Atlantis Arisen/Chapter 27
FAIRHAVEN AND BELLINGHAM BAY.
Leaving Anacortes early in the afternoon by a fine steamer, I had a delightful voyage to Fairhaven, another new town on Bellingham Bay. Of Bellingham Bay, as a coal-mining port in years past, I had often heard, the first coal ever mined in Washington coming from here. The discovery was made by William Pattle, a British subject, in 1852, who spoke of it to Henry Boeder and Bussell V. Peabody, whom he met at Olympia. Boeder was of German birth but brought up in the United States, while Peabody was from Ohio. They had been in California together, and now determined, after hearing Pattle's account of the country, to go to Bellingham Bay, and erect a saw-mill, which they did, on Whatcom Creek. They also took donation claims, on one of which coal was found in 1854, sixty-five tons of which were sent to San Francisco to be tested, and found merchantable. From that time until the Seattle Mines were opened this was the only coal mined in Washington. About 1869 the mine caught fire and was flooded, since which time it has lain idle.
The town of Whatcom was laid off on Boeder's land while the Fraser River mining excitement was at white heat, in 1857, and at one time contained ten thousand people, but an order of Governor Douglas turning traffic to Victoria caused it to be deserted, and all the better buildings to be removed to that place, which acquired thereby a very American growth and appearance for an English town. A single brick house remained, which was converted to county purposes.
Whatcom remained uninhabited, except by its owners and the coal company, until 1870, when the Northern Pacific, looking for a terminus, purchased all the land which could be obtained fronting on the bay,—however, not including Whatcom.
In 1882, a Kansas colony numbering six hundred fixing upon this locality, the owners of the town-site agreed to donate a half-interest in the town if the colony would settle there, but subsequently refused to make good their contract, when the colonists laid off a town for themselves called New Whatcom, or Bellingham, while others settled at Sehome, between the two.
The population of the three places continued to be insignificant until 1889, when Fairhaven was taken in hand by a company of which Mr. Nelson Bennet, the contractor who constructed the Northern Pacific's great tunnel through the Cascade Mountains, was president, and C. X. Larrabee, of Montana, vice-president.
I cannot refrain from quoting from a monograph published by the Fairhaven Chamber of Commerce, describing the methods pursued in founding new cities, and particularly Fairhaven:
" Miners were sent into the mountains to search for coal and iron-ore and veins of silver, lead, and gold-bearing ores. Engineers with barometers strapped to their backs were ordered into the highlands to search for railroad routes. Timber examiners were Ordered to examine the forests that stand between the rugged flanks of the Cascade Eange and the waters of Puget Sound to estimate the probable amount of marketable lumber they contained. Other men were sent to watch the sweep of the tides through narrow passages and to examine harbors. Presently gaunt men, toil-worn and haggard, and who carried burdens on their backs, emerged from the forests and stood on steamboat-landings. This man carried silver-ore, that man iron-ore, and yonder was a man who was blackened with coal-dust, and the sack that hung heavily over his back contained coking coal. That group of worn, tired-eyed men with intelligent faces were engineers from mountain-passes. Farther down stood men the pockets of whose canvas jackets bulged with notebooks that were stuffed with information relative to the value of the timber and the character of the soil of several counties. From out of forests, floating down rivers in canoes, from off the rapid tide-water, out of mountain-passes, from the plains east of the Cascade Range, from probable town-sites, men hurried to Tacoma and to Nelson Bennett's office. The information was gathered. It was attentively studied, laboriously compared, and thoroughly digested. Maps were drawn and the resources of the region examined were marked on them. Slowly the evidence was sifted. This point was rejected because of the harbor, that because the land directly tributary was not arable when cleared, and another because it was too far from coal and iron. It was finally decided that the new city should be built on the shores of Bellingham Bay. When this conclusion was arrived at, to act followed instantly. An extensive tract of land was bought for a large sum. A city was laid out. Engineers located a railroad that extends from Fairhaven to New Westminster in British Columbia, and from Fairhaven to a point far east of the Cascade Mountains. Hundreds of men began to fell trees and to shovel dirt along the railroad line. Other men cleared the timber off of the town-site and burned it. Streets were graded and town-lots offered for sale. Steel rails, locomotives,
and cars were bought, and'in two months from the time the first blow was struck at Fair haven, which was in May, 1889, trains of cars were running into and out of the town."
