503-227-5906, 208 SW Ankeny St, Portland
1856 – Faraway, in the town of Archsum on the Isle of Sylt, just off the coast of present day Germany, Nicolai Wachsmuth, Sr. remarried, but his two sons, Nicolai Jr., 18 and Meinert, 14, were unhappy with the new arrangement. They both decided to leave home. Nicolai shipped as a seaman aboard the ill-fated bark Posa while his younger brother stowed away on a vessel bound for California. The Posa, on a course for Hong Kong ran aground on the rocks of Helen Reef in the North Pacific Ocean. The caption and crew of nine rowed South in the long boat for two weeks before they encountered natives off the coast of New Guinea. Six of the men died of arrow wounds and the remaining four were enslaved. One day Nicolai and his native owners met a Dutch captain. The natives wanted to trade Wachsmuth for a gun, but the captain refused. Nicolai was able to talk to the captain, however, and after returning to port the captain sent two Prussian missionaries to buy the captives release. Three of the crew of the unlucky Posa eventually returned to Germany; but Nicolai, living with a family separate from the others, had apparently died before the missionaries’ arrival. An intense search of the nearby islands was made by the armed Dutch steamship Etna, but Nicolai’s body was never found. Meinert fared much better than his older brother. He became a seaman and his voyages took him to nearly every port in the world. he sailed around the Horn seven times eventually settling down to work on the oyster schooners plying their way between San Francisco and the oyster rich bays of Oregon and Washington Territory. The schooners transported thousands of bushels of the small native Yaquina and Shoalwater Bay oysters into the gold fields of California. A plate of fresh oysters on the half shell sold for “a Mexican goat which was worth two and one-half $20 gold pieces.” The average man had to work more than two weeks to buy one plate of oysters.
1865 – Meinert’s luck changed. While sailing aboard the schooner Annie Doyle, he was shipwrecked off Yaquina Head on the central Oregon coast. The tragedy caused Meinert to rethink his future and even though he was still unaware of his brother’s fate he decided not to go to sea again. He turned his attention to the raising and cultivation of oysters. In San Francisco, 1869, he married Elizabeth Josephine Sullivan. They sailed aboard the Louisa Morrison to their new home in Oysterville, Washington, and area very reminiscent of Meinert’s homeland on the Isle of Sylt. Their three oldest children were born during their early years in Oysterville in 1871, 1872, and 1873. the family moved back to San Francisco for some years where their youngest son, Louis C., was born in 1877. After a period of employment with the Moraghan Oyster Company, Meinert and his family returned to Shoalwater Bay in 1881 and took up squatter’s rights on oyster beds. Louis loved growing up in and around his father and brothers on the oyster farm. He opened his first oyster at the age of five. Meinert retired from the oyster business in 1903 selling all of his oyster holdings in Shoalwater Bay. Louis was 26 years old at the time and followed his brothers to the big city of Portland, Oregon to seek his fortune. In 1904, Louis cooked at Lemp’s Oyster Parlor. In 1905, he worked as a driver for the Oysterville Oyster Company where he met Lizzie Sauer who was the bookkeeper. He liked nicknames and soon she became “Miss Sweet.”
1907 – On Ankeny, between 2nd and 3rd, boxes of live crabs were stacked on the sidewalks. Louis Wachsmuth carted them inside to the big briny crab pot. Oysters, live lobsters from the East, all kinds of fish, and shrimp were handled in carload lots. City Oyster Co. was open for business at 252 Ankeny right next door to the present location. Louis and his partner, L. Roland Mills, had started a business that would be strong enough to always fill the need for good seafood. In April 1908 Louis married Lizzie Sauer whose family came to Portland during the 1880’s from Fauerbach v.h.H. Germany. Louis and Lizzie had four sons, Louis A., Dan, Chester and Richard. Lizze loved to recount the family history to her children, and later her grandchildren. She saved old family records, photographs and documents and was the secretary-treasurer for Dan and Louis Oyster Bar all of her life. After a few years of the partnership Mr. Mills went on to other things while Louis C. Wachsmuth continued the wholesale and retail fish business under the name of Oregon Oyster Company with the help of his brothers and eventually his sons. Although Louis served oyster cocktail on the old bar which was moved from the Merchant’s Exchange Saloon located on 1st and Ankeny. At this time, Louis started his collection of steins, unique plates, and marine objects.
