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Vanishing Towns and Old Settlements of Washington

Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Washington | No Comments

Of towns that once had the promise of a great future, Whatcom is one. It was named after a chief of the Nooksack, whose grave is a mile above the Bellingham Bay coal mine. For a short time during the Fraser River furore it had 10,000 people, and a fleet of vessels coming and going. The order of Douglas, turning traffic to Victoria, caused all the better portion of the buildings to be taken clown and removed thither. The single brick house erected by John Alexander remained, and was converted to the use of the county. Eldridge’s Sketch, MS., 31-2; Coleman, in Harper’s Magazine, xxxix. 796; Waddington, 8-9; Rossi’s Souvenirs, 156-7. After this turn in the fortunes of Whatcom it remained uninhabited, except by its owners and the coal company, for several years, or until about 1870, when the N. P. R. Co. turned attention to Bellingham Bay as a possible terminus of their road, and all the available land fronting on the bay was bought up. In 1882 the agent of a Kansas colony, looking for a location, fixed on Whatcom County and town, and made arrangements for settling there 600 immigrants. The owners of the town site agreed to donate a half-interest in the town site to the colonists, but refused after the latter had complied with the stipulations. New Whatcom was thereupon laid off on the opposite side of the creek, and also a town called Fairhaven west of that, while other colonists settled at Sehome, named after a chief of the Samish tribe, and laid off by E. C. Fitzhugh, James Tilton, and C. Vail, on the land claim of Vail and De Lacy, 1858. Another town to which the mining rush gave birth was Semiahmoo, on the beautiful land-locked bay of that name, ten miles east of Point Roberts, and just below the southern boundary of B. C.

Of the towns founded since the pioneer period in this region, La Conner was for some years the chief. It was founded by J. S. Conner, and named after his wife, Louise Agnes Conner, the first white woman who settled on the flats. The post-office was established in 1870, a school in 1873, a Catholic Church in 1874, and a grangers’ hall in 1875, which served for all public uses and county offices. Conner was born in Ireland in 1838, and came to the U. S. in 1840. He married Miss L. A. Seigfried in 1863, and came to Wash. in 1869, purchasing a small trading post and some land from his cousin, J. J. Conner, and taking a pre-emption claim on the tidelands. He soon became wealthy, but died in 1884, his wife and 9 children surviving him; Ida R., who married W. H. Talbot; Herbert S., who managed the estate; Lillian J., Mary V., Francis J., Louisa A., Guy W., Martin E., and William.

Another of the thriving modern northern towns is Snohomish City, situated at the head of navigation on the Snohomish River, in the midst of an extensive tract of agricultural and timbered country. Its founder was E. C. Ferguson, who, assisted by other progressive citizens, imparted to the place a character for enterprise unusual in towns of its size and age which have been planted in a new agricultural and lumbering country. Ferguson was born in New York in 1832. He came to California in 1854, and went to Fraser River in 1858. Returning unsuccessful, he tarried a while in Steilacoom, and Labored at carpentering until 1860, when he, with E. F. Cady, located upon the land where Snohomish City now stands. They were successful from the first in their undertakings. Ferguson has been a merchant, has held several county offices, has served four terms in the legislative council of the territory, and one in the lower house. Morse’s Wash. Ter., MS., xxi. 13-14; Portland West Shore, Dec. 1876; Seattle Tribune, Oct. 22, 1875.

Then there were Clark and Theron Ferguson, Isaac Cathcart, a native of Ireland; A. C. Poison, born in New Hampshire in 1827, a man of travel and numerous adventures in the service of the government; J. H. Plaskett, George G. England, L. Wilbur from Michigan, the Blackburn brothers and T. H. Hilton from Maine, Henry P. Jackson, W. H. Ward, William Whitfield from England, H. A. Gregory, and C. A. Missimer. Mr Morse, from whom I obtained a valuable series of manuscripts on Washington in 23 vols, was a resident of Snohomish City, where he published the Northern Star newspaper in 1876-9. He was been in Connecticut, April 14, 1847. At the age of 18 he enlisted in the battalion of engineer troops, U. S. A., and was discharged at the end of 3 years in S. F., whence he returned to Connecticut and removed to Iowa. In 1870 he graduated from the law school of the Michigan University, and practised in Albia, Iowa, until 1872, when he came to Snohomish City and engaged in law practice there, starting the first newspaper. After discontinuing his paper he travelled extensively about the Sound, picking up every species of information, a portion of which I have embodied in this history.