That is the story in a nutshell, of the founding of cities by the intelligence of this age.
Bellingham Bay does not differ greatly in appearance from the bay at Seattle. In front of Fairhaven, which is about seventeen miles due north, and a little east of Anacortes, is a narrow peninsula similar to that on which West Seattle is situated, which is occupied as a reservation by the Lummi Indians, and Lummi Island, extending a few miles south of the peninsula. The town-site slopes down handsomely to the bay, presenting an attractive view to the passenger on the incoming steamer, which is enhanced by the character of the buildings already completed and in course of erection, some of which are surprisingly ornate for the size and age of the town.
Mount Baker, with its broken cone, and family of lesser peaks about it, lies almost directly east from Fairhaven, and is a noble object with its ten thousand eight hundred and ten feet of height overtopping the darkly-mantled Cascade Range. The scenic attractions of Fairhaven and the other Bellingham Bay towns are fully as great as any of the cities farther on Puget Sound, and its natural resources appeared to me to be almost identical with those of Anacortes, except in the matter of distance from the Strait and length of water-front. Vessels require no towing to the wharves of either. The same valleys are tributary to both, the same iron, coal, and marble deposits, the same timber, and the same fisheries. It rains a little more at Fairhaven than at the head of the Strait, but only about half as much as at Olympia, and the temperature is perhaps a trifle less mild, though flowers bloom every month of the year in the open air.
The Nooksahk River empties into the north end of Bellingham Bay, and therefore is more directly tributary to the towns upon it than elsewhere. The valley of this river is very extensive, stretching from British Columbia to Whatcom, south, and embracing a scope of country fifty miles in width due east of Bellingham Bay. The timber being removed, the soil produces everything entrusted to it in marvellous abundance,—as, for in
stance, one hundred ruta-bagas of best average size, raised near Lynden, on the Nooksahk, weighed two thousand pounds. It is excellently adapted to fruit and hops, as well as grass, grain, and vegetables.
The mineral resources of the Nooksahk are yet undeveloped, but are understood to be iron, coal, copper, lead, and silver. There is abundance of water-power. The country is generally level and not rocky, with soft, pure spring-water in abundance. All this is, of course, very valuable, and is for him who comes and takes it.
There are many interesting resorts about Fairhaven. Lake Whatcom, two and a half miles east of Bellingham Bay, is an irregularly-shaped lake, eleven miles long by one and a half in width, of cold clear water over one thousand feet in depth in the centre. Its shores slope gently, and towards the east merge in the mountains five thousand feet above. A summer hotel is erected at Silver Beach, on the north end of the lake, with a boat-house and other encouragements to visitors. On its west bank is the pretty new town of Geneva, and on its waters the steamer of that name, which carries pleasure-seekers from one end to the other. In its waters trout are abundant. It is said that within a stone's throw of the lake gold, silver, coal, and fire-clay have been found in situ, and, if true, the best feature of the lake for a pleasure-resort, its seclusion, will be destroyed. The outlet of this lake is Whatcom Creek, which runs into the bay.
On the shore of Lummi Island is Smugglers' Cove, a tiny harbor with a.spring and water-fall, overhung by beetling crags and lofty firs, but, best of all, with a legend belonging to it, of a smuggler who took hiding here from the revenue officers, but being pursued climbed up the dizzy precipice and was never heard of more. The rest of the story is left to the imagination of the hearer.
One of the curiosities of Lummi Island is the Devil's Slide, a vein of nearly white sandstone of a shaly formation, one hundred feet in width and thirteen hundred feet in height, which lies on the side of a mountain at an inclination which causes every detached scale to slide down into the bay. As scales are detached every few minutes, the query is, when will
this disintegration, which has been going on time out of mind, cease, and the vein be exhausted?
