Chapter 6, The Old Goat Man of Rosedale
A few years after his land had been sold and cleared, Sohrweide’s health improved enough that he was able to come back to see it. This was before any houses had been built, but most of the trees had been harvested, high spots had been leveled and low areas filled in. In addition, Ray Nash Drive had been moved about 100 feet to the east. Most likely his daughter Dorothy took him for a drive. “I was told,” Linda said, “that he just looked out and said, ‘That’s not where I lived.’ ”
It is possible that he still visits the land, though. Roger built a house bordering on Sohrweide’s land in the 1970s, and when I asked him what he remembered about Sohrweide’s appearance, he said, “You can ask (daughters) Gina and Lisa. He used to come visit them. He would come visit in the rocking chair down in the basement. The kids, when they were little, would go downstairs, and they told us about the old man in the coveralls who would be sitting in the corner down by the fireplace. I never saw him. But they would say they believed there was a ghost down there, sitting in the shadows in the old chair.
“Gina said he appeared a couple of times in her house until
she asked him to leave. So if you believe in spirits, he’d be the most likely
one to have been there. But it might have been the spirit of Joseph Oakes, the homesteader
who is supposedly buried very near here. Dad bought the property from his
Greg Spadoni has written an account of how Oakes homesteaded the land that later was sold to both Sohrweide and my father: The Joseph M. Oakes Homestead in Rosedale, Washington Territory.
Gina and Lisa, now in their 40s, still remember these childhood visitations. If fact, they both have homes now on the property next to their parents, and the strange occurrences were not limited to their childhood days.
“We had an older green armchair in the basement with a fabric almost like corduroy,” Lisa said. “I have recollections of an older man sitting in that armchair on occasion. And those recollections don’t jibe with anything my parents have been able to put together with a person that might have ever visited us. As a grownup now, I wonder if I am mixing up memories of something I saw at Nonno’s house, when maybe Nonno would sit in a similar chair, versus things that would have happened here. As for his appearance, I just have vague recollections of gray hair. Not big in stature, more like my dad’s size.
“That’s about it, other than there have certainly been times in the house and outside the house in the evenings where I feel like–I know this sounds weird–there’s a presence, that there’s somebody else around. There have been a few times where I’ve been walking around the house and said, ‘Get out of Everett’s room, and stop bothering him,’ just because it felt like something.”
|At my request, Gina made|
this drawing of the man
she and Lisa saw in their
“Every time I’ve experienced him, he’s been walking east to west. I’ve also had adult experiences with him, but I didn’t see him, I just knew it was him. I swear, I actually talked to him, because he kept walking through my bedroom in the new house (next to her childhood home) every night. He was walking through the bathroom in the middle of the night, and the door would just open at the same time every night. And then one night I sat up and told him I don’t mind him being there, that he was here first, but I’d prefer he didn’t wake me up. And then it stopped.
“Anytime I’ve felt him around or seen him, it was though he had a benign interest in kids. I always felt like it was more that he was watching over us than any kind of menace at all. I never saw him in the main part of the house. As a kid, when I walked that area where he had lived, I felt like it was guarded property, from the time I was very little. I regularly sensed a presence there.”
Lisa and Gina’s mother, Rosemary Spadoni, also lives on property that borders Sohrweide’s acreage, and she has sensed the presence of an older man on numerous occasions. “I don’t see a person, just a figure in coveralls. But Everett (Lisa’s son, who lives next door) once came running into my house saying he saw someone in overalls and brown work boots. Everett was shaking and grabbed on to me and hugged me.”
So is this the spirit of Raynard Sohrweide, or Joseph Oakes? If there is a spirit still on the land, my belief is that it’s more likely to be Oakes than Sohrweide. It’s almost a certainty that Oakes is buried on his homestead, whereas Sohrweide died in Tacoma and is buried in the nearby Rosedale Cemetery. Also, the homes of Roger, Gina and Lisa are on part of the 100 acres dad bought from Blanche Oakes Grant. Sohrweide’s land bordered Dad’s land, but Sohrweide never lived on our acreage.
photo provided by Lois Lindsey
Ghosts aside, I know I’m fortunate to have recollections of such a rich childhood. I grew up in a wooded neighborhood with parents and older siblings who cared about me, where my neighbors were all cousins and best friends, and our older relatives looked out for us all—and we had as a neighbor the fascinating character of the reclusive Raynard Sohrweide
We all live with some regrets, mostly that we were so oblivious to the blessings that surrounded us. I wish I had taken the initiative to get to know Mr. Sohrweide. In the case of Silas Marner, it was an infant girl abandoned by his hearth that sparked his own journey from seclusion to a joyful reintegration into society. Could I somehow have helped Mr. Sohrweide stay more connected to society? Could I have provided some relief to his loneliness and comfort in his old age? Perhaps, but things like this more often happen in storybooks, the telling of which is so fascinating because it is so rare. In reality, I was a quiet and introverted boy who would have been poor company for a man of the same nature. Raynard Sohrweide lived the first half of his life in society and the second half as a recluse. Except for the last few years spent in a care facility, Sohrweide lived that second half on his own terms. While we may think this a lonely or sad existence, it is probable, even likely, that by and large, Sohrweide had no more regrets about his choices than does the average person.
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For more historical accounts by Paul Spadoni, read the story of John Wagoner's arrival in the Northwest.