We just got home from an incredible weekend away in Astoria, Oregon. I swear, everytime we go there I fall in love with that place a little more. One of the highlights was Talking Tombstones, an event put on for the last 8 years by the Clatsop County Historical Society. We showed up at the Astoria Pioneer Cemetery near Coxcomb Hill to check it out.
First we met the ghost of Susan Pitkin. She cried real tears as she told the tragic tale of becoming the town recluse after two of her sons drowned in the Columbia River.
The stories didn’t get any happier as we met Lillian Hendrickson, who talked of being the first woman to work at the cannery only to be shot to death at age 17 by a guy she turned down.
Laura Ferrell sat next to her family plot and talked of the booming 1870s in Astoria, losing her first husband to an accidental shooting, three marriages, fifteen pregnancies, and thirteen kids.
I had no idea that cable TV was invented in Astoria, but the ghost of Ed Parsons and his wife, Grace, showed us how he put an antenna on the top of the Astoria Hotel and ran coaxial cable to his home. Soon after he had to set up the first cable TV system to keep all his neighbors out of his living room.
Henry Sidlinger seemed like a happy fella and talked of being a tinsmith, but he still holds a grudge against the newspaper for making it sounds like he had been hiding his past and ended his own life.
A young Emma Burke died alongside her father by a fallen tree.
The last three ghosts’ stories managed to tie together. There was Gabriel Franchère, who came to Astoria with John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company.
Donald McTavish also worked in the fur trade, and brought the first European woman to Oregon, Jane Barnes. He complained of his remains and tombstone being moved too many times, though apparently the tombstone ended up in a museum downtown.
Jane Barnes became known as the “First Lady of Astoria”. Though she was brought by McTavish for companionship, she ended up on the arm of another sometime during the 13 month journey. Eventually both men died on another boat when it capsized.
We kept our distance from the other spirit we saw lurking around.
Happy Halloween, y’all!