Boyd C. Allen

While walking through sticks and grass on the beach in Gold Beach, 8-year-old Brayden Payne found a strange, clear bottle with a note in it.

Brayden said he was with his dad, Kenneth, and, “I always walk the same path to the beach, and I found a bottle sticking up right before we got to the beach.”

They showed the bottle to Brayden’s grandfather, Larry Payne, and he helped them decipher the cursive message inside.

The letter was from a man named John to a woman named Gertee and describes his travels near Alturas, California.

The letter is dated 1925 — 93 years old — and one of the oldest ever found in the U.S., according to Oldest.com and Wikipedia. Both report the oldest in the U.S. at 96 years and would place this Gold Beach bottle as the eighth oldest in the world.

The oldest bottle recently found, in Australia, is 132 years old. But the oldest on both sources is 151 years old.

Larry wonders why John never sent it or, if he did and she got it, why she placed it in the water.

“The whole thing is intriguing,” he said. “Very mysterious.”

In the letter, John describes visiting the Essex family in Modoc County, California, and Larry looked them up and found multiple Essex family members in the cemetery records for Alturas.

John also seems a little taken with a woman called “the Widow,” and gives Gertee permission to ride his new horse. He invites her to travel with him in the future.

Larry said, “There are two John Essex in Alturas cemetery. One died in 47 and one in 83, and I wonder if one of them is the John in the letter.”

He was able to find a relative, John Dederick, now the mayor of Alturas, and he will be sending the bottle to him so family members can do more research.

Reach Boyd C. Allen at ballen@currypilot.com .

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