Morris H. Frost was a pioneer at Mukilteo. He was born in New York in 1806, removing to Michigan in 1832, and to Chicago, Illinois, in 1849, immigrating thence in 1852 to Oregon and settling at Steilacoom the following summer. In 1856 he was appointed collector of customs in place of I. N. Ebey, which position he occupied until 1860. It is claimed that he erected the first brick building on Puget Sound in 1857 for a custom house, the same later occupied by N. D. Hill for a drug-store. In 1861 he removed to Mukilteo with Jacob D. Fowler, another New Yorker, where they were engaged in merchandising, fishing, beer brewing, and hotel keeping. With the selfish policy, which hindered other new settlements, they refused to sell real estate; hence when other towns sprang up which competed for the trade of the country, they had no settlers near them to sustain business. About 1880 they consented to sell, and quite a settlement sprang up at Mukilteo, which, lying in the path of all the steamboats that ply east of Whidbey Island, caught considerable trade.

Besides Mukilteo, on the Sound, was Lowell, nine miles up the Snohomish River, Tulalip Indian Agency, at the month of that river, Qualco, at the mouth of the Skikomish, and Stamwood, on the tide-flats of the Stillaguamish, which in 1884 were all the towns in Snohomish County. The last-mentioned settlement is largely Norwegian. That people have a neat church, Lutheran, at Stamwood, erected in 1879, and a pastor of their own nationality. The main Norwegian settlement was made between 1876 and 1880, both on the tide-flats and up the river.

Martin and Christian Tafteson immigrated to the U. S. from the north of Norway in 1S48, and to Puget Sound in 1851, settling at Oak Harbor, near the mouth of the Skagit. Christian Tafteson was born in 1816 and married in 1840. From 1833 to 1845 he was a trader at Alten Parish, 50 miles south of Hammerfest, west Lapland. He afterward resided in east Lapland, and was a landsman, or sheriff, as well as municipal chairman and court interpreter of the Tapish and Finnish languages, with which, and the Swedish and English, he was well acquainted.

A thriving agricultural settlement was pioneered by H. D. Morgan and sons, millmen, on the Pill Chuck Creek, a stream flowing into the Snohomish just above Snohomish City.

H. D. Morgan was Indian Agent at Tulalip. He was of service in the Indian war in controlling the neutrals, and established the reservation on Squaxon Island in Nov. 1835. Morse, MS., iv. 116. He was not one of the earliest settlers of the county, but located there about 1874.

W. B. Sinclair, formerly of Port Madison, was ten years earlier, and Mary E., his wife, was the first white woman who settled in the county. She was a daughter of J. N. Low of Seattle, pioneer of Alki Point. Sinclair was the first regular merchant of Snohomish. He died about 1870 or 1871; Mrs Sinclair continued to reside at Snohomish City.

The Snoqualimich Prairie, which is in King county, above the Snoqualimich Falls, was first settled in 1859, by J. Borst, Spencer Kellogg, O. E. Kellogg, and A. C. Kimball. About the same time Frederick Dunbar, R. Bizer, Patterson, and one other man located themselves on Griffin prairie, below the falls; and the following year Peter Peterson, M. Peterson, Robert Smallman, Joseph Ferris, and his wife Lucinda, on Snoqualimieh prairie. Mrs Ferris was the first white woman in the Snoqualimich valley. Fall City is the name of a settlement two or three miles below the cataract of the Snoqualimich River. Other post-office stations to the number of ten or a dozen were all to be found in King County in 1884.


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