to allow a Canadian company to prospect for gold, silver and copper near Mount St. Helens on Forest Service lands. The folks feel like it may become a done deal like the oil exploration in Grays Harbor that suddenly was sprung upon them. Heaven knows, the areas in northern Grays Harbor have seen their share of prospecting for minerals throughout the history of the area.

The Nugguam recently carried a report from Larry Workman on the two major changes he observed in the Anderson Basin at the headwaters of the Quinault River. Valkarie Lake water is a rich blue-green color, denoting that the finely ground rock particles produced by glacial abrasion are no longer entering the lake.

Water flowing from the glaciers is now clear “evidence that there is no active ice movement to produce fresh glacial flour.”

Call of the wild

Out along the Dekay Road, the barred owls have been swooping down fast and furiously, seeking winter food once the temperatures dropped.

Close to the old “China” camp up by Carlisle, a whopper of a cougar has been seen lately. In January, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife is set to begin “equilibrium management” of cougars based on the Washington State University’s 13-year research project. Each management area will have a quota allowing for harvest of no more than 14 percent of the area’s cougars. Once the limit is filled, the season closes for that unit. However, hunters will be able to take their tags into other areas.

Now this should set off some real tongue wagging over the coffee cups.

But there is one thing about the New Year of 2013. The beachers will be talking in good, old American slang. The War of 1812 made that possible. So Happy New Year, eh?

And … here’s one final holiday hurrah. … On the beach during the past Christmas season, someone made hearts glad by decorating a tree in a clearing on the way to town. A wonderful gesture in this wet, miserable weather.

Gene Woodwick may be reached at genewoodwick@coastaccess.com.