How “Oyster Money” and “Salmon Currency” saved the day

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By Chuck Woodbury
ROADSIDE JOURNAL
South Bend, Washington, the Oyster Capital of the World, is also the county seat of Pacific County. It wasn’t always so. In 1889, promoters sailed into what is now South Bend and proclaimed it “the Baltimore of the Pacific.“ A lot of people believed it because the coastal town grew like asparagus.

How "Oyster Money" and "Salmon Currency" saved the dayBefore long, residents figured the county seat belonged in South Bend rather than in nearby Oysterville. In 1892, they voted that their town would, indeed, be the new county seat.

Folks in Oysterville were not a bit happy. In fact, they sued. South Benders said the heck with you guys and fired up two steamers and set sail across the bay for Oysterville, where about 50 lumberjack types made off with all the county records.

And that was that.

A few years later, the town of Raymond decided it wanted to be the county seat but South Bend wouldn’t give it up.

Raymond became world-famous in the Great Depression. In 1932, its only bank closed – a devastating blow to the economy.

The local chamber of commerce decided it could help. It arranged with the Raymond Herald to print “Oyster Money” which could be traded as cash. The first recipients were the customers of the defunct first Willapa Harbor National Bank. Pretty soon everybody was using Oyster Money. Soon, word spread about the oddball currency and folks from all over the USA sent real cash for Oyster Money.

How "Oyster Money" and "Salmon Currency" saved the day

SEVERAL MONTHS LATER when the bank reopened under new ownership, customers of the defunct institution traded Oyster Money for actual cash. The chamber of commerce returned about $20,000 of Oyster Money back to the Raymond Herald, where it was cut to bits and burned. A year later, South Bend created its own wooden money currency and it, too, became a popular souvenir item.

The town of Ilwaco, recognizing a good idea when it saw one, came up with its own money: “Salmon Currency.”

Although these cash substitutes did not end the Great Depression for the three communities, it did stimulate business by providing an immediate solution to cash flow problems.

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