December 21, 2014

A Visit To Old Bordeaux

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[Due to a blog glitch, I have re-posted this story.]

Bordeaux, WA circa 1910

Last Friday, my aunt Twyla and Uncle Wally Yates, my cousins Edris and Jack Harbeston, my brother Dave Yates and his wife Kathy, and my husband Jim and I, went on a little adventure so Wally could visit “one more time” the old town of Bordeaux here in Washington state. Actually, the town is not in existence anymore, but some things are still there.

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Our trip on May 9th was made after we had a nice lunch at Dave and Kathy’s, and our weather couldn’t have been much better for this time of year. Warm and sunny enough to be comfortable, and we got lucky and bypassed any rain.

 

 

In our Suburban, and Dave’s Yukon, we drove from my brother’s place near Tenino, WA via Old Highway 99 North, turning left at 93rd Ave SE and we then headed west to the Littlerock Road. My uncle Wally was in our vehicle, so as we drove along he would spot different points of interest along the way and tell us about them. Some were known to us, some, were not. At one point on the Littlerock road as we rounded a curve, he said that it was where his brother Guy had been killed in a car accident in December of 1938. He said the curve had been straightened out considerably in the last 70 years and it doesn’t look dangerous at all now.

My Yates family settled in Bordeaux around 1925, even though Grandpa Will Yates had made the trip from West Plains, MO many times before that year. When Grandma and Grandpa moved to Bordeaux, Grandpa’s brother Lem and one of his sisters (Lydia) already lived there which always makes it easier for any new arrivals. My dad Gale was the oldest boy as he was born in 1920; the next boy was the previously mentioned Guy who was two years younger. The youngest boy, Waldo (aka Wally) was born in 1927, a couple years after they arrived in Bordeaux. So, Wally lived in this logging town from his birth until 1942 when the mill closed.

 

 

Even though Wally has macular degeneration in one eye and the town no longer exists, I know he could see it in his mind’s eye just like it was yesterday. As we drove up the Bordeaux road, and past one of the old vaults that had been in the hotel, he began to get his bearings even better. The old Bordeaux house where the family lived is still there, but of course is not owned by the family any more. My Grandmother, Minnie Yates died of botulism poisoning in 1932 from eating unheated home-canned corn. In 1936 my Grandpa remarried to a lady named Josie Scribner and she worked up at the Bordeaux house as a nanny and housekeeper for the two sons, Joe and Bruce. Wally had been one of the few kids allowed into the Bordeaux house to play with the boys when they were home because his step mother worked there.

The drive up to the house has a metal gate and a sign that says it is private property and protected by armed guards. This may be because most recently the house was owned by Curt Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love. It may have been bought by someone else now, since it was up for sale at one time to pay off the debt, but for us, it was not a place we could visit on our trek.

 

After driving around on Bordeaux Road from Keen’s corner all the way up to the Cedar Creek Correctional Center at the end, we doubled back and stopped again at a wide spot in the road near the little creek that runs on the south side. This is most likely Cedar Creek (my family pronounces it “crick”) and it is now just a gentle caretaker of the old pilings and cement blocks that are the only evidence that the town and mill were once located there. We got out of our vehicles and began to meander around, first just by the road and taking pictures of the Bordeaux house through the now thick alder and fir trees. Someone found a trail on the south side of the road and while my cousin Jack explored the woods up on the house side of the road, Jim and Dave, with Wally following more cautiously behind, headed over the makeshift bridge and on up into the southern hillside where they found some old brick remains of the mill.

 

I don’t know for sure if Wally got a true reconnoitering of where the town and the old houses he remembered were, but I think he enjoyed the day immensely. The only downside to the day was when Twyla was trying to cross a little rivulet and she lost her footing and fell face first down into the mud. It wasn’t a total ‘face plant’, she landed on one side, but she was all muddy, and eventually cold and I am sure she was more than ready to get back to Dave’s and into some dry clothes!

Click here to see all 44 photos from this trip on Flicker

 

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