It Was A Cold, Wintry Day when Louis decided that a “piping” hot oyster stew would really top the day. He started with right-out-of-the-shell oysters added t a pot of creamy rich milk, butter and seasoning heated in a double boiler. Soon the bar could no longer accommodate the people who came to enjoy Louis’ delicious oyster cocktails and stews. He moved his office to another location and installed two tables, each seating four people. Although serving only two courses, Louis thought he had become quite a restaurant operator. He soon moved his briny crab pot out into the inner court of the building and five tables took its place and with his growing collection of marine artifacts, the “Oyster House” was launched in true nautical style.
1927 – Louis acquired oyster beds at Yaquina Bay, Oregon, where his father as a seaman had been shipwrecked. He remembered his father telling him “Yaquina Bay produces the finest tasting oysters in the world.” Customers came regularly and some of the most regular were newspaper men. Louis Wachsmuth had named his restaurant “Louie’s Oyster Bar” and kept the name Oregon Oyster Company for this oyster beds. According to Lizzie, it was the newspaper men who first called it “Dan & Louie’s Oyster Bar” because Dan was always there working side-by-side with his father, little did they know that the name would soon become a memorial.
1930 – Newspaper travel editor, Edward Miller, joined the staff of the Oregonian. Journalists he met there told him their friend, Louis C. Wachsmuth, was an oyster expert. An excited Miller visited the Oyster Bar. He and Louie hit it off because of Miller’s enthusiasm for oysters. Louis invited him to visit the oyster beds. A trip was planned to the Yaquina Bay oyster farm where Louis showed him how the oyster farming was done. Miller described his good time in an article he wrote for the travel section of the newspaper. Louis told the newspaper man, “Oyster soup is mighty nice. So is a pepper roast and a fancy roast. A good many people prefer an oyster loaf. Others like an oyster pie. I have a book that gives 98 recipes for cooking an oyster. But as I’ve said before, I like them raw, and the best way of all is to …
1933 – Louis C.’s wholesale business moved into the modern age of transportation. Native Yaquina Bay oysters ere shipped between Portland and San Francisco on a single-propeller, bi-airplane. A flight leaving Swan Island Airport at 8pm arrived at 3am the next morning.
1938 – Louis’ son, Dan, died of complications of pneumonia at the age of 27. He was very close to his brother, Louis A. who was working at the oyster farm in Newport. Dans last words were about his concern that Louis receive the cake he had sent to him for his birthday. Dan’s death was a hard blow to the family. He had been a major part of the business in Portland and was an integral part of the family’s future plans. His presence was greatly missed, and the name “Dan & Louis Oyster Bar” became official. Dan’s brother, Chester, nine years his junior in some ways helped to fill the void. Chester joined the firm on a full tie basis in 1945 after four years military service in World War II.
1957 – Louis Wachsmuth passes on leaving behind a rich family heritage and a thriving restaurant business. He “led the fight against water pollution in Oregon” and many people attributed “the survival of the Northwest oyster industry to his long fight on its behalf.” Louis’ sons, Louis A and Chester continued to operate the Oregon Oyster Company and Dan & Louis Oyster Bar until 1977 when they both retired leaving the business to their two sons Louis J. and Douglas.
1991 – Doug buys Louis John’s shares in the restaurant. He carries on the tradition with the help of his brother Chester Jr. (Tucker) and his wife Joyce. Doug and Joyce had three children. Just like the generations before them, they grew up in the family business. Each child started washing dishes at a young age! Theodore Wachsmuth (Ted), the oldest son, has been working for the family business ever since. During his college years at Portland State University, he managed the kitchen for his father. He met his wife, Stephanie Jones, while visiting his sister in California. They got married in 1996 and now have two children, Caleb and Chloe. Meinert Wachsmuth (Keoni), the younger son also worked for the family business. He moved away to attend Southern Oregon State College. But returned in 1993 to go to the Western Culinary Institute. Upon graduating he moved to the Hawaiian Islands. While he was in Maui he met his wife, Michelle Lyons, in Hana. In 1997 they moved to Portland, joined the family business and got married the next year. The have three children, Louis (Kai), Elizabeth (Hana), and Dan (Kaleo). Elizabeth Wachsmuth (Beth), the youngest, met her husband, Jon Teran, while attending Biola University. They got married in 1998 and have three children, Malia, Joseph Douglas (j.D.) and Kiana. Beth got her doctorate in physical therapy and now works in Pasadena, California.
2001 – Ted and Keoni become official owners along side their father and manage the restaurant while their father Doug is acting CFO. Tucker retires in 2006, taking with him a wealth of knowledge about Portland history he loved to share. The boys and their dad carry on tradition while striving to bring a fresh approach to seafood. They continue to be active in sustainability of the rivers and watersheds in Oregon using only wild caught fish and local seasonal produce, utilizing the bounty of the Pacific Northwest.
-Historical Gazette Vol. 1 No. 8