On Eliza Island, in the bay, is a chicken-hatchery, which turns out one thousand per week during the season. Yendori Island, a high, rocky, and picturesque splinter of earth set in the waters just where it produces the most beautiful effect against the sky and the far-off shore line, is a sheep rancho.
Chuckanut Bay, on the east shore of the greater bay, three miles south of Fairhaven, is the site of the famous sandstone quarry, upon which all the cities of the coast have at times had to draw for building-stone. It is in the side of a precipice, and the people who live about the quarry are almost as isolated by their elevation as the cliff-dwellers of Arizona.
Sehome and Whatcom are so near together, and so near to Fairhaven, that all are in effect one city, although under different municipal governments. Whatcom is the county-seat, and has a fine court-house. The streets are full of busy people, and the town has a substantial and respectable air, as becomes its age, though, truth to say, this appearance has been but recently put on. Sehome has two large hotels,—the "Sehome" and the " Grand Central."
Fairhaven, although so young, has four thousand and thirtyone inhabitants. Its finest hotel is the "Fairhaven," built of brick and stone, well situated, with a fine view of the harbor. It has an excellent system of water-works, four banks, two newspapers, electric-light service, telegraph and telephone communication, three churches completed, and others building, good schools, saw-mills, brick-yards, and factories. It has a railroad being .built to connect with the Westminster Southern, and through that with the Canadian Pacific at Blaine (Fairhaven and Northern, opened in February, 1891). The Fairhaven and Southern is also being constructed, which is making for the coalmines in the Skagit Yalley, crossing the river at Sedro, proceeding south to Seattle to connect with the Northern Pacific, and also building east up the Skagit to the coal-, marble-, granite-, and silver-mines in that direction, and ultimately to go to Spokane.
Fort Bellingham, a stone fort, built in 1856 by Captain Pickett, who became a general in the Confederate army, is situated about
three miles from Whatcom, on the shore of the bay. There are several settlements, of small importance at present, on the Nooksahk Eiver: Lummi, at the month; Ferndale, just above the Lummi River, the northern outlet of the Nooksahk; Nooksahk post-office; and Lynden, on the line of the Fairhaven and Northern, a growing town in a rich agricultural region. Yeager and Licking are small places in the valley, where the people can purchase necessary articles and get their mail.
. On the coast, and within two miles of the international boundary, is Semahimoo, on the west side of Drayton Harbor; and on the east side, touching the line, is the new city of Blaine, the twin of a town of the same name on the British Columbia side. The twin towns act together in the most friendly manner, and are assuming considerable importance as the terminus of the Westminster Southern Railroad and starting-point of a line being surveyed to Lynden, Whatcom, and Spokane Falls. But being pressed for time, I abandoned my intention of proceeding as far north as Blaine and Westminster, and, taking steamer again at Fairhaven, returned to Seattle.
As one floats for a hundred miles upon these placid waters, always in sight of beauty and of positive if undeveloped wealth, it is impossible not to see that there is a great deal in the claims put forth by the people of this northwest coast concerning its relation to the commerce of the world. Already Alaska is demanding recognition of its commerce and mines. A few years ago one steamer a month sufficed for its trade; now it requires one every week. Railroads are projected, and will be built, to connect the Pacific States with Asia, across Behring's Strait. Already commercial men are watching and waiting for the completion of the Nicaragua Canal to shape by it new lines of transportation.
The Pacific front of our republic, extending from ocean to ocean, is to play a great part in the world's history, and it is well for the founders to study the situation. The great effort of to-day is to economize time and obliterate space. The hand that from this new West reaches out farthest towards the oldest East will grasp the prize. Why should not these thoughts suggest what these waters will in time resemble, when palaces shall be reflected in their margins, and the white-winged mes messengers of commerce shall glide continually from point to point of these now fir-clad slopes, laden with the precious cargoes of the Orient, making this northern sea a second Bosphorus for beauty and magnificence?